This is an article from the November-December 2016 issue: 40 Years of the USCWM/Frontier Ventures and the Unreached Peoples Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

God is moving in unprecedented ways in our generation in the Muslim world. Too often Western believers are filled with fear at the pictures of refugees crossing the borders of Western nations. Such a view fails to look at this migration from an eternal perspective.

The current migrations are consistent with the ways God has moved throughout history to bring people groups to the knowledge of Christ.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27, ESV, emphasis added)

God has consistently changed the allotted periods and boundaries to bring people to know Him. We should praise the God of heaven in giving a myriad of Muslim people groups open hearts and greater access to the gospel, while at the same time weeping with them at the suffering they endure.

God’s heart is for a kingdom movement to flow through hundreds of refugee locations and then back into the home countries from which they have been thrust—some places difficult or impossible for missionaries to access.

Thousands of evangelists have descended upon Europe the last two years to purposefully bring the gospel to refugees resulting in many salvations. In the excitement of good evangelism, however, what emerges as the dust settles will determine if this becomes a lasting kingdom movement. God’s desire is for disciples and churches, not simply decisions, to multiply throughout the refugee populations, to the surrounding majority populations (e.g. Germans and Greeks) and back into home countries. Will we settle for good evangelism or press into enduring Church-Planting Movements (CPMs)? The latter is God’s heart.

A Case Study

My interactions with the refugee outreach have been to promote the latter (CPM) rather than the former (abundant evangelism). In one country, the Great Commission partners are doing an amazing job of reaching out to refugees with the gospel. They have hosted hundreds of short-term volunteers and the gospel has been shared thousands of times. They have been so busy hosting each team to do evangelism efforts that they have had little time to catalyze the next stages of a CPM—on-going discipleship training, church formation and leadership development. Their effectiveness in doing a good thing (evangelism) threatens the needed shift into the next stage (making disciples who can make disciples, resulting in multiplying churches.)

For three days we worked together on how to translate evangelistic fruit into a kingdom movement. Two weeks later, one Muslim-background believer immediately baptized 18 people and formed two groups into churches. He is making the shift to give enough time to the new disciples, churches and leaders.

What changed in him and others was a sense of the larger vision of what God is doing. Refugee believers have been particularly envisioned by the Joseph account (Gen. 37-50) and find almost exact parallels between Joseph’s journey and theirs. These new disciples stand on the edge of the refugee outreach becoming a Joseph movement.

The Joseph Movement

We may fail to recognize how much of the Genesis account the Joseph narrative takes up. Genesis is painted as follows in broad strokes:

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

In sheer proportion the Joseph story occupies the largest amount of text—14 out of 50 chapters. We rightly accord huge emphasis to the critical stories of Creation/Fall, Noah and Abraham (the father of all who live by faith). But how often do we contemplate the message of the Joseph movement?

Refugee believers are drawn to Joseph because his story gives meaning to their story. It helps to explain what God is doing according to Acts 17:26-27.

The Joseph Movement Parallels

Joseph appears as a prophet in the Quran; Muslims are familiar with his name. But as Muslim-background believers learn the true story from the Old Testament, they find a number of parallels with their situation:

The salvation of many: The theme verse of the Joseph account is Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20, ESV, emphasis added)

From the comforts of Western Christianity, we quote “what was meant for evil, God meant for good.” But can we quote the verse’s purpose statement? The operative word is “to”. God has a purpose in turning evil to good—to save many people. In Western Christianity, we fear the invasion of our way of life in the refugee situation. Refugee believers see the overarching vision—God’s purpose is to save multitudes of people for eternity. The grand purpose of God is sovereignly moving people groups to bring His kingdom fully to them. God is answering the Lord’s prayer we pray regularly.

Embracing the uncontrollables: Joseph chose to embrace the goodness of God despite having no control over his situation and being moved against his will. Rather than bemoan his situation, Joseph embraced the uncontrollable as signs of God’s goodness and sovereign orchestration. Refugee believers are learning to celebrate the uncontrollables as God’s sovereign goodness to bring about the salvation of many.

Suffering: The uncontrollables included intense suffering for Joseph, even being blamed for things he didn’t do. Often refugees are lumped into the same category as terrorists. Often they are mistreated simply because they belong to a disdained group. Refugee believers see in Joseph an example about how to bear up under suffering and mistreatment in the midst of knowing God has a grander plan.

Dreams: The Joseph story is filled with dreams about God’s purposes. God gave Joseph the discernment to believe and interpret these dreams. When God moves in unprecedented ways, He often initiates them through dreams (even in the New Testament). Within the Muslim world, God is appearing to and speaking to people in dreams and visions. Refugee believers recognize that God is speaking clearly, tearing down defences and giving vision for the future to them.

Salvation of a new land:  Joseph was adopted into a new land (Egypt) and eventually became a source of blessing for that land in the midst of famine. He was the source of salvation to the majority population though he came from a despised minority—Hebrews (Gen. 43:32). In the hard soil of European evangelism, God is going to use Muslim-background believers to bring salvation to Christian-background lost people (Germans, Italians, etc). Refugee believers are learning that this is part of their calling.

The salvation of the old land: The purpose of the Joseph story, however, was the salvation of the old land/people. Joseph was not preserved alone by God but seventy others from the old land were saved that they might become a people of God. A vision is growing among refugee believers that God wants to both 1) save many refugees along the refugee road and 2) bring this movement back to the home countries. We must help believers in the diaspora to become movements that bring salvation to home countries from which they emerged.

Seasons of darkness: Doubtless at times Joseph felt forgotten by God, his family and friends. Yet in the darkness he did not despair but continued to trust God. The situation had to get very dark before it got better. Refugee believers take encouragement from Joseph’s faith while in dark places. They know that in time God will bring about His purposes.

A new hope: The Joseph story is one in which a new hope emerges, one Joseph could never have imagined despite the foreshadowing of his initial dreams in Genesis 37. From the darkness, a much greater purpose came to light. How shocked Joseph must have been years later when his brothers showed up to buy grain. In that moment, the greater purpose became clear:

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 45:5-8, ESV, emphasis added)

Three times Joseph stated: “It was God who sent me here!” The purpose became clear—a new hope emerging from darkness. For the refugee evangelism efforts to become a kingdom movement, refugee leaders must embrace this new hope—they have been sent ahead by God for the salvation of many. If we fail to call them to a bigger vision or if we shrink back from calling them to suffer for a greater purpose, then we will likely reap a few hundred or thousand new disciples but lose a potential movement to rock the Islamic world.

Don’t compromise: During the dark times and light times, Joseph refused to compromise. As Potiphar’s steward, he refused to sin with Potiphar’s wife. As a prisoner in darkness, he refused to use underhanded ways to escape prison. As the second-in-command of Egypt, he refused to abuse the rank and privilege accorded him. Refugee believers identify with the need to remain true to God’s Word no matter their circumstances—to refuse to compromise or use underhanded ways to better their situation or seek retribution.

Expect helpers along the way: Joseph’s destiny was ultimately in God’s hands, but in the earthly realm was in the hands of others. He trusted God to guide the hands and hearts of the rulers toward God’s ultimate purposes. Along the way, God provided helpers in this journey—Judah to sell Joseph rather than let him be killed, Potiphar purchasing Joseph, the keeper of the prison giving Joseph privileges, the cupbearer bringing Joseph to Pharaoh, Pharaoh raising Joseph to his right hand. Refugee believers have to trust that God will provide advocates along the way to move them toward the destiny God has created for them.

Create relational networks along the way: The challenge of the refugee road becoming a movement is that relational networks change from week to week. Families are torn apart and new living situations present themselves each week or month. Joseph was torn from his family and moved from place to place. Rather than see only his blood family as his relational network, Joseph created new relational networks along the way—Potiphar’s household, the prisoner network and eventually the palace network of Egypt. Refugee leaders with a vision for a movement realize they must help new believers create and embrace new relational networks face-to-face, by phone, and online. As they embrace these new networks and disciple each other in these various forms, the movement is growing and finding stability. 

God’s favor will be upon you: God’s hand of favor was continually upon Joseph. The seed of saving his family planted in the dreams of Genesis 37 was watered all along the way. God’s promise was one of favor and purpose he could hold onto in dark times. Refugee believers frequently ask: “Why did God save me first rather than my brother or my cousin (or someone else)?” They find a growing sense that God’s favor is upon them to be the channel of salvation and this favor fills their hearts with gratitude.

God’s school of suffering: Years ago a greatly persecuted Chinese underground leader shared with me: “Prison is God’s seminary for me. It is when He lets me stop long enough to study my Bible more deeply, write and hear His voice more clearly.” God’s school of suffering. Suffering was Joseph’s seminary. It was the crucible of shaping Joseph into the man who could be the channel of salvation. The Joseph of Genesis 37 was not ready for the throne of Egypt; the Joseph of Genesis 40 was. Refugee believers must embrace periods of suffering as God’s seminary to prepare them for the greater works Jesus promised (John 14:12).

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

The story of Joseph is one of uncanny precedent that refugee believers can learn from. It is a biblical case study for a movement that can be repeated again today. The key will be refugee believers taking on the identity and vision of a true Joseph movement. Such a vision will be as costly to them as it was to Joseph. But if believers can identify this moment as a Joseph opportunity, then it may well become multiple kingdom movements intertwining their fingers both in the diaspora and back home in the sending countries. Will Muslim background believers take on this identity? Will they embrace the cost that comes with the promise?

And for Christian leaders around the world working with these precious brothers and sisters, will we embrace the same vision and communicate it with faith to them? Will we communicate it to our own churches? Will we reinterpret the unfolding events to demonstrate God’s amazing purposes?

If we do, then we are casting a vision of what is on our Father’s Heart.

And, in case you wondered how to cast vision in general, this article has been an example—bringing an encouraging and inspiring word to growing disciples based on Father’s heart.

This is an article from the May-June 2016 issue: Getting to No Place Left

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

A few years ago Mission Frontiers featured David Platt’s Radical, a strategic book for mobilizing the church. We are delighted now to feature Steve Smith’s thriller “No Place Left” saga, designed to carry the Church further in the same direction. This excerpt is from Hastening (Book One).

“Congratulations, my imperturbable accomplice,” John said. “We made the Washington Post.”

Christopher sighed as he scanned the headline: L.A. Pastor Speeds Up the Return of Jesus. “Really, bro, you shouldn’t pay attention to these things.”

“They’re saying we think we can dictate when Jesus returns. They’re saying we’re taking Matthew 24:14 and 2 Peter 3:12 too far, as if the moment the last unreached people group is reached, Jesus has to return,” John said.

Christopher studied his longtime friend. “There’s more to it, though, isn’t there, bro?”

“Well,” John admitted, “I’ve had similar questions, lingering questions. We’re gaining a lot of momentum, so I haven’t wanted to rock the boat—especially since I often appear critical.”

“I’m not! I support you and this mission unreservedly! But, Christopher, what if they’re right? Are we trying to dictate when Jesus will return? How can we actually hasten Jesus’ return? This is the question that plagues me. Isn’t God sovereign? Hasn’t He set the date for Jesus’ return? How can we speed up the coming of that day?”

“Bro, I wish you had said something sooner,” Christopher commented. “Actually, I wish that I had said something. We’re getting a lot of kickback on this, so I’ve been studying it more deeply—making sure we’re not off base. And here’s the thing. Of course God is sovereign. And at the same time, we play a role in bringing about His sovereign plans. Think about it this way. Remember when you came to faith?”

“I was quite the rabid dog, wasn’t I?” John said, smiling. “Couldn’t shut up about my new life.”

“Well, not exactly. You were also really, really nervous about talking to your dad about it, remember?”

“Well, who wouldn’t be?” John said. “He was a Rhodes scholar. Tenured faculty. Twice the intellectual—and cynic—I am. And always finding fault with born-again Christians.”

Christopher nodded. “You kept praying, ‘Lord, send someone to witness to my dad, someone with the intellectual faculties to back him into a corner.’ Remember?”

John winced. “Yes, until that fateful day when I realized my dad was my responsibility. It was up to me to share the gospel with him.”

Christopher leaned back in his chair. “Now, think about it, bro. How long did you wait to open your mouth? Six months?”

“Yeah, but I finally got convicted to do something about it. Otherwise I probably would have waited six years, or perhaps even sixteen.”

John paused. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was buying that plane ticket to Boston. But you know, after we had spent a little time together and I shared my story, he just melted. I was speechless.”

“Bro, the testimony of your changed life and your love for him was more powerful than any apologetics someone else might have debated with him,” Christopher said, smiling.

“I—I guess so. I’m still amazed my dad’s a Jesus-follower. The cynic now an evangelist!”

Christopher leaned forward. “Now think about this, bro. You were the instrument God used to lead your dad to faith. You wanted to wait years and very well might have if God hadn’t convicted you to speed up the process.

“You and I know the date of your dad’s salvation was set in heaven before the earth was formed. But, in a way, you hastened that day by buying that plane ticket and witnessing to your dad. Perhaps if you had waited six years, he would have believed later, but you didn’t wait. You hastened the day, though from heaven’s viewpoint that had been God’s plan all along. Your motivation fit within God’s plans.”

“God destined my father’s day of salvation, but I became His instrument,” John repeated to himself. “From my vantage point, I speeded up that day by acting in faith sooner rather than later. Someone was going to win him. Why not me, and why not then? How was I to know it wasn’t to be his day of salvation?”

“It was the same when Church in the City sent our first short-term team to China,” Christopher said. “Remember the medical clinics we did in the villages? There were people there who might not have heard the gospel for many more years if we had not come. God knew when He created them when they would believe, but from our perspective, we hastened the day of their salvation.

“Look, bro. Fatalism drove those who opposed William Carey. They told him, ‘Sit down, young man. … When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or ours.’”

John chuckled. “Uh, yeah, I could have been one of them.”

Christopher continued, “All I know is that someday God will raise up a generation with the motivation, the wherewithal, and the perseverance to finish the task—the last generation. From earth’s vantage point—whether or not we become that generation—we are hastening that day by focusing on finishing the task. From God’s vantage point, He has chosen someone to finish the task and appointed the times and seasons of their final work. If we are the ones He has chosen, we’re not speeding God up; God is speeding us up to usher in the day He prepared long ago.

“Bro, we’re on solid biblical ground. Solid not just according to me but also respected theologians. Listen to Marvin Vincent’s hundred-year-old comments on 2 Peter 3:12.”

Christopher picked up an ancient tome, gently leafed to the appropriate page, and read:

I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer.”

John contemplated these words.

“Will Jesus come back the moment the last UPG is reached?” Christopher asked. He glanced once more at the headline as he grabbed the paper again. “I don’t know. I just know that this is the mission He left us with, and that He said we would finish before His return. I want to finish the task He has given us.

He tossed it back down again and said, “He’s not waiting for permission from us to come back. Rather He is patiently waiting for us to do what He commanded, and He’ll come back when the time is right. …

“There will be a last generation. Why not us? Carey suggested his generation speed up the Great Commission by going. I ask why we can’t hasten finishing this task. By God’s grace I will lay down my life to see it completed. Perhaps God’s plan all along has been to raise up this generation as His vehicle for finishing the task before He sends Jesus on the day appointed from the foundation of this world.”

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task  - VIDEO

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

How to Reach Frontier Peoples: Following Paul’s Principles

How to Reach Frontier Peoples: Following Paul’s Principles
Throughout most of Christian history, movements to Christ have developed in new cultures following certain biblical principles. Historically, not one people group has been won to Christ without an indigenous movement developing at some point within the group.
The previous articles focused on the “who” of clarifying the remaining frontier mission task—figuring out which people groups still have no indigenous movements to Christ and so still need a pioneering or frontier mission outreach. This article will focus on the “how”—how frontier groups have historically been approached differently than groups that already have indigenous movements.
Throughout the centuries, movements to Christ have been stillborn in a lot of the remaining Frontier People Groups, even when workers have been sent. It seems that when we got to these particular people groups, mostly Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, we changed our message and our methods. We did not bring the message as Good News to the whole people group or community, as evangelicals have continued to do with pagan tribal groups everywhere.
Virtually all tribal groups are very religious, but tribal believers have not been encouraged to leave their families and move to a different Christian tribe, learn a new language, change their name, eat differently and not go back, as has so. Then happened to Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists who become believers. The gospel has been able to penetrate and change animistic tribal groups, often very demonic and violent, because the believers have continued to be a part of the tribe.
For some reason, however, when reaching out to people groups that are a part of major religious groups, suddenly missionaries have insisted that those becoming believers must leave their families and communities in order to follow Jesus. When Hindus come to Christ, their faith is suspect if they refuse to eat beef. Likewise, Muslims are sometimes expected to prove their faith in Christ by eating pork, removing their veils, or not fasting during Ramadan.
Such behavior insures that their families will be shamed, and their communities will ostracize them. Sometimes believers have even been encouraged to change their names from their family names, which sound Hindu or Muslim, to names that sound Christian. Is it any surprise that the community they come from becomes very resistant to any further wooing away of their relatives?
We need to return to following biblical principles of spreading the gospel into new cultures, whereby God establishes His Fatherhood in relation to believers in all people groups.
Paul sets the precedent and principles for frontier missions
Paul was specifically called by God to stop focusing on winning his own people group, the Jews, and to focus on winning the Gentiles, meaning non-Jewish people groups. In doing so, Paul set the precedent for a distinct calling to “frontier missions” by making it his ambition to go “where Christ has not been named” (Romans 15:20).
Paul also firmly established the foundational missiological principle of frontier missions, with the approval of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. This principle was that new people groups coming to Christ did not have to get rid of their own people group identity and take on the identity of other socio-religious group, such as Judaism, in order to follow Jesus. Salvation was by faith alone.
The other apostles agreed to “not make it difficult” for the new people groups turning to God (Acts 15:19), by adding on to their faith Jewish religious requirements, because God who knows the heart, had shown that He accepted them, through giving them the Holy Spirit” just as He had the apostles (Acts 15: 8). This verse refers to Peter’s visit to the home of a Roman Centurion, where the Holy Spirit fell upon him and his family, before Peter had finished speaking and before they had been baptized.
Paul called this breakthrough in missiological understanding the” mystery of the gospel” revealed to him by God (Rom. 6:24-26, Eph. 3:1-20).  Paul asserted that God’s plan from the beginning was that all the peoples of the world could enter into relationship with Him through faith in Christ one, joint heirs of salvation by faith, all children of God and a part of the body of Christ, no matter how different they were. The gospel was, in fact, the power of salvation to who believed, whether Jewish or from any other people group, the very power of God to bring righteousness by faith alone (Rom. 1:16-17).
Throughout most of Protestant mission history, Paul’s principle has been followed. And, through faith, the gospel has overcome small tribal religions with witchcraft and idols, cannibalism and violence.
“But isn’t it another thing entirely to be a part of a massive people group, united politically, with a clear religious hierarchy and specific religious requirements? Surely, in that case, leaving your people group identity to join another more identified with Christ is important!”
Let’s see.
Was Roman citizenship a socio-religious-political identity?
The Romans were the Jews’ political enemies and worshippers of a whole pantheon of gods, including their emperor. Peter was shocked that God asked him to visit a Roman Centurion. He said to Cornelius, “It is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or me into (the house) of one from another nation” because at home was “unclean” (Acts 10:28). The last thing that Peter and his companions expected was that God would fully accept these uncircumcised “unclean” Romans. The Roman Empire was not a secular society, but included a state religion that preceded Christ and continued for the following three centuries. Just like in some modern societies, the religion and politics of Rome were completely intertwined. Why would God affirm Roman believers who stayed Romans?
But God did just that. He gave His Holy Spirit to the whole family of a Roman military officer. Thereby, God revealed clearly that He accepted the faith of Roman citizens, just as they were. There is no suggestion in Acts that Cornelius was required to leave either his Roman citizenship or even his military office. Seeing other Gentiles also blessed by God, Paul realized that Roman believers could remain Roman citizens and not become Jews (even though their Roman citizenship identified them with an emperor who demanded to be worshipped as a god).
Over the next 250 years, from time to time Roman believers in Jesus were required to prove they worshipped the emperor or suffer imprisonment or even death. Notice that Rome considered people to be political traitors if they were religious traitors. Some Roman Christians bought fake proofs of worship and others gladly took their punishment. But, following Paul’s command they still did not change people groups and become Jews, even though being Jewish would have exempted them from Roman religious expectations of emperor worship. A change of socio- religious identity would have not only protected Roman believers from times of persecution but also protected the Jewish believers from harassment (from both Roman and Jewish authorities).
Because Paul understood the “mystery of the gospel”—the importance of salvation through faith in Jesus alone—it was able to spread in Roman society, producing an indigenous movement of believers. In 250 years, the gospel movement among the Romans transformed the Roman Empire.
In his letters, Paul repeatedly insists that the only “conversion” be to allegiance to God through Christ himself, not to any worldly identity or religious pattern. Paul even took the pen into his own hand, at the end of the letter to Galatians, to underscore the crucial nature of the revelation he had received from God, concerning how the gospel is a matter of faith in Christ, not socio-religious conversion. Paul wrote, “ Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15-16).
Paul’s frontier mission principle throughout the ages
For most of Christian history, those bringing the gospel to new people groups have followed the principles revealed by God to Paul. The believers in various peoples, whether Ethiopian, Armenian, Persian, Irish, Slavic or Indian, were not required to take on a Roman Christian identity to have faith in Christ. Each retained their own people group identity as the movement to Christ grew in their midst.
However, later, contrary to what Paul preached, a coercive Roman Catholic hierarchy modeled on Roman government principles began to insist that believers in other cultures swear allegiance not just to Christ but also to Roman Catholic councils and to the Pope in Rome (ironically making him god-like similar to the Roman Emperor). So, two hundred years after the Irish Celts came to Christ and became outstanding missionaries to much of Europe, they were forced into the Roman ecclesiastical fold at the Synod of Whitby (664AD). Even later in 1600, the Catholics tried to force the Indian St. Thomas movement to join them but with little success. The Protestant Reformation was in part a revolt against this socio-religious-political domination and was seen as a heretical tragedy by institutional Roman Christianity, but seen as a return to genuine faith and Spirit-led movements by other peoples.
During most of the Protestant mission era, Paul’s insistence that conversion be to Christ alone has prevailed. Even former cannibals have not been removed from their tribe in order to be better believers in another culture. As the gospel was brought to tribes in Africa, the Amazon, and the Pacific, believers remained in and identified with their own people groups while consistently being delivered from their idolatrous, violent or sexually-depraved ways. We did not make it difficult for movements to develop in these people groups, even though most went through various kinds of syncretism as they grew in their faith, similar to our own histories.
Only in some contexts have Paul’s biblical missiological principles been called into question by Protestants, and actively stigmatized by some. Believers from Hindu and Muslim people groups, in particular, have been taught to “come out from among them” (2 Cor. 6:16-18, Isa. 52:11). But Paul used this phrase concerning demonic practices, not in reference to people group affiliation. Paul is reminding the Corinthian believers that God has become their Father, and now lives and walks among them, making them His own people (without becoming Jews). The transformation of character, the new creation, happens to believers within their own families and people group, affecting the whole like yeast in the dough.
Evangelicals have had great success establishing the gospel in tribal groups where the revelation God gave to Paul has been applied. But there has been very little success in 200 years among Hindu, Muslim and other groups where we have encouraged a break with their families and/or people group in order to become believers in a different culture. When new believers are isolated from their families and people group, no movement to Christ develops within that people group. In fact, the opposite happens, as their families and people group become determined not to let Christianity “steal” their family members.
A Call to Return to Paul’s Principles for Reaching Frontier People Groups
I believe unless we fully understand and return to Pauline principles of implanting the gospel into families, without removing them from their socio-religious-political communities, we will continue to make little progress in today’s largest remaining Frontier People Groups.
If the apostles released the Romans becoming believers to remain in their families and remain Roman citizens, in spite of the religious requirements and heinous sins of that powerful extensive society, should we not apply the same principles today? Thankfully, where Paul’s biblical principles are being applied, movements among some of the most “resistant” people groups are now appearing.
It is not enough to identify which groups have the least help and are making the least progress in receiving the Good News. We also need to go back to following the biblical and historical principles God has shown us  for sparking indigenous movements in Frontier People Groups and training global workers in these principles.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Kingdom Kernels

Momentum for a Movement— Pushing Through Generational Hurdles

Kingdom Kernels

 Momentum is paramount in movements. With the right impetus by human catalysts and the divine empowering of the Holy Spirit, Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) can and should continue in momentum generation after generation as they spread to saturate a people group or area. Many CPMs also cascade into other unreached people groups. CPM practitioners understanding the nature of this momentum is critical if the human catalyst side of the equation is to be effective.

Ninety percent of my efforts in relating to church-planting or disciple-making movements are focused on this issue of momentum—gaining and maintaining momentum in the face of the inevitable hurdles. These hurdles typically come in the first four generations of a budding movement. We label pre-existing missionaries and national Christians as the baseline generation—Gen 0 (zero). Gen 1 consists of new churches formed of new believers, not simply new churches formed of Gen 0 Christians. Gen 2 churches are formed from Gen 1 churches, and again primarily include new believers that have come from Gen 1 efforts. This progression carries on generation after generation. When we can track at least multiple separate relational streams of 4th-plus generation churches (and usually 100 churches or more), a movement has begun.

The moment a new generation starts, the clock starts ticking for them. How many days, weeks or months will it take for that generation to reproduce a new generation? What is the gestation period before they have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? This gestation period, which we call a generational rate, must be understood and cultivated by CPM catalysts.

In the beginning, the generational rate is not often on their minds. With the euphoria that comes from seeing a Gen 1 church started with new believers, a church planter gives primary attention to their basic discipleship and making sure the new church grows in health, and rightly so.    In the excitement and celebration of that season, however, is anyone actually saying, “How long will it take for us to birth our own Gen 2 church?”

A critical precedent is being set from Gen 1 to Gen 2, and from Gen 2 to Gen 3. That precedent is how long it will take for each generation to push through the natural hurdles of birthing a new generation. The precedent is a fight for a healthy generational rate. Without attention, the generational rate can slow down into months or years, and years are too slow for it to become a movement.

Therefore, the majority of my time as a consultant and trainer is to help CPM catalysts from around the world understand how to keep momentum moving forward, especially as they push through the hurdles of each new generation. I have discovered that if a movement can push through the first four major generational hurdles, it will probably push through any other later hurdles resulting in churches that number 13 generations, 18 generations, or even 30+ generations.

However, examining the three foundational areas of movements will often solve the problem by revealing that one of the foundational areas is deficient. In this article, I will unpack how deficiencies in any foundational area can slow down momentum in a movement, while in my subsequent article I will deal with common generation hurdles and their solutions. These three foundational areas are the most simple way I know to do an overall assessment of a movement. Master these and you are on the way to diagnosing problems and finding solutions.

Three foundational areas of movements

In the Jan/Feb 2016 edition of Mission Frontiers I outlined these three basic areas and refer you there for a fuller explanation. To make things more memorable through alliteration, I’ve changed the name of first area from Spiritual Climate to Spiritual Posture:

  1. Spiritual POSTURE
  2. Clear, simple PATH
  3. Reproducing discipleship PROCESS

No movement can emerge or last very long in a healthy manner without attention to these three areas:

  1. Spiritual POSTURE—Are the spiritual elements in place that invite God to enter into the ministry? Core elements include 1) vision among the believer to pursue what is on God’s heart not their own vision, 2) deep abiding in Christ, full of His Spirit, 3) fervent prayer and 4) willingness to die (John 12:24) or pay the price to see the vision on God’s heart fulfilled.
  2. Clear, simple PATH (sometimes called “four fields”)– Once the vision is clear and believers are surrendered in faith, a path is laid out for them to 1) engage people, 2) evangelize the lost, 3) immediately disciple those who believe, and 4) form them into healthy churches. The tools or methods of this path must be simple enough that new believers from the harvest can implement them in new generations. If so, in the process 5) leaders will emerge as the generations multiply and healthy movements begin.
  3. Reproducing discipleship PROCESS (three-thirds process) — It is not enough to put CPM tools or methods in the hands of these new disciples. Each week, they need to gather together in groups that equip and encourage them to obey God’s Word, as well as use the tools they are learning. We most often call these three-thirds groups because they divide their meeting times into three parts:
  1. Look back —a time of worship personal care, encouragement (fresh vision) and accountability to evaluate how effective they were at obeying whatever God told them the prior week
  2. Look up —time in the Scripture to hear God speak afresh
  3. Look ahead—time to set some goals based on what God is telling them, to practice the tools they will need in the process and to pray for each other as they go out in anticipation

To be a healthy movement, a CPM needs these three areas remain balanced. Finding what is out of balance often solves the generational hurdles.

1.Spiritual Posture Deficiencies

A few years ago, I began to spot a common problem CPM ministry attempts. CPM practitioners were becoming excited to implement CPM principles in areas two and three above. In the area of a 2) clear, simple path, they were finding very reproducible methods to enable better evangelism—evangelism that could be implemented by new disciples arising from the harvest. Discipleship tools that were worldview appropriate were enabling these new disciples to start down the path of short-term discipleship, and many of them could do the same with family and friends they led to faith. Perhaps most exciting ere some revolutionary new tools based on Acts 2 and other passages for helping small groups truly cross the line to being healthy churches in both identity and function. One missionary told me that when he came to his region thirty years earlier, the average time to form a church was 2 years. He was ecstatic to find a way to form healthy churches within weeks and months. Because the methods were reproducible, a lot of church planting ministries were finally bearing second and perhaps third generation churches.

Second, as many CPM practitioners began to equip believers with these methods using a 3) reproducing discipleship process (three-thirds meetings), the implementation rate by new disciples was increasing. With such an environment of better, culturally appropriate biblical tools and a context in which believers could be lovingly equipped with freedom to fail, but always encouraged to keep trying, some multiplication was inevitable—but not for the long term.

A problem was developing to such an extent that it prompted me to emphasize foundational area one (spiritual posture) almost out of proportion to the other two areas. For example, with five hundred missionaries I oversaw in Southeast Asia, a few ministries were achieving Gen 2 and Gen 3 churches, but stopping there. The problem was not in the methods, but in the spiritual posture of the ministry. It was all too easy to rely upon these newly discovered methods and processes and ignore the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

This prompted me to begin teaching more on the spiritual posture of a movement, how to seek the vision on God’s heart, how to pray fervently for that vision and a willingness to pay the price to see the gospel go to the hardest places. But even more than these was helping our missionaries and their national believers learn to truly abide in Christ. They needed to learn how to be full of the Spirit daily and follow His leading.

Without this vital ingredient, we were ignoring Jesus’ command to wait until power came from on high before going out to do the work (e.g. Lk. 24:49). By and large, we had thousands of believers doing the work without fully understanding how to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This prompted me to finally write my latest book Spirit Walk to help CPM practitioners and believers in general take the fear out of the Spirit and learn what it is to truly live in relationship with Him daily.

Recently, a dear brother (who I consider one of the most faithful CPM practitioners and who is bearing fruit) finished reading Spirit Walk. He said, “Steve, this was the missing ingredient for me.” When we read the book of Acts, we are impressed at how the disciples, and especially Paul’s team, followed the guidance of the Spirit. A deficiency in this area keeps us from bearing fruit for the long term. This is because we have the tools and a discipleship process, but only the Spirit can tell us where and with whom. He guides us to the people God has prepared.

2. Clear, Simple Path and 3. Reproducing Discipleship Process Deficiencies

My next article will detail numerous challenges practitioners face when they encounter generational hurdles from Gen 0 to Gen 4. The vast majority of these fall within these latter two foundational areas. Assuming that spiritual posture is in place, then solving these other issues can propel a movement through the most common hurdles.

Finding answers in these two areas is critical. We must avoid the attitude of a missionary who told me 20 years ago, “I don’t do any planning or use any methods; I just follow the leading of the Spirit.” Perhaps that works for a few highly gifted individuals, but Jesus clearly gave His disciples methods to use in outreach and the evangelists in Acts used these same methods. A very fruitful friend of mine has said, “I find it a lot easier to follow the leading of the Spirit when I have lots of tools in my toolbelt.”

We all need the methods and tools that come from a clear path that moves us through entry, evangelism, discipleship, church formation and leadership development. And more importantly, disciples from the harvest need these tools. They need to know how to share the gospel. They need to know how to pray. They need to know how to be church.

But simply putting tools in their hands is not enough.    I remember teaching my sons to use a  power  saw.  There was no way I was going to put that saw in their hands without modeling how to do it and then a lot of assisting and watching until they got it right safely. The reproducing discipleship process helps new disciples pick up each tool they need, see it modeled, personally practice it and then confidently implement it in the world outside of their small group or church as they are led by the Spirit.

As you look at your work or the work of others, I encourage you to ask questions such as these:

  1. Are the basic spiritual elements in place for believers to rely upon God to achieve what is on His heart? Are they postured in an attitude of surrender and fullness of the Spirit? Do these surrendered disciples have methods that are simple enough that each generation can use? Do they naturally connect in one path from 1) entry (who to talk to and how to start) to 2) evangelism to 3) discipleship to 4) church formation to 5) leadership development?
  2. Do these surrendered disciples have methods that are simple enough that each generation can use? Do they naturally connect in one path from 1) entry (who to talk to and how to start) to 2) evangelism to 3) discipleship to 4) church formation to 5) leadership development?
  3. Are these methods being implemented in a healthy discipleship process where 1) they can look back and evaluate in a safe, loving environment, 2) they can look up to receive instructions from God’s Word and 3) they can take the time to practice a method or tool and make plans to obey what God said? Is this three-thirds process helping them effectively implement the methods of the simple path above at each new generation?

When these three areas are in balance, you will find that most of the issues you need to overcome to press through generational hurdles will be solved. Each generation will then find the God-prepared people who will bear fruit 30, 60 and 100x. I call these individuals by several interchangeable names: Person of Peace, Fourth Soil Person, Worthy Person (Matt. 10:11) or simply God- prepared person as a summary. Two editions ago, my friend Kevin Greeson drew a distinction between these. After considering it, he is posting this update to that edition.

Statement from Kevin Greeson on Persons of Peace

In my article in Mission Frontiers (July-August 2018, Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Fourth-Soil Person or Person of Peace), I offered similarities and distinctions between the Fourth-soil Person and a Person of Peace. The possibility of them being one and the same exists. Regardless, both are found through sowing of the Word of God and seeing who responds. Aiming for one or the other falls within Jesus’ field modus operandi. A CPM practitioner stands on solid ground when sowing with the intent of finding Persons of Peace and Fourth-Soil individuals.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

24:14 Goal

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (86 months)

24:14 Goal

Church Planting Movement practitioners believe CPM methods follow the ministry methods of Jesus. Perhaps the time has come for our missionary training methods to follow the mentoring models of Christ as well. 

With some exceptions, the “shocking secret” about missionary training is that the large majority of workers sent to the mission field receive little to no practical field training prior to their deployment. 

However, over the last several years, mission leaders have been encouraging the growth of missionary training models that produce more effective and fruitful movement catalysts in shorter time. Veteran practitioners implementing these models are excitedly reporting that new workers are making progress towards Church Planting Movements (CPMs) much faster than those trained in traditional patterns of classroom or workshop-based trainings. Regional leaders are beginning to ask for candidates that are prepared in these disciplines. Some are even requiring this more experiential and mentoring-based training approach for new missionaries because of the observed higher implementation rate than workshop-based patterns. To expand and accelerate adoption of these models, the 24:14 Coalition is promoting a flexible, networked CPM Training Hub system to better prepare field workers to implement effective movement practices. This could serve as a standalone approach or be paired with workshop-based trainings. 

I have a great appetite to see this vision become reality. As mission workers, our family labored on the field for the first seven years without seeing anyone become a disciple of Christ. After receiving CPM training we worked for an additional seven years, pioneering a local Church Planting Movement. Knowing the burden of laboring without fruit, I am passionate to deploy laborers who are well trained, who will not repeat our same mistakes (though they will make others) and who can become fruitful much more quickly. 

A Hub System

 The CPM Training Hub concept envisions several “phases” of training to experientially equip workers seeking to catalyze a movement among the unreached. 

Phase 1—This involves people beginning their CPM training in their home-culture context. Unless a missionary candidate came to Christ within a CPM, numerous paradigm shifts are needed on the journey to CPM fruitfulness. Mission leaders are observing that it is easier for people to ingest these concepts when their learning is not started in a cross-cultural environment with the additional culture shock and language learning stress that muddy the CPM learning process. Phase 1 offers the opportunity for learning in an environment where mistakes are easily correctable by an experienced mentor. Practicing within one’s own culture also gives the missionary candidate an opportunity to affirm a call to church planting before they embark on the challenges of advanced missionary training, support raising, language acquisition and cultural assimilation.

Phase 2—Before deploying to a “final destination,” Phase 2 equips the new missionary within a cross-cultural context that is as close in affinity as possible to the unreached people group they desire to reach. This hub is led by national or expat mentors who ideally are seeing a movement in the training location, or are at least seeing some multiplication in the area using CPM principles. 

This hub trains in contextualized movement principles while helping the mission workers begin language and culture acquisition. Their home culture hub experience helps them understand and apply general movement principles. Then the cross-cultural hub allows the new missionary to visualize and experience CPM in a culture similar to their intended focus culture. There they can assimilate contextualized CPM principles under the helpful guidance of movement tutors. 

Phase 3—In Phase 3, the mission worker deploys to their target unreached people group (UPG) with a great deal of experience and potentially with other national or expat co-laborers they met in Phase 2. Their trainers/coaches from Phase 2 will continue to help and guide them into this third phase. 

Phase 4—We have realized that if/when a movement starts, rather than moving on to another assignment, it is more strategic for these outside catalysts to go into Phase 4. This consists of helping to send movement laborers from their focus group to one or more nearby UPGs to start new movements–multiplying movements.

A Closer Look

With the goal of catalyzing movement engagement in every unreached people and place by 2025, the 24:14 Coalition is urgently working to grow a network of CPM Training Hubs. We have identified emerging training hubs training Phase 1 missionaries in their home cultures (all around the world), as well as a number of teams and organizations that have started Phase 2 Hubs, receiving trainees from Phase 1 experiences. 

As 24:14 analyzed the early-stage effectiveness of this approach, we noticed that Phase 2 Hubs reported an accelerated learning process and effectiveness for missionary candidates who had been through Phase 1. Because they practiced movement principles in their home culture away from the “learning clutter” of language and culture acquisition, candidates hit the ground running and developed good movement habits in their language and culture acquisition phase. We have seen a strong correlation between the amount of practical experience in movement practices someone has in Phase 1, and how quickly they effectively implement movement practices in subsequent phases. Some have already begun to see fruits of movement in their Phase 2 Hub experience! 

The time commitment to Phase 1 and 2 Hubs varies, depending on the background of workers being deployed, the sponsoring organizations and unique curricula, and the focus region. Some Hubs focus on giving candidates basic experience in movement principles, while completing a missionary training program. Some hubs direct candidates to become proficient in CPM skills before allowing them to progress in their training. Many hub locations worldwide have an initial focus on catalyzing a movement in that location, after which mobilization occurs naturally. 

We have found that requiring more experience and fruitfulness from candidates before proceeding to their target destination does not have a negative effect on mobilization. It actually helps mobilize more people for the field. We also anticipate it will have a positive impact on missionary retention levels. 

Several have noted that a hub system can’t be prescribed for the global Body of Christ as a requirement all missionary candidates must pursue. However, a robust CPM Training Hub system would serve well the vast majority of missionary candidates who would benefit from an opportunity to learn in the context of active coaching. 

Creating a Lattice to Grow Hubs

 While hub sponsors employ numerous curricula for missionary candidates, many organizations are working together to develop a lattice of criteria to help evaluate CPM Hub Training and candidate readiness. 24:14 is proposing standards of training and care gleaned from these hub leaders that could potentially serve as a global “airline alliance,” collaborating together to better train candidates. 

With so many organizations and approaches out there, how can we envision a lattice that facilitates collaboration? One popular approach has been to use a simple “Head, Heart, Hands, House” framework to describe the competencies needed for a missionary to thrive at the next stage. Figure 1 is a conglomeration of what several organizations and networks have listed as competencies for people completing a Phase 1 Training Hub and deploying to Phase 2. Figure 2 shows a similar vision for competencies for Phase 2 learners transitioning to the coaching-intensive Phase 3. Many of these standards spring from years of missionary training programs, yet the focus on practical experience and implementing these skills before deploying from one stage to the next is a new and unique focus. While these competencies can be achieved through a variety of curricula and learning processes, the key underpinning of the 24:14 Hubs Network is the idea that missionary candidates are asked to become skilled in CPM principles and practices before deploying to their next phase. These training processes may be developed at a hub or out-sourced, but having a general set of recommendations allows hubs to adapt organically and facilitate collaboration between organizations. 

In the months to come, the Hubs Task Force has the following plans: 

  • Continue to find and document new hubs. 
  • Gather hub leaders to develop best practices and further refine the competencies. 
  • Create connections between organizations sponsoring hubs, to decrease duplication and make the network stronger. 
  • Network interested people and organizations who want to join the hub system. 
  • Assist, through resources and consulting, organizations and churches that want to create CPM training hubs and become mobilization centers.

 We in 24:14 sincerely believe this model can greatly increase the frequency of CPMs among the unreached of the world. You can receive more information on the hub system and the hubs survey project via our website ( or by contacting [email protected]

Fig.1 Phase 1 Competencies


Culture Training: Understanding basics of culture, worldview, contextualization and cross-cultural expectations. Theology: Understanding basics of Theology of Salvation, Overview of Scripture, Missions, Personal Calling, Suffering and core Christian Doctrines

CPM Training: Understands the basic DNA of movements and their biblical justification using one of the common movement training templates (Transition Points of Movement, DMM, T4T, Four Fields, Zume, etc.). Understands a simple plan and process that leads to reproduction.

Language: Preparation for how to learn a language. 

Pastoral Care: Knows of and is able to use available resources.


Spiritual Authenticity: Focus on seeing that the trainee has a healthy degree of the following and is making consistent progress: humility and teachability; walking in honesty and integrity; hearing and obeying God; exercising faith that God will start a movement with his/her people group;love for God and others. Perseverance: Has demonstrated perseverance in difficult circumstances. Displays a dogged tenacity to do the right things to complete the task, pressing through obstacles. Has counted the cost of personal risk. Has a long-term commitment to God’s calling. 

Personal Spiritual Disciplines: Demonstrates a lifestyle of prayer, time in God’s Word, obedience, fasting, accountability, hard work and rest, abiding in Christ and personal transparency. Understands basics of spiritual warfare.

Personal Holiness: Has a lifestyle free from addiction. Lives in moderation in all things. Seeks to avoid being a stumbling block for others.

Personal Wholeness: Is in a healthy place working through personal issues (addiction, depression, self-image) and family of origin issues (divorce, trauma, abuse), has a healthy marriage (if applicable), is in a healthy place working through parenting issues. Has been evaluated by a counselor for field readiness.


Engagement and Evangelism: Has extensive practice in engaging lost people, finding potential Persons of Peace and sharing the gospel message in a way that intentionally moves the lost toward becoming disciples of Jesus. Demonstrates the Kingdom: Has learned to pray blessing over people and pray for the sick.

Discipleship and Church Formation: Has practice in making disciples that form churches (preferably from the lost) and has worked toward reproducing them generationally. 

Vision Casting: Has practice in envisioning others in disciple making and Church-Planting Movements.

Training: Has practice training others in disciple making and church planting using one of the common movement training templates.

Developing Prayer Strategy: Has learned the basics of planning and executing a prayer strategy for their people group.

Planning and Evaluation: Learns to plan, evaluate the brutal reality and adapt based on the fruit he/she sees.


Personal Skills: Has good people skills, communication skills and conflict resolution skills. Can manage anger, disappointment and anxiety.

Team Life: Has learned healthy patterns of team life.

Team Training and Development: Has learned to resolve team conflict and value different roles in a team environment.

Team Experience: Preferably has extensive practice “teaming” with others as they reach out to a local target population.

Finance: Is free from significant debt and has received adequate support raising training. Has raised full support before deploying.

Fig.2 Phase 2 Competencies\


Culture: Has learned regional culture, history and religion to a level of competency necessary to understand contextual tools and navigate roadblocks to gospel inroads.

Language: Language acquisition plan developed in conjunction with trainers and coaches in Phase 2 with accountability in place.

CPM Training: Has learned CPM applications in the cultural context. Works to learn innovations and cultural applications of movement theory to the region. Has exposure to advanced movement leadership applications. Persecution and Perseverance: Has learned likely avenues of persecution in the target culture. Has learned biblical patterns for dealing with persecution and minimizing unnecessary persecution. Has learned to persevere in difficult circumstances.


Spiritual Authenticity: Demonstrates willingness to learn from others, especially locals. Shows cultural humility as a lifestyle. Has demonstrated a lifestyle of surrendering rights. 

Personal Spiritual Disciplines: Has continued and cultivated a lifestyle of prayer, time in God’s Word, obedience, fasting, accountability, hard work and rest, abiding in Christ, and personal transparency in target culture. Has learned to engage in spiritual warfare.

Perseverance: Has demonstrated perseverance in difficult circumstances. Displays a dogged tenacity to do the right things to complete the task, pressing through obstacles. Has counted cost of personal risk. Has a long-term commitment to God’s calling.

Personal Holiness: Has a lifestyle free from addiction. Lives in moderation in all things. Is aware of not being a stumbling block for others.

Personal Wholeness: Continues to be in a healthy place working through personal issues (addiction, depression, self image) and family of origin issues (divorce, trauma, abuse), has a healthy marriage (if applicable), is in a healthy place working through parenting issues. Has been evaluated by sending organization for continued field readiness. 

Culture: Willing to adapt to and appreciate host culture.


Engagement and Evangelism: Has extensive practice in engaging lost people, finding potential POPs and sharing the gospel message in a way that intentionally moves the lost towards salvation. Has learned reproducing evangelism tools that can equip locals in the use of these.

Demonstrates the Kingdom: Has learned to cross-culturally pray blessing over people and pray for the sick. Discipleship, Church, and Leadership: Has learned how to make reproducing disciples in target culture and has learned a strategy for church formation and leadership development that can work in the target culture. Demonstrates comfort in allowing Holy Spirit and the Word to lead through locals rather than needing to be the leader.\

Training: Has ability to train the basic DNA of movements and the biblical justification of them using one of the common movement training templates (Transition Points of Movement, DMM, T4T, Four Fields, Zume, etc.). Can train and envision a simple plan and process that gets to reproduction.

Developing Prayer Strategy: Has begun to recruit and incorporate other believing locals and expats into a prayer strategy for the area. Has recruited a number of daily intercessors to cover the work.

Planning and Evaluation: Is engaged in regular rhythms of planning, ruthless evaluation, and adaptation based on the fruit.

Tracking: Has learned to effectively track movement growth in the cultural context and apply learnings to planning and evaluation rhythms.


Presence and Platform: Has developed a strategy to implement that will minimally explain the reason for being in country and at most will give opportunities for engagement and a platform and visa for extended stay in country.

Team Development: Has adapted team life rhythms to interdependent overseas context.

Local Partnering: Is spending majority of time with local partners and the lost and is not overly dependent on expat team. Understands how to build effective partnerships.

Team Contributions: Has identified giftings on the team and has figured out ways for the team members to contribute. Has developed team agreement/ protocol and all team has reviewed and approved it. Networking: Has surveyed the mission work (especially movement related) in the area. Has learned about fruitful evangelism and discipleship processes. Maintains good relationships for partnership.

Security: Has developed contingency plan and emergency protocol document for the team. Understands and implements basic security protocols (social media, internet security, computer security, personal document security).

Leadership Development: Does not need to be “the leader.” Looks to empower, develop, and mentor others. 

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Further Reflections: No Shortcuts to Jesus

Further Reflections: No Shortcuts to Jesus

Since my wife and I arrived in Pasadena in 1983 to join the staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission, I’ve heard lots of strategies from global workers trying to reach the Unreached. Some hear and learn cultural, historical or religious stories—which they hope might impact whole people groups for the gospel. For example, I’ve heard how certain Chinese characters have underlying  meanings  that  point to spiritual truth. Or how various Sanskrit scriptures have epic stories that make for great analogies to share with Hindus.

The thinking behind this is that if we can understand and use these stories, we might understand their thinking and be able to soften people’s hearts so they might turn to God. It seems like some may be either, 1) looking for a shortcut to the hard work of deeply learning language and culture, and/or, 2) using some sort of “contextualized” strategy where they think they know the answers before they even start. Paul Pennington said that contextualization is “Christian code too often for cosmetically enhanced imitation of our assumed essentials.”

So, after hearing another example like this today, I wondered: what is it that  seems  to  draw  people  to  Jesus? I realize it is different in different situations, but I wondered if there is a pattern. We know that Jesus will draw people to Himself (John 12:32), and yet He has instructed us to pray, among other things, that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out laborers (Luke 10:2). Since we are to pray for God’s will, one of our greatest ministries is to pray that God will draw people from specific people groups to Christ.

I’ve also heard from some who have tried  a  simpler  approach.  They  too learned language and tried to understand the context/culture where they live—often living in-country for a long time. And they might use a story that connects with the spiritual climate or background of the culture, but they are mainly pointing people to Jesus through God’s Word.

It is easy for those who grew up in the church and/or became Christ followers long ago, to forget the power of the Word of God to transform lives. We have this as head knowledge. But we may need to be reminded of how this truth plays out every day around the world by people who grow up in very different contexts.

For example, one worker I know was serving in South Asia. He sought to live a holy life, even though it made him stand out. Eventually, he saw whole families meeting together in the evening to study about Jesus in the gospels. Another brother studied Jesus’ life with leaders in his Middle Eastern country. The group decided to compare Jesus with others—like Buddha or Ghandi. Eventually, they gave up on everyone other than Jesus! And they were increasingly drawn to Him.

In both contexts, the expatriate worker sought to keep his own views out of the way and let the Word speak—making sure to answer all spiritual questions with the Word. While I am reluctant to second guess someone who has lived or is living in the local situation, at times I’ve wondered if some workers wait too long before sharing more directly about how Jesus and the Scriptures have impacted their lives. Of course, sometimes, people share too boldly for their context and get themselves into trouble or are completely misunderstood. A while back, workers from a large Asian country were killed in a Muslim country because they were too aggressive. We should only call it “boldness and courage” when it is tied to wisdom from above.

I want to be clear that I believe it is very important that we understand our context. I don’t think I can say that too strongly. History matters. We have all seen situations where people—perhaps out of youthful zeal, perhaps out of immaturity— did things that seemed  to  us  to  be counter to the gospel in other contexts. We have all seen people close the door to God—perhaps in our own families.

But there are so many people in the world around all of us, who have not heard and would be willing to listen—even among the unreached. So yes—gain understanding  of the context where you are (or will be). Learn from the language they speak. Walk with them through life’s difficulties. Understand an individual’s life, family, or local history. Listen. Pray. How you live your life speaks volumes.

All of that can help show you how they think. That leads both you and them to the Word of Life.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Father Who Names the Nations

The Father Who Names  the Nations

Seeing things from God’s point of view may be the best way for us to envision an evangelized world. Our promise-keeping God has made it clear that He will bring forth blessing amidst every people. To bring forth blessing in every ethnicity, Christ has been unfolding His work throughout every ethnohistory, pursuing His purpose in the intricacies of every passing season. To fulfill our work of world evangelization we must think clearly, not only about how to bring the gospel to all nations; we must also consider how God’s blessing will abound to all generations

We Live in a Generational Story

Since the very beginning of languages and diverse cultures at Babel (Genesis 11:1–9), God has displayed His loving concern for all humanity by speaking of families, or all the peoples of the earth. How did He show His concern? In Genesis, the very next event after the Babel disaster is God speaking to Abram (Genesis 12:1–3). He promised not only to bring God’s life and blessing to all peoples, but also that He would do so with the succeeding generations, the descendants, the “seed,” of Abraham (Genesis 22:18, 26:4, 28:14). In the Abrahamic covenant we see God dealing with the totality of humanity as a family of many families with generational longevity and identity.

God the Father of All Peoples

In the coming of Jesus, God marvelously reveals Himself as Father. Jesus taught us clearly to trust the Most High God to act toward His people with devoted, vigilant parental love (Luke 11:13). In Christ, each person is known and loved by the heavenly Father as a daughter or a son. But the magnitude of God’s fatherly love surpasses concern for each individual. Our God pursues the redemption and honor of multigenerational peoples, as if each one of them were to Him a daughter or a son. The Father is bringing His entire family—a family of peoples—back to Himself. 

Every Generational People Named, Known and Prized

 Consider again Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesians: 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name...” (Ephesians 3:14–15).

Paul prays to the Father—the same “Father of glory” to whom he prayed earlier (1:17). He is also the Father of all humanity, described by Paul as “every family in heaven and on earth.” The Greek word for “family” is a specialized word, patria. This word was used to emphasize the multigenerational lineage of enduring peoples. The word implies an ongoing identity in ancestry and an expectation of descendants. The Father’s family consists of peoples with any kind of generational depth.

Why does Paul say that these multigenerational peoples are named by God? In the honor-shame culture of that day, a name called out one’s destiny, identity or anticipated honor. The Father knows and names each one of the peoples, like a human father would know the name, nature, the distinctive worth and likely destiny of each of his sons and daughters. Paul can sense the Father’s joy and delight with the unique beauty and unfolding story of each of the peoples. Paul also knows the heartbreaking sorrow of the Father as He grieves for the people lost to Him. No wonder Paul bows his knees before this magnificent Father. It is all we can do to number the peoples. Our Father God names them.

To understand what and why Paul is praying, we should recognize who he’s praying for. Paul was praying for Gentiles—non-Jewish people who, before being joined with Christ, understood themselves to be “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12). Paul wanted to assure them that because of Christ’s work on the cross, they had been reconciled to God, joined as a single entity, “in one body,” with the people of Israel to enjoy “access in one Spirit to the Father” as God’s people (2:16–18).

The Glory of the Nations

All of that matters because Paul was praying for “their glory” (3:13). Really? Glory somehow coming to the Gentiles? Isn’t all glory supposed to go to God? What is this glory? The glory God has in store for the Gentiles is the fulfillment of God’s purpose for His global people— that together as one people, all the diverse nations would experience and display the relational fullness of His glory 

Paul uses the biblical imagery of a living temple to express the splendor of relational nearness that God desires with His people. The foundation of the building is already laid. Construction is underway: 

“...Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:20–22).

Paul adds this doxology, which might also serve as a manifesto of hope: “to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21). The glory of God resounding in the manifest beauty of Christ and the Church will somehow encompass all generations. There never will have been a day or a generation in which God has not been seen as ultimately working to bring forth the fullness of Christ and His Church.

Paul prays that God would act “according to the riches of His glory” (3:16) so that ultimately a temple made without hands, the “dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:22) consisting of “all [not just some] of the saints” (3:18), would be filled with “all the fullness of God” (3:19). 

It’s tricky to imagine or value such an ineffable, ethereal thing as “the fullness of God.” That’s why Paul clearly alludes to the biblical accounts of the construction of the tabernacle and the temple. God called for the tabernacle, not because He needed a house to live in, but because He desired a concrete way to be relationally near His people. “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). To “dwell” is not a matter of physical location. This kind of dwelling is God’s way of being immensely near His people in celebratory, relational fullness. 

When they finished building the tent, “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” as a visible cloud (Exodus 40:34–35). And generations later, when the son of David finished building the greater temple, again “the glory of the LORD filled the house” (2 Chronicles 7:1–3). 

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16–21 reveals that he was confident that Christ was in the process of constructing what these biblical stories had pre-figured: God would gather His entire people to Himself. They would be His people. He would be their God. And He would dwell in their midst. 

Already the foundation of the later, greater temple had been laid. Paul says that it was being “fitted together” and somehow was organically “growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:20–21). So, Paul prays that those reading this letter (yes, that includes me and you!) would, together with “all the saints,” somehow comprehend the unknowable beauty and magnificence of the house that the son of David is now finishing. When complete, when “every family” is gathered home, like the tabernacle and temple of old, God will fill His people with His glory— with “all the fullness of God” (3:18–19). 

Paul adds this doxology, which might also serve as a manifesto of hope: “to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21). The glory of God resounding in the manifest beauty of Christ and the Church will somehow encompass all generations. There never will have been a day or a generation in which God has not been seen as ultimately working to bring forth the fullness of Christ and His Church. 

Knowing the Father’s Joy and Zeal 

Paul tries to persuade his Gentile friends “not to lose heart” when they hear of his “tribulations on your behalf” (3:13). He assures them that the pain and shame of apostolic labors that he has endured are well worth it. Why? I think Paul knew the heart of the Father of glory. This is the Father who constantly gazes on all of humanity, seeing us all as a great family of many families. He is unperturbed and never confused about intermarried or blended ethnicities. He sees, knows and values each of the peoples in all of their overlapping, intertwining multicultural complexity.

Like those to whom Paul was writing, we, too, can lose heart for any number of reasons. The tedium and grief of constant opposition is daunting. The costly hassle of cross-cultural labors can be discouraging. Let’s bow our knees before our Father, the Father of glory, delighting in His growing joy as He draws His full family to Himself. As we celebrate the Father’s relentless zeal to gather to Himself some from every tribe and tongue, every language and lineage, we will find our hearts encouraged in the hope of their glory in Christ.  

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

How Does Saying “No” Mobilize Local Resources?

How Does Saying “No” Mobilize Local Resources?

While sipping an iced coffee, I intently listened to a friend who serves as a missionary in Asia share about a recent experience. A local leader asked her if she would pay for his expenses to attend a leadership gathering within the organization in which he serves. With kindness, and declining to oblige to his request, she redirected him to share his need with his local church and suggested he pray for God to supply for this need. 

No doubt he was disappointed that his need wasn’t met immediately, and, he committed to doing those two things—he prayed and shared his need with his local church family during a church service. After the service, a man in attendance gave him some money to help him attend the leadership gathering—a whole month’s salary! Based on the donor’s meager economic level and job, this was definitely a sacrifice for him. In addition to boosting this local leader’s own faith, the testimony of how God provided through fellow believers thoroughly encouraged other local leaders. Local resources can be mobilized! 

This story could have gone very differently if my friend didn’t say, “No,” and redirect him toward a healthier, self-sustaining solution. The end result would have been like what is typically exercised: If you have a need, ask the foreigners. The foreigners give because that is what they are supposed to do. End of story. No glory to God, and no inspiration to foster local interdependence, local giving, and local support.

As difficult as it might seem, saying, “No,” along with redirection in non-crisis situations, leads to mobilizing and giving of local resources. Dr. Charles Brock powerfully words this phenomenon: “Stingy? No! A growth producing stewardship? Yes! Such growth is desirable wherein independent self-hood is realized with full dependence on Christ.”1

How can saying, “No,” produce stewardship and independent self-hood? When cross-cultural workers say, “No,” they are inviting and redirecting the cultural insiders to seek-out God and interdependence from their own networks, churches, and communities. Essentially, they are promoting healthy local-interdependence and self-giving with full dependence on God, rather than unhealthy global dependency.

When the cross-cultural workers and visitors say, “No,” with a redirect, they open the door for the local ‘Boazs’ (Ruth 2) to rise up and take care of their own widows and poor. When they say, “No,” they create more room for local ‘Tabithas’ to use their skills to support the poor at their own doorsteps (Acts 9:36-43).

Perhaps the apostle Paul had growth-producing stewardship with full dependence on God in mind when he gave these instructions:

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God . . . If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone. (I Timothy 5:3-4, 16, NLT).

I deduce Paul to be saying: Don’t seek out churches to take care of widows in your family circle, look to yourselves! This is your God-given stewardship responsibility and privilege, and because this action pleases God, He will provide. I am taking some liberty, but I also hear Paul saying: The local church is commissioned to take care of widows who are truly alone, don’t shift this responsibility to outsiders.

Saying, “No,” with a kind and thoughtful redirect, should not translate as stingy, but rather the opposite — it can spur on local stewardship, generosity, and interdependence, which pleases God.

You might be thinking, “How can we possibly say, “No,” when we have access to so many resources?”

If mobilizing local resources is part of our mission aim, we may need to convert this question to: How does bringing in outside funding stifle growth producing local stewardship, healthy independent self-hood, and local-interdependence? Being a “yes-man/woman just because we can is not enough reason to give in ways that actually lead to long-term languishing and learned helplessness, which is the opposite of local-interdependence and faith in God to provide for what He has called people to.

Kindly saying “no” along with redirecting local leaders, disciples, and churches is actually generosity when it serves as the impetus to mobilizing and giving locally. Perhaps, add “no” with a healthy redirect to your mission strategies. 

  1. Article as quoted in Jean Johnson, We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide to Sharing Christ, Not a Culture of Dependency, (Deep River Books. 2012), 77.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Why Some See Movements and Others Don’t

Why Some See Movements and Others Don’t

I was at a meeting with him in a large city in India. We were gathered for an organizational event that would start at 9 am. Waking early, as was my habit, I went into the hallway to get some filtered water. I heard a strange noise coming from down the corridor. It was still early, only 5 am. Who was making noise down there? 

Curious, I wandered down the hall. There he was, sitting on the couch, a light blanket covering his head. His eyes were closed. He sat with head bowed, rocking back and forth a bit. I listened in and heard him calling out the names of people in his congregation. He was thanking God for them in his indigenous language. I wondered how long he had been there and how long he would stay. 

A few hours later, yet another need propelled me back into the hallway. I could still hear him, seeking God, interceding on behalf of his people. Each day that week, it was always the same. This brother was there praying. His normal habit was to start his day with several hours of intercession. It didn’t matter where he was. There was never a change. 

Since then, I’ve been with this man in many contexts. There has never been a day I didn’t see him practicing this same rhythm in his life. Perhaps that is why his movement is exploding. Maybe that is why some of their streams now have more than eight generations. 

One Thing Isn’t Flexible

There are many things about starting a Disciple Making Movement that are adaptable and flexible. We have over-arching principles to be followed for sure. There is a lot of room, though, to adapt things to your particular people group or context. In fact, this is quite important to do. 

But there are also a few “foundation stones” of starting movements. These are things that absolutely have to be present for a movement to take place. One of these stones is an apostolic leader who has a genuine, regular and deep prayer habit. 

Give Attention to Prayer

 In the book of Acts, we read of the apostles getting busy as the Church began to grow. There was much work to be done. The needs of the poor were great. Discipleship demands were pressing. One on one meetings with various key leaders were necessary. There were conflicts to resolve and widows to feed. Finally, they arrived on the strategic decision to appoint deacons. Their stated reason was this. 

We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” Acts 6:4 NIV (italics added). 

Movement leaders and those who want to launch them, give attention to prayer. It is not a side activity or something they occasionally emphasize. It is a primary part of their lives. 

Ministry of the Word doesn’t usually go by the way-side. 

Most of us are preachers by trade. Prayer, however, can. 

Lessons from a Modern-Day Apostle

Let me tell another story. We were leading our first ever conference with Ying and Grace Kai, the creators of Training 4 Trainers or T4T. I was excited to sit at their feet and learn from them. They had seen thousands of churches planted where they worked. Since then, they had trained and equipped many others to do the same. It was a great opportunity to rub shoulders with these legendary, modern-day apostles. I felt very privileged.

What would I learn? What key would I pick up from them that I could take to our own ministry among the unreached forward?

As is typical in the country we were in, there were last minute changes. Our prior plans for the day after their arrival had to be altered. I wondered how we could best bless and host our speakers well. Maybe we could take them sightseeing in our city? Or out to a nice restaurant? I didn’t want them to feel bad that we now had nothing specific for them to do that particular morning.

I explained the situation to them and offered some suggestions. “It’s no problem,” they said. “We will pray.”

They spent those hours and much of that day seeking the Father. This was much more productive and important to them than sightseeing, though they had never before visited our country. Hour after hour, they lifted the names of those they would be training before the Lord.

It was one of the greatest lessons I learned from being with them. People who want to see movements default to prayer as their most critical activity.

Prayer in the Earliest Disciple-Making Movements

This should be no surprise, for it is indeed the pattern we see in the book of Acts. The apostles had developed solid prayer habits in their lives. They instilled these habits in those who they trained. 

Here is a quick overview:

 Acts 1:14—The apostles “joined together constantly” in prayer.

Acts 2:42—The new believers “devoted themselves” to prayer

Acts 3:1—Peter and John did a miracle as they were on their way to an afternoon prayer meeting in the temple.

Acts 4:24—When faced with challenges and threats, the believers prayed.

Acts 6:4—The apostles appointed deacons so they could be free to give attention to prayer.

Acts 10—God responded to Cornelius, a God-fearing man, who regularly prayed.

 Acts 14—Paul and Barnabas spent time in prayer as they chose and appointed elders in each new church.

 Acts 16—Paul frequented places of prayer.

 Acts 28—Paul prayed and believed God for miracles. And they happened!

Many more references could be explored. Prayer was so clearly a major part of the first Disciple-Making Movements that rapidly grew.

Both the apostolic leaders and the new believers embraced prayer as their default mode. Troubles…pray. Persecution… pray. Too much work to do…pray. Need miracles…pray.

Yet for many of us, prayer is our secondary option. We often look first to strategy, mentors or our experience to solve problems. When faced with obstacles, like not being able to find a Person of Peace in our area, we search for answers. Nothing wrong with that, as long as we know that the real source of those solutions is God himself. He holds the keys in His hands to unlock our region for gospel advance. Who are the receptive people there? God knows them by name. He also knows how to put you in touch with them. As we pray, He will transform the hearts of those who seem so hard to reach today. 

It seems an obvious point. It bears repeating. If we want to see a Disciple-Making Movement happen, we absolutely must adopt radically committed prayer habits. The same is true if we want to grow and sustain the movement that is starting to take off.

To be clear, I am not advocating for legalism. There is a difference between doing things we don’t value because we must, and doing what we know is important because we want to. 

Vital Prayer Habit—It’s Our Choice

Do you struggle to make prayer a vital habit in your life? Has your prayer life gone cold and dry? Go to the Master disciple-maker and ask for help. Find another church planter or friend to hold you accountable.

Our habits shape our ultimate outcomes. This is true of prayer and many other areas too. The unreached need our outcome to be the release of a movement. Let’s pray!

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Path Forward is Clearer Than Ever Before.

Will We Have the Courage to Take It?

The Path Forward is Clearer Than Ever Before.

For forty years, now Frontier Ventures and many other mission organizations have had a laser-like focus on taking the gospel to the Unreached Peoples of the world. We have worked tirelessly to mobilize the Church to reach these “hidden peoples” who have been forgotten by our global mission efforts. So how much progress have we made?

With a specificity and clarity not seen in decades we lay out the progress we’ve made, where we stand today and the hopeful future that stands before us if we have the courage to embrace what needs changing and renew our commitment to bring the blessings of the gospel to every people.

In our lead article starting on page 6, Rebecca Lewis presents in succinct detail the current state of world evangelization and what needs to change in order for us to make progress. She introduces us to the Frontier People Groups—those 4,762 peoples who are the most neglected or overlooked peoples in the world with the least access to the gospel and the fewest believers. They also have the fewest workers attempting to reach them. They make up one fourth of the world’s population and are a subset of all Unreached Peoples. After 40 years of attention on reaching Unreached Peoples, these peoples are still “hidden” from the attention of the Church. 

As our cover this time indicates, Frontier Peoples are increasingly young and tech savvy. Though some may have access to the Internet, they are still in desperate need of a personal, cross-cultural presentation of the gospel. But who among us will bring it to them?

This issue is your invitation to change the status of the Frontier People Groups from neglected and hidden to prayed for and engaged.


In this issue we also introduce you to “The 31.” The 31 are those Frontier People Groups with over 10 million in population. They make up almost half the population of all Frontier People Groups. With less than one in a thousand being a Christian of any kind, a person in these groups has virtually no chance of ever hearing about Jesus from someone within their people. All 31 of these Frontier Peoples are either Muslim or Hindu and all but nine of them live in South Asia. We have prepared a prayer booklet that you can order to pray for one of these largest Frontier Peoples each day. Learn more about this prayer booklet starting on page 20 and order enough copies for all of your friends and pastors. Ask them to do likewise and order copies for all of their friends. To order, go to In order to defeat the “strong man” over South Asia who holds these peoples in bondage, a massive prayer movement is needed and you can be the one to help start it. We need millions of Jesus followers to be praying for these Frontier Peoples.

Because of their large size these 31 Frontier Peoples are very strategic in reaching all the rest of the Frontier Peoples. Movements in larger groups tend to cascade down to smaller groups thus making The 31 an important first step in reaching all Frontier and Unreached Peoples.


The sad reality revealed in this issue is that after 40 years of unrelenting Unreached Peoples efforts, NO discernable progress has occurred in over half of all Unreached Peoples. These are the Frontier People Groups we have introduced to you. There are a number of reasons for this tragic situation that Rebecca Lewis lists in her lead article starting on page 6. In her second article, “How to Reach Frontier Peoples?” (See page 25), Lewis focuses on the most significant reason both biblically and strategically for our lack of progress. The root cause is our failure to consistently apply the Apostle Paul’s biblical mission strategy of keeping new believers within their family, community and culture rather than extracting them to join a new foreign community. We have typically applied Paul’s mission strategy with great results in reaching out to tribal peoples, but when it comes to the major religious spheres of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism our typical mission practice is to extract individuals from their families, households and communities thereby hindering any further outreach to that people. Paul was right; we should always work first to reach their families and households with the gospel.

Lewis says it well. “I believe unless we fully understand and return to Pauline principles of  implanting the gospel into families, without removing them from their socio- religious-political communities, we will continue to make little progress in today’s largest remaining Frontier People Groups. It  is  not  enough to identify which groups have the least help and are making the least progress in receiving the good news; we also need to go back to following the biblical and historical principles God has shown us for sparking indigenous movements in Frontier People Groups and training global workers in these principles.”


A return to Paul’s missionary method of reaching families is not just important because it works or because Paul did it. It is important because it has been God’s plan all along. In Gen. 12:3, God says to Abraham, “and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (NASB) The Hebrew word for families here is the term mishpachah. Butler and White explain the significance of this word in God’s plan for mankind:

Mishpachah is just one in a set of Hebrew and  Greek  words with a generational perspective, variously translated clan, family, tribe, people, or nation. In English we could think of all of these as ‘family lines’ of varying sizes.

In God’s foundational promise to Abram (Abraham) in Gen 12:3, the final recipient of God’s blessing will not be every individual, but ALL mishpachah. Paul labels this promise “the gospel preached in advance to Abraham” (Gal 3:8). Blessing and salvation  aren’t just for individuals, but also for households, and whole family lines.

From this biblical perspective, we can understand the biblical terms translated people/nation as:

Households bonded together in preserving a shared generational identity—through intermarriage, the continuation of traditions, and rejection of outside influences.

Many Frontier People  Groups are isolated from the gospel in part by their perception and fear of Christianity as a threat to their households, and to the historic identity they are seeking to preserve. One study of Christianity in India observed this in action:

The adoption of Christianity by one group within a generic community would lead  to  a  strengthening  of non-Christian identity among other groups within the same community.1

When our evangelism methods win individuals away from their families among Frontier People Groups, we reinforce these fears within the Frontier People Groups.

As each of  these  families  come to faith in Jesus, they inherit the promise, blessing and commission made to Abraham to bring the blessing of salvation to still more families. This includes the Frontier People Groups. We see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for all family lines in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 when Jesus is worshipped by every tribe, tongue, people and nation who have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. It is our job in this age to continue working to bring this blessing to all the families of the earth so that Jesus would receive the glory He deserves. 


The July/Aug 2018 issue of MF, as it turned out, sowed more confusion (pun intended) than I had anticipated as people debated whether we should be seeking to find a Person of Peace or a Fourth- Soil Person. On page 45 of this issue, Steve Smith and Kevin Greeson bring some clarity to this topic. The bottom line is that they can be the same person and are both found the same way—by the sowing of the Word of God. The focus of this particular issue was to point out that the Parable of the Sower was intended by Jesus to be taken as a mission strategy since He applied it as such with His disciples in Galilee. We should go and do likewise—sowing the Word and looking for the responsive, productive people. Kevin sums it up well by saying, “A CPM practitioner stands on solid ground when sowing with the intent of finding Persons of Peace and Fourth-Soil individuals.”

  1. 1 Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940, by Jeffrey Cox (Stanford, 2002).

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

A Decade’s Progress—In Just One Year!

A Decade’s Progress—In Just One Year!

Behind the global turmoil that preoccupies so much of the world’s attention, God is quietly reaping the greatest spiritual harvest in history, while preparing an even greater harvest. 

And at the center of this global outpouring is prayer, along with the intentional pursuit of movements, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to motivate and equip disciples and small churches to reproduce rapidly (rather than just gathering believers to receive ministry). 

Following are the significant developments I have seen over the past year in this global revolution, with links to related resources. (Suggestions for improving or expanding this list are welcome at

  1. Focused prayer: In May of 2017, global prayer network leaders met with mission leaders to focus prayer on gospel movements among the remaining unreached peoples (watch the inspiring 9-minute video at This has accelerated a growing global focus on prayer for movements to complete the Great Commission.


  1. Closure focus: Shortly after this prayer initiative, the 24:14 Coalition formed—dedicated to pursuing movements of rapidly multiplying small churches and disciples in every remaining unreached people and place by 2025 (read about the Coalition at or see their five minute video at Several years earlier Steve Smith wrote the No Place Left saga about movements emerging among every people by 2025. The 24:14 Coalition is turning this fiction into reality. Request your FREE review copy of Hastening at review-copy.


  1. New awareness: The circle of trust created by the24 :14 Coalition ( led many movement leaders to share for the first time what God was doing through their movement. This replaced the earlier April 2017 estimate (162 movements with 20 million new disciples) with a 2017 year-end confidence of nearly 650 movements, with 50 million new disciples. (See


  1. Rediscovery of Jesus’ Movement Strategy: The July/ August 2018 Mission Frontiers exposes the pivotal relevance to movement practitioners of “The Parable of the Sower” (This is the title Jesus Himself gives the parable in Matt. 13:18). We Evangelicals have often misunderstood and misapplied this parable to identify what what kind of soil or seed we ourselves are, when the parable actually reveals the strategy Jesus modeled, as a sower starting a gospel movement. A couple years earlier I helped publish Stubborn Perseverance, the story of how to start a gospel movement. Request your FREE review copy of Stubborn Perseverance at


  1. Refugee and disaster dynamics: God is using the global refugee crisis and other disasters to bring blessing to peoples that were previously isolated from the gospel: pdf (observations from my family’s 2017 participation in refugee ministry in Europe).


  1. Household blessing: Gospel movements—the Word of God blessing and spreading through households and other relational networks—are an important corrective to the tendency of many evangelism and church planting efforts to focus on individuals without regard for their household relationships. I excerpted two books on this for the Mar/ Apr 2016 Mission Frontiers: Steve Smith addressed this further in The Oikos Hammer in the Sep/Oct 2018 MF. In this current MF, Chuck White and I carry this further on p. 28, including a sidebar addressing the most common misuses of Scripture in this regard.


  1. Fear exposed: Satan’s hold over many Frontier Peoples is partly through their fear that Christianity will tear apart their households and communities. Evangelism of individuals away from their households compounds this fear. Movements correct this by drawing households together in discussion of and obedience to God’s Word. An adaptation of McGavran’s article explaining this dynamic was presented at the September 2017 meeting of the International Society of Frontier Missiology, then ran in the Mar/Apr 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers. A further refinement is available at Movements-How-peoples-are-reached.pdf.


  1. Disparity recognized: India has long received only the prayer and laborers proportionate to its classification as a country, when in fact India has a larger population and more complexity than most continents. India is home to nearly half the population of all Unreached People Groups, with more complexity than all of Africa  ( in-Miss-Dist.pdf). And while most countries receive an average of one missionary for every 1,000 people in their unreached people groups, India receives only one missionary per 46,000. Awareness of this disparity of needs and resources is stimulating increased prayer and efforts toward starting movements on the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

 Frontier People Groups: In early 2018 the concept of Frontier People Groups (less than one Christian adherent per 1,000 in population) brought fresh clarity to the remaining task ( Joshua Project has posted a short article explaining Frontier People Groups (

  1. Distinction between Pioneer and Partnership Mission work (p. 12 again): A long-standing concern of Ralph Winter’s was to clarify the core difference between: 
  • pioneer work (in peoples with a generational identity they consider incompatible with Christianity), and 
  • partnership work (where outsiders can serve alongside indigenous believing households).

Pioneer work involves different skill sets and must precede partnership work, just as a midwife’s skills differ from and must precede a teacher’s. Pioneer work brings people groups their first introduction to God’s desire to bless their households and communities. Partnership work builds on that introduction to extend God’s blessing from family to family throughout the people group. Partnership work will continue until Jesus returns, but the remaining pioneer work to be done may be completed very soon!

 Unfortunately, the way Unreached People Groups have been measured has blurred rather than illuminating this distinction between pioneer and partnership work. Thus most missionaries to unreached peoples are involved in partnership work (in peoples where up to 1 in 50 are Evangelicals or 1 in 20 are a Christian adherent).

 The new category of Frontier People Groups addresses this confusion. 

  1. Prayer focus continued: God continues stirring global prayer for movements among the largest remaining Frontier People Groups. In recent months, a small network of global prayer and mission leaders has pulled together a 31-day prayer guide for the largest Frontier People Groups (


  1. Reliance on the Holy Spirit: Steve Smith’s Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People ( reintroduces the ancient fruitfulness of following the Holy Spirit’s leading in the pursuit of movements (p. 44 in this issue).


  1. Movement Training Hubs: This issue of MF reports on the rapid and significant development of intentional movement training hubs to accelerate the equipping of more disciples to start movements among peoples that most need them (p. 36).


  1. Cascading Movements: Movement experience over the past decade reveals that movements among larger groups can also carry over into neighboring Frontier People Groups. This reinforces the value of a strategic focus on the 400 largest and most influential Frontier People Groups, which contain 90% of the global population needing pioneer work (p. 30 sidebar).


  1. Breakthroughs Among Unreached Peoples: The population of unreached people groups has roughly doubled since the concept was introduced in the late 1970s, but this is changing rapidly. Movements have recently cut the lost population of unreached people groups by an estimated 45 million, turning this number into disciples with experience in rapidly reproducing churches (see again Astonishing-Progress.pdf).


Never in history has the Holy Spirit prompted such global collaboration in focused prayer and labor toward biblical, multiplying discipleship among the peoples and places still waiting in darkness. 

Visit to become part of a team to bless just one of the 400 strategically large, neglected Frontier People Groups.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. — Rev 22:20.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Introducing Frontier People Groups (FPGs)

Introducing Frontier People Groups (FPGs)

Editor’s Note: The concept of Frontier People Groups is still developing. Rather than representing an established consensus, this article explores potential nuances of the concept. Further insights, clarifications and adjustments may have emerged, even in the time between when this article went to press and you are reading it. For the latest version of this article, and other information regarding FPGs, visit

No matter how much one waters and fertilizes, no fruit will come forth until after the seed is sown.

Seed before fruit

Whenever the only believers inside a people group are scattered individuals estranged from their family and community, the blessing of God remains unknown to that people group, and that people group’s interest in the gospel is low.

However, God promised to Abram (Abraham) that every family line of humanity will be blessed (Gen. 12:3, etc.) and Jesus commissioned us to disciple each of these family lines (people groups). And once the Holy Spirit begins blessing the first contagious community of believing households1 inside that people group, it becomes like the seed of an orchard—bearing the multiplying fruit of God’s blessing such as we see on households throughout the book of Acts, and indeed the whole of Scripture.

Such communities of believing households must first experience God’s blessing through the kind of pioneer work Paul modeled in prayerful collaboration with the Holy Spirit. Only once a community of believing households is  modeling  God’s  blessing  inside a people group can it benefit from the partnership work of outsiders working with those inside the people group in:

  • tending/pruning for greater fruitfulness, and
  • guarding against threats to their fruitfulness. 

Inside every people group, the spread of the gospel begins with the first seed of God’s blessing—a contagious community of believing households. Only after the seed has taken root does partnership work become possible—outsiders serving alongside believing families inside a people group.

FPGs lack this seed

The new designation of Frontier People Groups attempts to clarify two very different conditions inside Unreached People Groups (UPGs):

  • Among many UPGs, the Holy Spirit has already begun blessing a community of believing households1. These display to their community what it can look like to follow Christ inside their own group. Inside these groups where a community of believing households is enjoying God’s blessing, extraordinary things can happen as the Holy Spirit anoints partnership work with outsiders. One spectacular example of the multiplying  power  of  the  Holy  Spirit’s blessing through partnership work is the T4T movement birthed through Ying Kai’s training of 30 believers already present inside one people group.2
  • Other UPGs (here labeled Frontier People Groups) still require pioneer work for the first community of believing households  to  experience  God’s  blessing.  Steve  Smith’s years of labor among the Ina people illustrates the pioneer work through which the Holy Spirit blesses these first believing households. Once established, these believing households display inside their own people group what  it means to follow Christ, and a rapidly spreading gospel movement can develop.3

FPGs need this seed

Ralph Winter described implicitly the importance of the presence of this first community of believing households in his editorial for the Jan/Feb 2006 MF. Following is myown  adaptation  to  reflect  Winter’s  additional  concern, expressed explicitly elsewhere, that we learn to think in terms of households rather than just individuals:

Imagine an individual coming to Christ in a reached people group. The new believer can observe, interact with and follow the example of believing households inside the new believer’s own people group. And others in that people group will have no thought that the new believer has left their people group to follow Christ.

How different it is where individuals are among the first inside their people group to believe. With no patterns yet established for following Christ inside their own people group, these first believers will commonly assume—along with their family and community—that to follow Christ means leaving their own people group to adopt the outside worker’s  culture,  or  the  culture  of  some  “Christian” people. The outside worker and other Christians may also implicitly or even explicitly encourage such “conversion” away from the new believer’s culture and people group. This common misunderstanding is the primary obstacle to be overcome in pioneer work among Frontier People Groups.

Inside our own “Christian” peoples we have learned to be quite  patient  in  sowing  God’s Word  and  letting  the  Holy Spirit transform individuals and even “deviant” communities at their own pace. But when it comes to people groups whose identity is wrapped up with “competing” world religions, we are often far less patient about allowing the Holy Spirit to change hearts through the Word of God over time. Too often in such contexts we engage in urging “conversion” of new believers to cultural forms we consider “Christian,” but which separate them prematurely from their own people group.

When the first believers in a Frontier People Group embrace a   new, foreign “Christian” culture, their family and community perceive them as betraying their own people group. This generally provokes both unnecessary and unfortunate persecution of the individual, and community rejection of the gospel, which may have nothing to do with the new believers’ faith or the merits of the gospel itself.

For the gospel to spread rapidly inside a Frontier People Group, the Holy Spirit  must first bless a community of believing households, and guide them in wrestling together through what it means to follow Christ inside their own people group.

This Spirit-led emergence and modeling of new patterns— conforming faithfully to the Bible while remaining inside their own people group—paves the way for many others to follow Christ inside their group. And as God’s blessing spreads within this people group, the Holy Spirit will lead the believers there and the rest of their people group to see that connection with the global body of Christ does not separate them from their own people group. As this first community of believing households sorts out how to follow Christ inside their own people group, and the rest of the people group begins to observe that following Christ does not require leaving their people group, biblical faith can spread very rapidly. When this shift of perspective occurs, pioneer work gives way to partnership work, and the people group leaves the frontier category.

The spiritual and social realities of FPGs

Behind all the statistics, and the physical presence or absence of the first believing households, lie some very significant spiritual and social realities:

  • Socially, frontier peoples are commonly bound to a perception of their own religion as central to their identity as a people. They have no living models for following Christ without betraying their people group to join another people. And outsiders commonly share this perception of their religion as central to their identity as a people group. Thus there is often pressure both from inside and outside frontier people groups for new believers to leave their people group to follow Christ. This is the dynamic which pioneer work must overcome if there is ever to be a rapid gospel movement within that people group.
  • Spiritually, the families in these peoples remain “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in [God’s people] and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

The finishable task is among FPGs

Inside Frontier People Groups—where the first community of   believing   households   has   yet   to   experience   God’s blessing—this initial pioneer work is a finishable task. Once the Holy Spirit has blessed the first community of believing households, nurturing and guarding this community becomes the ongoing task of  partnership work.

Frontier People Groups


Gospel Movements: None Reported    Christian Adherents: <=0.1%

When a people group is blessed with its first community of believing households, it remains unreached initially—in the sense of still needing outside assistance as measured by the statistical standards. But it is no longer in need of pioneer work. It remains unreached because the necessary nurturing and guarding require continuing outside assistance in the form of partnership work. As these believing households multiply under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the group becomes reached, and such nurturing and guarding can then come primarily from within.

Thus, the focus of pioneer work is the seed—the first community of believing households enjoying God’s blessing inside their own people group—with the potential for multiplying rapidly.

Non-Frontier people groups contain this seed in two categories:

  • Reached people groups—where the gospel is widely known and has brought widespread blessing—are like mature orchards. These still need renewal  (tending) and guarding against the complacency that often comes where there is little opposition. But this kind of ministry can come mostly from inside the people group.
  • Unreached people groups (no longer in the Frontier category)—where the first community of believing households is experiencing God’s blessing—are like orchards that have just begun bearing fruit. Amidst an ocean of non-believing households in their own people group, these believing households need partnership work—assistance and encouragement from outside workers to continue multiplying God’s blessing inside their own people group, often amidst greater opposition than in reached people groups.

A day will come, perhaps in our lifetime, when the Holy Spirit will complete the finishable task of pioneer work inside every remaining Frontier People Group. Until then, such pioneer work should be the highest priority for those called by God to share Paul’s ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known (Rom. 15:20).

One fourth of humanity lives in FPGs

Three-fourths of the world is estimated to live in people groups, whether reached or unreached, where a community of believing households is already enjoying God’s blessing.

The remaining one-fourth of humanity is estimated  to live in Frontier  People  Groups, where the first enduring community of believing households has yet to be established, and where pioneer work is thus still needed.


As seen in this adaptation of the new “pie chart” (see p. 8 of this issue), these FPGs are most concentrated where the fewest workers go—India and Muslim majority countries.

Frontier, Approachable and Responsive Peoples

For  50 years, deployment of workers has been shaped by  a simple binary classification4 in which people groups are considered either:

   reached—with adequate internal witness, or

unreached—still needing outside assistance.

The additional qualifier unengaged was later added to track Unreached People Groups (UPGs) where researchers didn’t know of workers offering such outside assistance.

What these earlier classifications (reached, unreached and unengaged) didn’t adequately reveal is the two dramatically different conditions among UPGs, for which I here suggest these additional labels:

frontier UPGs—no community of believing households yet demonstrating God’s blessing inside their own people group. (These need pioneer work.)

receptive UPGs—a community of believing households is demonstrating God’s blessing to their own people group. (This is the seed of a gospel movement, now able to benefit from partnership work.)

Where a community of believing households reveals what God’s blessing looks like inside their own people group, non-believing households can see what it looks like to follow Christ inside their own people. And they can be invited to follow God in Jesus Christ on the basis of what they have personally observed.

Among Frontier People Groups, however, non-believing families have no opportunity yet to observe what it means to follow Christ inside their own people group. Here pioneer work must follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to introduce the first households to God’s blessing in such a way that many others will follow.

From this perspective of mission strategy, there are not just two categories of people groups, but three (two sub-categories of unreached). For measurement purposes, the following standards have been proposed:

frontier—subset of unreached:

  • no evidence of a gospel movement;
  • 0.1% or less estimated “Christian” based on such available data as a government census;
  • unmet need for pioneer work from outside

receptive—subset of unreached:

  • early evidence of a gospel movement;
  • 0.1% to 5% estimated “Christian” and up to 2% estimated Evangelicals, based on such available data as a government census;
  • ongoing need for partnership work from outside.

responsive—aka reached:

  • strong evidence of a gospel movement (past or present);
  • above 5% estimated “Christian” or above 2% estimated Evangelicals, based on such available data as a government census;
  • little need for outside assistance.

How significant is this distinction?

Sixty percent of UPGs are actually Frontier People Groups (FPGs).

Until God intervenes, the families in these Frontier People Groups will live and die …

  • without ever knowing a believer
  • without ever being prayed for by name
  • without the blessing God promised all nations Yet God is intervening...
  • Among other unreached people groups, gospel movements have been doubling in number and size every five years since the late 1990s.5
  • Through a new prayer guide (see p. 20), large global networks are focusing prayer on the 31 largest Frontier People Groups—each of which influences many other people groups. (Half the population of all Frontier People Groups lives in just these 31 groups!)


The kingdom of God grows where it is sown.

We now have a clearer view than ever before of where the first believing households have been established and where they haven’t yet been established.

The day will come, perhaps in our lifetime, when the initial pioneer work will have been completed in every Frontier People Group. Then, in line with God’s promise to Abram (Abraham), every family line on earth will have at least begun to experience God’s blessing. We are much closer to this day than ever before.

Let nothing delay us further from ensuring that gospel orchards of God’s blessing—contagious communities of believing households—are firmly established among every Frontier People Group as quickly as possible!

  1. 1 See The Oikos Hammer—You & Your Household by Steve Smith, in the Aug/ Sep 2018 MF

    2 T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith.

    3 Ibid.

    4This is the core distinction as I understand it from working with Ralph Winter. Strategists of course expanded this dichotomy in more technical language, and researchers established percentage criteria for Evangelicals and Christian adherents in order to apply this dichotomy. But the main point was to establish which groups needed more workers.


This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Remaining Peoples with no Chance to Hear about Jesus

The Remaining Peoples with no Chance to Hear about Jesus

In 1974, while preparing his speech for the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Dr. Ralph Winter realized that thousands of people groups were being completely overlooked by mission agencies and churches around the world. Due to the great success of outreach in places like Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, and island and jungle tribes, some were in fact insisting that missionaries were no longer needed. Others were insisting that missionaries should only partner with and serve the national churches, assuming that national churches were everywhere.

At Lausanne, Ralph Winter explained that an estimated 17,000 people groups had no churches of their own, and never yet had a missionary work among their people group. Winter expected the mission world to be as shocked as he was. Instead agencies responded with disbelief and even resistance, and churches showed no understanding. this awareness had changed Winter, but he realized that churches and agencies would continue to overlook these “hidden” people groups unless they were impressed with the same knowledge. So, Winter resigned from the School of World Mission at Fuller theological Seminary and dedicated the rest of his life to clarifying and mobilizing for what he called the “frontier mission” task: going where no missionary has gone before.

Forty years ago, in 1978, Ralph Winter put his statistics into a pie chart titled Penetrating the Last Frontiers, and Roberta wrote the story of the cause in I Will Do a New Thing (originally published as Once More Around Jericho). the purpose of this chart (shown later) was to clarify which people in the world had no chance of learning about Jesus from someone in their own people group. 

He divided the world into areas by population. Each pie section shows how far the gospel has penetrated in that area of the world by showing which people are “Active Christians” able to share the gospel with others, and those that still need to hear. Some of the lost are nominal Christians or non-believers able to hear the gospel from the believers in their own culture. But other “culturally- distant” non-believers are beyond the evangelistic outreach of existing believers, because they live in people groups with very different languages, cultures and identity. (See the Key to the colors.)

As tens of thousands of people clearly understood the problem, they pressured their churches and mission agencies for new efforts to these overlooked people groups. Some decided to go themselves, and even founded new agencies for this purpose. Eventually, a great global effort developed to tabulate and reach every Unreached People Group (UPG).

Look at the following charts which include the original and then update the pie chart to 2018. The good news is that amazing progress has been made in many areas, especially in China. Movements have also been started in many people groups still considered UPGs because they have not yet passed 2% Evangelical. The bad news is that NO discernible progress is being made in well over half of the UPGs. Why? As Winter discovered, people don’t go until the task is clear.


Notice on the updated pie charts, almost half of all the non-believers can now be reached by Evangelicals in their own people group! More than half of the population of non-believers in the world are still in Unreached People Groups, groups with less than 2% Evangelicals. But significant progress is being made in a number of these groups. If we separate out the non- believers that still have almost no believers among them, one fourth of the world’s population is left.

To highlight these most overlooked people groups, let us call them “Frontier People Groups” (FPGs)—people groups still requiring “frontier mission” efforts because no breakthrough or indigenous movement to Christ has happened yet. Many factors are obscuring the needs of these remaining people groups. I have detailed some of these in my Jan-Mar IJFM article Losing Sight of the Frontier Mission Task: What’s Gone Wrong with the Demographics? (IJFM 35:1).

One fourth of the world’s population lives in these Frontier People Groups, still waiting to hear that Jesus came to save them also. Some FPGs have had workers for decades, but with little progress. However, by some reports less than 1% of the global missionary force is going to FPGs.

Why so little progress in Frontier People Groups?

    Some reasons are mostly out of our control:

 1) Places

FPGs tend to be isolated from gospel witness, in places difficult to access politically or geographically. (See page 22 which show that almost 3/4ths of the population of people in FPGs is in South Asia.)

    2) Religions

Most FPGs are members of large religious blocs— like Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism—that provide a global identity and view Christianity as an opposing religion allied with Western political powers. (See the “donuts” on page 22 that show that around 90% of the FPGs are either Muslim or Hindu.)

     3) Fears

          Many FPGs may be aware of and respect Jesus, but see Jesus as the savior of just the Christians, not of the whole world. they fear that putting their trust in Jesus                will bring shame and ostracism on their family and community Diaspora.

FPGs tend to stay in their homelands. Less than 3% of the total population of FPGs are in diaspora groups. And those who come to faith elsewhere may be shunned as traitors to their people group or become secret believers with respect to their families.

Other reasons for lack of progress among Frontier People Groups are under our control:

     4) Lack of clarity regarding Frontier People Groups

Efforts to mobilize for UPGs do not make clear which people groups are still waiting to hear about Jesus for the first time and which have strong movements underway or churches simply needing renewal.

      5) Lack of clarity about  the Frontier Mission Task

Clarity has also been lost about how to prepare pioneer workers to start Jesus movements in groups untouched by the gospel. Especially in multi- cultural mega cities, “church planting” strategies have shifted from establishing the first community of believing families in a specific people group to starting Western-style (meeting- and program- based) churches that aggregate strangers from many people groups. these rarely result in movements. The shift from pioneering to partnership.

Wherever the Church is established, even if it is in just a small, westernized portion of the population, local believers seek partnership with global churches to help reach their own people group. As a result, churches often bypass agencies and partner with believers in UPGs as a popular church-to-church “mission” strategy. However, such partnership strategies automatically direct mission workers to people groups with believers and churches, and away from FPGs.

     6) The shift from long- to short-term workers

Mission dollars and interest have shifted from long-term workers to short-term teams, which rarely learn the local language well or go to people groups or areas where there are no Christians. Short-term trips have risen exponentially since 2000, but very few participants return to work long- term among FPGs. Even “career” missionaries today rarely stay more than 5–10 years. This is hardly long enough to effectively establish work among FPGs.

     7) The shift from implanting the gospel to extracting believers

In most of mission history, missionaries have sought to learn the language of a people group and clearly communicate the gospel to them so that families among them come to faith. New believers in tribal areas have not been removed to other Christian tribal groups—no matter how evil the tribe, even if some were martyred. But when faced with people living in people groups that are modern or aligned with global religions, believers are often encouraged to flee their families and persecution and join another people group that is already Christian. The result is that no progress of the gospel is made among the original people group. The gospel is not implanted; instead, the believers are extracted.

The purpose of the pie chart presentations, like the chart called Penetrating the Last Frontiers, is to show which non-believers can be reached by Christians in their own people group, and which non-believers need help from believers in other cultures. The non-believers in the blue areas need witnesses to come to them from other people groups. The darker blue areas on the 2018 charts are the non-believers in Frontier People Groups, where there are less than 0.1% indigenous Christians and no known movement to Christ. These are the areas that need the most help. To identify these Frontier People Groups clearly, Joshua Project has produced a number of maps and lists, with profiles for each people group. Some of these can be seen on the following pages. To download the 2018 Pie Charts for use in your churches and groups, go to Also available on this site is a narrated version of the pie chart presentation. 

Making progress in Frontier People Groups will require both knowing who they are and returning to biblical and historical mission practice for implanting the gospel into people groups with few or no believers.


This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Introducing the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide

Introducing the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide

On March 21, 2018, someone who had been studying the new idea of Frontier People Groups (FPGs) mentioned to a few prayer leaders the surprising discovery that half the population of all FPGs lives in just 31 people groups with populations of ten million or more. 

“Thirty-one is a good number for a prayer guide,” someone observed. Prayer led to quick consensus, then further prayer and sustained collaboration in developing such a prayer guide. 

Forty days later, to the day, volunteers had integrated feedback from a variety of prayer and mission leaders and sent to the printer the first edition of a prayer guide for the 31 largest Frontier People Groups. 

Global interest was immediate and long before this first edition was back from the printer, volunteers were busily translating it into a half-dozen or more languages. 

In subsequent months, a major revision and expansion were completed to form the prayer guide showcased here. To get the latest electronic copy, print copies, or to inquire about translations, visit


Here  are  some  of  this  guide’s  special  features: 

  • Inside  the  front  cover  is  the  listing  above  of  the  thirty-­‐one  groups,  organized  by  region.  Notice  the  concentration  in  South  Asia,  keyed  to  the  numbered  circles  on  the  map  shown  on  the  opposite  page. 
  • Colored  rings  on  the  map,  dots  in  the  table,  and banners  over  the  profile  show  which  people  groups  are  Muslim  (●)  and  which  are  Hindu (●). 
  • The  next  page  of  the  prayer  guide  distills  the  new  pie  chart  (p. 8–9  of  this  MF)  into  one  page:

  • Subsequent  pages  of  this  guide  cover: 
  • A  brief  overview  of  Frontier  People  Groups
  • The  key  role  of  prayer  in  opening  these  groups  to  receive  God’s  blessing  in  Jesus. 
  • The  biblical  basis  and  significance  of  pursuing  gospel  movements  in  prayer. 
  • Prayer  for  the  Bible  to  become  fully  available  to  all  31  of  these  people  groups.
  • General  prayer  points  for  all  FPGs. 
  • Suggestions  for  involving  kids  and  youth.

 The  main  portion  of  the  prayer  guide  is  a  separate  page  for  each  of  the  31  groups,  adapted  from  Joshua  Project  profiles,  with:

  • a  color  map,  picture,  statistcs,  and 
  • background  information  and  prayer  points.

 The  back  portion  of  the  prayer  guide  includes: 

  • Helpful  definitions  of  key  terms. 
  • Introduction  and  map  of  the  400  largest  and  most  influential  FPGs,  containing  90%  of  the  population  of  all  FPGs. 
  • Charts  showing  the  breakdown  of  all  FPGs— by  region  and  by  religion. 
  • Other  prayer  resources.


 For  a  free  digital  or  review  copy,  for  print  copies,  or  to  inquire  about  translations,  visit

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Family—God’s Blessing to All Peoples

The Family—God’s Blessing to All Peoples

We thought it would be safer1 and faster to win individuals. We found it to be safer and faster to win households and other groups.

— Trevor Larsen,* coach for rapidly multiplying movements

However, when movement coaches urge winning house-holds rather than individuals, some react: 

What about Jesus identifying those who do God’s will as his mother and brothers? What about Jesus saying he came to divide families? And what about Jesus telling us to hate our families?

Do these rare “hard sayings” overrule the Bible’s emphasis on honoring our parents and providing for our families? 

Individualism vs. Family

 In recent centuries, Western society has embraced individualism—valuing the independence of individuals above family and societal expectations. Individualism says, “Save your own life and pursue your own dreams, regardless of how that affects others.” This contributes to the breakdown of families.

Throughout most of history, however, societies have held the opposite value system. In the Bible, and much of the world still (especially Frontier People Groups, or FPGs), is valued service to family and community above personal dreams and independence. independence: “Don’t seek to save your own life. Pursue the benefit of your family and your people in the generations to come.” 

At a Pakistan university a Western guest speaker said: 

“I am not here to tell you how to succeed by yourself, because that is not important. What is important is for your families and communities, back in your homelands, to become healthy and strong and have all their needs met. What I am telling you today is not just for you, but for your family and people for generations to come.”

 The students began clapping—slowly at first, then rising to a standing ovation. 

“I have never seen our students clap before!” the department head later told the speaker. “What you said has touched our hearts.” 

Does Jesus’ sacrifice for the rest of humanity represent a family centered or individualistic value system? 

Does our gospel urge individuals to break with their family and people in order to follow Jesus, or to become God’s blessing to their household and the generations to come?

Family (Mishpachah) in the Bible

Mishpachah appears more than 300 times in the Old Testament. There is no direct parallel in English, as mishpachah includes “generations yet to come.” Mishpachah is just one in a set of Hebrew and Greek words with a generational perspective, variously translated clan, family, tribe, people, or nation. In English we could think of all of these as “family lines” of varying sizes. 

In God’s foundational promise to Abram (Abraham) in Gen. 12:3, the final recipient of God’s blessing will not be every individual, but ALL mishpachah. Paul labels this promise “the gospel preached in advance to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8). Blessing and salvation aren’t just for individuals, but also for households and whole family lines. 

From this biblical perspective, we can understand the biblical terms translated people/nation as: 

Households bonded together in preserving a shared generational identity—through intermarriage, the continuation of traditions, and rejection of outside influences.

Many FPGs are isolated from the gospel in part by their perception and fear of Christianity as a threat to their households and to the historic identity they are seeking to preserve. One study of Christianity in India observed this in action: 

The adoption of Christianity by one group within a generic community would lead to a strengthening of non-Christian identity among other groups within the same community.2

 When our evangelism methods win individuals away from their families among FPGs, we reinforce these fears within the FPG. 

The Father loving ALL mishpachah back to himself

Woven throughout Scripture, we see God’s intertwined commitment to bless individuals, households and family lines (nations/peoples): 

  • Individuals blessed by God receive redemption, adoption into God’s family, a commission to be fruitful (reproduce) and a physical or spiritual family line (generational blessing and destiny). 
  • Households blessed by God experience healing, strengthening and unity to become His stable, reproducing vehicle of blessing to other households and future generations.
  • Nations/peoples blessed by God temper their fierce independence to embrace a new and better identity and destiny—in Him. They too become “His mishpachah.” 4

Even before the Fall, God blessed mankind (the first household) with a commission they were to fulfill as households (to reproduce, Gen 1:28). God later blessed Abram with a commission for his family line to become God’s blessing to all mishpachah. Israel was thus chosen as the first family line to bless the rest, for other family lines to follow suit. As each of our family lines is adopted into God’s family, we too share in this commission/blessing.

HisStory (and the gospel) can be summarized this way: 

God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is patiently loving estranged individuals, households and family lines back into His family line, then calling our family lines to join Him in loving the rest of the estranged human family—in every family line—back to Himself.

The commission is for our children and disciples

In the verses above, we also see that the commission is not for Abraham to fulfill alone, but for the generations to come. We (Abraham’s spiritual children) carry this commission as well, along with the responsibility for teaching it to the next generation. Our main responsibility (next to intimate friendship with God) lies in what we model and teach our children and disciples, not just in what we ourselves accomplish for God’s kingdom. 

The blessing/commission throughout Scripture

This blessing/commission, through Abraham’s seed for all peoples (family lines), is repeated directly to Abraham two more times (Gen. 18:18, 22:18), then to Isaac (26:4), then to Jacob (28:14). The Old Testament, especially the Psalms, carries many more explicit and implicit references to this blessing/commission. In the New Testament, more explicit references include: 

  • Acts 3:25 (Peter references Gen. 22:18 and 26:4): “You are heirs of … the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’” 
  • Galatians 3:8 (Paul references Gen. 12:3, 18:18 and 22:18): “Scripture … announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” 
  • Hebrews 6:17 (the author references Gen. 22:16–18): “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.”

 The “Great Commission” of Matt. 28:18–20, along with the parallel commissions in the other gospels and Acts, are all in direct fulfillment of God’s commission to Abraham.

 The commission starts with intercession

 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen.18:17–19, emphasis added).

 In the larger story where these verses appear, God sets up Abraham to bless others through intercession. Abraham responds by pleading for God’s mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham’s nephew Lot lives. 

Practical implications

Movements happen only when the gospel blesses and multiplies through households and other natural groupings. In 1982 Donald McGavran observed that 90% of missionaries among the unreached were attempting to draw individuals away from their families rather than bless these families with a view to starting movements.5

Might FPGs more readily embrace Jesus if we present the gospel in Paul’s terms, as: 

  • God’s desire to redeem and bless their households and their full family line through following Jesus together,
  • rather than urging individuals to break with their family and community to follow Jesus? 

Breaking with family should not be the common practice our evangelism sometimes makes it into. Let us learn to invite families to pursue God together, just as we see throughout the Bible.

Jesus came to give life, and to bless all the families of the earth (John 1:10 and Gal. 3:8). This was His practice, and it should be ours also. 

Thus we must ask, individually and collectively, do our ministry approaches aim to: 

  • produce a visible bouquet of flowers cut off from their roots (winning individuals away from their families to produce a church of gathered strangers such as we are familiar with back home), or 
  • plant gospel seeds that can spread to produce a forest in the years to come (blessing households with God’s word in a way that multiplies throughout a people)? 


  1. 1 Less likely to invite a negative backlash from the community. See
    2 Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940, by Jeffrey Cox (Stanford, 2002).
    3  See Steve Smith’s “The Oikos Hammer: You & Your Household” in the Sep/ Oct 2018 MF.
    4  See Steve Hawthorne’s “The Father Who Names the Nations” on p. 32 of this issue.
    5 See the on-line 2018 reprint with expanded introduction, at

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Power of Prayer in Completing the Task

The Power of Prayer in Completing the Task

My wife and I have served for 23 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization dedicated to making Scripture accessible to every language group that needs it. You can imagine over the course of all those years the number of prayers we have prayed and the number of ways we have seen the Lord answer those prayers. Here are a couple examples from early on. 

When I wanted to become a missionary pilot with JAARS, a Wycliffe partner organization that supports Bible translation, I needed to log an additional 170 hours of flight time. My prayers asking for God’s provision led to me crossing paths with a gentleman who let me use his 1946 Taylorcraft airplane for a year. Instead of paying $70 per hour, I paid $5 per hour! 

Only four months into our first assignment in Papua New Guinea, our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Emily spiked a 104-degree fever in a village half a day away from the nearest clinic. She was not responding to the malaria treatment, there were no cell phones and no 911 emergency response team. That’s when we had our first encounter with a “jungle” doctor. Our daughter did not drink the special river water that he prescribed to force the evil spirits out of her body. Instead my wife and I, and a half dozen elders of the local church anointed her with oil and prayed the prayer of faith. Emily was up and running and bouncing off the walls— back to her normal self—the next morning. 

Whether prayers for openings in the clouds over jungle airstrips or prayers for God’s wisdom, guidance and provision, each prayer springs from a common source, out of our faith in a promise from God is foundational to our faith, it is foundational to our prayers. It is our faith in God’s promises that gives our prayers their effectual power. 

I have never claimed to be a theologian, but in my thinking there has always been a separate category of promises that I refer to as “unlimited.” These are the ones reserved for the Abrahams, Davids and Pauls of Scripture. These are the promises that nudge my faith to an entirely different level. I believe this is the Holy Spirit’s intent. I believe that John 15:7 ought to arrest our imagination when it says, “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted.” The same goes for Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

God’s unlimited promises were never intended to be glossed over or pulled down to our common-sense level and emptied of their power. They were meant to lift our faith and lead us to a level of experience that is filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. If there is a promise we have not experienced yet, we ought not rest until we have! 

In 2007, I experienced a series of events that the Lord would use to help forever change my perspective on His unlimited promises and the way I pray. 

In September of that year, I rode a bicycle 2,650 miles across the United States in 35 days, raising $51,000 for a Bible translation project with Wycliffe USA. The fundraiser had far exceeded my expectations, and the coolest part was that I had the privilege of choosing the project. I felt like the richest man in the world. 

About a year earlier, I had heard a presentation about the impact of audio Scripture and the ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), an organization Wycliffe USA has partnered with regularly in the past. At that time, Wycliffe and FCBH were co-funding projects among language communities that had a high priority need for audio Scripture listening groups. I couldn’t think of a more dynamic partnership or a more exciting project to sponsor, bringing Bible translation and dramatized audio recordings together. 

When I saw the Kekchi of Guatemala on the list of potential projects to fund, I was reminded of an Assemblies of God (AG) missionary sent out by our home church in Orlando, and I got even more excited. Damien had been working among the Kekchi for some time, a group of over 700,000 speakers of Mayan descent located throughout central Guatemala. They had the printed New Testament, but there was minimal engagement because the Kekchi typically share and receive important information through oral stories. 

I emailed Damien, telling him about the ride, the available funds, and asked if the audio players and the training would benefit the work he was doing among the Kekchi. He acknowledged the need, how easy it would be to launch the listening groups within the local Kekchi churches and what a tremendous blessing it would be to the pastors. I began to dream of the possibility of bringing the pieces together to create synergy and to multiply the engagement and impact of the Kekchi Scripture. My dreams became desperate prayers, and my desperate prayers became steps toward doing whatever it would take to make it all happen. 

I reached out to FCBH sharing my desire to fund the launch of the Kekchi listening groups and to do it in partnership with the Guatemalan Assemblies of God— and working in partnership with the National Church was FCBH’s preferred strategy! I asked Damien if he would reach out to the Guatemalan AG leadership, and he agreed. Meetings were scheduled, plane tickets were purchased and I was off on my first trip to Latin America. 

In April 2008, half way into my five-day trip to Guatemala, I found myself in a large conference room with representatives from Faith Comes By Hearing, SIL, the Guatemalan Bible Society, the General Superintendent and all the department heads of the Guatemalan Assemblies of God church. The two people I knew in the room, I had met just two days before. Except for me sharing the first few minutes about the bicycle ride, there was not another word of English. One hour later, what was to be a 30-minute meeting concluded with smiles, handshakes, formalities and one gringo with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face. 

On the way to the car, the Americas Area director for FCBH apologized for not having time to interpret and gave me a one sentence summary. “That,” he said, “was a very good meeting!” It so happened that very good meeting was the answer to every prayer I had been praying for nearly a year. I was right in the middle of it, and I didn’t even know it! 

The meeting at the Guatemalan Assemblies of God headquarters catalyzed an ad hoc five-way partnership that over the course of the following months led to the launch of over 900 audio Scripture listening groups in the Assemblies of God churches throughout the Kekchi speaking region. Audio players (called Proclaimers) and the training for facilitating listening groups was provided for several hundred AG pastors and lay leaders. 

This connection with Guatemala became a benchmark experience in my faith journey. I had never prayed for something as intently or as long that involved as many people, churches and organizations with as much potential to touch a people group. (His Word will not return void!) Many times I have read, and sung, Psalm 2:8, “only ask, and I will give you the nations” with a very real cry in my heart wondering what it could mean for me personally. My experience in Guatemala, the bike ride, the funds raised, the partnership, the more than 900 listening groups launched (each with the potential of becoming a church), all my answered prayers for a “nation”—the Kekchi—changed my perspective. I went from simply believing in the power of God’s unlimited promises, to actually experiencing it. 

The invitation is open to us all. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.” — Isaiah 55:3-5 

This experience gave me a taste of the Lord’s mighty power that is at work within us. So much more is accomplished when we start where God starts! His eyes search the whole earth looking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him, those who would believe and pray His unlimited promises into existence. Yes, the bike ride to help fund the Kekchi listening groups was incredibly fulfilling in itself; but looking to the horizon, longing and praying for the nations and for unity in the church brought about a multiplied blessing not just for me or the Kekchi, but for FCBH, for Damien and for the church in Guatemala. 

Discovering the power of prayer for completing the task begins by simply taking God at His Word and longing to know Him the way He longs to be known.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A New Day Dawns for the Deaf

A Visual Bible for Each of Their Visual Sign Languages

A New Day Dawns for the Deaf

Bible translation has been around for centuries, with missionaries venturing out into people groups near and far to make God’s Word accessible to people in a language and form they can clearly understand. As we steadily count down the number of languages left without Scripture, a people group seems to have gone overlooked by many, even though they live among all societies in every city, state and country around the world: the Deaf. 

Deaf Bible Society is an organization with a mission to provide God’s Word in every sign language. In collaboration with their partners, Deaf Bible Society reports that there are more than 400 distinct sign languages in use today. Yet only one completed New Testament exists, in one sign language, making the Deaf one of the most unreached and unengaged people groups in the world. 

The staggering statistics indicate that only two to three percent of Deaf people worldwide have been introduced to the truth of a Savior, and almost all Deaf communities are without God’s Word and biblical resources in a language and form they can understand. 

But why do the Deaf need Bible translation at all? Why can’t they just read the written Scriptures? 

Sign languages are not based on “simple” gestures or pantomime representing the national spoken language. They are true languages, rich and complex, with their own syntax and grammar. Sign languages employ facial expression, hand and body movement, and palm orientation to create visual grammar. Deaf people who use sign language as their primary mode of communication depend upon all of the components of this visual grammar to convey meaning, just the same as a hearing person depends upon spoken language grammar to project ideas, purpose and sense of identity. 

A Visual Bible for a Visual Language

Deaf Bible Society and their partners are dedicated to getting God’s Word in the heart language of every Deaf person, and must consider all the specific and detailed nuances that go into constructing biblical content and resources for the Deaf. Instead of the traditional 2D linear words on a page, which fall flat, sign language is dynamic and active, and must be in an accessible multimodal medium to be viewed. 

The broad availability of video technology has blazed a trail for reaching Deaf people with Scripture in a visual form, but there remains a major challenge of translating God’s Word into an estimated 400 sign languages. 

The output must use the face, the hands, body movement and expressions all collaborated with clear, natural and accurate signs, which can be unique for every culture and sign language. This presents a challenge that requires cutting-edge technology. 

Machine learning has been around since the 1950s, but it has never been on the lips of mechanical engineers, software developers and computer scientists like it is today. It wasn’t that long ago that the general public wasn’t ready to accept things like artificial intelligence (A.I.) and learning bots into their private space. Then along came Siri from Apple and Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, and the world of A.I. exploded. Since then, new gadgets and smart electronics have emerged with life-enhancing algorithms. 

Eastern and western populations alike gobble it up daily.

 But how can Christian evangelists and ministries take advantage of this sailing ship? Can this kind of advanced technology be used to assist the acceleration of Bible translation and Scripture engagement? If digital assistants can be capable of turning off lights and ordering dinner, then certainly programs can be designed to perform specific, complex tasks like language acquisition. But, can advanced technology like A.I. be used in sign language acquisition? Better yet, can machine learning be used to assist sign language Bible translation? 

Thinking Inside the Bot

When a hearing person talks about a translation of the Bible, they refer to the variety of different text and audio versions available like the King James Version, the NIV or the New Living Translation. The reader or the listener rarely connects the team or individual who worked on the translation directly with the final product. 

Sign language Bible translation work requires the Deaf person doing the translation to show their face on camera, making that individual permanently connected to the translation. Problems arise when the character of the person overrides the message of Christ and becomes the focus. This can lead to scrutiny when the community recognizes the signer, and the reputation of the person can directly impact the reputation of the translation. In regions hostile to God’s Word, the signer risks putting their entire family, the translation team and the project in danger. The challenge becomes protecting the identity of the signer. 

Deaf Bible Society is taking advantage of new technology to build software called Chameleon, which uses machine learning (A.I.) to mask the identity of signers on camera behind visually realistic avatars. Chameleon uses neural networks that are trained with real-time data and are fed information to identify an elbow, an eyebrow and how the lips form in conjunction with a particular facial movement. They work like an active brain to learn the motions and expressions while responding by recognizing bodily connections and coordinated movements. It is like a baby who sees his parent over and over and suddenly starts to smile when the parent walks in the baby responds based on what he is learning. When the output of the neural network is driving the avatar, the signer’s identity remains hidden—fully capturing his movements and signing style while eliminating the risk. 

Neural networks have enabled Chameleon to leap years ahead of what was thought possible. “It’s really the dreamers who keep things moving forward,” says the Chameleon team leader. “It wasn’t that long ago that neural networks were considered unpopular. People didn’t think it was possible for computers to learn and self-correct on their own but look at what God is doing for His glory!” 

Awareness Builds a Movement

Historically Deaf people have been marginalized, forgotten and unreached. Misunderstood and reduced to a homogenized culture, they are often looked down upon and socially regarded as “disabled.”

 In some countries, Deaf people are labeled as leprous, and their deafness is considered a sign of sin. There are many countries where deafness is considered shameful, and Deaf people are cursed and ousted from society. Deaf children and adults are often hidden away, left by their parents, or separated into the very lowest sect. We’ve heard stories of terrible crimes and atrocities committed against Deaf people because they cannot speak out for themselves. 

Missionaries seeking Deaf people must often knock on doors to draw out the withdrawn and isolated. When they do reach a Deaf population, churches often mistakenly approach them with services and resources geared toward a hearing audience, which Deaf people must try to fit into. 

But as sign language Bible translation makes its way into the light, Deaf culture is being recognized more and more. Advanced technology and social media touch every place around the globe, creating a place for acceptance and change. It is a time when Deaf people must be identified and honored as intrinsic people groups, as an exclusive culture within a culture. Sign languages must come to be fully recognized as true languages, cherished by the Deaf as their heart language. 

Deaf Bible Society believes that the Great Commission is true for all people, including the Deaf. We believe the Deaf have a right to access the Bible in their sign language resulting in a personal relationship with God and community within the Church. To learn more about Deaf Bible Society, who we are, and our projects, please visit

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The DMM Price Tag

What Does It Cost to Start a Disciple Making Movement?

The DMM Price Tag

Visiting the U.S.A. after living many years abroad can be a shock to the system. Walking into a grocery store to buy a few things, I am assaulted by the prices. “What? It can’t possibly cost that much for this. I usually buy these items for a fraction of the cost! Are these apples worth that to me? Do I want to pay this price for them?” 

Adjusting to my home culture’s prices is a challenge. It takes time, usually a few weeks. Purchasing groceries is necessary so I find ways to do what is needed. It’s good to check the price tag carefully before I make a purchase, though. 

It’s also good to understand the cost of starting a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Starting a DMM is an exciting venture, but it isn’t cheap. It’s definitely not a “freebie.” The investment we must make in tears, prayer, loss and personal pruning is great. 

What Does a DMM Cost?

We could consider an amount in dollars, thinking through the cost of training and evangelism materials. In many ways, however, that is relatively insignificant. What is more important to consider is what it costs the movement leader or trainer on a personal level. How do we determine what is the price that will be paid in tears? In emotional stress due to betrayal and persecution? Or the cost that comes with constant spiritual warfare? 

I wish I could tell you that DMMs are free. Salvation is free. But there is a price we must pay to see that free salvation come to thousands of unreached peoples. DMMs have a large price tag on them. Is it worth it? 

Compel Them To Come In

In Luke 14, Jesus tells a story of a feast. It wasn’t ell attended. Can you hear the passionate heart of God expressed for the lost to be saved? Jesus says, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (vs. 23)-NIV. 

The Master longs for His house to be full. “Compel them!” He says. The emptiness of His table grieves God’s heart deeply. 

After this stirring parable, Jesus immediately talks about the cost of discipleship. He refers to a man who began to build a tower but wasn’t able to finish. He tells of a king going to war who first carefully weighs the cost. We too must understand the payment needed when starting a Disciple Making Movement. 

The Price Is Real

Every time the ministry started to move forward I got sick. Seriously sick. God would bring a divine appointment with a potential national apostle. We would start to connect with them, begin mentoring and “Boom!” Something would happen. My back went out and suddenly I had two herniated discs. Another time I had a life-threatening hepatitis relapse. 

Once, we were making serious inroads to a new community and my right-hand colleague was suddenly killed. While riding in an auto rickshaw she was hit by an army truck. She died shortly after being taken to the hospital. Grief hit me much like that army truck had hit her. How was I to continue? 

Then there was the time when we were trying to produce a gospel film in the local language. We were using indigenous actors and presenting the message of Jesus in a contextual way. The film demonstrated simple church and told a story of someone coming to faith. It would be a major tool to help us with abundant gospel sowing. 

We expected some resistance from anti-Christians in the area especially when we would start to distribute it. What we didn’t expect was the persecution we faced from the Christian community. We were attacked, slandered, threatened and called names by those we thought were on the same side as us! 

Primary Costs You Will Face

It would not be fair to anyone wanting to pursue a DMM to tell them it will be easy. Though it is simple, it is not easy. 

Starting a DMM requires a high level of commitment and tenacity. You must have a willingness to go through suffering to see the release of God’s Kingdom in that place. The rewards are also great! Rather than seeing just a handful of people believe, you can see thousands of multiplying disciples. 

What are the primary costs you must be ready to pay if you are pursuing a DMM? 

Be willing to be misunderstood.

As you apply DMM principles, you will go against the flow of many traditional church views and practices. At times people will question your methods. When you allow non-ordained people to baptize, for example, it might raise eyebrows. When you decide against a church building or empower local believers to do ministry, some will think you are not “doing it right.” 

When you put into practice the things done in the book of Acts, it goes against the status quo. You may feel like you are “swimming upstream” in your organization. Don’t be surprised by this. It is normal for people pursuing DMMs. It’s part of the price we pay for the release of thousands into the kingdom. Be ready to be misunderstood and not take it personally.  

Be willing to face spiritual warfare.

Sickness, unusual marital stress, and unexpected conflicts in team relationships are quite common. The enemy does not want a movement to take off. You can be sure of that. He looks for your weak points and will try to stop you. I’m not saying everything bad that happens in life is spiritual warfare. But the reality of the enemy we face is clearly described by Paul in Ephesians 6:12. 

It helps to know that whenever there is an attack, it is also an opportunity for God to do a miracle! God always wants to use spiritual warfare against us and turn it around for our good. The miracle may be a healing. It might be a reconciliation, or a breakthrough in our own character growth. Be ready to struggle, but also be ready to experience the power of God demonstrated in those times! 

Be willing to face persecution.

As you pursue a DMM, you will face opposition from within and without. The first persecution will likely come from the existing church (even if it is a small and ineffective church). Later, when the disciple-making groups start to multiply rapidly and thousands are coming to faith, it is difficult not to be noticed. That is when external persecution is likely. You may be targeted by authorities, called in for questioning, or deported. If you have done a good job of training local leaders in a simple way, they will continue the work without you. It will grow even more! 

Be willing to suffer loss

A DMM practitioner may experience loss of status in their church or organization. Even more serious, they may face losses like the death of a child or spouse. Many who have seen movements released have walked through deeply painful times of grief. As you walk through these on your DMM journey, be assured of God’s comfort. He will draw near. He will be there to walk with you through the questions and doubts that losses provoke. The tears you cry will water the movement’s growth. Those you disciple and mentor will learn from you. They will watch you as you walk through the pain. They will see your love and commitment to God, and also to them. This is part of the deep foundational stones of a kingdom movement being laid. 

Be willing to change and grow in challenging new ways as a person

An openness to change and grow is crucial for those wanting to start movements.  This too is a costly thing.   It is easier to stay the same than to change our beliefs and paradigms. Great men and women of God are constantly growing. They are always learning. They allow each challenge to train them in godliness. They make adjustments when things aren’t producing fruit. Allowing the Holy Spirit to convict them, they respond in repentance. 

Change is costly, but so very rewarding too. The process of learning we go through in staring movements has great value! It shapes us into His image. 

Is It Worth It?

When we see the release of a massive movement of Jesus followers, we will rejoice with Jesus and the angels. Seeing thousands swept into God’s kingdom and an unreached area transformed…nothing can compare! Lives, families, and communities radically changed by His love? It’s unquestionably worth the hefty price tag. 

Are You Ready to Commit?

Counting the cost can be a bit shocking, much like my first trip to the grocery store when returning to the States. I hope this article hasn’t talked you out of pursuing a DMM! My goal is to help you count the cost now, so when you hit the hard stuff, you won’t give up. You’ve already decided it is worth it. 

Take a moment right now to pray. Ask God to give you the courage to embrace the challenges ahead. Let Him know you are willing to pay any price to see His house full, to see the unreached come to taste of His goodness. Jesus paid the ultimate price already. Let’s follow Him in demonstrating that same kind of love.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A Desire That Would Not Die

God’s Word for a People in Exile

A Desire That Would Not Die
How hard would you work to have the Bible in your own language? Even if you didn’t know how to start? Or if, after getting some help, the work ceased for ten years because of war? Or if the community who spoke your language ended up scattered across three different countries, and mixed in with speakers of many other languages?
This has been the experience of the Keliko people of South Sudan. In 1983 Rev. David Gale, a Keliko pastor, gathered with Christians from many language groups at a Christian conference near Juba in South Sudan. Each person was asked to sing a worship song and read the Word of God in their own language. Rev. David was unable to comply with this simple request because he found himself weeping.
At that time, although the gospel had been shared with the Keliko as early as 1915, all their worship and access to God’s Word was through neighboring trade languages such as Bangala and Bari. Despite their long history with Christianity, the Keliko people had no Scriptures in their own language. Coming face to face with this reality for his people, Rev. David was overcome with sadness. He asked for prayers from the group gathered at the conference, that the Keliko would be able to translate the Bible, songs and liturgy into their own language. Opening the Bible he was using, he found Matthew 7:7 and read, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” The group prayed for him, and he returned home.
After Rev. David got home, five churches of the Keliko parish met for their annual conference. They had heard that other language groups in the area were receiving translation assistance from SIL International staff located in the area, and they believed they should also have their own Bible. After two years of fundraising, they sought assistance from SIL. In 1986, research began in the language, and within a year a writing system was completed and a story, a song and a few Scripture verses published in pamphlet form. The work had begun!
But then, full-scale war broke out. Most Keliko left their home area and became refugees in Congo and Uganda. SIL staff were evacuated, and the person assigned to assist the Keliko returned to her home country. For the next 10 years, no further progress was made.
Then, in 1998, Rev. David’s grandson, Bishop Seme, was studying in northern Uganda. An SIL couple visited his theological college to talk about Bible translation. Rev. Seme told them about the stalled work on the Keliko translation and asked for help. As a result, SIL specialists were assigned to help finalize the writing system and provide training in translation principles. Using the writing system, a number of Keliko learned to read and write their own language. The Keliko Bible translation project finally began making steady progress. Genesis was published in 2004, followed by a series of other Scripture portions.
In November 2016, as the Keliko translation team was involved in the final checking process of their long-awaited New Testament, the Keliko homeland was ravaged by violence. People were killed, women were raped, houses and churches were looted.
At the time of the attacks, the translation team was already working from several locations. Most of the team members were based in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. Bishop Seme lived approximately 150 miles away in Panyana, an important church center in the Keliko homeland. He served part-time as a translator and advisor, checking translation work over the phone and making occasional trips to Juba to meet the other translators.
But when the fighting intensified in the homeland, Bishop Seme had to flee, along with many Keliko people. Weeks later, the violence spread to Juba. The rest of the translation team fled to northern Uganda. Again, work on the Keliko New Testament translation was interrupted. But it did not stop. Despite being displaced, the team continued to work on the Keliko Scriptures.
“Most of our life is just in war,” explained Bishop Seme. “Though the war has disturbed us and traumatized most people, we still work with them and continue to encourage them because there is no other way. We continue to promote the mother tongue though we are not in our own land.”
 Throughout the life of the Keliko translation project, and despite the challenges brought by war and migration, the translation team remained motivated to see God’s message of hope available in the Keliko language. And that persistence is bearing fruit. In August 2018, the Keliko New Testament was welcomed with great joy at a celebration in northern Uganda.
This great milestone for the Keliko people also happens to be a significant milestone for SIL International, Wycliffe USA and other key partners. The Keliko New Testament marks 1,000 New Testament translations completed with involvement from these organizations. It also represents the growing number of translation programs in environments characterized by migration and multilingualism.

Migration and Multilingualism

In response to this trend, a special task force of SIL scholars, translators and language program managers are studying how migration and multilingualism, along with urbanization trends, impact communities of non-dominant language speakers. One of the key findings of the research is that language situations vary. In order to understand and more effectively address that variety, the study group has identified two questions every translation team should ask:
What are all the languages this community uses?
Where are all of the communities that use this language?
Answering these two questions has become more complicated—and more important—in recent years, as minority language communities increasingly migrate into urban centers across the globe, and as those staying in the homeland also become increasingly multilingual. The situation can vary even within a given language community; not everyone who speaks the same set of languages uses each one of them equally well or in the same ways. 
The language needs and preferences of all sectors of a community must be considered to successfully communicate a crucial message. “We want to see the Scriptures available for all people in languages and media that are accessible to them,” explained Dr. Steve Quakenbush, leader of SIL’s Multiligualism, Urbanisation and Scripture Engagement (MUSE) task force.
The Keliko are quite familiar with the issues and challenges of a multilingual environment. They first accessed Scriptures in neighboring trade languages, Bangala and Bari. Many Keliko even consider Bangala to be a “holy language,” perhaps because the gospel first came to them in Bangala. Some Keliko churches use the Bari language for the liturgy in their services, as well as using available Keliko Scripture portions. Other Keliko people living outside their traditional homeland also speak Lugbara, Swahili or Juba Arabic. Bishop Seme himself speaks five languages, choosing which one to use depending on the particular context in which he finds himself. However, this multilingual fluency is not universal among Keliko speakers. Many whose formal education years have been disrupted by war have not had the same opportunities to learn other languages. The desire to have the Scriptures in their own language is strong.
In the recent years of forced migration, the question of where all the communities are that speak Keliko has become especially critical for the Keliko translation team.
Keliko communities are now scattered into three main areas: the bush or mountains of South Sudan, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But most Keliko speakers are now in refugee camps, either in Uganda or the DRC. How are these Keliko to benefit from the Scriptures in their own language?
In the refugee camps, Keliko people often live together but they mingle with people from other language communities. Children speak Keliko with their families, but might switch to a different language when playing with children from other communities.
Wide representation from as many Keliko communities as possible is key to increasing awareness and engagement with the Keliko Scriptures. When translating and recording the JESUS film (a video dramatization depicting the life of Jesus with voice overs in minority languages) in Uganda last year, the Keliko team recruited Keliko speakers living in South Sudan, DRC and Uganda, including some living in refugee camps, as voice actors for the film.
As a result of connections with far flung communities such as those in DRC, many Keliko made plans to travel to the celebration in northern Uganda and even pledged to help with the costs. This was no small offer, especially since they no longer have access to their lands and thus their traditional agricultural livelihood.
The Keliko people were not completely without access to God’s Word before. Many of them also use other languages, and had come to faith through hearing the Good News in those other languages. There will be occasions when they still want to worship and study the Bible with others who use other languages. Yet their desire for the Bible in their own language would not die. As Bishop Seme explained, “It is only the Lord helping us. Many people died in the war, but still we are alive. It is very important to have the Scriptures.”

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

There’s an App for That

Technology Transforms Bible Translation

There’s an App for That

Ask someone what they imagine when they think of Bible translation, and they might describe a linguist sitting alone at a simple desk in a remote village, poring over a Bible word by word and writing or typing it into a local language.  The work appears slow, painstaking and exacting.

While no less challenging or precise, today the work can look radically different.  Where Bible translations once took 25 or 30 years to complete, advancements like customized software, computer tables, apps and other tech have made it possible to get the Bible into people’s hands faster, more easily and in more ways than ever before in history. 

Mike Cochran has served in language technology development with SIL for 20 years, working with highly skilled teams to help increase the accuracy of translation work and the productivity of translation teams, from cultural anthropology to grammar and orthography. 

“Long ago, [SIL researchers] actually created a portable computer before there was one,” Mike said. “They also created hardware to process audio before there were cards and computers that did that. As an organization, we’ve always been pioneering in a technology space. Nobody else had anything like what we created.” 

With the help of other organizations contributing their own expertise, today that pioneering innovation continues. Take a look at some of the cutting-edge tools changing the landscape of Bible translation around the world. 

Paratext Software

When linguist John Nystrom and his wife, Bonnie, first started translation work in 1990 with the Arop language group of Papua New Guinea, the majority of the work—like checking key terms and phrases for accuracy and consistency—was done by hand. Today, software programs like Paratext have become incredible tools to reduce effort and increase output. 

Developed by United Bible Societies and SIL International, Paratext is the world’s leading software application for developing and checking new Bible translation texts, or revisions to existing texts. It gives teams a central location for reviewing word lists and biblical terms, storing project notes, comparing a translation to the original Greek and Hebrew or a source text to ensure accuracy, and collaborating with team members remotely using the internet. 

“Computers are better and faster than people at finding stuff and counting things,” John said. “But great translation tools use the computer’s finding and counting skills to set up what a translator wants to spend his time doing: deciding if what’s there is correct or if it can be improved.” That’s what Paratext has done for the Arop translation team and countless others. 

When John and the team were translating the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, for example, they needed a clear translation for the phrase “clean conscience.” Once they settled on the most accurate and natural phrase for the concept, they needed to replace all the existing instances of “clean conscience” with their translated alternative. 

Previously that would have required serious time and effort, and ultimately the team still couldn’t be sure they’d caught all the references in the Scriptures. With Paratext, rather than searching the translation by hand they were able to identify all the instances of the phrase immediately. The software pinpoints each one and shows how it has been translated. 

But what if you’re not a trained linguist? What if instead you’re a minority language speaker who wants to help translate the Bible for your own community, in a remote location with limited resources? 

A Lighter Option

While Paratext is ideal for many translation projects, for teams in some of the poorest, hardest-to-reach areas of the world, it can be impractical. Many of these teams are working with older computer models, most of which can’t run the last three versions of Paratext, and there’s no IT department in place to offer tech support. 

In response to this complex need, teams from organizations like SIL International, Operation Agape, Distant Shores Media and Wycliffe Bible Translators USA are introducing a simple solution. They’re partnering to develop Paratext Lite, a stripped back and more agile version of its robust counterpart. 

“Paratext Lite is designed for a translator who hasn’t been heavily trained in linguistics or isn’t familiar with complex software,” said Doug Hennum, chief innovation and information officer at Wycliffe USA. “It has a simple interface, does what they need it to do and then transfers it into Paratext so more highly skilled linguists and consultants can do what they need to do with it.”

Best of all, it’s tablet based and runs on the Android operating system, which is widely available around the world. This makes it ideal for low-power devices that work well in rugged desert environments or climates with high humidity and rain. It also eliminates the challenges presented by desktop computers with malware issues, laptops constantly trying to download updates, or spotty internet connections. 

“I think it may well be a game changer,” Mike said. “Android devices are cheap and low power and will give us the ability to roll out [the software] to people who otherwise couldn’t take advantage of the tools.” 

Earlier this year the team rolled out Paratext Lite in beta mode, testing it with 95 people in 32 countries. The program was released in June. 

There’s an App for That

The explosion of apps (short for “applications”) onto mobile devices in recent years has dramatically enhanced and expanded much of our digital experience. When communicating with friends and family, playing games, tracking our health and even managing finances, apps are now a pervasive part of daily life for many. 

Apps are also changing the way people all over the world engage with the Bible. YouVersion’s Bible app allows readers to interact with Scripture in more than 1,000 languages. The Deaf Bible app from Deaf Bible Society offers Bible translations in various sign languages exclusively designed for the Deaf. BIBLE.IS from Faith Comes By Hearing contains audio Bibles for oral cultures and the “JESUS” film, a video dramatization that depicts the life of Jesus Christ in over 1,500 languages. Still more apps like iDisciple and Olive Tree offer thousands of devotionals, sermons and Bible studies. 

Bible translation is no exception to the app phenomenon, as developers are continually finding ways to adapt these globally embraced tools to make Scripture accessible in brand new ways. 

“There are several key experiments moving us forward rapidly,” Mike said. One is a program SIL developed called Scripture App Builder. It helps you build customized apps for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, where you specify everything from the Scripture files used down to the fonts and colors. Scripture App Builder will package everything together and build the customized app for you. You can then install it on your phone, send it to others by Bluetooth, share it on microSD memory cards and publish it to app stores on the internet. 

Another exciting new tool is called Scripture Forge, an app for translation teams to facilitate online community Scripture checking. Many Bible translation projects today are engaging an increasingly geographically diverse group of mother-tongue speakers. 

“Often those people are online, which gives us an opportunity to do things we haven’t been able to do before, especially regarding evaluating how effective our approaches are,” Mike said. 

Scripture Forge allows teams to engage with the language community by uploading Scripture portions, asking targeted questions about the translation and inputting the responses back into Paratext. The Scripture portions can be shared widely through social media and other channels, broadening the reach of the translated Word. 

“You’re improving quality as you go, and people are actually using it before you’ve spent 15 years in a community. You’re also changing the quality of your translation as you go, because it’s being used by more people in a greater variety of contexts,” Mike added. “And if halfway through [a translation project] a team member has to leave, or a project stalls [because of conflict, unrest or funding issues] the community can still use what’s already been produced. 

“Those things are very motivating for me with these technologies—the breadth, the reach. It’s motivating to reach the diaspora.” 

Advancing Together

Ultimately the core goal behind any advancement remains the same: ensuring that every person has access to God’s Word in a language and form they can clearly understand. As Bible translation and distribution organizations, if we’re serious about that call our methodologies for completing this task are going to continue to grow and change. 

One thing is abundantly clear: When it comes to technological advancements in Bible translation today, “it’s becoming much more of a collaborative effort than it ever used to be,” Doug said. “There are very few things we’re working on that we aren’t doing with a partner. The future is not going to be one organization making this happen. It’s got to be done in partnership.”  

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A Gap in the Creeds

A Gap in the Creeds

We live in a world driven by material possessions and comfort, fueled by marketing and laser guided by data. They know what we like—literally! This has radically changed how we perceive the world. What people want (not just need) is fueled by media. A major force creating this shift began just after silent films— though now it is so pervasive that the movie industry is only one, still influential force in this direction. One historic example is how many people decided to try smoking because they saw it in films and it looked cool. 

The Church is also greatly impacted by its history and leaders—for an even longer period. •is has been good and bad. We all know stories, which opponents to the gospel flaunt in our faces, where the Church and/ or its leaders were not being true to the gospel—to say the least. But since the end of the NT times, the Church has been guided by its history, reflected (in part) in the creeds. We sometimes wonder what would have happened if some of those key decisions had been decided another way. 

Rarely, however, do we wonder what might have been left out or ignored. How would you “edit” the creeds to include something they missed that is crucial? 

For example, what might have happened if any (or all) of the main Christian creeds had included Jesus’ last command—to make disciples of all ethné? How different might it have been if everyone who wanted to pass on solid biblical truth included this? Suppose those mentoring young Christians or training pastors and leaders had seen the sentence below, inserted right after—“On the third day he rose again from the dead…” 

  • He commissioned his Church, beginning with the Apostles to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.1

 This is the reflection of Don Richardson—who is both a former missionary to the Sawi people, and mission statesman who has studied a wide range of issues like this very deeply. Don has probably taught in our Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course more than anyone else (other than Steve Hawthorne, author of the Perspectives Study Guide). 

In chapter sixteen of his book titled Incomplete Creeds as Symptomatic Warnings, Don outlines why the command of Jesus should be included in the creeds, namely that God’s plan for the world can be traced throughout the Scriptures. And, he ties that together with Jesus teaching at the end of Luke and Matthew—just before the ascension. 

Just last week, I was asked by a friend who works with a mission-sending organization if I had something he could use to answer the question: “Is the Great Commission (from Matthew 28:19-20) for us or just for the apostles? 

I would have suggested this chapter in Don’s book, but I hadn’t read it yet. 

But if you think just a little about it, it would be foolish to think it could reasonably be meant just for the apostles. If it were, they sure did a lousy job. Even Paul only got so far himself. 

Historically then, instead of seeing this Commission as a foundational part of the Church and her calling, it is relegated to a fringe group in the church, or in a department in a few seminaries. Usually, smaller schools do not even have a class in “world missions” or “intercultural studies.” Instead of talking about reaching people with little or no witness when we disciple people, we wait till that younger believer “gets a sense of calling”—and then we pass them off to one of those “fringe” missions people in our churches. Many pastors are too focused and busy to strongly push the church to go beyond their walls/neighborhood to reach out where the gospel has yet to go.

 How are you applying the clear teaching of Jesus and the entire Bible on this issue? How central is it to you and your church? 

Please share your thoughts on 

  1. 2013, Don Richardson, Heaven Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Hope of Every Person, p. 188. You can get this book and others or download articles from Don here:<./li>

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Bible Translation as We Approach 2025

What's Been Accomplished and What Remains

Bible Translation as We Approach 2025

Between His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus charged His apostles and followers with the Great Commission: to make disciples of all nations. At the time, the apostles could not have known just how wide-ranging that mission was (and is). Even the more well-traveled among them could not have grasped the size of the world and how its population would grow. 

God often sets goals for us that are bigger than we could perceive, let alone achieve, on our own or in the span of our lifetime. The Great Commission is one such goal. Through the perseverance of Christians all over the world, we are approaching a milestone: the availability of the Good News about Christ in a language people relate to best, and in a form they can use. 

For nearly 2,000 years, Christians all across the world have devoted their lives to this mission—bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to all peoples—and at the end of their journey passed the torch to a new generation who would build from their sacrifices and advance the work. MISSION FRONTIERS has chronicled many of these diverse and arduous efforts, ranging from church planting and evangelism to the pursuit of justice for the enslaved and oppressed. 

When Christian believers carry the gospel to unreached communities, there is no more potent medium through which to receive it than in the language most familiar to them: the community’s native language—the language of their birth. It’s what we at Wycliffe Bible Translators USA describe as their “heart language”—the language they think in, dream in and pray in. Scripture is God’s primary way of speaking to His people; it is the foundation of the Church. However, the reality for millions around the world is that they still have no access to Scripture in the language they know best. 

At Wycliffe Bible Translators, we recognize Bible translation as an integral part of the Church’s global mission that all would know of God’s unconditional and enduring love for them. Our goal is to eradicate Bible poverty and ensure that all have access to hear God speak to them in a language and form they can clearly understand. 

Vision 2025: How Far We’ve Come and How Far We Have to Go

Wycliffe’s vision began as our founder William Cameron Townsend was challenged by a native Cakchiquel speaker, Francisco Diaz, to ensure that his people heard accurately this good news not in Spanish, but in his northern tongue, Cakchiquel. In the 75 years since Townsend founded Wycliffe, we have sought to make this a worldwide reality, working alongside local communities and churches, and numerous partner organizations both in the United States and around the world. Through this collaborative work and the unmistakable guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have witnessed countless lives transformed by newfound access to the Bible. 

Over time, we’ve discovered thousands of languages never imagined by Townsend, moving the goal line of Scripture access for all even farther away. By the year 2000, while many groups had access to Scripture in their own languages, many others did not. Our leaders at the time realized that at the rate we were going, it would be 150 years before a Bible translation project had even begun in the remaining languages around the world. As emerging local partners and churches exploded and technology radically cut the time needed to complete a translation, they knew we could do better. 

The Church has never shirked at the enormity of the Great Commission, and neither did Wycliffe’s leaders 18 years ago. They trusted God’s heart for the people of the earth and their conviction so that, in faith, they raised the bar and set an audacious, aggressive, seemingly impossible goal of having a Bible translation project underway in every language by the year 2025. And they invited others to join in this vision. Believing that with God nothing is impossible, and when He calls, He also equips, Vision 2025 was launched. Together we rekindled our sense of urgency and committed to working in partnership, developing creative strategies, building the capacity of others, and working toward sustainability of anything started. We trusted in God’s providence and adopted this vision as our mission statement: to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. 

We currently estimate there are about 7,000 spoken languages across the world. Almost one out of three has adequate access to Scripture. Nearly 2,200 language communities—the highest number on record—currently have translation projects underway. But roughly 1,600 language communities are still waiting for a translation project to begin and have no access to any Scripture in the language they know best. 

When Wycliffe’s work first began, Bible translation everywhere was largely done with a manual typewriter or by hand, and the occasional loss of physical manuscripts caused entire projects to be restarted from scratch. Communication with other translators required expensive and unreliable international phone calls and dangerous transportation. Back then we didn’t fully understand that languages rarely exist in isolation but we’ve since learned so much about the multilingual world in which these language communities function.

As articles in this issue detail, Bible translation today looks far different than it once did. Thanks to local ownership of translation programs, streamlined communication, transportation, Bible translation software, digital publication and other technological innovations, translators across the world are able to complete projects on a timetable that would previously have been unthinkable. 

A Common Framework for Bible Translation

Technology has dramatically sped up the translation process, but we do not allow speed to be our primary goal. Instead, the first commitment must be to clear, accurate and natural translation. As one organization working within a broader alliance, Wycliffe Bible Translators has adopted a shared set of missiological principles that constitute a “Common Framework for Bible Translation,” which shapes everything we do. 

The principles include relationship, partnership, stewardship, ownership and accelerated impact. This framework was promoted by Every Tribe, Every Nation, a coalition of 10 translation groups that have produced the vast majority of the Bible translations in existence today. 

The “Common Framework for Bible Translation” prioritizes working with the local church to get translation projects started in every language that needs one. Isaiah 55:11 says, “it is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” 

Establishing and Maintaining Relationship

One of our primary goals for translation projects is the establishment of deep, committed and enduring relationships among translation teams, impact partners and local communities within a geographic region. This also includes technical partners, donors and prayer partners within the target geographic region or community. e development of these communal and incarnational relationships is essential to helping the body of Christ grow and flourish, but also to the completion of translation projects themselves, which can be complicated and have historically spanned decades. 

For example, in March of 2017 in South Sudan, a people who speak the Baka language celebrated the completion of the Baka New Testament. It was the culmination of a project over 30 years in the making. But it was a project that faced numerous challenges. When translators first encountered the Baka language, it was only a spoken language. The translation projects required the development of a written language as well as literacy training materials to ensure Scripture engagement. Illnesses as well as other circumstances within the local church caused several different partners to redistribute responsibility, resulting in a local pastor, Rev. Bennett Marona, becoming the project leader. 

Furthermore, due to the civil war in Sudan, Rev. Bennett and the other translation team members were forced to relocate to a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then on to Uganda before finally coming to completion back in what had since become South Sudan. At each stage and over every obstacle across those three decades, the project was able to persevere because of the strong relationship of a multinational team, selflessly committed to bringing the Word of God to the ears of those who speak Baka. 

Relying on Partnership

In Bible translation, partnership is paramount; translation goals, products and plans are determined collaboratively. Throughout the New Testament and the history of the Church, the body of Christ’s growth has been the collaborative responsibility of the body itself. It remains a global community of believers fulfilling diverse yet vital roles, working toward the common goal. An uncoordinated body stumbles, but a coordinated one accomplishes much; so, too, does Bible translation work best in partnership. 

Bible translation requires a wide breadth of collaboration: local language experts, linguists, translators, literacy workers, project advisors, donors, publishers and distributors. For this reason, Wycliffe is proud and honored to work with networks of Bible translation organizations like the Wycliffe Global Alliance. This collaboration saves decades of data-gathering, learning customs and cultural nuances, building relationships and many other efforts required to begin a translation. It’s an unprecedented, globally unified effort of believers to pool knowledge, resources and access to unreached people groups, and will play a pivotal role in closing the final gap and translating the Bible into every language in need on earth. 

We saw this phenomenon in action in the Bible translation project for the Roviana people of the Solomon Islands. Christian missionaries first reached them with the gospel in 1902, 116 years ago. Since then, two separate advising agencies, a publisher, a recording company, a series of donor organizations and eight translators were needed to overcome a seemingly endless series of challenges. Finally, in May of 2017, the Roviana people celebrated a complete printed Bible and audio version of the New Testament in their heart language. 

The project took immense collaboration, and the inspiring outcome could not have been accomplished by any single group. Their success demonstrates the incredible impact that the body of Christ can have through such cooperation and perseverance—something we look forward to seeing the Holy Spirit accomplish in many more communities. 

Prioritizing Stewardship

When Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to His followers in His absence, it required that we be faithful stewards of what He has given us. In Bible translation, faithful stewardship means that projects are well-developed, well-designed, well-resourced and well-managed with a high value on mutual accountability and transparency among all partners. 

It means working with excellence: realizing the full potential of all available resources—from technology to personnel—to produce translations that are clear, accurate and natural to the local speakers in a way that honors them, our partners and God’s eternal Word. This isn’t just about physical resources, but also about our work and our time. 

Our value for wise stewardship should permeate every other principle in the “Common Framework” because it is crucial to completing the task well, together and for God’s glory. 

Celebrating Local Ownership

As Bible translation continues to evolve, it is most effective for the local body of believers to assume ownership of the vision and responsibility for Bible translation in their community.  When the work of Wycliffe and our partners began, most translation projects were for isolated people groups with limited educational opportunities and little knowledge of the outside world. This meant that the first task for our translators was to shed light on their need for God’s Word; the result, in many cases, was that we “owned” the project more than local communities did. 

Bible translation has evolved as the world grows more interconnected—many language groups are now in a position to own their translation projects if they have the right support. It’s always been the case that when communities own their projects, not only are they more committed, but are also more likely to use the Scripture after translation and apply its teachings. 

We’ve seen this at work in Peru. Mark and Patti Bean have been facilitating a translation cluster project, in which multiple distinct Quechua languages work together to achieve translation faster and with better accuracy. After recently finishing the Old Testament, they are revising their translations of the New Testament in hopes of printing the full Bible.

The team is a committed group of members, many of whom travel from great distances to work at the translation site, sacrifice time with their families and turn down more lucrative job opportunities to continue working together. For one member, the journey is a three-day walk and a ten-hour car ride. What keeps them coming back to work again and again? They believe in the power and importance of their task. It’s their commitment to bringing the Word of God to their own people; nothing could be more rewarding or more urgent than sharing the gospel with their community in a language and form they can understand. 

Achieving Accelerated Impact

All of these principles coalesce in making an accelerated impact. With so many languages still without access to any usable Scripture, a central focus of the “Common Framework” is to accelerate impact by implementing short-phased projects that develop accessible Scripture products which respond to pressing ministry needs of the Church. 

Part of the accelerated impact comes through adopting technological innovations, but the overall emphasis is on prioritizing projects that readily provide access to Scripture to those who have never heard God speak to them in their own language. 

The Ilchamus people in Kenya demonstrate the expediency of providing Scripture in easily accessible forms at an accelerated rate. After translation attempts failed in the past, the Ilchamus people approached one of Wycliffe’s partner organizations, Bible Translation and Literacy in Kenya, over concerns that material hardships and spiritual warfare were harming their efforts to bring Scripture to their people. The new, collaborative effort began by identifying portions of Scripture that most closely addressed the particular needs of the community where receptivity to the gospel was highest—poverty was at the top of their list—and the best scalable distribution methods. 

The partners decided to translate the Gospel of Matthew, because of its focus on God as provider, in both print and audio form as the most efficient way of having the greatest impact. After four months of careful development and design and six subsequent months of actual translating, the Ilchamus people published the Gospel of Matthew, distributing 1,000 printed copies and several hundred audio recordings. Because the book’s teachings were particularly relevant to their communal needs, the Ilchamus people understood how the gospel applied to them. As a result, lives were transformed and churches gained more momentum for further translation projects.

By scaling the translation projects this way and aligning feasible goals with an unreached people group’s specific needs, Scripture is able to have a meaningful and (relatively) immediate impact in those communities. Even more importantly, it introduces the gospel to more people who have no access to usable Scripture and allows the Word of God to speak to people at the heart level. We’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit amplify this seemingly small foothold in profound and powerful ways. 

Accomplishing Vision 2025

Fulfilling Vision 2025 will not be possible without continued collaboration within the global body of Christ. Other articles in this issue attest to the power of prayer in completing the task and the need for individuals and churches to invest time, money and other resources in God’s global mission. 

Vision 2025 is a bigger goal than we could ever achieve on our own. But by the provision of the Holy Spirit, the rich heritage and incalculable sacrifices of those who went before us, an evolving approach to Bible translation and a prayerful and committed global Church, we remain committed to accomplishing Vision 2025 and are closer than we’ve ever been to having a translation project underway for every people still waiting to experience God’s Word for themselves. We hope you’ll join us on this faith journey.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Movements of Today Rest upon the Sacrifices of Centuries Past

The Movements of Today Rest upon the Sacrifices of Centuries Past

How much do you love the Word of God? Would you be willing to lay down your life in order to not lose the ability to read it? For most of us in the English-speaking world, we take the Word of God for granted. We have always had access to Bibles in numerous translations. But it has not always been this way and the Scriptures are still not available for roughly 1,500 language groups that need a New Testament translation to begin. The price that many have had to pay for the freedom to read the Bible in their own mother tongue has often been very high. 

Over 600 years ago in 1384 a fearless scholar named John Wycliffe invited a death sentence by translating the New Testament into English for the first time. Wycliffe believed that it was the Scriptures that should be the basis for the faith and practice of all Jesus followers. Wycliffe was the first glimmer of hope for those who wanted to read the Bible for themselves. He was one of the first pioneers of what would become the Protestant Reformation. Wycliffe died before he could be executed for his “crime” of translating Scripture so the Catholic Church dug up his remains and burned them anyway.

One hundred thirty-three years later in 1517 an obscure Augustinian monk named Martin Luther burst onto the world stage by once again challenging the most powerful political and religious leaders of his day with the simple idea that our faith and practice as Jesus followers is based on God’s Word, the Bible, not upon the edicts of an all powerful church or its leaders. Our final authority is Scripture alone— Sola Scriptura in Latin. 

All the power of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church was set to crush this troublesome monk and his “dangerous ideas.” The problem for these powerful leaders was that Luther had become the most popular man in Germany among the common people—more popular than the Pope or the Catholic Church. Luther’s writings published with the latest technology of the Gutenburg presses sold wildly and made the printers rich. Woodcut prints of Luther’s likeness along with Luther’s signature made Luther the first “celebrity” of the16th Century. It was this popularity and the protection of certain German leaders that kept Luther from suffering the same fate as John Huss who was burned at the stake in 1415 for spreading views of Scripture similar to those of Luther. 

Luther was called to the German city of Worms (pronounced V-or-ms) to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles. Upon his arrival, Luther was greeted like a conquering king with an escort of 100 horsemen and thousands of cheering well-wishers. 

When Emperor Charles V demanded that he recant his writings on April 18, 1521, Luther replied, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” As Eric Metaxes makes clear in his excellent biography of Martin Luther, Luther’s confession at the “Diet of Worms” (diet meaning assembly) was a turning point in human history where the freedom of conscience was first established as a bedrock principle of Western civilization, which lives on in the founding documents of the United States.

This breakthrough in religious freedom that Luther and others made possible is the foundation that all Bible translation and movements to Christ rest upon. 

The 653 kingdom movements multiplying around the world, transforming the lives of millions, growing faster than the overall population, would not be possible without the freedom that Wycliffe, Luther and pioneers like them have purchased for us. 

As we seek to translate the Bible into every language that still needs a translation, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Tyndale and thousands of others who have risked their lives and sometimes sacrificed their lives in order to bring the Word of God to every people in their heart language. Let’s not take for granted the freedoms that others paid so dearly to secure for us. But rather, let’s honor their sacrifice by completing the translation task that they so nobly began. 


We are privileged to live in the greatest period of Bible translation the world has ever known. Great progress has been made over the last 100 years but it is nothing compared with what we are seeing today. In the year 2000 there were 366 complete Bible translations. Today, just 18 years later, there are 677.During this same time the number of complete New Testament translations has gone from 928 to 1550. That is a 67% increase in just 18 years. This is an even more remarkable figure when you consider that it took many decades of prior effort to get to 928. Most exciting of all is that the number of languages still needing a translation to begin has been cut in half from over 3,000 to just 1,559 in just 18 years. Recent progress is nothing short of astounding. So what is leading to this dramatic progress? 

Around the year 2000 Wycliffe Bible Translators realized that at the rate they were going it would take 150 years for a translation to be started in every language group that still needed a translation. This was not acceptable to them, so they decided to re-evaluate and rethink everything they were doing in order to pick up the pace of Bible translation. They set for themselves the goal of starting a translation in every language that still needed one by 2025. This issue of MF is all about what Wycliffe is doing to reach this goal.

As you read through this issue one thing becomes clear. Technology has enabled translators to not only speed up the translation process but to also improve the quality of the end product by including a wide range of people in the translation process. Increasingly, the people who will use the translation are becoming active participants in the translation process. This improves the usefulness of translation as well as the ownership of it by the people who will be using it. It does no good to do a translation if the people who need it don’t use it.

There has been a revolution in Bible translation over the last 20 years and that revolution continues to grow as ever improving technology brings the completion of the initial Bible translation task into sight. With 3,334 languages now having some portion of Scripture in their language, we can now anticipate the day when every people group will have a complete Bible in their heart language. We will not have to wait 100 years for it to happen. There will always be a need for revision and updating of previous translation work, but in the not too distant future every people will have access to Scripture in their language if we will continue to press forward. 


Around the world over 653 movements of discipleship and church planting are growing faster than the rate of the overall population. Central to all of these movements is the focus on obedience to the Word of God. The future growth of these movements is dependent upon having at least some oral portions of Scripture available in the languages where these movements are taking place. Wycliffe has recognized the importance of developing an oral approach to the translation of Scripture. See the article, “The Voice of God Speaking to Siberian Hearts” starting on page 19 for an example of how oral stories from Scripture can transform lives. I do not believe it is just a coincidence that these Scripture-centric movements are growing and spreading at the same time that the availability of the Scriptures both oral and written is increasing. They build upon each other and serve one another. Both Wycliffe and the 24:14 Coalition have set the same end date of 2025 to reach their respective goals. Whether the global Church succeeds in bringing the gospel to every people in our lifetime will largely depend on whether these goals are met. 


MISSION FRONTIERS supports and promotes the growing efforts to bring the Word of God and the gospel to every people on earth. In order to carry out this mission, we need all of our readers to become VISION-CASTERS. You can do this by actively sharing MF material with others while also giving and praying for MF. To donate, go to and click on the Subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Heart Returns on Investment

Heart Returns on Investment

Janet Vaughan shares Bible translation with anyone who will listen, including her Sunday school class and her trainer at the gym. She says, “Everyone I tell is interested, but it’s just a story to them. Being a part of the work of Bible translation reinvigorates your own faith, and it makes you so happy for those receiving God’s Word for the first time.” Although Janet may sound like a linguist or a Wycliffe Bible Translators missionary, she’s actually a passionate financial partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. 

Two years ago Janet and her husband, Chip, felt God was guiding them to make a significant gift through a family fund established by Chip’s parents, Cy and Jean Vaughan, to support kingdom work. Prayer, research and counsel from their advisor with Ronald Blue Trust, a Christian financial planning company, led them to consider investing in the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Janet says, “We wanted to get the funds out to do God’s work. And what’s more key than giving God’s Word for each individual language? If people don’t hear the gospel, they don’t know.”

 "The couple’s first meeting with Wycliffe representative Amanda Fewless also happened to be Amanda’s first visit in her role. Amanda was excited to get to know Chip and Janet—to learn about their family, and the things and places they care about most. “One thing that stood out during that first meeting was their desire to be wise stewards,” Amanda said. “"ey had not been involved in Bible translation before, and they were asking great questions about it.” 

"The more the Vaughans prayed and thought it through, the more Chip felt like his parents really would have wanted to support work in Africa. "They began learning more about the Dodoma project—a project in Tanzania that was doing translation work in a cluster approach, where four related languages worked together to complete their Scripture translations. Each language was in a different phase of Bible translation, ranging from an unreached people group with no written language yet, all the way to a language that was almost ready to dedicate their New Testament. It provided the Vaughans with a spectrum of Bible translation needs toward which to contribute. 

Chip and Janet reviewed the Dodoma Cluster project materials with their adult children, and decided as a family to make a gift to support the work. Chip felt that his parents would be both honored and humbled to play a part in providing Scripture to so many who had never had the chance to hold a Bible in their language. Amanda kept them linked to the project by introducing them to staff working on the translations and forwarding on prayer requests and updates from the teams. 

“You start out giving to help people that don’t have God’s Word,” Janet said. “You forget that in the process, your connection will bring the work to life. It’s not just giving money, it’s so much beyond that. It makes you a participant in the project.” 

"That’s the moment that Wycliffe is inviting people into: discovering how God is calling you to participate in Bible translation and receive the blessing that comes from obeying that call. Representatives like Amanda are able to minister to donors by building relationships and finding the way God is leading them to partner in the work—through prayer, giving of their time and talents and financial investment—and facilitating opportunities for them to be involved. 

"The Vaughans represent thousands of generous partners, around the United States and around the world, who are supporting Bible translation efforts. Individuals, families and businesses from Ghana to Singapore, Panama to Indonesia, are stepping into the work through their prayers and financial investments. 

An Unexpected Invitation

A few months after the Vaughans’ gift, Amanda surprised the family with an invitation to visit the Dodoma cluster project. Health concerns and scheduling challenges kept Chip and their kids from going, but Janet eagerly accepted the offer. In August 2017 Janet and Amanda traveled with a small group to Tanzania to visit the work the Vaughan family had been involved in through prayer and giving. "They were even able to attend the New Testament dedication for one of the languages in the Dodoma cluster, the Burunge!

 "The sights and sounds of the dedication day are something that Janet will never forget. “We took a van to the ceremony and from our van we saw people walking long distances along the road, dressed up for the celebration of their Bible dedication,” Janet recalled. “We heard pastors speak and pray, the choir sang three or four times and there was worship through dancing. Several hundred people were standing the whole time in the hot sun, holding babies in their arms. But they came there for a purpose—walked all that distance, waited all that time—because they so wanted the Bible in their language. You saw the people kiss their Bibles and hold them up to their chests like precious gifts. It caused me to treasure my own Scriptures more, and it changed my heart as much as I knew it was going to change their hearts.” 

As meaningful as the celebration was, Janet was most moved by the opportunity to see where each of the four languages were in the translation task. “We were blessed to see the entire process—to go into the translation office and see translators diligently work through a passage of Scripture, then to see a community check where people in a village sat and read the text together and talked about it,” she said. We even went out one night when they showed the JESUS Film. Everything culminated with the Burunge celebration where translation has been accomplished and they were passing out their new Bibles. It was a quick encapsulation of what takes years to happen.” 

One of the ways that Wycliffe conveys to financial partners their key role in the task is by connecting them as closely with the work taking place on the field as possible. Wycliffe wants donors to see the true impact of their investment through regular project reports and prayer updates. After months of supporting the Dodoma teams from the U.S., it felt like a reunion of sorts for Janet to meet those serving in the Dodoma project. She says, “Going over and meeting the missionaries and the nationals that are doing the translation work for their own language fills you up. It was amazing to see the passion, determination and drive the team has for bringing God’s Word to people in their heart language.”

Working Together Toward Completion

Traveling to Africa together formed a bond between Amanda and Janet. “Getting to know Janet, and seeing her use her spiritual gift of giving, has been awesome,” Amanda said. “For her to be willing to pick up from here and go visit the work, it really drove it home. Her spirit of generosity and desire to bless people became very clear on the trip. And she and her family are ultimately giving a gift that will impact those communities forever.”

 Janet and Amanda remain close, with the Vaughans opening their Atlanta area home for Amanda to stay with them when she’s passing through. "e ladies often find that brief meetings turn into visits that are several hours long. In fact, they enjoyed a road trip together to South Carolina this past spring. Janet says, “Connecting with Amanda was wonderful. She is easy to be with, so we formed a good friendship quickly. She’ll call to say, ‘This is happening, does it interest you?’ And I feel free to call her with questions. "That personal relationship draws you into the ministry.” 

Chip and Janet want to stay involved with the Dodoma project in the near future. Because of the connections Janet made, the Burunge people are always close to her heart. She says, “I feel blessed when the team emails us to ask for prayer. And Amanda keeps us updated on what’s happening in the project. I have a heart for Africa, and we’re anxious to be a part of accomplishing what we saw there. 

The Dodoma cluster is a four-language project, and right now it’s our hope to help work through that to the completion of one or two more of them. Having seen people’s response to God’s Word in their language, I don’t want to jump into something new. We want to see completion in these groups, and help put Bibles in their hands. "Through Wycliffe, we’re giving so people can receive the completed Scriptures in their heart language.”

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Overcoming Barriers to Bible Access in Muslim Contexts

Judging a Book by Its Cover

On my first visit to the Muslim people group with whom I work, a mullah, or an Islamic religious leader, suddenly grabbed me and pulled me around the side of a house. He clenched both of my arms and put his long beard and serious face only a few inches from my nose. He spoke in a low voice, “I need you to get me a Bible in a language that I understand.” 

Here I am in the 21st century, and standing before me is an educated, well-traveled, multilingual religious leader who remains without access to the Word of God. I wish that I could say his case is an anomaly, but unfortunately it is all too common. Hundreds of millions of Muslims are going from the cradle to the grave without ever even seeing a single portion of the Bible.

Foundational to how we address this immense need is how one defines “Scripture access.”1 The end goal of Bible translation is not a book on a shelf, but lives impacted as the Spirit of God uses His Word to bring people to faith in the Lord Jesus, and to equip them to serve God. 

The foundation of God-fearing Bible translation work is a firm commitment to faithful and accurate translation. The love of God compels us to communicate the unchanging truth of the Scriptures in a way that is beautiful, clear and natural for each language group. The hope is for real people to meet, love and follow the living God. Thus, as Bible translators, we are working to overcome barriers that keep people from the Bible. Certainly, language itself is a major barrier, but communicating biblical truth is much more complicated than just words on a page. 

From an early age, Muslims are both informed and misinformed about Christianity. Often they associate the whole of Western culture with Christianity, and they are taught that Christians are immoral, blasphemous and polytheistic. To many Muslims, Western politics and military hardware are the practical expressions of Christianity. In this context, they view the Bible as a symbol of cultural loyalty, a boundary marker between them, “the faithful,” and Christians, “the unbelievers.” 

Even owning or reading a Bible is a threat to the order of their society. Features external to the gospel message itself (script, layout, icons, symbols, front material, color of the cover, etc.) potentially present massive barriers for a Muslim person even to touch such a book. What is printed on the copyright page tells them whether this book belongs to “us” or to “them.” In many ways, these barriers are about the identity of the book, not its message. 

In overcoming these barriers and others like them, we must find ways to present the Scriptures without the geopolitical baggage. This means providing the local Muslim background believers with Scripture materials that do not force them to answer for Western civilization, but instead make the message of the text itself the central issue. 

For example, in many areas the color black is associated with sorcery, and the symbol of the cross represents Western culture, which they have grown up viewing as imperial and immoral. A black Bible with a cross on it evokes an instant emotion of fear and disgust, and it presents a barrier to people reading the Bible with an open heart. These perceived ill-intentions of the Bible often cause readers to misunderstand the text. If a book is deemed to come from foreign, blasphemous, immoral enemies, then not only will the reception of the text be hostile, but the interpretation of the text will also be twisted in that direction. 

The perceived source of Scripture material can also make a big difference in how it is accepted. Just about any Scripture product can be shared by expatriate missionaries with their group of close friends, coworkers and employees. The power of relationships does open doors and break down barriers. But what a person is willing to look at when alone with a foreigner is often not the kind of material one can share back home with a father, an aunt or a cousin. 

Expatriate Scripture distribution is great, but statistically it is only a drop in the bucket. We can do more by translating and presenting Scripture materials in ways that facilitate sharing from one local person to another. Many aspects of the message of the Bible will be a stumbling block to our Muslim audience, but when we can remove stumbling blocks external to the message, it allows the message of the gospel to be the central issue. 

One helpful approach involves translating and presenting key Scripture portions, a method that has been around for decades.2  Unreached Muslim people groups need a set of gospel-centered Bible stories today, not just a big dusty Bible in twenty years. Many Muslims are curious to know about the life of Jesus. Presenting well-chosen passages from both the Old and New Testaments can encourage that curiosity and open the door for people to meet the living Lord for the first time. 

For example, Omar (a pseudonym) is a Muslim-background believer who has a whole Bible in his language. But because of its identity, style and presentation, he has never shared it with his family and friends. Yet when he received a beautifully printed book of Bible portions that had been put into a series of biographical stories (Adam through Jesus), he displayed it openly in his home and used it to talk about his faith. In another project, a local man traveled to several villages and read the book of Proverbs in the evenings with family groups. Based on how individuals responded, he was able to start conversations leading to the Lord Jesus. 

The presentation of the Bible can project either honor or dishonor. In Muslim societies, important books are never printed cheaply, and certainly a Holy Book would always be printed with beauty and quality. Thus, if we can present the Scriptures (in any media) with local art forms, color and quality, then the Scriptures have a much better chance of being perceived as honorable, beautiful, trustworthy and authoritative. 

The word choices and style of a translation can make the Scriptures either attractive or repulsive. Translators must consider not just their approach, like literal translation or paraphrasing, but also register, pragmatics, collocations, cultural frames and a host of other factors. 

For example, when one Muslim-background believer was reading the New Testament in his own language, he told my coworker, “I don’t think that the people who worked on this translation thought very highly of Jesus.” Of course,he was wrong; many of the people who worked on that translation had a very high view of Jesus! Nevertheless, the way the language was used in referring to Jesus came across stilted, monotone and disrespectful. Some minor adjustments to the style of the translation would have corrected this misunderstanding and accurately reflected the high view of Jesus as presented in the Gospels.   

We must acknowledge that the Muslim world is complex and far from monolithic. Each country, sect and people group brings a unique set of challenges. The kinds of translation products that will serve a diaspora community may not be the same as those needed by the people still in the homeland. The style and media for a minority Christian community may not be the style and media that allows the Muslim majority to access the Bible—even in the same language. This calls for a long-term commitment on behalf of the church to work through these complex logistical, social and linguistic challenges. 

Meeting these challenges will require increased understanding and cooperation between all partners involved in the Bible translation movement. In the past, “Joe and Sue Translator” went out to the village, and the church trusted them and their sending agency to be the experts on that language and to produce a faithful translation. But in our information age, suddenly there is the potential for every translator’s word choices to be subject to instant international scrutiny. 

This happens within a politically charged climate characterized by widespread fear of Islam. Even in the church, there can exist an atmosphere of disdain and hyper- sensitivity to anything bearing the slightest resemblance to Islamic art or idiom. We as the Church must be careful not to mistake missiologically nuanced and theologically robust contextualization for syncretism or compromise. While there are many examples of syncretism and compromise, we must avoid quick and emotional judgments based on misunderstanding and partial information, which have unjustly crippled the Lord’s weary faithful on the front lines of the mission field. 

Throughout history, this kind of tension has always occurred when the gospel is translated for a new context.The church is often threatened by contextualizing the message through translation. This was the experience of Jerome, Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale and others. They incurred the wrath of those defending “the gospel according to us” at the expense of opening the door of understanding to others. 

To see a Bible translation in progress for every language that needs it, the Church must engage in unprecedented communication and cooperation with the Bible scholars and theologians doing Bible translation within the Muslim world. We as the translators need to joyfully submit to the scrutiny that comes from the larger global Church engaging in the process of Bible translation. The long-term benefits far outweigh the cost. And in turn, the appeal is for church leaders outside of any given Muslim context to humbly listen to members of these language communities and to the insights that dedicated mission practitioners have gleaned from years of study and living daily life with their Muslim friends, neighbors and coworkers. 

Bible translation is much more than a once-for-all placement of proper Greek and Hebrew words in a grammatical order in a given language. Bible translation is a communication process that brings the meaning of the unchanging text of the holy Scriptures into the dynamic forms and expressions of real people who need a relationship with the living God. It is only by understanding each of our Muslim audiences that we will be able to serve them best. How we translate and present the Bible can make the difference between a dusty book and lives changed for eternity.

 1 Wayne Dye’s eight conditions are very instructive on this point. “The Eight Conditions of Scripture Engagement: Social and Cultural Factors Necessary for 1 “Vernacular Bible Translation to Achieve Maximum Effect.” International Journal of Frontier Missiology. 26:2 Summer 2009, 89-98.

 2 See: Norman Mundhenk, “Preparing Selections: Specialized Translations,” Bible Translator 24.4 (Oct. 1973): 401-419; and Rick Brown, “Selecting and Using Scripture Portions Effectively” International Journal of Frontier Missiology. 19:2 Summer 2002, 10-25.

 3  Sanneh, Lamin O. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. 2nd ed. American Society of Missiology Series, no. 42. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2009, pp. 40ff.


This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Oikos Hammer— You & Your Household

The Oikos Hammer— You & Your Household

Two very important Biblical factors propel the expansion of Church-Planting Movements (CPMs). The first enables a breakthrough into new arenas. The second enables expansion within that arena. Every movement is a continual balance of these two. 

Both principles were taught by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 10, Luke 10) about how to reach a new place. That first principle involves finding Persons of Peace or, as some have referred to them, Fourth-Soil People, that bear fruit 30, 60 or 100 times. Person of Peace searches have become the default strategy from most CPM strategists. Persons of Peace are the God-prepared doorways into new communities. Their hearts have been prepared for 1) the missionary, 2) the message, and 3) the mission to reach their household or circle of influence (Gk. oikos.) 

Unfortunately, we can emphasize part of the Person of Peace model to the detriment of the second highly-integrated principle of Matthew 10 and Luke 10. If Persons of Peace (POPs) are the gateways, then the second principle is that movements expand as those POPs and the evangelists who reach them take the gospel to their households. Biblically, these households can include people from their biological, geographical, vocational and volitional worlds. The term the New Testament uses for this is oikos.

This article is not an attempt to argue for the validity of oikos evangelism. Rather it is to advocate for the importance of believers having faith in the vision that God wants their entire household saved. 

The Problem: Incomplete Oikos Harvesting

Recently, I have noticed some CPM strategists under-emphasize the second principle: harvesting the oikos. The most amazing thing that can happen is when a whole household believes at once. But if it doesn’t, unbelief can easily set in: “God will not save my oikos, so I need to evangelize elsewhere.” When the household does not come to faith immediately, discouragement or disillusionment can set in and an unhealthy pattern emerges: the evangelist takes the POP with him to begin looking for new POPs. A new person gets saved but perhaps the new oikos remains unharvested as well. If this pattern of failing to harvest an oikos continues long enough, gateway people (POPs) stop being gateways, and we only reap one or two converts in various places. No churches are formed around these Persons of Peace and the expansion of the movement remains anemic. 

Whether in communal or individualistic societies, God’s intentions from the beginning was that the whole household would be reached with the gospel—whether at once or over time. Without vision and faith for the household to be saved, POPs will not become gateways through which movements expand. The Oikos Hammer below is a tool that can restore this vision and faith with every believer. 

The Pattern and Promise: the Oikos Hammer

From Creation to Consummation, God’s promise and pattern is this: you will be saved, you and all your household. God’s promise to His faithful servants is that He will bring in most or all of those who belong to them. The Oikos Hammer just follows that pattern throughout the pages of Scripture. It is called a hammer because it keeps pounding on your thinking as you read the multiplicity of texts describing and promising this. I encourage you to work through the Oikos Hammer yourself, and then learn to share this vision with the believers that you disciple. What follows is by necessity simple and easy to share. It can be shared in 10 to 15 minutes. The power is in the repetition of God doing similar things over and over in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

  1. NOAH (Gen. 6:8-10, 18; 7:1) 

Because of Noah’s righteousness and faithfulness, God promised to save not only him, but also his household. The salvation of the household was dependent upon the righteousness of the man which God found. When God enables us to find prepared people, we should expect Him to save not only them, but those who belong to them. Oikos sphere: biological (family)

  1. ABRAHAM (Gen. 18:17-19) 

We are familiar with the Abrahamic covenant that through him the Messiah would come and all of the nations would be blessed. It is very clear in Gen. 18:17-19 that the pathway and pattern through which God would bring blessing upon the nations was as Abraham worked through the salvation in the upbringing of his household. The blessing came as God brought about the salvation of Abraham’s household. Abraham gave attention to the right things (his oikos), and God brought about the more extended promises because of his faithfulness. Oikos sphere: biological and vocational (his hired men)

  1. LOT (Gen. 19:12-14) 

Though Lot lived in a wicked city, God’s intention was to save everyone who belonged to him: literally “everyone you have in the city.” Lot tried to save his sons-in-law who thought he was simply jesting. Even so, God, in his goodness, still saved Lot and his daughters. This passage indicates that oikos is much more than simply blood relationships; it seems to imply everyone who belongs to us. Oikos sphere: biological, volitional and geographical relationships.

  1. JOSEPH (Gen. 45:5-11, 50:20) 

The salvation of Joseph’s household took many years. God does not always promise the salvation of our household immediately, but the promise is still there. It’s a promise that calls us to persist in our witness to those who belong to us. Early in Joseph’s life, God gave him dreams which envisioned the salvation of his household. Joseph never gave up hope, and neither should we. Through many travails God provided for the salvation of many. Oikos sphere: biological (extended family)

  1. RAHAB (Josh. 2:18) 

Through Rahab’s righteous act to hide the spies of Israel, God promised to save her and all who belonged to her. The salvation of the household came through the daughter, but God promised salvation to the parents, the brothers and everyone who belonged to her father’s household. We never know the avenue through which oikos will be saved, whether the head of a family or a child. Oikos sphere: biological

  1. SHUNAMMITE WOMAN (2 Kings 8:1) 

A righteous woman who provided an upper room for the prophet Elisha reaped the oikos promise. God provided for the miraculous conception of a son and then the miraculous resuscitation when he died. Elisha informed her alone of all the Israelites that famine was coming to the land. God brought salvation to her and her household—in this case through the wife. Oikos sphere: biological

7. GERASENE DEMONIAC (Mark 5:1-20, 7:31; Matt. 15:29-31)

The demoniac is a marvelous example of God promising salvation not simply to one person, but a large group of people. Instead of allowing the demoniac to accompany Him, Jesus gave him a clear mission—his extensive oikos of friends in ten cities. His reputation was so large that he went throughout the area of the ten cities (Decapolis) and had a great impact. Oikos sphere: volitional, geographical
  1. SAMARITAN WOMAN (John 4:7-42) 

God prepared a woman who had a very tragic past to receive salvation and through her to bring salvation to an entire town. It is not only that God wanted to bring salvation to the man she was living with, but He wanted to bring salvation to an entire community of Sychar. Oikos sphere: biological, geographical

  1. CANA OFFICIAL (John 4:46-54) 

In the town of Cana, an official’s son was very sick and about to die. Jesus sent word to this man that He would heal the son. When this happened, the father and the entire household believed in Jesus. Oikos sphere: biological

  1. DORCAS (Acts 9:36-42) 

In Joppa, the disciple Dorcas was full of merciful acts and her world was filled with many widows who loved her deeply. When God raised Dorcas from the dead these widows were amazed and many throughout the region believed in the Lord. Oikos sphere: volitional (widows), geographical

  1. CORNELIUS (Acts 10:1-48; 11:14) 

When the angel spoke to Cornelius before he believed in Jesus, he gave Cornelius a clear vision: that not only would he be saved, but the promise was for his whole household (Acts 11:14). In this case the large group that Cornelius gathered together as his household were both family and friends (Acts 10:24). Oikos sphere: biological, volitional, perhaps vocational (other soldiers)

  1. LYDIA (Acts 16:13-15, 40) 

Lydia, a woman who has been pursuing God, received salvation and immediately God saved her household. Her home apparently then became a meeting place for the church in Philippi. Oikos sphere: biological, volitional (other women)

  1. THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER (Acts 16:23-24) 

A man who had been opposed to Paul and Silas just hours before became open after an earthquake. Immediately God saved him. He was so eager for his family to believe that he woke them up from sleep and the whole family was baptized before dawn. Oikos sphere: biological

  1. CRISPUS AND STEPHANAS (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 16:15) 

We don’t know much about these men except that their salvation was critical in the establishment of the Corinthian church. First, the household of Stephanas became the first converts in the whole province of Achaia. Second, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue that was opposing Paul, came to salvation and his entire household believed. What a blow that must have been to the persecutors! Households are the mechanisms God uses to unlock new areas for the kingdom. Oikos sphere: biological

  1. JESUS (Acts 1:14) 

Of the many thousands of people that Jesus ministered to in Israel during His three years of ministry, He never neglected to reach His own household. Even though He was ridiculed by his brothers who did not believe in Him (Jn. 7:5), Jesus did not give up on them. When the early disciples gathered in the upper room to pray, who should be there but Mary, Jesus’ mother, and his brothers? God worked complete salvation in that household. One of the brothers (James) would go on to lead the Jerusalem church and write the book of James. Another brother wrote the short book of Jude. Oikos sphere: biological.      

The Oikos Hammer should reveal to us God’s age-old pattern for kingdom expansion: 

  • Household salvation: We must no longer focus on just individuals coming to faith. Whether groups believe all at one time, or over a period of time, God’s promise and intention is that Persons of Peace reach their whole households. Our focus from first to last must be on households with Persons of Peace as the gateways into them. 
  • Expanded oikos definition: Oikos seems to include all who belong to you: biological (family), geographical (neighbors), vocational (workmates/classmates) and volitional (those you share interests with).

Impart this vision and faith to others

These fifteen passages illustrate God’s intention throughout history to save a person and through him or her an entire household: family, friends, neighbors and work/classmates. This should not surprise us because Peter declared the same promise on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 were saved. He not only called them to salvation (Acts 2:38) but imparted to them the vision of their households (three generations):

 “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:39, ESV)  

  • Impart faith for household salvation: We must balance reaching new Persons of Peace with helping them reach their oikos. It is never an either/or, but we must help Persons of Peace grow in faith and ability to win their whole household. 
  • Intentional oikos harvests: To help them reach their households, we may want to do an oikos harvest (or a “push”) with them—that is, create some events or opportunities to get the oikos together to hear the gospel from others (like Peter going to Cornelius), to study the Bible together, etc. If the oikos is slow in coming to salvation, plan events to harvest them with the Person of Peace. 
  • When it slows down, find new Persons of Peace: When an oikos is saturated or no progress is being made, we may need to spend more time looking for new Persons of Peace and helping the original Person of Peace learn to do the same with us. 

Let this hammer serve you in imparting vision and faith to all believers that they will be channels of salvation to many. Our vision must not be simply Persons of Peace, but whole households of faith.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Voice of God Speaking to Siberian Hearts

The Voice of God Speaking to Siberian Hearts

As the gospel continues to spread to every corner of the earth, one of the ongoing needs in the mission field is to reach oral cultures. Unlike much of the Western world, books and documents are not the sources of knowledge and truth for communities rooted in oral communication—instead, new knowledge and truth is kept and communicated in these cultures through people telling stories. 

For oral communities to hear God speak to them in their own language, they need access to the Bible in a format they will embrace. A written translation of the Bible likely won’t have the same impact in a culture that is lived and shared orally. Rather, when they hear the Word of God in their own language in the communication form that they know best, they can hear the voice of God speaking to their hearts. 

One of our top commitments in the work of Bible translation is making an accelerated impact in the communities that we partner with by focusing on smaller projects that significantly increase access to Scripture. In oral cultures, producing an accelerated impact in Bible translation starts with bridging materials that introduce them to the Scriptures and to Jesus in a way that resonates with their culture and draws them in. 

We have begun to do this in Siberia through oral storying: recording carefully chosen Bible stories that together present the message of the Bible for people who speak their language every day but do not read it. Introducing portions of the Bible acts as a gateway for more traditional translation projects, allowing us to partner with native speakers who have become believers. Hearing God’s Word in the form of communication they trust changes their lives, and they want to become partners in bringing the rest of the Bible to their people. 

The gospel has begun to take root this way in the oral cultures of the Russian Far East—so far east that Russians no longer call it Siberia, so far east that the next stop is Alaska. This vast region measures about five million square miles with a population of a mere six million people, most of whom are ethnically Russian. But tucked away in this vast expanse are dozens of small people groups: the Orok (47 speakers), the Ket (210 speakers), the Mednyi Aleut (350 speakers) and many other similarly sized language groups, the largest of which are the Chukchi (5,100 speakers) and the Yakut (450,000 speakers). 

We were one of four teams going out from Wycliffe Russia to the Far East as part of a Bible storying project (communicating key portions of the Bible by telling its stories aloud to listeners to serve as a gateway to the rest of the Bible and to Jesus) with the goal of recording Bible stories in four Siberian languages: Koryak (1,670 speakers), Nanai (1,350 speakers), Nivkh (200 speakers) and Udihe (100 speakers). It wasn’t our goal to translate the whole Bible, not yet. A few years earlier, SIL International had surveyed 16 languages with the most promising vitality in Siberia, resulting in recommendations for bridging materials to introduce the Scriptures. 

Upon arriving at the village of the Koryak people, we connected with the believers, about 10 incredible women in their 70s and 80s reading Scripture using magnifying glasses. They danced in the Koryak style of worship, accompanied on the traditional Koryak drum. The gospel had taken root before we arrived, but the local believers were eager to be able to share God’s Word in their language with others in their community. They already had some written portions of the Bible—but what they lacked was a way to transmit the gospel. For the rest of the community, the gospel was new, and for the Koryak accepting new truth comes through people and stories, not through written words. 

An experience from the team working alongside the Nanai people illustrates this need. Our colleague Anton was in conversation with a Nanai woman in a small village on the Amur River. He asked her if she ever read the Bible. “I tried,” she said. “I tried to read the Russian Bible, but I didn’t understand a thing.” Anton was aware that a partner organization had published the Gospel of Luke in Nanai, so his next question was, “Have you read the Nanai Gospel of Luke?” He was gearing up to give her the natural line about how reading in the language of the heart makes a significant difference. 

Anton was shocked when the woman said, “Yes, I tried. But it was even more difficult than reading the Russian Bible. 

I couldn’t even finish one chapter.” When Anton got over his surprise, she went on to explain that they never use the Nanai language for reading. “It’s an oral language,” she continued. “If I had audio recordings with Bible stories in Nanai, I would listen to them with pleasure!” 

It was like Paul’s call to Macedonia in Acts 16:9, “Come over and help us!” The Nanai, Koryak and their neighbors did not need a book; they needed oral materials. They did not need recordings of the entire Bible; they needed oral Bible stories. 

This model of oral storying has been, and continues to be, used in different forms in many projects across Siberia. In the case of these four language groups—the Koryak, Nanai, Nivkh and Udihe—we identified 25 Bible stories and began by making initial rough drafts in Russian with adaptions to Siberian culture. The stories ranged from Genesis to Revelation, providing a comprehensive overview of the message of the Bible: the story of Creation, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the early Church and our glorious hope for the future. 

Our work with the Koryak, Nanai, Nivkh and Udihe speakers was a collaborative process. We worked with the mother-tongue speakers to retell the Bible stories using features typical of their oral traditions—only afterward was this text written down. The resultant text is, therefore, more of a free retelling than a verse-by-verse translation. Our primary tool was our recording device. We recorded our Koryak, Nanai, Nivkh and Udihe friends as they told the Bible stories in their own language, getting a sense for what felt natural and sounded good. Throughout the process, we had consultants on call in Finland and the UK to ensure the stories remained accurate to the Bible. 

Similarly, a separate project with the Chukchi people worked on retelling the Sermon on the Mount in the Chukchi language. In this passage, Jesus speaks of the birds neither sowing nor reaping nor gathering into barns, yet their heavenly Father feeds them. The Chukchi rendering came out as, “The birds do not process leather or sew, yet their High Father clothes them with feathers so they won’t freeze.” The translation consultant praised the team’s creativity—such a rendering was possible because we were retelling the stories of the Bible in a way the peoples of the Siberian tundra would understand. 

Furthermore, integrating technology into oral storying projects like this has increased the number of people with access to God’s Word. For this project, the additional Chukchi Bible stories were recorded and made available (along with the accompanying written text) through an Android app built with SIL’s Scripture App Builder software. Chukchis can download the app onto a mobile phone to engage with the Scripture. Along with the recording, those unable to read the Chukchi text can also follow along in Russian, which is important because it connects the isolated Chukchi to the national body of believers. 

Just this year, 25 Bible stories in the Siberian Even language were released, recorded by an Even villager high up in the Siberian mountains. Accompanying the recordings is a booklet that contains 41 attractive color pictures produced by an Even artist, showing the world of the Bible as it might be seen through the eyes of an average Even. The booklet is bilingual in Even and Russian, the Russian being a translation of the Even text. Similar projects like this are also ongoing in other languages in Siberia. 

In our work with the Udihe language group, the smallest of the communities we worked with, the team was introduced to a woman named Onisia who offered to help translate and record the stories. Onisia was not a Christian; she faithfully worshipped the traditional Udihe gods. But on their second trip when the team was recording the story of Christ’s crucifixion, Onisia read out the words of Jesus, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As she read she wept, leaving teardrops on the paper she was reading. The recording captures this pause as she weeps. 

Once the project was complete two of the team members decided to live in the Udihe village for a year, and they witnessed the baptism of Onisia’s daughter, Alina. Though Onisia was attracted to Jesus, she was afraid of leaving her traditional gods. Alina heard the Good News of God’s love for her in her own language and had the courage to follow God despite social strain and spiritual pressure.

In the vast expanse of Siberia where news travels slowly, the gospel has begun to spread quickly. We have seen glimpses of light, the first fruits of these oral Bible storying projects. The Koryak, Nanai, Chukchi, Even and Udihe villagers now have the stories of the Bible retold using the distinctive features of their own oral tradition. Based on the success of these initial projects, Wycliffe Russia is setting up further projects so that an increasing number of Siberian peoples will have similar oral products within the next few years, providing Scripture materials in accessible forms in the language of their heart.   

As of 2000              As of 2018
Languages with Complete Bibles
366                          677
Languages with Complete New Testament
928                        1550
Languages with Some Translated Scripture
2212                      3334
Languages Still Needing a Translation to Begin
OVER 3,000         1559


This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

24:14 Goal

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (88 months)

24:14 Goal

Core CPM Distinctives

For the last 30 years, there has been a growing awareness and involvement in efforts to reach the world’s unreached people. Yet the population of those who have no access to the gospel has grown – from 1.8 billion with no access in the mid-1980s to 2.2 billion today. 

While many efforts to reach the unreached have occurred throughout Christian history, global efforts to identify and reach ALL remaining Unreached People Groups were launched in the late 1980s. In these efforts, some groups accepted a God-sized vision: to see an entire people group (ETHNE) discipled. They saw this vision in the Great Commission where Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of every ETHNE

Given the overwhelming task of discipling people groups that often had millions of people, these early catalytic teams and their prayer partners went to God in desperate prayer. These teams became willing learners as God led them to put aside human tradition and search the New Testament for strategies of discipling and church planting. God began to use the dependence and humility of these servants to start “book of Acts-like movements” (Church Planting Movements) reproducing this faith and obedience with others. 

A Church Planting Movement (CPM) is defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches which begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new Body of Christ lives out kingdom values. 

When consistent (multiple-stream) 4th generation reproduction of churches occurs, church planting has crossed a threshold to becoming a sustainable movement. While it may take years to begin, once a movement starts, we usually see this 4th generation threshold crossed within three to five years. Increasingly, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments. 

The three of us—Stan Parks, Curtis Sergeant and Steve Smith—have the privilege of being connected directly or indirectly with leaders of most of the Church Planting Movements in the world. Curtis was one of the first pioneers used by God in these modern movements and Steve and Stan were part of the second wave that learned movement lessons from Curtis and other pioneer CPM catalysts. In a few instances we have personally helped catalyze a movement, but we mainly connect with movement leaders via prayer, training, coaching, learning, advising and networking. We love the brothers and sisters God is using to catalyze these movements and are highly committed to their work and well-being.

From the outside, our personal styles and approaches appear quite different. From a first glance one might think our systems and methodologies are radically different. Sometimes various networks invite us in because they want greater emphasis on one CPM methodology over another. Yet in reality, we are committed to one overarching goal: that CPMs become sustained and saturate every people group and place of the world. We are convinced that CPMs are the only church planting approach whose fruit exceeds population growth. Because of our undying commitment to see God glorified through movements, our various styles and methods are actually built on the same CPM distinctives and are much more alike than they are different. This is because we all believe in biblical core components of movements that cannot be violated. We all adhere to these principles and employ various methodologies to cooperate with the Spirit and see the same principles bear fruit in different contexts. 

CPM networks and practitioners who realize this truth invite us and/or other CPM coaches around the world to assist them in their movements because we are 1) committed to the same biblical principles but 2) might bring a different perspective or flavor to help address some areas in which a movement may be stuck. 

This commitment to CPMs has also led us to form a larger coalition of practitioners who employ varied methods but are absolutely committed to the core distinctives of CPMs. 24:14 is a coalition of disciples from around the world, collaborating to see biblical kingdom movement engagements in every unreached people and place of the world by 2025.1

CPM practitioners, with their variety of methods, are still a subset of the larger church planting and missional world. It is time to unite CPM practitioners toward a common objective, as well as to help other ministers of the gospel know how to step into CPM ways of operating. The distinctives that unite the various streams of CPM methods are much stronger than the minor differences of praxis. 

The three of us started this journey when there were just a handful of movements. Now, with over 650 movements around the world, it is time to revisit the core elements which unite us all. It is very popular in today’s parlance for missional workers to claim they are using movement practices. Unfortunately, many of these workers are not committed to a few irreducible distinctives of CPM efforts. Those distinctives are as follows. 

CPM Distinctives

A CPM approach is one in which: 

  1. There is awareness that only God can start movements, but disciples can follow biblical principles to pray, plant, and water the seeds that can lead to a “book of Acts” type multiplying movement(s). 
  2. The focus is to make every follower of Christ a reproducing disciple rather than merely a convert. 
  3. Patterns create frequent and regular accountability for lovingly obeying what the Lord is speaking to each person and for them to pass it on to others in a loving environment. This requires a participative small-group approach. 
  4. Each disciple is equipped in comprehensive ways  (such as interpreting and applying Scripture, a well-rounded prayer life, functioning as a part of the larger Body of Christ, and responding well to persecution/ suffering) in order that they can function not merely as consumers, but as active agents of kingdom advance. 
  5. Each disciple is given a vision both for reaching their relational network and for extending the kingdom to the ends of the earth with a prioritization on the darkest places (with a “no place left” mentality). They are equipped to minister and partner with others in the Body of Christ in both of these environments. 
  6. Reproducing churches are intentionally formed as a part of the process of multiplying disciples. 

The intent in CPM approaches is that 1) disciples, 2) churches, 3) leaders and 4) movements can multiply endlessly by the power of the Spirit. 

  1. The focus is on igniting movements of multiplying generations of churches. (The first churches started in a people group/population segment are generation one churches, which start generation two churches, which start generation three churches, which in turn start generation four churches, and so on.) 
  2. Emphasis is not on the specific model of CPM/ DMM used (e.g. T4T, Discovery [DBS], Zúme, 4 Fields, etc.) but on the underlying biblical principles of multiplying kingdom movements. 
  3. A value is placed on radical evaluation and willingness to change and grow to make sure that each element of character, knowledge, disciple-making skills and relational skills are 1) biblical and 2) able to be emulated by other generations of disciples. This requires intentional simplicity as well. 

One way to look at it is that T4T, DMM (DBS), Zúme, and other related approaches are various processes using the same principles, and the common result is Church Planting Movements. 

Raising the Sails

Obviously, none of the disciples and churches in these movements are perfect. Nor do we claim that certain steps and methodologies can guarantee a movement. Some movement practitioners use the “Sailboat Analogy” to describe the dynamic. You can be in a sailboat and have your sails up and ready, but unless the wind blows, you will not move very far. In the same way, unless the wind of the Holy Spirit blows, there will be no Church Planting Movement. On the other hand, if you don’t put up your sails, your boat will not move very far even in a strong wind. We have found through study of Scripture and learning from the Holy Spirit’s work around the world that there are ways we can be ready for multiplication (sails up) and other ways we can hinder multiplication (sails down). 

We don’t control the wind of the Spirit, but we can control our readiness to go as far and as fast as possible when He moves! One danger is that some want to argue “their CPM approach” is better than other CPM approaches. In reality none of these approaches are “owned” by any of the practitioners. All of them have come from a Spirit-led biblically-based learning and obedience process involving thousands of leaders refining and learning together.

 God is using an increasing number of customizations and hybrids between different CPM approaches. In fact, unless a movement approach is customized to the context, it is usually not very fruitful. Quite a few movements have started before their leaders had any exposure to the different approaches mentioned above. As one leader said, “Nobody taught us this -- we just learned about movements from the Holy Spirit!” God loves variety. Each and every Church Planting Movement is beautifully unique. 

Common Outcomes

At the same time, we can identify common principles and results. Once a CPM has started – regardless of the approach used – the resulting disciples and churches have very similar DNA with similar outward expressions. 

  • Praying—CPM is always accompanied by a prayer movement. Once a movement starts it is also marked by extraordinary prayer. Those coming to Christ are highly aware that only God can birth new disciples and churches. They are highly motivated to see God break through the darkness in the lives of their friends and neighbors. 
  • Scriptural—In CPMs, the Bible is taken very seriously. Everyone is expected to be a disciple and sharer of the Word, and to interpret and apply Scripture. 
  • Obeying—The churches are devoted to listening to God’s Word and obeying it individually and corporately. Obedience is expected and everyone is held accountable for it. Jesus told us that if we love Him, we must obey His commands. 
  • Indigenous—The outsider looks for Persons of Peace and households of peace (Mt. 10, Mk 6, Lk. 9, 10) that God has prepared within a society. When these people and groups come to faith, they are immediately equipped to reach others. Since the insiders are the disciple-makers, the new churches can grow in ways that are both based on Scripture and adapted to the culture. 
  • Holistic—By focusing on obedience to Scripture, believers become eager to show God’s love to people. The disciples in these movements love those around them in practical ways, such as caring for widows and orphans, ministering to the ill and fighting oppression. 
  • Rapidly Reproducing—Just like the early church in Acts, these modern-day movements multiply rapidly. Every disciple and church is equipped to reproduce and taught to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower them. On average, churches in movements take about one year to reproduce another church, which often leads to doubling the number of disciples and churches every 9-18 months. 

As you contemplate your involvement with movements, ask yourself if you are committed to the distinctives of a CPM. We encourage you to collaborate with others having similar commitments, even if their particular methodology differs from yours. You will find that in the process, you learn from the strengths of each other’s methods, attitudes and approaches.

 To make the 24:14 commitment and join in seeing kingdom movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025, go to


  1. 24:14 was launched in 2017. For more information, see

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Wow, Who Knew? Fonts are Needed for Bible Translation?

Wow, Who Knew? Fonts are Needed for Bible Translation?

Such was the reaction of an American pastor upon hearing that font development was the ministry focus of Annie Olsen, a type designer for SIL International. It’s not an uncommon reaction, either, at least among people who speak English (written with just 26 unaccented letters of the Latin script) as their native language. A fully developed digital font—a set of letters and symbols, plus underlying instructions—enables a computer or other device to print a script properly on a page or display it on a screen. 

Then what, exactly, is a script?

A script in this context is a system of symbols used for writing. The more than 7,000 living languages of the world use over 140 different scripts today. You’re reading here the English language written using Latin (or Roman) script. Latin script is also used for thousands of other languages, though often with some modifications such as diacritics (accents or other marks) or slightly different letter shapes. You may also be familiar with other scripts such as Chinese, Hebrew, Greek or Arabic, recognizing their appearance even if you can’t read them. 

In our modern age, computers—and thus, fonts—play a crucial role in enabling people from every people group and nation to have access to God’s Word in the language and script they know best. SIL International’s Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) team was formed to address the technical challenges encountered when using different languages and scripts on computers. 

In some parts of the world, just using the correct script is not enough; the style of the script is also really important. The Arabic script, for instance, has several distinct styles of writing used in different parts of the world. The illustration below right shows a style of Arabic writing commonly found in West Africa. On the left is the same text printed using SIL’s Arabic script font, Scheherazade, which is designed to match the standard (or Naskh) form of Arabic. 

For people used to reading the West African style of Arabic, Scriptures printed using the Scheherazade font would look “foreign” to them, even if the language was correct. They would also find it harder to read because of the difference in style. For years this was a problem for Bible publishers in that region, since there was no suitable font available to them.


Left: Arabic printed using a font called Scheherazade, designed by SIL International.   Right: Arabic writing style commonly found in West Africa.  


In 2015, the NRSI team released a new font called Harmattan, which was designed specifically for the style of Arabic used in that region. Here is the same manuscript sample with NRSI’s Harmattan font on the left:

Arabic in the Harmattan font designed by SIL International (left) compare to the same West African manuscript (right).

It is easy to underestimate the impact a font can have on a language community that isn’t accustomed to seeing printed documents in their style of writing. An inappropriate font can be a barrier that discourages people from reading Scripture and responding to it. 

In 2014, when the Harmattan font was being developed, one of our West Africa field testers said that during an extended reading session with an older man he read almost twice as fast using Harmattan as opposed to Scheherazade. Around the same time, field testers met with a government agency responsible for literacy use of the Arabic script, and they loved the book of Genesis in the Harmattan font! Using the right font can break down a barrier, making Scripture more accessible. 

About Those Latin (and Cyrillic and Greek) Letters

NRSI was established to find solutions for challenging scripts like Arabic. However, there are also complexities in some languages that use Latin script. The first is simply having all the necessary letters and symbols. Even a single missing letter makes it difficult, if not impossible, to write a language correctly. All of SIL’s Latin fonts—Charis SIL, Doulos SIL, Gentium, Andika—have comprehensive support for not only Latin script, but also Cyrillic letters and their many variants. Gentium also includes complete coverage for the Greek script. 

The right letter shape is also important, especially for people learning to read. Literacy specialists have often observed new readers being confused by letters whose shapes are too similar in some fonts. This design problem is addressed in Andika, a sans serif font based on decades of legibility research, resulting in clear, distinct letterforms.

Design choices made by the creators of the Andika font.

 First released in 2009, Andika has been welcomed by educators in and out of SIL. 

Just as the Harmattan font can remove a barrier for West African readers of Arabic script by displaying text in an appropriate style, so Andika can remove a barrier for new readers of Latin script by displaying text that is clear and easy to read. 

An application built using SIL's Reading App Builder displays "dog" in Waama (a language of Benin), English and French using the Andika font.

Tai Viet: A Lesser-known Script

Some lesser-known scripts have a long history but few, if any, font options. For example, the Tai Viet script has been used for 500 years to write several different languages spoken in southeast Asia. In this complex script, vowels may be placed before, after, above or below consonants depending on the syllable. Consonants also indicate tone by a variation in shape. The letter shapes are not combined; rather a person writing this script learns to avoid collisions by careful placement. A computer font, however, needs those rules to be explicitly coded and added to the font.

 Bible translation began in one of these languages, Tai Dam, in the late 1960s. Although the language has been written with the traditional Tai Viet script for centuries, in recent years the Latin and Lao scripts have also been used to write it, influenced by the national languages of the countries where it is spoken. The first Scripture portions were published in 1978 in all three scripts—with the Tai Viet sections all written by hand! 

A translation team member began asking how to turn this script into a computer-friendly font. Beginning with letters drawn by a Tai Dam artist, SIL’s first Tai Heritage fonts were programmed for dot matrix printing. Then font technology changed again, and these fonts were converted to the new format in the mid 1990s. In 2007 all the letters and symbols of the Tai Viet script were added to Unicode, the computing industry standard for handling writing system data. Following this, the Tai Heritage font was once again updated and released in 2009. The most recent update was October 2017. 

Three editions of the New Testament in the Tai Dam language were published in 2013 and 2014, one for each script. Some have been distributed to local speakers and are being studied by young people seeing these words in their own language and script for the first time. 

Reading the Tai Dam New Testament published in the Tai Viet script (using SIL's Tai Heritage Pro font).

Using the world’s many different scripts (including Arabic, Latin and Tai Viet) on computers presents a variety of technical challenges that need to be overcome to enable those from every people and nation to read God’s Word in the language and script they know best. Developing the right font for the right context is key to making God’s Word available in written form to more people groups around the world.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Our Organic Gospel and Kingdom: God Intends for Us to Multiply

Our Organic Gospel and Kingdom: God Intends for Us to Multiply

This has never happened before. For the first time in our history we are giving over the entire theme section of MF to a single author, Kevin Greeson. We have done so because of the tremendous insights Kevin provides into understanding Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and its implications for fostering movements. Kevin is well known for creating the CAMEL Method for effective outreach to Muslims. Can a parable of Jesus actually be applied as a field strategy to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in every people? Did Jesus actually model this field strategy with His disciples after presenting it in the parable? These questions and more will be answered in this special edition of Mission Frontiers. For those who are well steeped in movement methodology, prepare to have your paradigm adjusted by Greeson’s article, “Fourth-Soil Person or Person of Peace” starting on page 16. You may never look at this topic the same way again.

Fostering and growing movements of discipleship in every people is a learning process and we are getting better at it all the time as insights are shared among the field practitioners through networks like the 24:14 Coalition (see their update starting on page 46) and through the pages of Mission Frontiers.   This   issue is our opportunity to share with you some of these insights gained from Scripture and actual field experience. Study this issue carefully. Soak it all in. This is one of the rare places where these key insights are available. We have been waiting a long time for these biblical practices and book of Acts-like models of ministry to re-emerge into the Church’s consciousness once again. Let’s take every opportunity to put them into practice.


It should be obvious to everyone that we live in an organic world where every living thing—plants, animals and even bacteria and viruses—have a God-given means for reproducing themselves after their own kind. Rabbits reproduce rabbits and people reproduce more people. We naturally expect this reproductive process to continue without much thought. But we do become concerned, and rightfully so, when these natural organic processes do not work as they should. When honeybee colonies begin dying off or the last male Northern White Rhino dies, it makes the news. We know instinctively, that this is not the way the world is supposed to work. Something is wrong and needs fixing. Yet we seem to take a different approach when it comes to the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For most people in the Church today, they do not expect the gospel to grow exponentially and organically the way rabbits and people naturally do. They seem to think that a different order exists for the gospel than for every other living organism in the world. Would God ordain that everything in the world would grow exponentially and organically except the most important thing in history, the gospel of the kingdom? Not likely, and certainly not biblically.

When it was time for the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, to become God incarnate, taking on human flesh, God honored the natural organic process for how humans come into being. Indeed, it was so important that Jesus be part of a certain lineage that the gospels of Matthew and Luke each record a genealogy for Jesus, one descending from Abraham and one from Adam, each demonstrating that Jesus was a descendant of King David and therefore eligible to be the Messiah.

Throughout His short three-year ministry on Earth, Jesus continually spoke and taught in parables. Many of these had their basis in agriculture, which again is all about exponential organic processes. This was natural since the people He was speaking to depended upon the productiveness of these various organic processes— wheat, grapes, figs, sheep, etc. for their very lives. So Jesus used stories about these vitally important aspects of their lives to teach them what the kingdom of God was like and what the King expects from His servants.

As one reads through the various parables, two important aspects of the kingdom become very clear. First, God’s kingdom is designed and intended to grow organically and exponentially from a small beginning to something very large. Secondly, God expects His servants to be fruitful and to multiply.


In the Parable of the Mustard Seed; Matt. 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19; Jesus starts out by asking the apparently rhetorical question: “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?” Jesus could have chosen just about any story to illustrate what the kingdom of God is like, but He specifically chose the Parable of the Mustard Seed because it illustrates the organic nature of the gospel and God’s plan that it grow exponentially. The smallest of seeds grows into the largest of garden plants. There is no way to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is making a direct corollary between the growth of the mustard plant and the natural growth characteristic of the kingdom. If we do not see the kingdom of God growing like this, then something is wrong that needs to be corrected, just like the honeybees.

In the Parable of the Sower; Matt. 3:13–23, Mark 4:3–20, Luke 8:4–15; the “Fourth-Soil Person” produces a 30, 60 or 100-fold crop. As in the Parable of the Growing Seed in Mark 4:26–29, God uses people to sow the seed of the gospel and it grows organically from that seeding process to produce a great harvest. A man may sow the seed but it is God who causes it to grow. There is the expectation that the abundant sowing of seed will produce an exponential harvest.

On average, from every kernel of wheat, eight stalks of grain will grow. In each of these heads of grain are 50 kernels of wheat. So from every kernel of wheat, around 400 more kernels are produced. That sure looks like exponential organic growth to me.


Throughout the parables Jesus praises faithfulness and fruitfulness while condemning fruitlessness. God ordained that the world grow organically and be fruitful. God’s kingdom is no exception. It, too, is designed to grow organically and to produce spiritual fruit that remains. He expects His followers to faithfully and obediently participate in this organic process. This is what Jesus expects from those He calls his friends.

In John 14:21, Jesus says, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” In John 15:14-16, Jesus goes on to give the qualifications for being a friend of God.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit— fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Jesus calls those who keep His commands His friends and He empowers them to go and bear fruit.

In John 15:5-10 Jesus says,

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.

So let’s summarize what we learn from this passage about being fruitful.

1. We must remain or abide in Jesus in order to bear much fruit. 2. God expects His followers to bear fruit and uses rather harsh imagery to describe what happens when we do not.  3. Bearing fruit glorifies God and verifies our status as His disciples. 4. We remain in the love of Jesus by obeying His commands just as Jesus remains in the Father’s love by obeying the Father’s commands. I think one can fairly say that this parable teaches that one aspect of remaining in Jesus and bearing fruit is obedience to what He has commanded. Without this obedience to God’s Word or “remaining in Jesus,” the potential for exponential organic growth of the kingdom is lost. The greater our obedience to Jesus, the greater the fruit we will bear.


There are a number of parables where Jesus talks about wise versus wicked servants. The wise and good servants are those who are found being faithful stewards of what their master has entrusted to them when their master returns. The wicked and lazy servants are those who ignore the responsibilities entrusted to them.

One such parable is the story of the ten talents presented in Matthew 25:14–30. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who goes away and entrusts his wealth to his three servants. From the context of the passage it is clear that the rich man expects his wealth to be invested wisely in order to gain an increase in wealth. Two of the servants double what was entrusted to them and are commended with the statement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” The master expected a good return from what was entrusted to his servants and the first two did not disappoint him. The third servant refused to do anything with what had been entrusted to him and this lack of fruitfulness earned the harsh rebuke of, “You wicked, lazy servant!”

The unmistakable message of this and other parables like it is that Jesus expects His friends to be faithful and fruitful in carrying out the work of the kingdom that He has entrusted to us until He returns—and this involves fostering movements of multiplying disciples within all peoples.


The world is obviously organic by design and we have seen from the parables that God has ordained the gospel of the kingdom to be organic as well. In every organic process, there is the part that God plays— causing things to grow without any outside help. We see this in the Parable of the Growing Seed where the seed grows all by itself once the seed has been scattered. But there is also the part mankind plays— spreading the seed etc.

In the perfect world that God created before sin ever entered the picture, Adam and Eve were given the task of tending the garden and caring for the animals. Why would God give them this job if He causes everything to grow? It’s because the organic processes that God set up need mankind’s help to be more productive and fruitful. It is a fact of life that cultivated land is far more productive than land that is left fallow. Mankind has the power to bless or curse the normal organic processes that God has established. The same is true for the gospel of the kingdom.

As we remain in Jesus and His love by obeying all that Jesus has commanded, we will aid the growth and flourishing of the exponential organic nature of God’s kingdom. We can either act like the seed that fell on rocky ground and produce little or be like the seed that fell on the fourth soil, the good soil, and produce a 30, 60 or 100-fold crop. I want to be a Fourth-Soil Person.  I trust that you would like to be so also. It will only come through obedience to God’s word.


We are making progress! A growing number of MF readers are stepping forward and donations to MF are beginning to increase. But so much more is needed in order for us just to cover our costs, not to mention trying to move forward. MF exists to promote the vision of movements of discipleship in all peoples. If that is your vision as well, then please join with us financially in furthering this effort.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Jesus’ Modus Operandi for Establishing a Movement

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Jesus’ Modus Operandi for Establishing a Movement

Bible scholars and missionaries often speak different languages. While missionaries might refer to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower as representing His approach to fieldwork, His strategy for discovering a movement catalyst, or His modus operandi, biblical scholars use different words to describe Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Consider the following comments by scholars:

A. T. Cadoux suggests the parable represents Jesus’ “apologia (defense) for His practice of preaching to all and sundry.”1 Malcolm Tolbert claims that Luke “connects the parable to the itinerant preaching mission conducted by Jesus in cities and villages.”2 N. T. Wright notes, “The paradoxical prophetic ‘sowings’ of the ‘Word’ were being recapitulated in Jesus’ own ministry.”3 Morna Hooker (easiest to understand) views Jesus’ use of the parable as an “explanation of His whole ministry.”4 Additional scholars state the same, but in vaguer terms. Robert Stein says the Parable of the Sower “serves as an example of the preaching mentioned in Luke 8:1.”5 Within Klyne Snodgrass’s eight traditional options for interpreting the parable, he says, “The parable reflects the experience of Jesus in His own proclamation.”6 

Importance of the Parable of the Sower

The Synoptic Gospel writers do all they can to demonstrate the importance of the parable, mainly through placement within their narratives. The parable appears in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matt 13:1–23; Mark 4:1–20; Luke 8:4–15). Klyne Snodgrass says the Parable of the Sower represents the first substantive parable in the Synoptic Gospels.7 Only the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Mustard Seed appear in all three Synoptic Gospels. Many Bible scholars view the Parable of the Sower with high regard; R. C. H. Lenski claims that the predominant theme of the New Testament flows through Jesus’ Parable of the Sower.8

Elevating the importance of the Parable of the Sower, Snodgrass describes the parable as “the parable about parables” because of Jesus’ statement to the disciples in Mark 4:13, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables?”9 With the use of παραβολην ταύτην (this parable), Kenneth Wuest states that Mark clarifies his reference to the Parable of the Sower and claims the phrase how is it possible declares “the impossibility of knowing all the parables, if one does not know the one about the Sower.”10 Matthew Gumpert adds, “To understand what the Parable of the Sower means is thus to possess the key to understanding all parables.”11 Quintin Quesnell states the same in the negative indicative; “If you do not understand the sower parable, you will not and cannot understand all the parables.”12

The parable comes with an announcement by Jesus that a seven-hundred-year-old prophecy by Isaiah is officially fulfilled. The announcement appears between Jesus’ delivery of the parable and the explanation of the parable in which He quotes Isaiah 6:9, “Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand” (Luke 8:10). This quotation may appear insignificant or even confusing; only by reading the Isaiah passage does its significance become clear.

After Isaiah replied, “Here I am. Send me” (Isa.6:8), God delivers the bad news that even though Isaiah will proclaim, people will not hear or listen to him. Isaiah asks, “Until when, Lord?” (Isa. 6:11). God answers Isaiah in 11:1 by informing him that the period of time will cease when a shoot grows out of the stump of Jesse. Only Matthew completes Jesus’ reference to the Isaiah prophecy passage with a positive and encouraging announcement:

But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them. (Matt. 13:16–17)

Matthew describes the disciples as living in an era when many will hear and respond to the preaching of the good news. Jesus uses the parable as a platform to make the announcement that the seven-hundred-year-old prophecy of Isaiah has ended.

Context of the Parable of the Sower

D. W. Cleverley Ford points out that Luke 8 is “about preaching.”13 An examination of the context of Luke’s presentation of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4–15) demonstrates that proclamation of the Word of God represents the central theme surrounding the parable as well as the parable’s internal primary theme. The proclamation theme directly affects the meaning of the fruit of the Fourth-Soil Person. The theme appears within the parable with the first-soil person’s decision not to believe and with the decisions of the second-, third-, and Fourth-Soil Persons after hearing the proclaimed Word of God. After Jesus explains the parable, He delivers the parable of the lamp (Luke 8:16), which also carries the theme of proclamation. Finally, Luke places within proximity of the Parable of the Sower the two preaching campaigns of Jesus’ disciples (Luke 9:1–6; 10:1–24).

Applying the Parable: Attitude, Proclamation and Analysis

One clear action and two implicit actions emerge from the parable. The first implicit action involves maintaining a positive attitude of a coming harvest (not a distant future harvest, but an immediate harvest). This attitude within Jesus appears when He sends out the seventy-two disciples, “The harvest is abundant” (Luke 10:2). The Parable of the Sower emits a positive outlook as it builds to an encouraging climactic ending. Disappointment of the three nonproducing soils dissipates with the appearance of a hundredfold-producing Fourth-Soil People, which we will see represents a movement catalyst.

The second action, and the most obvious, involves the action of sowing the Word of God, the gospel. Within the parable, the sowing occurs as a season, not as a continuous action. This period is followed by a season of evaluating germinated seeds, which enables the discovery of fourth-soil individuals. Looking at the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, His sowing season lasted roughly one to two years. With the sending of the seventy-two likely taking place in lower Galilee, Jesus appears on a mission to sow the gospel in all of Galilee’s 204 (according to Josephus) villages, towns and cities.


Sowing abundantly likely leads to reaping abundant fourth-soil movement catalysts. Discovering multiple fourth-soil catalysts is good news for a people group and represents the best way of moving unreached people groups into the category of reached. Finding fourth-soil individuals creates for a missionary a new season of work that involves training, teaching, and forming churches within the oikos (family, household) of each Fourth-Soil Person. The Fourth-Soil People need the missionary as much as the missionary needs Fourth-Soil People.

A special joy and satisfaction awaits missionaries who adopt the Parable of the Sower as their field strategy in new areas of service. Their ministry will likely transform from a ministry of addition to multiplication. I doubt Jesus would be critical of a missionary attempting to replicate His ministry in pre-Pentecost Galilee. The Parable of the Sower provides missionaries with the opportunity to do ministry exactly the way Jesus did. But there are serious issues related to the understanding and translation of the Parable of the Sower that must be resolved before the parable becomes a useful tool for missionaries longing to see movements emerge in their fields of service.

The third action, analyzing germinated seeds, is often the most neglected of the three actions of the parable but should not receive a lower priority than the other two. The majority of the parable gives attention to the description of each soil and explains what a Fourth-Soil Person does and does not believe and do. The detailed descriptions serve as the key to finding fourth-soil movement catalysts. Missionaries are not community movement catalysts; their job is to find community movement catalysts.


1 A. T. Cadoux, The Parables of Jesus (Chicago: Clarke, 1977), 155.

2 Malcolm Tolbert, The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), 9:72.

3 N. T. Wright, “Kingdom Redefined: The Announcement,” in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research, ed. James Dunn and Scot McKnight (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 218–19.

4 Morna Hooker, Gospel According to St Mark (New York: Continuum, 2001), 122.

5 Robert Stein, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 24:242.

6 Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 156.

7 Ibid., 145.

8 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Columbus, OH: Wartburg, 1943), 522.

9 Ibid. Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2009.

10 Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 87.

11 Matthew Gumpert, The End of the Meaning: Studies in Catastrophe (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2012), 154.

12 Quintin Quesnell, The Mind of Mark (Rome: Pontifical Bible Institute, 1969), 214.

13 D. W. Cleverley Ford, A Reading of Saint Luke’s Gospel (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1967), 116.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

24:14 Coalition Update

24:14 Coalition Update

 A Global Revolution in Missionary Training

Chris McBride

In the September/October 2016 edition of Mission Frontiers, Steve Smith, in “Four Stages to No Place Left in Our Generation,” reported on a developing trend in training missionaries. It is one that focuses on creating experiential learning in catalyzing movements for candidates in their home cultures before they deploy to   a cross cultural field situation. He envisioned a network of Church-Planting Movement (CPM) Training Hubs that would help new field personnel navigate “the dark period of trial and error.” They would first learn to apply CPM principles in their own context before deploying   to a cross-cultural location where CPM principles are already bearing fruit. They would then be mentored into effective catalyzing of a CPM among a new focus group, and finally help that movement to launch workers into yet more unreached groups.

The 24:14 Coalition ( has formed a task force to facilitate the growth of a network of CPM Training Hubs. We have identified a number of emerging hubs that are training Phase 1 missionaries in their home cultures (both Western and Non-Western). More than a dozen teams and organizations have started Phase 2 Hubs, which are receiving trainees from Phase 1 experiences.

Phase 2 Hubs are reporting missionary candidates to be much quicker than the average candidate to learn and implement CPM principles. They have already developed experience applying CPM principles in their home culture before moving to a foreign cultural context. Those learning CPM experientially in this way are also receiving excellent ongoing coaching as they deploy to catalyze work among a UPG (Unreached People Group).

In the months to come, the Hubs Task force plans to continue finding and documenting new Hubs beginning to function, and gathering Hub leaders to develop best practices. They will also create cross-connections between organizations sponsoring Hubs (that could decrease need for duplication), network interested people and organizations to the Hub system, and assist organizations and churches that want to create CPM Training Hubs. We sincerely believe this model can greatly increase the frequency of CPMs among the unreached of the world. For more information contact [email protected].

Africa 24:14 Gathering

Stan Parks

Africa is an incredibly diverse continent with 54 countries and 1.2 billion people. It is home to 3700 people groups, of which 990 are considered unreached and have a total population of 350 million. The African Union has its headquarters in Addis Ababa. So, it was fitting that 30 movement leaders from around Africa gathered in this capital city of Ethiopia to discuss forming a 24:14 Africa team. Attendees included movement leaders representing over 100 Church-Planting Movements, as well as key mission leaders, church and church network leaders, denominational leaders, researchers, and intercessors.

We experienced a significant atmosphere of unity and common vision. Our discussion focused on how to more effectively work together as citizens of God’s kingdom and brothers and sisters in Christ. We formed five task forces, to focus on prayer, research, mobilization, training, and strategy. A five-person facilitation team was formed of leaders from across the continent.

As the primary engine of God’s work, the prayer task force will begin connecting existing African and global networks of intercessors to the African and Global 24:14 efforts. They will also seek to mobilize new intercessors. They will focus as well on catalyzing new prayer coordinators in areas of special need and using secure channels to share 24:14 prayer requests.

The mobilization group set out a plan for regional mobilization efforts among churches. They planned ways for missionaries to be trained and re-deployed to groups not yet engaged with a movement effort. They also developed plans to mobilize more churches, businesses, donors, and intercessors to take part in the 24:14 vision in Africa and beyond.

The training group chose to focus on two priorities. First, the need to keep developing CPM curriculum that is simple, contextual and reproducible at every level. Second, the need to train leaders from existing movements to focus on and reach nearby UPGs.

Both the research and strategy task forces highlighted the need to share information and gather new data. We want to better understand the remaining unreached people groups and places and make a “master list” for all of Africa. That list will be continually updated, and the 24:14 Africa team will focus on identifying groups that are being engaged with a strategy for movements. Efforts will then be made to engage all the remaining unengaged peoples and places with CPM-equipped teams.

The Goal

Justin Long

We need to remember that 24:14’s “Finish Line” is not “the gospel for every person” (which is unrealistic in eight years). Neither is it “every group reached.” To “reach” a group is missiologically defined as having an indigenous church able to evangelize the group without cross-cultural (missionary) workers. Only God starts churches, and we can’t be sure that there will be a sufficient church presence in each group by 2025 to qualify them as “reached.” Rather, 24:14 sees itself as the next step in the process.

Our goal line is a movement catalyst team engaging every people group. We know that accomplishing this goal is not the end of the Great Commission. Rather, it is “the beginning of the end.” Years of work will likely remain following attainment of this starting point. We’re just getting racers to the starting line; we will still have a race to run! Yet we believe that until unreached groups are engaged with multiplying strategies, there is very little hope that they can become effectively reached at all.

 Why Tracking Data Geographically Matters

Justin Long

24:14’s Research Team understands the need to track movement engagement both by people group and by geographic location. While we want to make sure the gospel is not hindered by barriers of language and culture (thus engaging by culture), we know very large people groups can span cities, districts, provinces, and even countries. Within a specific group, political boundaries and distance can create barriers to gospel spread due to underengagement by insufficient teams. We also know we need to track engagement by cities, which have become very large melting pots of ethnicities, and have their own significant strategic challenges including social grouping by affinity rather than by culture, and issues like surveillance. We are counting total movement engagements mainly by people group (651 movements in all), and are now beginning   to count by geographic region. Out of 3,846 provinces, 829 are less than 5% Christian, and only 63 of these have movement engagements.


24:14 Diaspora Task Force: Catalyzing Movements among People on the Move

John Becker

The 24:14 Diaspora Task Force is seeking to answer the question: How can we best catalyze disciple-multiplication among diaspora peoples?

Diaspora, pronounced di·as·po·ra /dīˈaspərə/, is from a Greek word meaning “dispersion or scattering.”It describes ethnic communities and social groups dislocated from their home cultures, on the move, or in a transitional process of being scattered. These individuals are more commonly known as refugees and migrants.

People are on the move as never before; this is one of the great global realities of our era. An estimated 200+ million people are living outside their countries of origin– some voluntarily and some involuntarily. There are both push and pull factors causing this. These include environmental disasters caused by war, famine, political and economic instability, religious and ethnic discrimination, population surge, education and labor opportunities, to name a few. Diaspora peoples are a global phenomenon with local implications.

In many cases the diaspora phenomenon creates massive population shifts – such as when 1.6 million Syrian refugees entered Jordan, whose total population is just 9 million. Or consider the 8 million African migrants who now call Europe home. Cities such as Catania in Sicily took in 180,000 new arrivals in 2016! These mass movements of people create immense challenges such as megacities, diverse ethnic communities, and religious and ideological pluralism.

However, these challenges are also creating some of the greatest opportunities for disciple-making the Church has ever had. They are providing access to people groups from hostile environments that offer little or no access to the good news of Jesus. Believers from gospel-rich regions of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South America, are now living among those needing new expressions of witness such as in secular Europe. 

As we focus our efforts and attention on these trends, we can see the fruit. Thousands of Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have come to faith through faithful disciples offering hospitality and hope to their new neighbors. But we are only at the beginning of harvesting the fruit now just within reach. The 24:14 Diaspora Task Force is bringing together diaspora mission strategy leaders from several networks and organizations. We expect to see a great harvest as we catalyze movements among people on the move!

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Further Reflections: Rethinking Galatians

Further Reflections: Rethinking Galatians


In the post-reformation era, the evangelical church looks at the book of Galatians as a referendum on justification by faith. I would argue that, actually, Paul is building on that well-known truth. Yes, the Galatians were confused by the Judaizers. Many did not have “faith” in their background. So, to all, Paul was saying: Yes—salvation is by grace through faith and as the gospel of Christ comes to new cultures, you (Galatians, Jews and us!) should not add to it. The book is a strongly worded treatise against Jesus plus anything.

Paul clearly shows the idea of faith alone way back when he says (Gal. 3:8 ESV), “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”1 It was not new. Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abram, “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” I could go on.

Remember, these believers did not have the NT yet. Jews who believed might be tempted to fall back on what they “knew” God wanted in the past. At first, they didn’t trust Paul. He never really was an “insider” with the other Apostles. And, he was called cross-culturally to the Gentiles, who were a very different culture—at odds with the Jews. Paul could bridge that gap because of his combined Roman and Jewish upbringing—and the fact that he was transformed by Christ and the power of the gospel.

So, Paul confronted Peter’s actions in Galatia because those actions, and the actions of the Judaizers, meant they were adding to the gospel. It is faith that justifies, and it is just as important we not add anything to that. That is why, post- reformation, we now add the words “alone” to it.

What do we add to it? Historically, if we don’t watch ourselves, Christians have mentally “expected” certain behavioral change. And, of course, we do change. Like Paul, our lives are transformed. But sometimes we move those changes into being requirements to coming to Christ instead of something that the Holy Spirit does. Lifestyle changes are the result of people coming into the Kingdom by faith, but they are not conditions for it.

As we see the gospel spreading to the Unreached Peoples, we can do the same. Do new believers need to call themselves “Christians?” Is it okay if Muslims who believe in Jesus Christ still pray 5 times a day (or more!)? Or that Hindus worship at different, special times of the week, month or year? Some of these are not things that must change—they are not clear biblical directives for believers. The hard thing to ask for a worker out in a culture where the gospel is just penetrating is: How should I come alongside these new, Holy Spirit directed believers and help them without adding to their load like the Judaizers were doing when they tried to “help” the Galatians.

In our individualized world in the West, we tend to think that certain activities will demonstrate faith, and sometimes for good reason. But, we don’t really know people that well, so we don’t know what is happening in their lives, home, business—or when they are alone.

And, after we come to faith having seen what a mess our lives were, we tend to extrapolate those on every new believer. We want those coming to faith after us to go through the same process we did. Since our identity and significance are so closely tied to faith in the Lord, we can’t always see how that identity might be lived out in another culture.

People, all of us, are always in a process in their movement towards God and His kingdom. What are the characteristics of those who are true believers? What would we want to see? One simple way to look at

it is that we want to see people: (1) living under the Lordship of Christ, (2) affirming the authority of the Word of God and (3) living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that regulating other things they do or don’t do can easily move into “adding to” the gospel with our own standards.

I encourage you to take a fresh look at Galatians, as I did with one of our boards recently. Then, let me know what you think at: www. (Just click on this issue and my page to make your comments/suggestions).


1 As a side point we have talked about many times: Paul includes the nations being blessed with the gospel.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

MInistering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials

Book Review by Scott Hedley

MInistering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials

This book was eye-opening to me, a Westerner, in that it helped me to better understand my ministry colleagues in Asia. Understanding the concepts in this book is also important to the global church because most of the ethnic groups with limited or no access to the gospel (i.e. Unreached People Groups) are predominantly honor-shame in their cultural outlook. It is important for Westerners to understand why hospitality, indirect communication, purity regulations and patronage are all common features of honor-shame cultures. Western Christians must also realize that their own cultural values (i.e. independence, direct speech, efficiency, scientific rationalism, convenience and egalitarianism) are equally hard to understand in the eyes of non-Westerners.

To neglect honor-shame concepts in our explanation of the gospel could lead people into a shallow relationship with God, as people trust God for one component of salvation (i.e. forgiveness of sin’s guilt), but then bypass Christ’s work for absolving sin’s shame.

The authors offer an interesting new perspective on the story of the prodigal son. The authors believe that Jesus was telling this story in order to question the flawed identities of both groups – the falsely shamed and the falsely honored. The parable is an invitation to the audience to abandon their old identity as either a despicable rule breaker or respectable rule keeper, and embrace the new status that the Father offers. Just as the father (in the prodigal son story) willingly suffered shame to communicate love and forgiveness in order to restore relationship with each son personally and together as a family, Jesus also summons the Pharisees to adopt His radical, shame-bearing love and join His mission of honoring the shamed through table fellowship.

For those of us ministering in other cultures, it is important for us to analyze the host culture. Here are some important questions for mining the honor-shame elements in a culture. What common terms, idioms, or euphemisms refer to the concepts of honor and shame in your host culture? What are the primary symbols and images of honor and shame? When someone is disgraced, how do they try to restore their honor? What cultural rituals and practices confer status (high or low)? What words communicate respect and disrespect? What objects are associated with honor and shame? What commonly known stories or characters embody the cultural notions of honor-shame? The answers to these questions become the metaphoric language for explaining biblical salvation. After doing this research, the field workers then can select biblical stories and images in the Bible that parallel cultural notions of honor and shame in the host culture.

The authors provide a great list of biblical stories that address concepts of honor and shame in chapter 8 (evangelism) and in the appendices. I recommend this book for all people who work in non-Western cultures.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: A Movement Case Study from Galilee

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: A Movement Case Study from Galilee

Analyzing case studies typically represents one of the key learning activities at a missionary training program. Often overlooked as a case study is Jesus’ work in pre-Pentecost Galilee, partly because He did not plant churches, but mainly because a handful of biblical scholars view Jesus’ pre-Pentecost work in Galilee as a failed mission. William Kurz, for example, argues that Jesus’ mission work failed to produce results. Kurz states, “Jesus never saw the results of His preaching in His lifetime on earth.”1

The intent of demonstrating that a movement ensued in pre-Pentecost Galilee within the ministry of Jesus aims at catching the attention of missionary-movement practitioners. Unless missionaries are convinced Jesus established a movement in pre-Pentecost Galilee, they may underestimate the value of Jesus’ case study.

Before providing evidence of Jesus’ movement, the definition of the word movement must be clarified. For this, I use David Garrison’s definition of a movement as described in his latest book, A Wind in the House of Islam. Garrison writes, “For the sake of clarity and consistency, let’s define a movement . . . to be at least 100 new church starts or 1,000 baptisms that occur over a two-decade period.”2 Using Garrison’s parameters of a thousand baptisms (Jesus did not plant individual churches), few missionaries will doubt this number of baptisms constitutes a noteworthy movement.

Evidence of at Least a Thousand Baptisms

In John’s discourse of Jesus leaving a region and traveling to another due to conflict, he mentions that Jesus’ ministry accumulated more baptisms than the sum of John the Baptist’s ministry; “When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)” (John 4:1–2).3 Matthew describes the number of those baptized by John the Baptist, “Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins” (3:5–6). Luke explains that John the Baptist’s followers gained the attention of governmental officials, Pharisees, and crowds that included tax collectors and solders, all coming to him for baptism (3:7–21).

Knowing that the Jewish tradition included the practice of baptism before the time of Jesus and that Jesus’ disciples conducted baptisms in pre-Pentecost Galilee, it is not difficult to imagine that many from the large crowds, such as the five thousand (Luke 9:12–17) and the four thousand (Mark 8:1–9), received baptism in the presence of Jesus. Often Jesus preached on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which served as a convenient environment for conducting baptisms.

In fewer than ten days after Jesus’ ascension, three thousand people in Jerusalem received baptism. Notice that the three thousand apparently knew what to do when Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized.” No formal training on baptism is mentioned. For this occasion, the three thousand likely had seen or heard of Jesus’ death and resurrection, witnessed the miracle of the disciples’ speaking in tongues, and heard Peter’s powerful sermon. If this is what it took to get three thousand baptisms, it should not be a stretch to suppose that for each miracle Jesus performed in front of crowds in Galilee at least

fifty to one hundred people routinely came forward for baptism. See Matthew 4:17, 23–25:

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” . . .Jesus was going all over Galilee . . . preaching . .. healing. . . . Then the news about Him spread throughout Syria. . . . Large crowds followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Historian Richard Horsley postulates that the Galilean movement was supported by first-generation believers; the movement did not depend on the Twelve or the seventy-two disciples once Jesus and the disciples left the region on their final journey to Jerusalem.4 Finally, to reach one thousand baptisms, the Twelve plus the seventy-two disciples only needed to baptize twelve of their oikos members.

Jesus’ Pre-Pentecost Galilean Movement Case Study

There is more information in the gospel narratives regarding steps Jesus took to establish the pre-Pentecost Galilean movement than there is regarding steps taken by Paul—recorded in Acts and his letters—to establish the movements in Asia Minor. Paul wrote his letters to existing movements; very little information appears about how each movement began. The following represents basic actions Jesus implemented to produce a thousand baptisms in pre-Pentecost Galilee. To present the most accurate historical steps Jesus made to establish a movement, we will look to the narrative of Luke, who attempted to present events in chronological order.5

A threefold-ministry-training periodization emerges in Luke’s narrative: Jesus ministering as the disciples watch (chap. 4–7), Jesus training the disciples with the Parable of the Sower (8:4–15), and the disciples applying their training in the field (9:1–6; 10:1–24). Galilee, the size of Rhode Island with a population of more than two hundred thousand, represented Jesus’ target mission field, and the lost house of Israel represented His primary target people group within His ministry field. All three Synoptic Gospel writers appear convinced that Jesus visited all 204 (according to Josephus) villages, towns, and cities in Galilee (see Matt 9:35, “Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages”; Mark 1:38–39, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. . . . So He went into all of Galilee”; Luke 8:1, “He was traveling from one town and village to another”). Eckhard Schnabel lays out the possibility that Jesus could have visited all towns and villages in Galilee in less than a year.6 Once the people tried to slow Jesus down, to spend more time with Him, He replied, “I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also” (Luke 4:43).

Jesus explained His secret of multiplication using the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4–15). From a season of broad seed sowing, a certain number of new believers will in turn produce hundredfold new believers from among their oikos. The oikos factor (winning close friends and family) likely functioned as the key ingredient for the explosive growth coming from fourth-soil individuals.

Application from the Case Study

Taken from Luke’s narrative, especially from 8:1–10:24, below is a list of lessons I learned from Jesus and how he established a pre-Pentecost movement in Galilee. I converted the lessons into action steps for missionaries preparing to launch ministries into new fields of service:

  • Identify and adopt a specific geographic target area, like Galilee.
  • Choose a people group within the target area.
  • Develop a systematic plan for the gospel to be shared in every community.
  • Model seed sowing for potential harvesters.
  • Inform sowers of a pending harvest in the target minis- try field.
  • Enlist twelve sowers, train them with the Parable of the Sower, send them out.
  • Enlist an additional seventy-two, train them with the Parable of the Sower, send them out.
  • Warn sowers of dangers and teach them how to find Persons of Peace.
  • Using the parable’s description for each soil, look for fourth-soil individuals.
  • When sowers return, discuss results using the four soil descriptions.
  • Praise and thank God for fruit (souls won) coming from Fourth-Soil People.

The above activities represent a season of ministry, possibly lasting from one to two years. Upon completion of the sowing season, a new season of training leaders and forming churches emerges. Sowing season must not be rushed or filled with distractions. 


Between 1999 and 2001, my ministry focused on a district (similar in land size to Jesus’ Galilee) in a South Asian country with an estimated one million Muslims and no history of gospel sowing among the Muslim population. Over two years, with team members and volunteers, we sowed the gospel from village to village. Miracles, such as those occurring in the ministry of Jesus, did not take place. Our seed sowing came in the form of simple gospel sharing, distribution of Bibles in the local language, and multiple nighttime showings of the JESUS film. At the end of the two years, our work appeared fruitless, as fewer than a dozen Muslims professed Jesus as Savior.

But in one village of seven thousand Muslims, a young man heard the gospel from one of our sowing campaigns with volunteers from the United States. From this young fourth-soil man, a movement emerged as he shared the gospel with his oikos. Within two years, he established twenty-four house churches. Over the next 15 years, the movement, titled Way of Peace, added ten thousand baptized former Muslims. Today the movement actively sends missionaries from their movement into two neighboring countries.

Frank Beare believes the Luke 10:1–24 event of Jesus sending out the seventy-two (with the Twelve) likely took place in lower Galilee.7 Because Jesus sent them out to find Persons of Peace for housing purposes, the seventy-two likely came from the established movement in upper Galilee. By the time Jesus reached Jerusalem after leaving Galilee, Luke records 120 followers in the upper room (Acts 1:15). A principle emerges where Jesus uses believers from one movement to establish new movements in different locations. If missionaries will take the time to establish one movement, they can use “hot coals” (individuals from an existing movement) from the original movement to do as Jesus did to ignite movements in new areas. The next article demonstrates this strategy as I used “hot coals” from the Way of Peace movement to establish an emerging movement among a near-culture people group, pseudonymously called the Ro people.


  1. See William Kurz, Following Jesus (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1984), 33.Frank Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 214.
  2. David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2014), 5.
  3. Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2009
  4. Richard A. Horsley, “Early Christian Movements: Jesus Movements and the Renewal of Israel,” Harvard Theological Studies 62:4 (2006), 1222–23. The basis of Horsley’s theory rests on the large number of historical records and the letters of Pliny.
  5. See John Nolland, Word Biblical Commentary: Luke 1–9:20 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989), 547. Nolland comments, “The consensus is as follows. Luke repro- duces quite closely the original order and scope of the materials.”
  6. Eckhard Schnabel, Early Christian Mission: Jesus and the Twelve (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 1:247. Schnabel writes, “If Jesus spent two days in each of the 138 settlements of Galilee that Mordechai Aviam mentions, he would have needed 276 days, or 46 weeks (not counting Sabbath days), to reach every single Galilean town or village—not an impossible task in view of the three years of Jesus’ public ministry.”
  7. Frank Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 214.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Fourth-Soil Person or Person of Peace

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Fourth-Soil Person or Person of Peace

The designation Person of Peace originates from Luke 10:5–7:

Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household.” If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house.1

Learning about the Person of Peace concept greatly enhanced my ministry by giving me a specific target to aim for in the vast sea of lostness within the country I served.

The problem occurs when we inflate the biblical text; admittedly I am guilty on the topic of the Person of Peace. While the text limits the actions of the Person of Peace to generously receiving the disciples and extending hospitality by providing food and shelter, many missionaries expand the actions of said person to include the winning of his household, connecting the disciples to the community, and even starting a movement in the community.

In this article, I am not asking missionaries to dismiss the idea that potential community movement catalysts are waiting for sowers to share the gospel with them. Here I simply reassign the “movement catalyst” designation from the Person of Peace to the Fourth-Soil Person. With this schematic change, the idea of Jesus training His disciples how to establish movements appears stronger within the biblical text. 

Person of Peace

In Luke 10:1–24, Jesus prepares His laborers for work in the harvest. He tells the disciples where to go, what to say, with whom to talk, what to watch out for, and what to do if their message is rejected. These detailed instructions do not represent the goal of the assignment; Jesus expresses the goal in terms of a harvest. The overarching mission involves broad seed sowing throughout Galilee. Within the framework of preparing the disciples for their mission, which did not come with travel funds, Jesus developed a plan that would cover their basic needs of food and shelter by arranging a divine meeting between the needy disciples and hospitable people who would care for them.

Clarifying the role of the Person of Peace, I found Roger Gehring’s House Church and Mission helpful. Gehring refers to Jesus’ plan to care for the disciples as the “House rule”2 that provides a base of operation for fieldworkers assigned to unfamiliar mission fields. A careful examination of Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve and the seventy-two demonstrates Gehring’s “House rule”:

Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that place. (Mark 6:10, emphasis added)

When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. (Matt. 10:11, emphasis added) 

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house. (Luke 10:7, emphasis added)

In other words, Jesus instructed His disciples to find a home base, then cease the search for more home bases. They were not to waste time looking for multiple homes while they sowed the area with the gospel. Is it possible for a Person of Peace to also be a Fourth-Soil Person? Certainly! When the area has been sown, travel to a new area and repeat the process; first find a Person of Peace, then again saturate the area with the gospel.

The only similarity between a Person of Peace and the Fourth-Soil Person is generosity and hospitality. W. E. Vine and Merrill Unger agree that in Luke 8:15, when Jesus describes the Fourth-Soil Person, He uses kalos (honest or noble) and agathos (good) together, these two words, when combined form an idiom common in the time of Jesus. The “good and noble” (8:15) idiom means “one that, instead of working ill to a neighbor, acts beneficially.”3 A. T. Robertson states the idiom refers to a “generous” person.4

A challenge occurs when pushing the meaning of Person of Peace beyond the stated text. The process of discovering

Persons of Peace comes through the disciples’ appearance as persons in need (“don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals” Luke 10:4). The problem emerges when Jesus later revokes His instructions of going out as needy individuals (see Luke 22:35–36). Rather than imposing assumptions onto the understanding of the Person of Peace, the hermeneutical approach works best by allowing the Person of Peace to function as a home base while continuing the role of a sower in disseminating the Word of God through the community. 

Many missionaries point to the centurion, Samaritan woman, Cornelius, Lydia, and Philippian jailer as examples of Persons of Peace. Each of these individuals becomes a believer and reproduces. With the Person of Peace description though, each appears more as a Fourth-Soil Person than as a Person of Peace. For missionaries entering into new mission fields with the intent to sow the field with the gospel, Jesus’ “house rule” offers a tremendous service. Knowing that both Fourth-Soil People and Persons of Peace are generous, the search for Persons of Peace could result in the discovery of a Fourth-Soil Person. 

Fourth-Soil People

Making the distinction between a Person of Peace and Fourth-Soil Person comes with advantages. The description of Fourth-Soil People appears more developed than the description of Persons of Peace. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus not only describes a Fourth-Soil Person; He also provides detailed descriptions of what a Fourth- Soil Person does not look like. His hundredfold portrayal of the Fourth-Soil Person gives hope of an exponential movement influencing lost people in a community. Jesus connects the Parable of the Sower to the other parables through His statement, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables?” (Mark 4:13), we can use parables such as the mustard seed and yeast to understand that Fourth-Soil People may not be obvious people in a community.

A profile of the Fourth-Soil Person, according to the Parable of the Sower, includes the following: believes the gospel, perseveres and reproduces even when passing through a time of testing (i.e., threat of persecution), and reproduces regardless of the threat and distractions of worry, riches, and pleasures of life. Jesus provides additional information by describing the Fourth-Soil Person as a generous or hospitable person who reproduces (i.e., wins souls) at a pace of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold.

Sowers do not make Fourth-Soil People; they find them through seed-sowing campaigns for a season. People often ask me how to transform second- and third-soil people into Fourth-Soil People. Although I believe this is a possibility, I remind them of Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:30–32; Mark places this parable after the Parable of the Sower)—that our assignment is only to sow and reap a harvest. Efforts to transform second- and third-soil people into Fourth-Soil People should not replace broad seed-sowing efforts to find Fourth-Soil People in the harvest fields. 


So which would you rather find among a people group, Persons of Peace or Fourth-Soil People? In How Jesus Won Persons, Delos Miles describes the social order of the communities among which Jesus walked: “The ancient oikos reflected the status order of that period.”5 Likewise, the oikos factor becomes apparent when a Fourth-Soil Person wins a hundredfold of his oikos, and their unshakable faith serve as the change agent for their community. The oikos factor may appear in the research of scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who contend that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, the majority of the society will adopt their belief.6 Jesus’ Parable of the Sower functions as a first- century explanation of describing how movements develop in communities. Lost people within a people group benefit the most when a follower of Jesus sows with intent of discovering many fourth-soil movement catalysts.



1 Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2009.

2 Roger Gehring, House Church and Mission (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 55.

  3 W. E. Vine and Merrill Unger, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985), 274.

 4 A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1930), 2:114.

5 Delos Miles, How Jesus Won Persons (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1982), 244.

6 “Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas,” Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, July 25, 2011,

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth Soil” People: Pursuing Movements as Jesus Did

Finding “Fourth Soil” People: Pursuing Movements as Jesus Did


Mathematician Steven Pither describes the difference between addition and multiplication through the use of personification. Addition’s attempt to solve problems can be described as passive, lacking a drive to a goal, ill-prepared to overcome obstacles, and lacking enthusiasm to attain a highly valued purpose. Pither describes multiplication as having a desire to overcome obstacles, solve dilemmas, and achieve goals.1

Missionaries searching for ministry approaches in new mission fields have an assortment of strategies from which to choose. Some fit within the growth pattern of addition. Others position the missionary to experience multiplicative results. Some strategies have a basis from within Scripture; others appear to be structured more as a business model.

This series of articles, titled Finding “Fourth-Soil” People, introduces Jesus’ modus operandi for fieldwork used in Galilee, resulting in a large-scale movement occurring before Pentecost. Jesus’ field strategy appears in the Parable of the Sower and contains a multiplicative ingredient: the hundredfold, Fourth-Soil Person (see Luke 8:8).

The Finding Fourth-Soil People series recognizes Jesus as the greatest missionary of all times and presents his successful movement in pre-Pentecost Galilee as a case study for missionaries entering into new fields of service. The articles demonstrate the importance of the Parable of the Sower and explain why the parable has not been used as a field strategy approach throughout the centuries— because of improper hermeneutics and understanding.

The series also includes an explanation of the difference between a Person of Peace (see Luke 10:6) and a Fourth- Soil Person and the results of a field application using the Parable of the Sower as a field strategy.

I recently listened online to more than thirty sermons on the Parable of the Sower. The majority of the sermons showed concern for the lost by encouraging listeners to live “fourth- soil” lives (they define the fruit of a Fourth-Soil Person as spiritual maturity) that will attract lost people and motivate them to become believers. None of the sermons encouraged listeners to sow the gospel broadly in order to find fourth- soil individuals living in their mission fields. A few preachers acknowledged the parable’s context of proclamation, but none used the parable to persuade listeners to adopt the parable as a plan to discover the joy of working as Jesus did, find Fourth-Soil People, and ignite movements as Fourth- Soil People win lost people a hundredfold.

The goal of this Finding Fourth-Soil People series is to discover the intent Jesus had in mind when he delivered the Parable of the Sower. Using the parable as a devotional piece or as a motivational device to inspire an increase in spiritual maturity misses the point of the parable. Within a church or within the mind of a missionary about to launch a ministry in a new mission field, the parable should function as a guide or strategy plan.

Jesus’ Team

All three Synoptic Gospel writers place the Parable of the Sower next to the story of Jesus’ encounter with His mother and brothers (see Matt. 12:46–50; Mark 3:31–35; Luke 8:19–21). Matthew places the encounter earlier in the day of Jesus’ delivery of the parable. Several Bible scholars take note of this and push for a connection between the family encounter and the parable. Jesus likely used the encounter as a springboard to deliver the parable. Luke’s narrative makes the clearest connection by referring to the seed in the parable as “the Word of God.” With this, Luke has done everything he can to connect the parable to the family encounter by citing Jesus as saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear and do the Word of God” (8:21).

“Doing the Word of God” functions as Luke’s code language for spreading the gospel. Jesus’ true family (team) members are those who spread (sow) the gospel. Luke continues his use of the code in Acts, when he says that the Word of God went out and big results followed (“the Word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied” Acts 6:7; see also 12:24; 19:20). When missionaries apply the Parable of the Sower and “do the Word of God,” they essentially join Jesus’ family team.

Jesus Used the Parable to Describe His Field Strategy

I cannot stress this point enough: the parable represents Jesus’ own modus operandi for working Galilee. John Nolland points to the parable as a reflection of Jesus’ own ministry and his intention that the disciples would do the same: “There can be little doubt that the sowing of the seed represents the ministry of Jesus (and ultimately its continuation through the disciples).”2

The parable contains no imperatives. The grammatical structure of the parable comes in passive voice (e.g., “A sower went out to sow his seed”) and does not ask the disciples to do anything. The nearest imperative to the parable appears when Jesus says, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!” (Luke 8:8).3 Jesus uses the parable to describe how He worked. Yet rarely, if ever, do missionary training programs promote and encourage missionaries to adopt Jesus’ field strategy as presented in this parable. Other programs, methods, and approaches replace or bury the parable. Be careful when adopting a field strategy that does not reflect the Parable of the Sower; this may reveal a missionary attempting to improve on Jesus’ field approach. Simple obedience is all Jesus asks of His disciples.

Why do preachers or missionary trainers not present the parable as a field strategy? Has there ever been a time in the past two thousand years where the Parable of the Sower was used as an approach to field ministry? This article addresses these questions and examines four core issues that traditionally have suppressed the parable from being used as a ministry plan.

Parable of the Sower? Soils? Or Seeds?

Ever wonder why some Bible translators label the Parable of the Sower the “Parable of the Soils” or the “Parable of the Seeds”? The titles for the parable represent an ongoing debate. These two titles ascribe greater importance to the soils and the seeds and shift focus away from the overarching theme of proclamation. A reason for Bible translators and scholars suggesting either of these two titles comes from the structure of the parable. Although the sower appears in the initial verse of the parable, the remainder of the parable focuses on the soils and the seeds. Nevertheless, the argument for assigning these alternative titles appears in opposition to the obvious; Jesus told us the parable’s title: “You, then, listen to the Parable of the Sower” (Matt 13:18).

The parable’s title, ascribed by Jesus, positions the parable as a lesson for sowers. Don’t lose sight of this or get distracted. The context of the parable in Luke’s narrative shows that Jesus uses the parable to describe how He worked and then uses the parable to train His harvest force of sowers how they are to work. Luke organizes his narrative intentionally to show us the function of the parable: chapters 1–3 represent the birth narrative; chapters 4–7 show Jesus alone working while the disciples watch; in chapter 8, Jesus trains the disciples along with a large crowd of followers using the Parable of the Sower; and in Luke 9–10:24, Jesus deploys the Twelve and the seventy-two to sow.

Parable of the Sower as Allegory

Merriam-Webster defines allegory as “the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human experience.” The allegorization of Jesus’ parables coats them with mystery and has caused many scholars to join Theodore Weeden’s view of the Parable of the Sower as being impossible to understand in its original meaning. Referring to this parable, Weeden states, “apprehension of the full depth and scope of that message has not been possible with  current hermeneutical methodologies . . . the limitations of these hermeneutics leave the message still under partial eclipse.”4 Thankfully, other scholars express the opposite. Peter Rhea Jones expresses optimism, stating that Jesus’ parables “are better understood today . . . than they have been known for many centuries, possibly back to the first century.”5

Robert Stein tributes the early church (to AD 540) along with Origen (third century) as the first to bury the Parable of the Sower with the shroud of allegory.6 Stein goes on to deliver good news that in the modern era, beginning with Adolf Jülicher’s two-volume work on parables (1888), “the Babylonian captivity of the parables to the allegorical method of interpretation came to an end.”7

Besides using hermeneutical methodologies to discover Jesus’ original intent of the Parable of the Sower, another method is to test the parable through application.

The last article in the Finding Fourth-Soil People series reports on a field application using the parable among the Ro (pseudonym) Muslim people group. The case study discusses a volunteer team that selected a people group in a district close in size to Jesus’ Galilee, mobilized seventy-two sowers trained only with the Parable of the Sower (and healing), sowed the gospel for three days, and analyzed germinated seeds (new believers) using the parable’s profile of each soil. For the next ten months, we closely monitored seven potential Fourth-Soil People discovered from the sowing campaign. The field exercise washed away the parable’s allegorical cloud and demonstrated to me the simple and practical side of the parable.

Salvific Status of the second-Soil Person

All three Synoptic Gospel writers record Jesus as saying the second-Soil Person believes or receives (the gospel) with joy. Luke’s version states that the second-soil individuals later “fall away” (8:13 KJV), while Matthew and Mark prefer the word stumble (Matt 13:21; Mark 4:17). The degree of the parable’s usefulness for field missionaries hinges on the understanding of whether the second-soil (and third-soil) person represents a genuine believer or an unbeliever. Core to the argument stands the doctrine of eternal security (which I affirm).

The problem arises when placing all truly saved believers within the category of the fourth soil. This means all saved people have produced thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or one hundredfold fruit. If fruit means “souls won” (this is addressed in the next section), then all fourth-soil true believers produced (past tense) a minimum of thirtyfold fruit to achieve this designation.

Brad McCoy states, “A large number of expositors misinterpret it [the Parable of the Sower], by insisting that only the fourth (and final) soil represents the response of born again believers.”8 The most popular approach for resolving the dilemma of the salvific condition of the second-Soil Person is to invoke the doctrine of eternal security and declare the belief of the second-Soil Person was never true belief but rather a superficial belief.

This approach overlooks the belief related to the first soil. The belief associated with the first soil is a belief unto salvation. Jesus stated, “so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). The same Greek work for “believe” is used in relation to the second-Soil Person. The focus of investigation falls on two Greek words, translated as “believe” (pisteuo) and “fall away” (aphistantai). Lloyd Olsen states, “fallen doesn’t mean ‘damned . . .’ the word (aphistantai) means only depart, or go away in a very wide sense.”9 The Greek construct of “fall away” allows for the interpretation as “stumbles” as used by Matthew and Mark. Difficulty arises when making the claim that the second-soil category represents unregenerate people, when Luke clearly reports Jesus as saying that they believed.

Mary Ann Tolbert points out that in Mark’s narrative the only group presented as moving from acceptance to failure when persecution arrives is the disciples. Tolbert demonstrates that Jesus uses the same word in Mark 14:27 to describe His prophecy for the disciples—“You will all fall away (skandalisthēsesthe)”—as He used to describe the “stumble” action of the second-Soil Person.10

Arriving to the conclusion that only the first soil represents an unregenerate person, while soils 2, 3, and 4 represent regenerate individuals, positions the parable as a highly useful tool for finding fourth-soil movement catalysts. Fourth-soil people are easy to identify, because they win others (due to the oikos factor) on a scale of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or hundredfold. Some people believe but do not reproduce by sharing the gospel with others. Through the parable, Jesus trains His disciples to sort through the many responses, be aware of those who sincerely believe but will not share with others and be mindful that some will believe and will produce movements through their reproduction (i.e., share the gospel with their oikos).

Fruit as Souls Won

Numerous Bible scholars present the Parable of the Sower as Jesus’ attempt to prompt the faith-wavering, halfhearted crowd on the shore of Galilee to produce greater spiritual fruit than what they were espousing. The first problem with this conclusion is that the crowd gathered around Jesus is anything but halfhearted. Simply to be near Jesus, they spontaneously left their homes. Luke writes, “As a large crowd was gathering, and people were flocking to Him from every town, He said in a parable” (8:4). With unfriendly crowds, Jesus preached repentance; with this crowd, He treated them as equals to the disciples by including them in the sower training.

Herschel Hobbs promotes the idea of “fruit” (Luke 8:15) as “fruits of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22–23). He states, “It takes time and rugged endurance to produce the fruits of a Christian life.”11 Hobbs’ hermeneutical practice involves applying verses written by Paul more than twenty years later to the delivery of the Parable of the Sower. Robert Plummer recommends that a pathway for understanding Jesus’ parables comes from examining the context of each parable.12 When examining the context of the Parable of the Sower, one sees the theme of proclamation. Most scholars agree with this conclusion. Tom Johnston does not mince words when examining the nature of the fruit of the Fourth-Soil Person as related to the context of proclamation.

In the context it is most logical that the fruit in question is the Word of the gospel sown in the lives of others, in other words, multiplying believers; to see fruit in this context as anything else, such as merely the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), the fruit of one’s words (James 3:12), or the fruit of one’s teaching (Mt. 7:15–20), seems quite shallow and/or avoiding the obvious.13

Remaining within the context of the parable, Earle Ellis recognizes the nature of the Fourth-Soil Person’s fruit, “Only the last [good soil] produces the fruit of witnessing and obedience.”14 Clearly the result of witnessing involves either rejection or acceptance of the gospel (i.e., the winning of souls). “Obedience” in this context likely carries a narrow meaning of “doing the Word” (see Luke 8:21), which is to sow the Word of God (i.e. proclamation) rather than a broad meaning of obeying all of God’s commands.


Over the centuries, the Parable of the Sower has been subjected to attempts of making the parable difficult to understand. Lurking in the shadows of many missionary training programs is the belief that aggressive proclamation as seen in the parable represents an outdated model. A relational, nonconfrontational, and “earn their trust before sharing” idea of evangelism represents the best approach for today. The problem with this ideology is that you will not find it in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus’ approach takes this ideology into account; the Fourth- Soil Person uses this approach to win all of his friends and family (the oikos factor). Missionaries and cultural outsiders are not Fourth-Soil People in new mission fields. Their job is to find Fourth-Soil People through large- scale seed sowing campaigns so that Fourth-Soil People will believe and then begin the process of launching a movement in their communities.


1 Steven Pither, The Complete Book of Numbers: The Power of Number Symbols to Shape Reality (St. Paul, MN: Llewelyn, 2002), 214.

2 John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 530.

3 Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible 2009.

4 Theodore J. Weeden, “Recovering the Parabolic Intent in the Parable of the Sower,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 48, no 1 (1979): 97. Weeden goes on to give a glimpse of hope that today we can more fully understand the meaning of the parable of the sower using insights of ontology, epistemology, and the phenomenology of language.

5 Peter Rhea Jones, “The Modern Study of Parables,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 22 (1980): 7.

6 Robert Stein,  “The Parables of Jesus in Recent Study,” Word & World 5, no. 3 (1985): 248.

7 Ibid., 249. Stein states, “a parable is essentially a single metaphor with one basic point of reference,” 250.

8 Brad McCoy, “The Parable of the Sower,” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 5, no. 3 (July–September 1999): 2. McCoy views “the key to interpreting the parable is to recognize that only the first soil refers to unregenerate individuals.”

9 Lloyd Olsen, Eternal Security: Once Saved Always Saved (Mustang, OK: Tate, 2007), 180.

10 Mary Ann Tolbert, Sowing the Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1989), 128.

11  See Herschel Hobbs, An Exposition of the Four Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1966), 138.

12 Robert Plummer, “Parables in the Gospels: History of Interpretation and Hermeneutical Guidelines,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 13, no. 3 (2009): 5.

13 Tom Johnston, “The Parable of the Sower,” chap. 25, Evangelizology (2015 unpublished edition) 25:995, accessed July 21, 2015, []

14  Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 126.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Faith - With Evaluation and Change - Yields Much Fruit

Faith - With Evaluation and Change - Yields Much Fruit

Some people are addicted to change. They love it! Most of us hate it. We like things to be predictable and stable. A distaste for change, however, blocks the path to seeing a multiplying movement of disciples making disciples.

Let me begin with a confession. I am often in the category of those who dislike change.

My husband has a very annoying habit (to me, not him!) of taking new routes when going somewhere. I get in the car, expecting to relax and serenely ride to the movies on our date night. Soon I notice we are on an unfamiliar road. In panic (okay, not exactly panic – but with some anxiety) I say “Honey, aren’t we going to the movies? Where in the world are we?”

Suddenly the great adventurer, he replies, “I thought we would try a different way to get there.” Arghhhh! No! I just wanted a relaxing and predictable evening.

Change. It isn’t comfortable for most people, myself included. A willingness to evaluate and revise what we do, though, is vital if we want to release a Disciple Making Movement (DMM).

Faith Gets Us Started, But We Can’t Stop There

Hebrews 11:6 says, “It is impossible to please God without faith” (NLT). Faith is the birth place of a movement. Dreaming of seeing thousands upon thousands from your Unreached People Group worshiping Jesus – it’s a foundational first step.

Can you close your eyes and see it? Disciples making disciples? Groups of disciples starting new groups in new neighborhoods in a natural, organic way? This multiplication bringing cultural and community transformation that sweeps through your region? Without that powerful vision of hope strong in your heart, a movement is unlikely.

Faith is the beginning point. It is also this passionate dream that keeps us pressing forward when the going gets tough.

Together with sincere faith and vision, there must also be a genuine willingness to constantly examine what we are doing in relation to the goal of multiplying discipleship groups.

If our current efforts are not creating those results, we must be willing to do some painful work - changing how we do ministry. We may even need to change what we believe about ministry. If we are experiencing only addition growth rather than multiplication, it means we must take a hard look at our methods and activities. This is not easy. It can, in fact, be deeply distressing. This process is necessary, though, to release a DMM. 

Parable of the Barren Fig Tree – Luke 13:6-9

Jesus tells a disturbing story in Luke 13 about a fig tree that didn’t bear fruit. The parable is about a man who planted a fig tree in his garden. Every time he checked on the tree, no fruit was to be found. This disappointed him.

“Finally, he said to his gardener. “I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.” (Luke 13:7- NLT).

The gardener who daily tended the plants, asked the owner for time to do a few things differently. He said he would fertilize the tree and give it special attention. If after one more year it still didn’t produce fruit, he would cut it down.

This story is an apt illustration of how unfruitful discipleship activities take up space in our lives. If after adjusting a few elements these tasks and projects still don’t produce fruit, we need to be willing to remove them. We need to make room for new things to grow.

Shifting to Just-In-Time Training

For twenty-eight years I worked in an organization that was very innovative when it began. Like all organizations though, certain patterns of operating became deeply established. One accepted system was how we train. There was a particular formula used to structure training. The vast majority of training programs followed that approach.

We used this established method for many years to train both national and international church planters with the goal of seeing them start DMMs. The problem was, we didn’t see very many movements. We saw some, but they were few and far between.

Our flagship training program was well known in our organization. It was the accepted and familiar program for those who wanted to do church planting among unreached peoples. An honest examination, however, showed that it wasn’t producing the results we dreamed of. Though once fruitful, it now neither attracted many students to attend, nor resulted in numerous rapidly multiplying churches being started.

It was painful to even admit that. Thinking about doing something different was difficult! I felt personally attached to this particular training program. There had initially been some good results. I had fond memories of those early victories. Some significant churches started among unreached peoples! I’d made a heavy personal investment of time, money and prayer—developing this program in our area.

Mediocre or Meaningful

Audrey Malphurs wrote in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, “When you avoid honest, objective assessment, you are opting for comfort over courage and ministry mediocrity over meaningful ministry.” When I took a hard, critical and honest look at things, I had to admit that the results we were getting from this training were mediocre.

Passion in my heart to see more lost people know Jesus, and the overwhelming spiritual need of the unreached compelled me to ruthlessly assess what we were doing. I asked further questions.

          How effective was this method of training really?

Were just a few believers and churches started by the students in our training enough in comparison with the massive need of the lost around us?

          Was it truly worth the huge investment of time and personnel to keep this training running?

Henry Cloud writes in his excellent book, Necessary Endings, about positive power of hopelessness. We must become “hopeless” to the point where we are willing to stop what we are doing. Only then will we have the space and energy to start new and more effective activities. When we finally reach that hopeless point, God has us where He wants us. Instead of doing something He spoke to us about doing ten or fifteen years ago, or maybe even just one or two years ago, we are willing to listen to Him speak afresh.

  • What is on God’s heart to do now?
  • What is needed to take things forward?
  • Do we have other options?
  • Are there any innovative approaches with which we could experiment?

When we are stuck in a particular methodology, strategy or way of operating, we don’t ask those questions. We just run the program. We just keep doing what we have been doing, hoping for a different result. Small adjustments are made and we may even fill out evaluation forms. But our mindset is already set. We keep doing what we have always been doing.

Getting to where I was willing to evaluate and experiment with new things created a shift. Our team moved to a

Just-In-Time training ( approach using much shorter classroom training periods with application and coaching in between. We began to filter, only inviting those who were applying the material to the next trainings. Other adjustments were also made.

These changes were hard. They made many people uncomfortable—even angry. Passionate commitment to fulfilling the vision God gave us to release movements propelled us forward and through these challenges.

The result? Instead of seeing third generation growth of discipleship groups after twenty years, we began to see it happening within one or two years. Rather than thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of discipleship effort into people who later decided they weren’t that interested in seeing a disciple making movement, we invested about 10% of our previous time and money and in some locations we saw thousands become Jesus followers through the trainees. We are still learning and evaluating, but already the results are bearing much fruit.

Be Hopeless Enough To Change

Dan Allender, in his book, Leading with A Limp, quotes a man named Stockdale. The context is slightly different, but I love this quote as I think about starting Disciple Making Movements. He writes, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

The illustration above, how we evaluated and changed the way we trained, is just one example. The principle (faith

+ evaluation + change = greater fruit) applies to disciple- making efforts on many different levels. Think about

it related to how you are doing evangelism, how you mobilize, or how you invite people to make a decision for Christ. It applies to how you are learning language, to friendship evangelism strategies, to contextualization, to leadership development and more.

If you are not yet getting the kind of results that match the dream God has put in your heart for a movement, don’t despair. Evaluate. Be courageous. Be “hopeless” enough to do something different. Experiment and try something new. Most of all, go back to God and ask Him what He wants to do now. God is incredibly creative! He is never stuck or out of great ideas for how to bring about His kingdom fruit.

What are you doing right now that is not bearing the fruit you hope for? 

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

A Word of Counsel to UPG Initiatives

A Word of Counsel to UPG Initiatives

According to Joshua Project, 41.5 percent of the world’s population is unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Additionally, statistics show an imbalance of Christian workers—despite the great need among unreached people groups (UPGs), most missionaries and funding go to reached areas.

In recent years, these statistics have led to a concerted drive to reach the unreached people groups of the world.

This is all good! Actually, it is fantastic!

But I have a concern with how we go about reaching them. The editor of Mission Frontiers, Rick Wood, once wrote:

It is not enough just to send missionaries to every tribe and tongue. If we bring an incomplete or culture- bound gospel along with an ineffective model of doing discipleship, then we have failed.1

I have seen, read, and heard of Western-driven UPG efforts that employ short-term teams and use foreign funding to drive these initiatives. Well-meaning organizations based in the USA invite inexperienced people to sign up and go to the UPGs they serve, under their guidance, for short-term mission trips. Recruiting images show young white people standing among indigenous people—or should I say standing out. These organizations with an UPG emphasis raise money to fund key aspects of their UPG model of mission, such as building training centers, paying local church planter salaries, creating materials and so forth. This brings me back to Rick Wood’s quote, which is worth repeating:

It is not enough just to send missionaries to every tribe and tongue. If we bring an incomplete or culture- bound gospel along with an ineffective model of doing discipleship, then we have failed.2

If we want to reach the unreached for many generations—a goal that includes cascading multiplication (disciples to disciples) and generational multiplication (parents to children)—then we need to use models that match our drive.

Once the unreached become reached, they need to be able to pass on a culturally relevant gospel and make disciples from community to community without being dependent on outsiders or giving the impression that foreigners drive Christianity in their context. If the UPG mission effort starts with lots of white people coming and going through STM and foreign funding, we give locals a model that cannot be easily sustained or reproduced based on their own initiative and determination.

The best strategic question I have ever encountered was captured by my friend and mentor, Allen Swanson, in an article he wrote based on his service in Taiwan. The question was originally posed by Sidney J.W. Clark, whom I have quoted repeatedly in some of my recent books (such as Standing On Our Own Feet and Go Light! Go Local!: A Conscientious Approach to Short-term Missions). Clark raised this question nearly eighty years ago:

The question as to whether work at any point of its development can still be maintained by the people if it is left by the missionary, forms the best test of the soundness of our mission policies.3

I suggest that all of us adopt this question to help us shape sound cross-cultural mission paradigms.

This is just a friendly word of counsel to those of us who care about UPGs. Let’s convert Rick Wood’s words and make them our aim: Let’s send missionaries to every tribe and tongue. Then, let’s plant a holistically reproducible and culturally relevant gospel along with an effective model of doing discipleship for the cultural insiders, in the short-term and over the long-term.


1 2 Rick Wood, Editorial Comment in “Africa: Hope in the Midst of Darkness,” Mission Frontiers, November–December 2011.

3 Quoted in Allen Swanson, “The Money Problem,” World Encounter: Taiwan – New Strategy for the Seventies, June 1969, Volume 6.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: American Context

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: American Context

A couple of years ago on a college campus, I watched a group of college students help their fellow student find his lost dorm key in a grassy field. The student could not retrace his exact steps, so his fellow students searched and roamed aimlessly.

To expedite the search, I stepped in and asked the students to form one line and walk together in unison, covering one section at a time. In a matter of moments, the students swept the field and the student was reunited with his key. Inside a missionary’s target working area awaits a movement catalyst. Jesus not only provided us His plan for finding fourth-soil individuals; He modeled it in pre-Pentecost Galilee.

Let’s apply lessons learned from Jesus and his ministry to the U.S. context and use all the tools and resources available to help missionaries find Fourth-Soil People among the many unreached people groups residing within our borders. Churches as well can adopt unreached people groups in specific geographic locations. Plans and tools are only beneficial when used.

Establish a Target

Jesus began His ministry with a specific target, the lost house of Israel in Galilee. In my own ministry, I discovered that when I did not have a specific target, I hit nothing. As well, when I had multiple targets, I also failed because of distractions. The first step of establishing an unreached people group movement in the U.S. involves choosing a people group or population segment within a geographic location. This represents your Galilee. Keepin mind that Jesus’ seed-sowing ministry in Galilee lasted one to two years. Patience and extended commitment to the goal of finding movement catalysts are required.

A valuable tool assisting missionaries to establish their target people group or population segment in a geographic location is available from Mapping Center for Evangelism and Church Growth1 (, which uses the latest consumer data (used by Fortune 500 companies for marketing purposes) and merges it with current mapping technology. With the Mapping Center tool, I created my Galilee in my city. The map below showed me 2,761 probable Muslim homes, representing my target people group. To help me systematically sow my field with the gospel, I used natural boundary lines (major roads) to create smaller sowing fields (second map).





After one year of work, 811 of 2,761 resident homes of my target people group received a knock on the door. Residents at home during our seed-sowing campaigns (20 percent were home) heard the gospel, and we gave them a copy of the Gospel of Luke and a JESUS film. For the remaining 80 percent we left in a pouch hung on their door the Gospel of Luke and a JESUS film.

Besides going door to door, our team of missionaries interact with Muslims in and around our Galilee by eating at Muslim restaurants, frequenting the many mosques, shopping at Muslim stores and interacting with them at soccer games. Most of the thirty-four Muslims who professed Jesus as their Savior up to this point came through a team member living in a Muslim-majority apartment complex. Along with volunteers, our mission team averages sixty gospel shares per month in and around our Galilee. We estimate a total of two years to cover our Galilee, as best as we know how, as Jesus covered his Galilee. At this point, three of the thirty-four former Muslims shared the gospel with immediate family members, the remaining lived in fear or worry about how to survive financially.

We Are Not the Only Sowers in Our Galilee

Unlike Jesus’ Galilee, our Galilee had sowers living within its borders before we adopted the target area. In a highly restricted Muslim country, one of my team members visited a like-minded mission organization conducting a Bible correspondence program with thousands of Muslim graduates. The team member visited the Bible correspondence office and asked for assistance in locating a person. The Bible correspondence representative gladly responded with an offer to help, but he needed a description of the person the missionary had in mind. The missionary asked if any of their graduates met the profile of a Fourth-Soil Person. From the description, a representative of the Bible correspondence arranged for my team member to meet three graduates. From those three former Muslims, more than five hundred Muslims had accepted Jesus as their Savior and received baptism.

Considering this, our hometown team spends a fourth of its time connecting with churches in our Galilee asking if they know of any Muslim converts who meet the profile of a Fourth-Soil Person. Many churches have ESL programs or refugee ministries; we ask them the same. Churches and organizations often serve as lighthouses for Fourth-Soil People and need to be trained in what to do and not do with potential movement catalysts.

Preaching an accurate understanding of the Parable of the Sower to churches has a correlation with the FBI’s actions of disseminating their “Top 10 Most Wanted” list, which contains profiles of people they intend to find. Every opportunity I have to speak at a church, I exposit the Parable of the Sower and use it as a means of disseminating my “Top Fourth-Soil Most Wanted” list. Knowing that church members work alongside, sit next to at school, shop from, and do business with the people group in my target Galilee, my goal involves presenting a profile of fourth-soil individuals so that church members will in turn inform me of potential Fourth-Soil People sightings.

Hot Coals

Jesus mobilized 120 Galileans from the Galilean movement to ignite the Jerusalem movement on Pentecost. A strategy growing in popularity outside the U.S. that should be employed in the U.S. involves temporarily extracting fourth-soil individuals from existing overseas movements and dropping them into a U.S. missionary’s Galilee. From a single hot coal of a fire, many new fires can ignite. Because a “hot coal” (person) comes from the same or near-culture targeted people group and has experience with the makings of a movement, a hot coal comes with advantages over an American missionary. With this approach, the Fourth- Soil Person works in the missionary’s Galilee to find Fourth-Soil People and does so without the oikos factor. Faced with a situation of not having the Fourth-Soil Person’s oikos, a hot coal must function as a sower, same as the missionary. From my experience with the hot-coal strategy, hot coals typically sow on a level that typically supersedes the work of the missionary. In my state, two Hindu temples and one mosque have been closed due to the work of overseas hot coals.


The Parable of the Sower informs missionaries that a catalyst for a fourth-soil movement exists, and the process of finding this person occurs best through large-scale, gospel-sowing campaigns followed by careful examination of germinated seeds (new believers). The usefulness of the parable for missionaries stands on many factors, including the use of good hermeneutics to understand the parable, the missionary assuming the role of the sower rather than of the Fourth-Soil Person, and the missionary viewing the Parable of the Sower as the best approach for multiplicative results. 


1 The Mapping Center claims their accuracy of data is 86 percent accurate. Data for apartment complexes appear less accurate. All information is public data, and the program includes numerous features assisting missionaries not only to identify a people group, but also to keep track with seed-sowing progress.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Modern Day Application Using the Parable of the Sower as a Field Guide

Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Modern Day Application Using the Parable of the Sower as a Field Guide

Applying the Parable of the Sower as a mission-field guide may represent a new concept for many missionaries, but I propose that the first generation of disciples likely knew this approach well. The word approach may be interchanged with strategy, modus operandi, or plan. Missionaries with varying backgrounds prefer different ways of saying this.

You may think I am reading and applying the Parable of the Sower on a literal level beyond Jesus’ intent. I know of no better way to understand this parable than to approach it in this manner. Before entering into the project of applying the Parable of the Sower among the Ro (a pseudonym) people group, I spent two years in a seminary environment engaged in research on the Parable of the Sower.

For Jesus to place His field strategy within a parable is ingenious. Encapsulating the lesson in a parable has enabled it to travel across time and cultures. Missionaries longing to work as Jesus did and see results that He experienced in pre-Pentecost Galilee will find value in taking the parable off the pages of Scripture and applying it in the field. Yet in my research journey, I found no scholar or preacher recommending literal application of the parable as a means of understanding Jesus’ original intent. Simple obedience, rather than intellectual contemplation, may represent the key to understanding the parable. Remember, it was farmers and fishermen who represented the original recipients of the parable.

My own application of the Parable of the Sower as field strategy took place in June 2017. I will present this application portion of my findings in steps, beginning with the selection of a target geographic location and, within that target area, a people group. Weekly follow-up took place, up to the writing of this article, for a total of ten months. Again, I have used pseudonyms to protect the identity of participants.

Step 1: Establishing a “Galilee”

The square mileage of Galilee in the time of Jesus mirrors the state of Rhode Island, roughly two thousand square miles.

The South Asian district chosen for the project contains 2,400 square miles. Historians estimate a broad range of two hundred thousand to three million residents in Jesus’ Galilee. The population of my target people group, the Muslim Ro people, stood at five hundred thousand at the commencement of the project. Living as minorities in the district, the Ro people suffer and face tremendous hardships.

Step 2: Believe in a Potential Harvest

The parable’s climax moves past three soils with negative results and escalates to a surprising end, the discovery

of hundredfold-producing individuals. Since we know the end of the parable, missionaries approaching their “Galilee” should assume an attitude of confidence. I personally believe that the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Priceless Pearl (apparently told not long after the delivery of the Parable of the Sower) were used by Jesus to explain His attitude when approaching new communities in Galilee. The treasure likely represents the harvest coming from the Fourth-Soil Person.

To build up my confidence that a harvest awaited among the Ro people in the district, one year prior to the project I requested and arranged for a team of two near-culture evangelists to travel to the district and share the gospel among the Ro people. They functioned like the spies whom Moses sent ahead of the Israelites. The evangelists returned with amazing stories of Ro people responding to the gospel. On their journey they led eight Ro to faith and baptized them. I shared this report with a church in Houston, explaining that I believed a large harvest awaited among the Ro people. The church agreed to send volunteers and to finance the project.

Step 3: Broad Seed Sowing Campaign

Applying the Parable of the Sower required a season of gospel sowing in the form of evangelism campaigns. For the initial campaign, I attempted to reconstruct Jesus’ deployment of the seventy-two disciples. Eight American volunteers traveled to the South Asian district. As Jesus used disciples from the harvest in upper Galilee to seed lower Galilee, I arranged sixty-five disciples from the Way of Peace movement (from a neighboring district; with ten thousand baptized believers; see article on page 17) to join the project. In total, seventy-two disciples went out for three days boldly sharing the gospel.

Orientation occurred the evening before deployment. The seventy-two disciples were asked to forgo their normal approach to engaging lost people and adopt Jesus’ approach of “preach and heal.” For healing training we simply read three of Jesus’ healing episodes, analyzed what He said and how He healed, then agreed as a group to do the same. The main training involved the reading of the Parable of the Sower followed by explanation and specific instructions for field application.

Our group of seventy-two disciples, traveling in pairs, agreed to begin all engagements with Ro people by stating, “We are men of God and have come to your community to pray for sick people.” After prayer, the disciples would share the gospel; Jesus is holy, paid our penalty when He died, rose from the dead; we believe that Jesus alone can get us to heaven. The second portion of the orientation was given equal importance to the first portion. When a Ro person agreed to believe the gospel message, the disciples began analyzing and categorizing responses using the Parable of the Sower.

Step 4: Analyze Germinated Responses

In John 4:34–38, the disciples return to meet Jesus after his encounter at the Samaritan well, where a woman immediately believed and returned to her town telling others about her experience. The disciples, not fully understanding the situation, prompted Jesus to explain how quickly a harvest can occur: “the sower and the reaper can rejoice together” (4:36). With that statement, Jesus taught the disciples to expect immediate positive responses; in the case of the woman at the well, they experienced large positive results. With this in mind and knowing that I would ask them to report on actions and statements from positive responders, our seventy-two disciples prepared to analyze this portion of the project.

I provided our seventy-two disciples with specific examples of statements and actions coming from the positive responders. Positive responders who received the gospel but stated they would not share the gospel with their oikos due to fear of persecution we labeled as second- soil individuals. Positive responders who made statements such as “I cannot share this with my family and friends because I will lose everything” would be labeled as third- soil individuals. Our disciples were not asked to keep track of second- and third-soil responders, only fourth-soil responders (individuals who stated that they would share the gospel with their family and friends or immediately began to share the gospel with their family and friends).


After three full days of sharing the gospel, our group of seventy-two disciples debriefed in pairs, totaling thirty-six interviews. With elation, these disciples related more than twenty stories of Ro people being healed or stating that they felt better. A total 681 Ro people heard the gospel, and 399 Ro individuals responded positively that they now believed Jesus was their Savior and that there was no other way to heaven but through him. From the 399 positive responses, the disciple teams reported that 98 persons fit the descriptions of the Fourth-Soil Person. Narrowing down the 98, we identified seven individuals whom we would closely monitor over the next ten months.

Three Examples of How the Disciples Identified Fourth-Soil Individuals

When the disciples entered into “G’s” community and shared the gospel, G believed and immediately gathered twelve of his family and friends to sit and listen to the disciple team retell the gospel story. Upon visiting G’s house one day later, the disciple team witnessed an angry group of Islamic religious leaders entering G’s house with threats to everyone in the room to reject the message of the disciples. After the leaders left, G told those remaining in his house not to listen to the religious leaders because their message does not offer salvation. Revisiting G’s house the next day, the disciple team discovered that G had shared the gospel with additional neighbors. Over the past ten months, G has baptized twenty-two of his family and friends.

After hearing and receiving the gospel from a disciple team, “A” immediately invited the disciple team to his house and called twenty of his neighbors to come listen to the gospel. A believed the gospel and asked for prayer. After the prayer, A said, “You gave us good news for  how we can go to heaven. We should tell this good news to others.” Over the past ten months, A has baptized twenty-six Ro individuals.

After “K” heard the gospel and believed, the disciple team heard K say, “I have to tell this message to my family and friends.” A few weeks later, K brought twenty-five of his family and friends to a gospel-sharing event hosted by the follow-up team. After ten months, K has seventeen baptized individuals in his emerging network.

The follow-up team keeps track of the seven individuals identified as potential Fourth-Soil People because of their immediate actions of sharing the gospel with their oikos, regardless of threats and concerns. From the seven potential fourth-soil individuals, a total of 163 (research includes generation tracking) Ro people have been baptized. A second seed-sowing campaign in new areas of the district took place three months ago in which more than three hundred received Jesus as their Savior and thirty-five experienced baptism. The follow-up team continues the work with ongoing Bible training for all new believers.

Connecting the Finding Fourth-Soil Project to Four Fields

For missionaries familiar with Four Fields training (see diagram below), the Finding Fourth-Soil project takes place within field 2. Progressing from fields 2 and 3 occurs when new believers emerge from gospel-seed-sowing campaigns. Missionaries moving their ministry into fields 3 and 4  with many new second- and third-soil (nonreproducing) believers requires the missionary to take on a role as a motivator to get second- and third- soil individuals to reproduce. Progressing into field 3 with multiple Fourth- Soil People reproducing new believers represents a healthy emerging movement in which the missionary’s role appears much different from that of a motivator.

The Finding Fourth-Soil People project demonstrates that patience and hard work in discovering multiple Fourth-Soil individuals using the Parable of the Sower as a strategy plan makes a great impact on a people group and aligns the missionary’s ministry with Jesus’ model in pre- Pentecost Galilee. The temptation to move quickly out of field 2 with a handful of new believers to begin forming churches limits a missionary to a mode of “growth by addition.” Finding and investing in fourth-soil individuals can catalyze the work from “growth by addition” to “a movement of multiplication.”

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

Kingdom Kernels: Death: the Spiritual Triggering Effect

Kingdom Kernels: Death: the Spiritual Triggering Effect

I had just flown in from the middle of the Church-Planting Movement (CPM) we helped catalyze in the mountains of a highly restrictive country in Asia. I landed in a world very different from my mission experience—a traditional field with over 100 years of mission work, churches of all denominations and mature seminaries. Yet, despite the large number of indigenous Christians, it was a field in which the kingdom had plateaued and was now in decline. 

Describing our case study of explosive Spirit-empowered growth in Asia, I encouraged the brothers and sisters that God could do the same in their countries. One missionary objected. “Well! If we just had persecution like you have in Asia, we too would have movements.” 

Coming from a world of interrogations, imprisonments, ostracization and beatings, I grew livid at such a comment as if we desired persecution. What this brother failed to recognize is that persecution can either fuel

or quench a budding movement. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described the second soil: …When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matt. 13:21, ESV)

Jesus warned that persecution can easily stop any growth that has occurred. In Asia, persecution was not fueling our movement; boldness and perseverance in the face of persecution were. I have yet to see a CPM emerge on any of the six continents where persecution in some form did not have to be overcome by Christians.

In my Mission Frontiers articles over the last few years, I’ve dealt with many principles related to cooperating with the Spirit of God in launching CPMs. I have alluded to the element I call “death” which is an essential for movements, but have not dedicated an article to it. I take this term “death” directly from Jesus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24, ESV, emphasis added)

Jesus was describing His upcoming death which would make way for the fruit of salvation among the nations. He chose not to shy away from the cross despite the immense cost. Again, boldness and perseverance in the face of persecution.

Jesus was also describing the path that every disciple must walk—the way of the cross—if we are going to bear lasting fruit. As Paul said, it is costly to do God’s bidding—dying to self, beatings, ridicule, shipwrecks, imprisonment, betrayal, even physical death. Paul described this endurance by the same term:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4:8-12, ESV, emphasis added)

Paul, with the other apostles, chose not to be intimidated by difficulty. Again, boldness and perseverance in the face of persecution.

The elements of disciple-making movements are not unlike a rocket ready upon the launchpad. The rocket is fully assembled (e.g. all of the mechanics of the strategy). The right trajectory is loaded into the ship-board computer  (e.g. vision). The fuel tanks are topped up (e.g. the spiritual dynamics of abiding in Christ and prayer). Even so, the rocket will not take off; it is just ready to take off.

What takes it from “ready” to “take-off”? Ignition. Someone must push the triggering button to ignite  the engines to hurl the rocket into space. “Death” is the spiritual triggering effect of every movement of God. Until a servant of God is willing to pay the price, CPM elements remain a theory in the laboratory. Until a servant of God takes the time to hit the streets, meet with ridicule, endure false accusations, sacrifice personal priorities, joyfully receive imprisonment and even pay with his or her physical life, a movement is only ready to ignite. But in reality, it slumbers on the launchpad. 

When I train disciples around the world, I always take time to focus on persecution and difficulty. I ask this critical question: “Do you really want a movement of God knowing what it will cost?”To help them have a biblical perspective, we study the gospels and the book of Acts examining the price disciples paid to launch movements all over the Roman empire.

In those movements, the evangelistic teams suffered. Their families suffered. Their new disciples suffered. 

Before reading any further (or for additional study) I invite you to examine the following ten passages. Take ten sheets of paper and divide them into four quadrants. Answer the following questions, spread them out side-by- side and look for patterns. 

Ten Passages from Acts

  1. 3:1-4:31 Peter & John arrested
  2. 5:12-42 Apostles arrested
  3. 6:8 – 8:4 Stephen martyred
  4. 12:1-24 James killed; Peter in prison
  5. 13:13-52 Paul & Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch
  6. 14:1-28 Paul & Barnabas in Iconium, Lystra, Derbe
  7. 16:16-40 Paul & Silas in Philippi
  8. 17:1-15 Paul & Silas in Thessalonica & Berea
  9. 18:1-17 Paul & Silas in Corinth
  10. 19:8 – 20:1 Paul & team in Ephesus 

Four Questions

  • What started the persecution?
  • Who did the persecuting?
  • How did the evangelists respond?
  • What were the results of the persecution (good or bad)? 


What started the persecution?

Invariably persecution arose because ordinary disciples opened their mouths in difficult environments to proclaim the gospel boldly. Sometimes miracles were associated with their proclamation. But always there was a clear, culturally understandable, verbal presentation about Jesus. This happened even in harsh environments with opposition from Jewish leaders, government leaders, citizens, businesses, and demonic powers.

It was not just the proclamation of the gospel that started the persecution, but the fact that dozens, hundreds and even thousands of new disciples were attracted from the old way of life to a new life in Christ. This frequently sparked jealousy among those of the status quo.

There is an important lesson we can learn from this: if you don’t want to be persecuted, don’t boldly proclaim the gospel or make loving, Bible-obeying disciples of those who believe. Yet, according to the Great Commission, this is not an option! Persecution hounds real Christianity. Paul wrote:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra— which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:10-12, ESV, emphasis added)

Who did the persecuting?

Typically, three major groups were the sources of persecution, sometimes coordinating their efforts. The first group was the religious community. In a great number of these passages, the Jewish leaders (believers in the Scriptures) were incensed about the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, often inciting riots or government arrest of the evangelists.

It is not uncommon today for religious leaders to incite persecution. It’s one thing for Hindu fundamentalists or Muslim radicals to do so. But imagine the great pain when CPM initiators find themselves attacked by respected Christian leaders of well-established churches! In our work in Asia, leaders of government-sanctioned churches frequently turned in house churches to the local authorities.

Even in the West, church leaders often lead the charge in ridiculing movement efforts. Rather than biblically going in private to meet with those they ridicule to try to love, understand and build unity, they publicly malign hard-working servants of God. At the same time, CPM initiators must guard themselves from becoming proud or divisive, and justly inviting criticism.

In Acts, the second group that persecuted was the government. Just as Pilate worried about his appearance and control, thus condemning Jesus, so also these government leaders became nervous as a new kingdom— though not a political one—spread under their watch.

Especially under authoritarian regimes, government persecution is quite common and sometimes tipped off by religious leaders or local citizens in the community. Government persecution frequently results in interrogations, imprisonment and even martyrdom. Though it may not make the news, in two thousand years of church history, persecution has never been greater than it is today.

In Acts, the third group to persecute were local citizens that were concerned about the impact of the spread of the gospel. Sometimes they were business leaders like the Ephesian silversmiths or Philippian fortune-tellers who were losing business. At other times, they were ordinary people who were stirred to riot over concern about their way of life being jeopardized.

In many places around the world, neighbors are the ones to turn house churches in to the police. At other times, mobs form to attack the homes of those who have left the local religion. Sometimes, families ostracize a new believing family member and after beatings, they then hold a funeral over this one who is now dead to them. At other times, believing family members are locked up and put through a deluge of weeks of re-indoctrination.

In our Asian CPM, neighbors in the village came to two believing families to collect a 75-cent annual fee to purchase and kill a pig to sacrifice to demons. As the believers examined the Scriptures, they felt convicted not to pay for food offered to idols. A mob damaged their homes and tore down the walls on their centuries-old rice terraces. Without home or livelihood, both families were forced to flee for their lives.

Yet in all of the cases cited, the new disciples faced these persecutions with boldness and perseverance. They were willing to die in order to live for their faith.

This has always been the secret of disciples of Jesus overcoming difficulty and becoming movements of God—they love not their lives even unto death:

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death(Rev. 12:11, ESV, emphasis added)

How did the evangelists respond?

In the ten passages in Acts, the evangelists refused to be quieted.

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20, ESV)

Jesus had taught the disciples to share the gospel and make disciples, and to expect difficulty in doing so (Matt. 10:16ff). Because they expected it, persecution did not quench the zeal for their work.

In addition, the evangelists frequently responded with rejoicing in the midst of persecution, bearing witness to their tormentors, encouraging local believers to remain steadfast, and sometimes fleeing to the next places to continue preaching the good news.

For them, persecution was part and parcel of normal Great Commission work. The religious freedom we have experienced in the West over the last 250 years has been a brief blip on the timeline of church history. Normal church history involves persecution for believers who are serious about their faith. Let us not bemoan the fact that even in the West persecution is rising. Though we don’t relish it (and can sometimes pass laws to minimize it), this is normal and to be expected.

What were the results of the persecution (good or bad?)

In all cases in Acts, the Word of the Lord continued to spread relentlessly. There was no promise that the evangelists would be delivered from persecution in this life. They were imprisoned, interrogated, beaten and even killed (both Stephen and James the Apostle). Though not always delivered physically, they were always delivered eternally:

I know that through your prayers and the help of   the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope  that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:19-21, ESV, emphasis added)

At times the evangelists were miraculously delivered from their situation. They were filled with joy when it made no sense. They were guided clearly by the Holy Spirit as God’s presence rested heavily upon them. Whether physically delivered or not, they stood up to persecution with boldness and perseverance.

Only “death” produces fruit. When disciples of Jesus joyfully endure difficulty, the kingdom of God multiplies. When disciples withdraw under the pressure, the kingdom wanes in that area. Most of us will not die, but all of us must pay some price. We must die to ourselves to fulfill God’s agendas. Only then does the Spirit rest heavily upon us:

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Pet. 4:14, ESV)

We must prepare ourselves and disciples we train to prepare to boldly and joyfully endure persecution. This Acts study is one resource to help do that. And prepare you must, for no movement occurs until the spiritual triggering effect of death is activated.

In the early days of African evangelization, missionaries packed their belongings in a wooden coffin for the long ship ride. With disease and opposition, they knew they would likely only have a few months or years to proclaim the good news. We must live with the same spirit.

I recall an evening in Asia where my wife and I called our three young sons into the bedroom to ask them this question: “If it cost Mommy or Daddy our lives so that our people group could receive the gospel, would it be worth it?” We all agreed that it would, and the gospel eventually spread like wildfire. We did not die during that time (though we experienced many other difficulties), but the life-threatening cancer I now carry in my body apparently came through the parasites I picked up in those remote mountains.

We would all say it was worth it because Jesus Christ is worthy of praise from every tongue, tribe, people and nation. Knowing the cost, do you want God to start a movement through you?


1 Steffen, Tom 1974 Passing the Baton: Church Planting that Empowers. La Habra, CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development, 4.

2 Johnson, Jean 2012 We Are Not The Hero: A Missionary’s Guide For Sharing Christ, Not A Culture of Dependency, Sisters, Oregon: DeepRiver Books, 175.

This is an article from the July-August 2018 issue: Finding “Fourth-Soil” People

24:14 Coalition Update Video May

24:14 Coalition Update Video May

For the latest 24:14 Coalition video update, go to

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Regardless of Opposition Our Mission Remains Unalterable

Regardless of Opposition Our Mission Remains Unalterable

North Korea! Perhaps no country on earth right now is at a more critical juncture in its history: determining whether its future is one of increased engagement with the world resulting in greater peace and prosperity for its people or increased isolation and potential conflict. The stakes could not be higher. As I write, U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea or DPRK. Our hopes and prayers are that this meeting will result in a breakthrough in peaceful relations between the DPRK, the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the world. 

But whatever the outcome of these meetings may be, the mission of Jesus followers worldwide remains unchanged and unalterable. For almost 2,000 years the mission that Jesus gave us has been to go to every people, make disciples, baptize and teach them to obey all that Jesus has   commanded.   (Matt.   28:18–20) Throughout Christian history this disciple-making mission has often faced brutal opposition from various religious and political forms of government. The faithful followers of Jesus have often paid a very high price to see the gospel of the kingdom advance. 

Jesus, Peter, the Apostle Paul and the early Church lived under one of the most brutal regimes in world history—the   Roman   Empire. How did Jesus teach His followers to respond to governments like the Romans where the gospel is not welcome? Was it to resist or overthrow them? Absolutely not; just the opposite. Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.” (John 18:38) Many Jews wanted Jesus to fulfill their desire to throw off Roman oppression, but Jesus had a different mission and we are to carry on that mission today. What was the model of ministry that Jesus used? 

Luke 9:1–2 provides one answer: “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” 

Jesus told His disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God—make disciples. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus takes it a step further in verse 16 of this same chapter when He says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

This is exactly what dozens of faithful Jesus followers have been doing in North Korea for more than two decades. They have been healing the sick—providing care and hope to people trapped in desperate situations. They have been allowing the light of God’s love to shine in North Korea. Proclamation of the gospel is not permitted in North Korea. So these faithful servants of God are doing what they can to demonstrate the love of God by sacrificially serving the North Korean people. 

Our lead article, starting on page 8, is an amazing account of the tremendous efforts that have been made to ease the suffering of the North Korean people. Faithful workers have treated those with tuberculosis and hepatitis, provided clean water and much more. They have let their light shine in the darkness and brought glory to God. It is a silent but powerful witness that the Holy Spirit can use to change hearts and minds—and perhaps even the destiny of an entire people. 

These faithful servants of the North Korean people are following in the honored footsteps of previous generations of mission workers who followed the example of Jesus in healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries faithful Jesus followers intuitively employed the model of Jesus in caring for those in need regardless of whether they would ever come to faith in Jesus or not. In many parts of the world these Christian workers started the first hospitals, schools and universities. Was this a distraction from sharing the gospel or did it actually empower the message of the gospel? I think the results speak for themselves as we read of growing movements to Christ throughout Africa and Asia where meeting felt needs demonstrates the power of God’s love and makes the gospel real for people—more than just mere words. 

Regardless of the politics or leadership of any nation, our global mission is clear. Our master and king, Jesus, gave us a clear command and a clear example to follow. Now it is up to each of us to decide what part we will play. 


Here    at    Mission    Frontiers    we continue in our quest to expand the impact and influence of this publication. The reason we do this is because we exist to help accomplish God’s highest purpose—to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in all peoples so that God would receive the glory and worship He deserves. Our job here at MF is to mobilize the global church with this vision. But we can only succeed in this mission if we can gain the support and partnership of people like you. Will you help us? There are several ways that you can help. 

Give Financially: While we appreciate the sacrificial donations of those who have contributed over the last two months, donor income has not even covered the cost of printing, not to mention mailing, graphics work or new translations. If you have thought about giving, now would be a great time to do so. 

Pray: Pray that God would supernaturally open doors of opportunity for MF to spread the vision of fostering kingdom movements in all peoples. Pray that God would provide the manpower to enable us to walk through these open doors. And yes, also pray that the financial resources would be available to expand the reach and influence of MF

Share: We want the information and vision contained in MF to be spread far and wide, but we need your help to do this. Download the pdf version of any article or issue of MF and share them with your friends. Visit www. Print off as many copies of these pdfs as you like. We give free permission for people to reprint material from MF as long as they let people know it came from us. One mission agency contacted us recently and asked permission to translate one of our website postings into German. Fantastic! Keep it up. Tell your friends about our website. Order extra copies for your friends, pastor, conferences or your missions committee. If you are a missions pastor or you teach missions, order copies for your students. We will send them to you for a nominal handling fee plus the cost of shipping. Supplies are limited but we will send what we have. Join us as we cast vision through Mission Frontiers. To God be the glory! 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Kingdom Kernels

Kingdom Kernels

652. That’s the latest number of kingdom movements (Church-Planting Movements or CPMs) slaying the giants of darkness in every major religious worldview on every continent[1]: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Tribal or animist, Post-Modern, Churched societies, Post-churched societies, Academic, Rural, Urban, Highly oppressive regimes, open contexts, skeptical communities, Latino, East Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Western European, North American, North African, Middle Eastern, Iranian, Sub-Saharan African. 

With an increasing number of movements on every continent, our generation is without excuse. There is no giant of unbelief that cannot be overcome through Acts-like kingdom movements.

It has been seven years since my article on precedent and promise appeared in Mission Frontiers Mar-Apr 2011 ( has-to-be-first[2]). King David’s mighty men learned how to slay giants because they had the precedent of his defeat of Goliath. Precedent offered them hope and a model for overcoming huge problems. But before there was precedent for killing giants, the young shepherd boy David relied solely on the promises of God to defeat Goliath.

A lot has transpired in seven years. For many countries, kingdom movement strategists have lived out their strategies solely based on the promises of God with no clear modern- day precedents for CPM in their culture. However, as movements have begun proliferating in places where there had been none before, practitioners also have the power of CPM precedent in their own contexts. This precedent gives them clear models and a spirit of faith to emulate   in implementing the promise of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements in their context.

What are the elements that have led to such proliferation? Bold, faith-filled practitioners have emulated the same elements that we see in the life of David as he slew Goliath based on the promise of God alone. Upon entering the Valley of Elah where the Philistines were arrayed against the Israelites, David had a promise from God that the Promised Land should be Israel’s. Armed with the covenant promises, in courage and faith he slew a giant against all human odds, when no one else would step out against the giant. In the beginning, SOMEONE has to be FIRST when there is no precedent. When you have no precedent, all you have is the promise. But the promise is enough.

In I Samuel 17, we can highlight seven elements to emulate from the life of David in how he pulled off such an upset with only the promise before him.

1. Settle the promise in your mind and make a decision to act (I Sam. 17:31-37, ESV)

In the forty-day period of intimidation of the Israelites by Goliath, everything changed when a man of God entered the situation. I Sam. 17:23 simply says, “And David heard him.”

Someone in the multitude of Israel’s armies had to settle the truth of the promise in his mind, and then decide to act. David’s entry into the fogs of despondency    in the Valley of Elah was the beginning of enacting the promise of God and defeating the enemy. David refused to believe his eyes or the lies of the enemy, but chose instead to believe the unseen covenant promises of God. In I Sam. 17:31-37, he recounts the promises of God to his listeners and decides to act upon those promises.

Two decades ago, when our family entered a dark, unreached place in Asia, my eyes told me there was no hope for a movement. The lies the enemy whispered in my ears reaffirmed my sight. Only by abiding in God’s Word and reading the book of Acts every month could our family claim the unseen promises of God to reach our people group in power. With that perspective fixed in our minds, we then made a decision to act in expectation that the Spirit would show up in power as He promised. A movement of God was the result.

Without the right perspective and empowerment of the Spirit, actions taken toward catalyzing a movement are useless. Whether it is a shepherd boy named David or a fruitful CPM practitioner today, one perspective prevails in the minds of giant-slayers: God wants to start a movement 1) here, 2) now, 3) through me. With that fixed in their minds, fruitful giant-slayers make a decision to act. 

2. Jettison methods that don’t help (I Sam. 17:38-39, ESV) 

Our modern ministry culture excels at repeating practices and patterns that will never help us reach our goals. Perhaps it is because these methods are all we know, or perhaps it is because they are the most fruitful examples we know of. Yet somehow we assume that with more diligent effort, our results will be different.

No doubt, King Saul was well-intentioned in arming David with his own armor. Armor had worked in other situations. But forty days of lining up for battle had proven that the king’s armor was no match for the giant’s taunts. Even so, a culture of repeating failed patterns prevailed.

Though the matter was settled in his mind, David almost succumbed to failed practices of clunky armor. However, David recognized the inadequacy of such an approach and jettisoned this course of action:

“I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. (I Sam. 17:39, ESV)

Realizing that certain ministry practices do not get you to the goal of kingdom movements is a huge step forward. Jettisoning them is a gutsy decision, but one that is essential. One fruitful practitioner remarked, “I feel like I’ve restarted my CPM ministry three times!” Yet each time, after careful evaluation, he jettisoned practices that were non-reproductive and replaced them with practices that could multiply disciples and churches. Knowing what to say “no” to is as important as knowing what to say “yes” to. But then, you actually have to make the gutsy decision to change. 

3. Use proven approaches (I Sam. 17:39-40, ESV) 

Though David did not know of a precedent for killing giants, he did have the precedent that a sling and a staff could help him slay lions and bears (verses 34-36). Later, David’s mighty men had in their repertoire the precedent of David killing a giant and the pattern for doing that.

Regardless of whether you have precedent for CPM in your cultural worldview or not, there are enough movements in the world for us to know what our five smooth stones and a staff are – methods that help get to multiplication. Our generation is without excuse. No matter their names, there are enough proven methods, tools and approaches for movements: Four Fields, T4T, DMM, Zume, Discovery Bible Studies, Three Thirds, the Big One, and many others. All are examples of healthy, biblical CPM models.

Pick some proven multiplying methods in a context similar to your own and implement them with faith. In God’s timing, He will empower your efforts and those of the local disciples you invest in to result in an Acts re-emergence. You no longer need to invent your own model, or if you do, at least do so informed by proven biblical kingdom movement practices. 

4. Don’t be intimidated but remember the promise (I Sam. 17:40-47, ESV) 

As you make a decision to act with proven approaches, then comes the real test. As David walked to the battle line with his staff and slingshot, the giant began a battle of intimidation. This battle was not primarily about plans and strategy. This was a spiritual assault of fear based on the lies of the enemy. No CPM plan—no matter how effective your methods—survives the battle of intimidation without remembering the promise of God.

Goliath’s assault was nothing less than spiritual warfare—a call upon the demonic powers to inject fear into the heart of God’s servant. And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. (I Sam. 17:42, ESV)

In response, David chose not to believe his eyes (vv. 40, 43) for the giant was truly bigger. He chose not to believe the lies (v. 44) of the demonic powers. Instead, he chose to keep remembering the promise of God. He even quoted this as he advanced toward the enemy, battle plan in mind:

“I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (I Sam. 17:45, 46, 47, ESV)

At any point in the fight for a movement you can cave in to fear which paralyzes. Yet, the giant stands no chance compared to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Keep believing that God will uphold His covenant and preserve His renown.

5. Run to the battle: take initiative and work hard (I Sam. 17:48-51, ESV)

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. (I Sam. 17:48, ESV, emphasis added)

While the enemy was attempting to paralyze him, David was acting. He took the initiative and did the hard work of slaying a giant. I doubt that he had all the steps of the battle plan figured out yet. For example, did he know he would use the giant’s own sword to behead him? Subsequent steps would be figured out in the midst of battle.

Too many would-be CPM practitioners tinker endlessly in the ministry laboratory until they feel they have planned for every contingency and devised the “perfect CPM model.” Instead, effective practices are built in real time, trying them 50-100 times, tweaking, adjusting and just plain working hard. Initiative and hard work will take any visionary practitioner a long way toward multiplication, even with less-than-perfect ministry methods.

To be fruitful, we must leave the laboratory and run to the battle even before we feel fully prepared. With first steps in mind, we just start and then adjust as we go, following the Spirit’s leading. We keep updating our methods, but we don’t let tinkering in the lab keep us from the battle. 

6. Keep moving to the next stage until there is No Place Left  (I Sam. 17:54, ESV)

David refused to be satisfied with one victory, no matter how big. The promise he held onto was that all of the Promised Land would be Israel’s. Too many walled towns still held against the promises of God. 

While the people of Israel pursued the fleeing Philistines, David was preparing to move on to the next stages until ultimately there was no place left to conquer (II Sam. 7:1; this is similar to Paul in Rom. 15:23—no place left).

David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem. (I Sam. 17:54, ESV)

It is easy to forget that Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusites at this time. A mere six miles from David’s home town of Bethlehem, the walls of Jerusalem were a thorn in Israel’s side. How many times had David shepherded his flock under the shadow of Jerusalem’s walls incensed that the enemies of Israel could so publicly flaunt their resistance?

David’s  first act after defeating Goliath was to run   to the city walls and serve notice to that high place: “You’re next!” Years later, David’s first act  as  king over all Israel was to take down this bigger giant and establish his capital there (II Sam. 5:6ff). David refused to stop until there was no place left to conquer.

Effective CPM practitioners are not satisfied with half victories. They do not stop the advance until all people have had a chance to hear and respond to the good news. In the global 24:14 Coalition, we have refused to be satisfied with 652 CPMs. We will press on so that every unreached people and place is engaged with an effective CPM strategy by 2025 ( 

7.Sojourn in the Tent of God and not the Valley of Elah (I Sam. 17: 15–16, 19-20; Psa. 15:1, ESV)

For forty days (I Sam. 17:16), the men of Israel had twice daily descended into the fogs of intimidation and disbelief. Their spiritual eyes moved from the God of heaven to the nine-foot tall giant. In the Valley of Elah, blinded to the truth, they lived in defeat. 

Contrast this with the shepherd boy who shuttled back and forth from shepherding his flock under the stars of heaven to visiting the battle line (v. 15). In the wilderness, besides defeating lions and bears, David was worshiping the Creator and writing Psalms. 

Years later, likely from the hill of Jerusalem, David penned Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? (Psa. 15:1, ESV)

The Hebrew word for “sojourn” implies a “abiding rest in the midst of a wandering life” whereas the Hebrew word “dwell” is the opposite; an “abiding rest in the midst of a settled life.” David had learned to dwell in God’s presence no matter his circumstances.

While the forces of Israel were mired in the intimidation of the Valley of Elah, David was abiding in the tent of God no matter where his feet wandered. Entering the valley, he held a true picture of the Most High in his heart and realized that the giant stood no chance. It is a dangerous thing to taunt a man who sojourns in the tent of God.

Whether your life is filled with wandering or fixed in one place, the key is to dwell in God’s presence—in the tent of God as it were. Only in this place of abiding in the Spirit of God will you find the perspective and strength you need to fight the battle.

Then you can be a difference maker as in verse 23 when it said that “David heard him.” If you sojourn in God’s presence, then you will see and act in proper perspective to the Maker of all things, and God will initiate movements around you. He wants a movement 1) where you work, 2) now, 3) through you.

[1] This number will be surpassed by the time you read it in print.

[2] I heartily recommend you read that article first to better understand the seven elements mentioned in this article.


This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Further Reflections

Further Reflections

I recently was on the receiving end of a HUGE encouragement during two events. In Thailand, I met with about 70 folks focused in a large country in Asia. In South Africa, I was surrounded by more than 400 mission workers/leaders from all over the world who have some connection with SIM International. 

Why was I encouraged?

In a phrase: people through whom God is working.  I am energized as we plan and work on telling stories like these through a podcast we are creating. Here are examples of possible storylines:

Family in frontier missions

An Indian brother from a Hindu background now lives in New Zealand. Through the relationships of his children at school, they are loving Muslims into the Kingdom. We have written before about this idea. Others I interviewed told similar stories of the power of family in mission. See the Mission Frontiers March–April 2012 issue with the theme: “Is The Family God’s Prime Mission Strategy For World Evangelization?”. You can find it at:

How do we effectively share with people of other faiths?

A Kenyan brother trains folks how to love Muslims and get to know them as friends, while sensitively sharing Christ with them. He has seen many people go through his training and then serve full- time loving Muslims. Just this week back in Pasadena, I recorded more stories about how faith is spreading from a brother who has worked with Muslims for 40 years. 

At a special dinner during one of the events, I had what may have been the most interesting meal discussion I have ever had with anyone! I can’t say more in print because of where he serves now (and I couldn’t interview him). I will say that it was encouraging because God is moving through people he has groomed and gifted, people who are living in difficulty yet bearing fruit. Like Paul said, “a great door for effectual service is open…but there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9 KJV.

What is a mobilizer?

During and just after college, Sam—a young brother from Kenya—was in a discipleship ministry working with students. He took the Kairos course and began to have his worldview changed. The ministry office in Kenya had copies of Mission Frontiers magazine. He read every issue page by page. Through it, he heard about the Perspectives course. 

The idea of the unreached began to affect his future career path, as well as that of a young woman who later became his wife. They thought they would be called to go to an unreached group and work directly themselves. Increasingly, they felt a call to mobilize others. A few years later, they established a mobilization and sending ministry. Now, they have sent seven couples and five singles into northern Kenya to work with unreached groups there. And, they have 14 full-time mobilizers sharing in churches and on campuses! All of them raise almost all of their own support! 

Sam is also the country coordinator for both the Kairos course and Perspectives in Kenya—so he is a key player in our Perspectives Global ministry. He is a joy-filled brother with a clear calling to motivate and send out laborers. I greatly enjoyed interviewing him and I can’t wait for you to hear his story.

How do we integrate business and missions?

Perhaps my most fascinating podcast interview was with a brother from a West African country. When I met this brother, I had already heard from others that he was indeed seeing God bless his businesses and ministry in many different ways.

 He is both a businessman and a pastor. He is working and praying to build up the region and create jobs and opportunity. He has a clear ministry happening which is integrated into businesses, which in turn, gives people needed jobs and spreads the gospel of the kingdom. How? 

They have a conference center/hotel that has 500,000 people passing through each year. He has a vision to expand the conference center/hotel (anyone want to invest?) and to actually build an airport to serve the region. 

They have 160 people who work full time for them—in various kinds of businesses. 

They loan money to 10,000 poor women to help them learn a trade to provide for their families—all while hearing the gospel. 

They have seen thousands of people from a different religious group which is strong in the area come to Christ! They have started churches and training programs for that too. 

Please pray for these brothers and sisters and pray with us that we can move forward in producing stories like this and get them out in a new podcast. We are working toward this and have a “publications” ministry planning time soon. Write to us if you want to hear as things progress. 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

A Living Witness

Finding Pathways to Hope and Healing in North Korea (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK)

A Living Witness

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27 (NIV)

For the last 22 years, Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), a small North Carolina-based NGO, has been quietly working in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK—North Korea). They have been sharing hope and healing in the name of Jesus Christ with the North Korean people by walking with them in their difficulty, hearing their stories and sharing their burdens. This is a remarkable story of God’s grace working through individuals from disparate communities, organizations, denominations, countries and backgrounds coming together—many over repeated visits—to serve as part of the body of Christ and demonstrate His love while impacting hearts on many sides of this great divide.


In the early 1990s, the evangelist Dr. Billy Graham was seeking ways to engage former Soviet bloc countries including the DPRK. His wife Ruth, the daughter of China missionaries, had attended a missionary boarding school called the Pyongyang Foreign School.  Through the network of the school, Dr. Graham was introduced to DPRK diplomats in New York which then opened doors for him to visit the DPRK. Following multiple advance visits to negotiate the terms of his visit, Dr. Graham traveled to the DPRK in 1992 and 1994. On both visits he and those with him met with then “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung. Dr. Billy Graham was declared “a friend” of the DPRK.

Early History of CFK

It soon became apparent through the very limited glimpses gleaned from these visits that the country was struggling deeply. Here was an opportunity for Christians to reach out to the country with humanitarian help, but this was not the traditional work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) so another avenue was needed. It was decided that a new organization, not related to BGEA but made up of different people (many of whom had strong ties to missionary efforts in Korea) would form to engage in religious, educational and humanitarian projects and exchanges. In April of 1995, the Eugene Bell Centennial Foundation (to be renamed in 1998, Christian Friends of Korea) was formed to specifically engage with the DPRK. In July 1995, North Korea was devastated by catastrophic flooding that wiped out homes, destroyed crops, inundated coal mines and plunged the country into a severe and protracted famine that would last for most of the rest of the decade. During what is known in North Korea as “the arduous march,” at least one million people died of starvation and millions more were left severely weakened by disease and malnutrition. For the first time since the Korean War, North Korea appealed for help to the outside world.

The newly formed organization sprang into action, raising funds to send nutritious, unpolished brown rice from Louisiana to North Korea in sea containers. They insisted on monitoring the arrival and distribution of the food to provide accountability and transparency for donors and to build relationships and trust among the Korean people. During the first year of operation, over 250 metric tons of brown rice were sent to the DPRK, and through this work and that of other NGOs who also reached out to help, the world began to glimpse the tragedy unfolding there.

During that dark and especially difficult time, the country faced an unspeakable slow motion tragedy. People who had relied on the public distribution system all their lives waited too long for it to come through, only to realize too late that the rumors and promises were empty—no food was coming. The elderly and the young often died first. Entire families disappeared. People with blackened faces and bundles wandered the countryside in search of food, many lying by roadsides in their weakness and hunger. Loudspeakers mounted on some of the very few vehicles would travel through cities in the mornings, telling people who had collapsed by the roadside from hunger to move away from the streets where foreigners were to pass.

Work in Tuberculosis Opens

Tuberculosis (TB), an airborne communicable disease1, resurged in the population that was weakened by malnutrition. By late 1996 the North Korean government, learning of tuberculosis work done in South Korea by those within the Korea missionary network, asked for help with their tuberculosis problem. Our young organization hand carried medicine for a few hundred patients, and our visiting team was taken to a few TB treatment facilities, many of them surrounded by graveyards.

They found very sick patients in extremely basic conditions, with few resources to care for them. The needs were overwhelming—for food, for medicine, for microscopes and lab supplies needed for basic diagnostics, for blankets and medical supplies and for shelter. So we began to reach out to donors seeking help of any kind. Donors reached back, and CFK began to form partnerships with groups who had resources to share, but who did not have the capacity to directly engage their own work in the DPRK. Some gave in-kind donations of food, medicine and blankets. Others gave funds that we used to purchase lab supplies, basic equipment and medicine. And we continued to travel to North Korea to visit the receiving care centers, to make sure they received what we sent, to talk with them, to share donor lists (and tell them about so many people who cared enough to help) and to better understand their situation so we could better respond to their needs.

Elders Contribute to Critical Trust-Building Efforts

In the early days, our team often included retired missionaries to Korea—many of whom were born in Korea, who grew up there, spoke the language and understood the historical context and challenges of Korea. At the time they were in their 70s and 80s and travel to and in the DPRK was difficult, yet their presence was critical in breaking down early barriers of mistrust between DPRK officials and the American “foreign devils.” These were people who had shared their lives among the Korean people, including some who had attended the Pyongyang Foreign School   as teenagers. They shared memories of ice skating on the Taedong River and climbing Peony Point in Pyongyang before Korea was partitioned into North and South. Many had served their entire lives in Korea working in education, medicine, agriculture and evangelism. Their experience, cultural understanding, and evident love for the Korean people built critical bridges of trust and understanding. They came from different denominational backgrounds, different mission sending agencies and even different countries, but they shared the same heart for Jesus Christ and for making Him known through action (and word, when possible) among people who had largely been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. North Korean diplomats also visited North Carolina during this time, and they were shown warm hospitality by many of these people in their homes. They heard stories from their early days  in Korea and experienced first-hand their life-long love for the Korean people that in many cases spanned multiple generations of their families.

In 1998, Christian Friends of Korea changed its name from the Eugene Bell Centennial Foundation to better represent the organization’s identity and purpose in the DPRK. At the same time, we asked the North Korean government  to assign us specific places where we could work and visit repeatedly, allowing us to establish relationships and deeper levels of trust which we hoped would lead to more effective engagement and impact. We were assigned to work in two provinces (N/S Hwanghae) and the city regions of Kaesong and Pyongyang—while focusing our efforts largely on helping address the growing tuberculosis burden.

We were a tiny organization—only 1.5 paid staff, a handful of volunteers, a few key partners and some very faithful donors and prayer partners. But it was enough to launch us into a routine of 2–3 visits a year, to check on the arrival and distribution of shipments and to assess new needs while continuing to build trust and understanding.

Post-Famine Years Open New Opportunities

By the early 2000s, North Korea was beginning to emerge from the worst part of the famine. Even so, the needs were still overwhelming and life remained extremely difficult for most North Koreans. Grid electricity in the countryside was largely seasonal and extremely limited. Even in the capital city of Pyongyang the darkness was palpable, the streets empty of cars and bicycles, and life difficult for most. We continued sending shipments of food, medicine, and blankets, while also sending greenhouse kits, walking tractors, seeds and  other goods to help local facilities grow more food on site for their patients. The greenhouses and tractors proved to be a great help to each facility. Each greenhouse can produce one to three tons of food each year (usually three separate crops), and they are especially beneficial when winter temperatures outside remain well below freezing. Inside the greenhouses it is warm, and fresh greens—lettuce, spinach, crown daisy and onions—can be grown and harvested throughout much of the winter. Spring crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers, are also grown in the greenhouse, and other vegetables can be started inside as seedlings for transplanting outside, thus speeding the harvest.

We were working at three TB hospitals at the time and they needed generators to provide critical power. We sourced and sent generators to each one and also sent a team of technical volunteers to help install the generators at each facility. We faced a steep learning curve and many challenges, but these marked our first significant technical projects. Many more were to follow.

As we reached out to different ministries and groups for help with the needs that we were finding, the Christian Friends of Korea “family” began to grow. Our visits continued and more and more needs were identified, including many that required greater skills and more in-depth engagement to accomplish. Multiple organizations and churches partnered with CFK sending personnel and goods, ranging from food and medicine to medical equipment and supplies.

In 2006, we were asked to renovate the operating rooms of several hospitals where we were working. Renovation needs included lighting, heating/AC, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, plumbing, electrical, medical equipment and all the tools and supplies needed for the installation of all these things. Rob Robinson, a general contractor raised in Korea by career missionary parents, visited the DPRK with CFK and soon began to oversee and organize these projects. Every nut, bolt and screw had to be ordered, shipped and sent since it was next to impossible at that time to find construction materials on the local market. We had never done projects like this in North Korea, so there was a steep learning curve, not only for us but also for our DPRK counterparts. We assembled teams of skilled volunteers who worked together with North Korean counterparts side by side over many weeks, solving many problems, while bringing lasting change to each care center. Over the space of two years, five operating room renovation projects were completed at four hospitals, resulting in reductions in post-operative infection rates and significantly improved care for patients. Along the way, relationships between the external team and our DPRK nationals once marked by mistrust, misunderstanding and division began to give way to friendship, true partnership and hope.

In 2008, the U.S. Government offered large-scale food aid to North Korea in response to demonstrated humanitarian need. This aid was to be provided through two channels—a consortium of U.S. NGOs working together, and the UN’s World Food Program. At the request of both the U.S. and the DPRK governments, CFK joined a consortium of NGOs (also including Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision) to deliver significant food aid to needy beneficiaries in Chagang and N. Pyongan Provinces. During the program, which lasted from the summer of 2008 until the spring of 2009, U.S. NGOs had 16 people living and working in the DPRK for most of the program (including many Korean speakers.) These people made over 1,500 visits to North Korean homes, food distribution centers, warehouses, baby homes, kindergartens and orphanages. Many  food  recipients  had never encountered an American before. Seventy-one thousand metric tons of food were delivered and distributed to over 900,000 beneficiaries. It was a herculean effort under very difficult circumstances with many pressures arising out of the charged political context that stretched every organization and person involved, but it also taught us valuable lessons and strengthened the credibility of our work and relationships in the DPRK.

CFK Invited to Help Address Core Needs

In late 2008, we were asked to visit the National Tuberculosis (TB) Reference Lab; a lab whose purpose is to provide the highest level of diagnostics in the country for TB/MDR- TB, downstream training and to help guide policy, qualitystandards, diagnostic protocols and disease control efforts for the country. We found a facility that was largely non- functional; it lacked for running water, electricity, lighting, heating/AC, functional cabinets/countertops, key pieces of equipment and critical supplies. The Ministry of Public Health had overseen our renovation projects at hospital operating theaters, and now they were inviting our help to renovate and equip this lab. With us that day was a general contractor, a biomedical engineer, a clinical lab expert, a plumber and our administrator. They represented three different organizations and were all people necessary to assess the project and help decide if it was feasible.

We knew we lacked the TB lab-specific technical expertise required to create a state-of-the-art reference lab, and we had no dedicated funding for what we knew would be an expensive renovation project, but we had learned that Stanford University’s School of Medicine had also been approached by the Ministry of Public Health to help with this lab. They applied for and received a grant for the equipment and initial training. CFK had strong logistical capability, export licenses, renovation expertise, volunteers, and established relationships and trust with the North Korean Ministry of Public Health. So, after prayer, many discussions and the negotiation/signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between us, in late 2008 we joined forces to do the project. We simultaneously began both the planning and our own fundraising efforts (for significant renovations) and after making several joint planning visits (together with Stanford partners) materials were ordered and shipped and renovations began in the fall of 2009 over a nearly month-long visit. We faced countless challenges, but step-by-step, we worked our way through them. By October 2010, after four more visits, major renovations were largely complete and we held a grand opening for the lab that was attended by the (then Vice) Minister of Public Health, UN agency officials and other dignitaries. The lab currently supports not only advanced TB diagnostics but also clinical diagnostics for integrated patient care. Since 2009, we have provided ongoing high-level training at  the lab, bringing TB lab experts and clinical lab experts  to build the knowledge and expertise needed for quality diagnostics. In 2011, we worked with our local colleagues to renovate the operating room at this hospital, and in 2013–14 we also jointly built a Training Center that is now in constant use supporting regular training for more than 50 doctors and nurses at a time. While the lab has truly been transformed from a rudimentary space to a state- of-the-art laboratory, it still faces many challenges. These challenges largely arise out of the external political context that greatly complicates the establishment of a reliable and secure supply chain; a chain needed for ongoing diagnostic activities and ready access to global developments and research. With North Korea facing an ever-expanding epidemic and one of the highest rates of TB in the world2, it is critical that this lab and two regional labs also in the process of development be able to function fully to address the urgency of this epidemic.

Clean Water Identified as a Critical Need

In the mid-2000s, care centers began to express a need for clean water. Upon further investigation, we found that many care centers were using shallow, hand-dug wells, nearby streams or unprotected springs for their source of water. With poorly-composted night soil (fecal sludge) widely used as fertilizer  on  agricultural  fields,  this  led to gastro-intestinal illness. We began exploring ways to address the need for clean water at many care centers. Working with another U.S. NGO, Wellspring for Life (who has worked to establish an indigenous water well drilling industry in the DPRK through the delivery of cable tool drilling rigs and training), we began to arrange for the drilling of deep water wells  at  our  supported  care centers and began researching sustainable ways of distributing the clean water within hospital complexes that had no central heating where temperatures  drop  well below freezing in winter. Working with dedicated, experienced volunteers and partnering ministries, we developed solar-powered, gravity-fed water systems. These systems use solar energy during the day to power a pump installed in a protected deep water well to move water  up to a large tank placed at a high point on the property (or on a tank platform). The water then flows by gravity from the tank through underground pipes to frost-free hydrants3. We installed our first such system in 2008, and have installed 17 more systems at different TB, hepatitis and pediatric care centers, all of which continue to supply clean water year round to their staff and patients with  very little maintenance or trouble. Once a well has been drilled or a reliable (protected) spring source identified, these systems can be installed over the course of two to five days by skilled volunteers who join our team from places as far flung as Norway, the U.S., Poland, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The transformation that takes place through the  provision of clean, protected water is immediate and lasting. Staff are freed up from the daily time-consuming chore of collecting water, often from contaminated and unprotected sources several hundred meters away. In new self-contained systems, the water is clean and protected, leading immediately to health improvements for staff and patients alike. With an abundant, sustainable water supply, we also see improvements in sanitation and cleanliness of the facility, and often the care center can expand their production of food because they now have ample water for irrigation of greenhouses and vegetable fields. The joy on faces when water comes out of the hydrants for the first time is a beautiful sight. We watch hearts and minds open as locals begin to wonder why people would come from  so far away, at great personal expense and risk, to work so hard to help their “enemies.” As of 2017, 18 care centers now have clean, protected, solar-powered water systems that are impacting the lives and health of the staff and tens of thousands of patients each and every year.

Our team members meet in Beijing just prior to going into North Korea. Each brings various skills and a heart for loving and serving Christ among the North Korean people. During our time in the country together, through our morning devotions and long days of working together and despite cultural and language differences, our hearts are knit together by a shared love for Jesus and for serving Him among the North Korean people. Together, by God’s grace, we seek to model how faith and daily life intersect as we work in community through sickness and health, hardship and challenge, danger and stress. Many volunteers return on successive trips, sharing their time, expertise, and friendship while living out their faith among our North Korean hosts and colleagues.

Tensions and Sanctions Pose Significant Challenges

The challenges, now more than ever before, are extreme. With the significant rise in tensions during 2017, sanctions and fear sharply increased, creating a whole cascade of new and more formidable barriers for ongoing humanitarian efforts. As of September 1, 2017, each U.S. passport holder can only visit the DPRK under “special validation passports”—that must be secured for every humanitarian visit—adding further administration, time and cost burdens. While BIS (Commerce) export licenses have been required for all US-sourced goods for some time, OFAC (Treasury) licenses must also be in place for any non-sourced goods. A wide array of materials is needed to complete renovation projects, clean water installations and TB/hepatitis diagnostics and while humanitarian exemptions legally remain they are buried in complex legal language. The perceived risks of violating sanctions have grown so significantly for third-party businesses engaged in the supportive work required by NGOs to deliver humanitarian aid (shipping, banking, supplying, etc.)  that longstanding activities are teetering on the edge of stopping entirely. Now every purchase, every transaction and every shipment faces intense scrutiny. Much more restrictive customs procedures in China have also raised administrative burdens significantly and have stopped some critical goods from transit through China—the main port of entry. Despite all the heightened risks, common grace is evident in the courage of our North Korean counterparts who have faithfully continued work on their side to facilitate ongoing efforts. Meanwhile, faith in the sovereignty and providence of God gives inexplicable peace and steadfastness to volunteers, partner organizations, prayer warriors and family members and donors, despite extreme tensions. We have been privileged to witness many miracles, big and small, in our work—including some that even our counterparts cannot help but admit.

Jesus’ final words on earth compel all who love him to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) No place and no people group is exempted from this commission. We are called to pray, to engage, to love, to serve and to honor our Lord’s name in the DPRK. May we, as the diverse body of Christ, be found faithful to be His hands and feet, to see with His eyes, to feel with His heart, to bear witness to His grace among the people of North Korea, and thereby to honor His name.

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

CFK’s Medical Engagement by the numbers (as of Dec 2017):

  • Visits since 1995: 83
  • Years of engagement: 22+
  • US volunteers/staff who have participated on DPRK visits: 1564
  • International volunteers who have participated on DPRK visits: 45
  • Days spent in DPRK by CFK teams: 1,041
  • Value of aid delivered: $89.55 Million USD ($14.7 million cash, $74.6 million in-kind)
  • TB, hepatitis and pediatric hospitals and rest homes regularly served: 30+
  • Lives impacted directly/indirectly: hundreds of thousands/millions

Aid Delivered:

  • Laboratories renovated: 366
  • Wells drilled: 27
  • Solar/gravity water systems installed: 18
  • Operating rooms renovated: 6
  • Training Center constructed: 1
  • Hepatitis B patients screened: 1500+
  • Hepatitis B patients started on treatment: 800+
  • Cans of meat: 1,138,256
  • Blankets: 35,972
  • Patient mat sets: 695
  • Medicine pallets: 169
  • Fortified meals: 332,316
  • Soup mix: 50,760
  • Hygiene kits: 23,839
  • Solar lighting systems: 47
  • Greenhouses: 500 (small); 114 (large)
  • Seed packets: 25,000
  • Motorcycles: 17 / Cargo tricycles: 12
  • Vehicles: 8
  • Small Tractors: 89
  • Water filter buckets: 963
  • Other support sent includes replacement plastic for greenhouses, spare parts for tractors, doctor and nurse kits, solar rechargeable lights, hospital furnishings and equipment, major renovations at multiple care centers, a roofing tile- making machine and many other smaller projects.

  1. For every year a TB patient goes without treatment, they can infect 10–15 others.
  2. North Korea was added to the WHO “high burden country” lists in 2016 for TB, and multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. The 2016 World TB Report indicates that North Korea’s TB rate is now the highest in the world outside of HIV-co-infected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. The base of each hydrant is buried a meter underground in gravel, and there is a valve at the base of the hydrant that allows water to drain from the hydrant once the spigot is turned off. Since no water remains in the upright pipe to freeze, the hydrant can be used even in the cold of winter without fear of freezing.
  4. Number includes separate individual participants. Many among this number have participated on 10, 20 or more visits; one staff member has made 54 visits thus far.
  5. Only includes value of shipments, does not include the value of donated volunteer service hours.
  6. Includes the National TB Reference Laboratory and 2 solar-powered clinical (hepatitis) labs.

A Lesson from the Dump

On the outskirts of Kaesong, just beyond the thousand-year-old stone wall that rims the ancient city, is the dump. Fill dirt and refuse piles from the city are carried there by ox carts, small trucks, even bicycles—and dumped. Nothing is wasted in this country, so what finds its way here is truly trash. Small heaps of rocks, rubble, broken pottery, broken glass, rags and bits of refuse line both sides of the deeply pot- holed road. Here and there small fires smolder, wafting smoke and the smell of burning plastic into the air.

Our work takes us through this wasteland frequently on our way  to and from two adjoining care centers (one for tuberculosis (TB) patients, and another for hepatitis patients) so we see a lot of life outside the windows of our vehicle as we come and go on this road.

Last spring, I watched as a small family carefully and painstakingly transplanted three-inch-tall corn seedlings into a patch of this unlikely ground. For us, it was the start of a long day of seeing patients, and as I watched, a mix of feelings welled up in me including curiosity for this family and deep sadness at the circumstances that would motivate struggling people to invest precious time and effort to plant fragile seedlings into ground such as this—holding such little promise for a harvest.

The summer passed, and the rains were sparing. In our widespread travels in August we saw many corn fields stunted and unproductive, with stalks and leaves prematurely brown and small withered cobs on the stalks bearing out reports by UN agricultural experts of at least a 30% reduction in yield countrywide for the season.

In late August we returned, and drove again through the dump area on the way to our care centers. But now my eyes witnessed something completely unexpected. There, standing robustly out of that seemingly unproductive ground planted by that hopeful family earlier in the spring were strong healthy corn stalks, with long, fat and fully filled out ears ripe and waiting for harvest.

Here in the middle of a wasteland was production far beyond expectation.

In my spirit, I felt a gentle, loving rebuke: You look on the outside, but I look on the inside. You see the wasteland, but I see the promise. Only I know the ground that is being planted—you must only faithfully sow. I am the LORD of the harvest.

Praise be to God! May we plant with eyes of faith into the soil He provides, trusting that He will bring about an abundant harvest if only we remain faithful and don’ give up.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

The Apostle Paul Didn’t Get the Memo

The Apostle Paul Didn’t Get the Memo

After decades on the mission field overseeing a school, John suddenly felt like his creative access strategy was somehow counterproductive. He hadn’t set out to become a seemingly eternal fund-raiser and project manager. The mixing of project money and mission work had caused more headaches and confusion than he cared to admit. His ability to be apostolic in nature—planting, watering, and moving on to others who have not heard— had been on hold for twenty years. 

Let’s take a detour from John’s journey to look in on the apostle Paul and his companions. 

Pisidian Antioch: “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews . . . stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” (Act. 13:49–59 NIV) 

Iconium: “There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed . . . There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities.” (Act. 14:1, 5–6 NIV)

In Lystra: “At that the man jumped up and began to walk…Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city…. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” (Act. 14:10, 19–20 NIV)

The list of times when Paul and his teammates were kicked out or left on their own due to strategic discernment goes on and on. It seems to me that Paul didn’t get the memo about creative access. Just think, if he’d had enough sense to start and fund socioeconomic projects, he would have been able to stay on more readily and regularly.

You might be asking, “Wow, are you anti-creative access in global missions?” No, I am not. But I am concerned about the way our creative access strategies to gain visas and permanency in countries can be counterproductive to our reason for being in cross-cultural contexts to begin with.

By the way, keep in mind the fact that although Paul, Barnabas and others were unable to stay in any one place very long, they planted sustainable and multiplying faith communities over and over again.

The story of “John” has already alerted us to two concerns in regard to creative access models. One: missionaries become managers rather than planters and fund-raisers rather than mentors. Two: the mixing of project funding and management with gospel work and discipling creates all kinds of confusion, mixed motives, and other problems. Allow me to add a third concern: the majority of our creative access approaches are not reproducible by cultural insiders, either within their own society or when they become missionaries in near cultures. Our mission modeling falls flat on its face when it comes to reproducibility and multiplication.

If all three of these weaknesses run through the veins of our mission work, then our creative access strategies have become counterproductive.

None of us set out with this intention. I would like to encourage you to adapt “phase-out eyes” as you consider your “phase-in eyes.” I came across the terms “phase-in eyes” and “phase-out eyes” via Tom Steffen,1 and I have addressed the practice in my book We Are Not The Hero.2 What often happens is that we work so hard figuring out how to creatively access countries that we forget to consider how to phase-out. The danger of this one-sided approach is that we don’t plan with local sustainability, reproducibility and multiplication in mind. All we care about is how we can gain access and produce fruit. This anemic approach undermines planting and encouraging an indigenous church that multiples many generations of disciples and goes beyond its borders.

As a reminder, the apostle Paul, his team, and his trainees did not rely on the Western-heavy creative access means that we tend to rely on today, and yet they were incredibly successful in reaching their world.

Let’s think more creatively about creative access. Are there ways we can creatively enter unreached people groups without imposing Western models of mission? I am not saying there are easy solutions to the challenges we face, but I do believe we need to keep the conversation going. When we consider our phase-in plan, let’s equally consider our phase-out plan, so we don’t become counterproductive to indigenous, grassroots local disciple and mission movements. 

We Are Not The Hero Participant’s Guide  and Videos

The readership of the book, We Are Not The Hero, have been asking for a participant’s guide and videos.

We are excited to announce the new release of We Are Not The Hero Participant’s Guide and Videos.

Launch each lesson with the Big Idea delivered through a video. Internalize and explore the content with stimulating Questions to Consider. Ensure you capture the important principles via Sum It All Up and Listen Up, which include proverbs from around the world. Apply the concepts and principles through Action Steps.

We Are Not the Hero provides the cross-cultural thinker and worker with postures, principles, and paradigms for global engagement that promote God’s best version  of people around the world, while setting aside their ethnocentric tendencies. In We Are Not the Hero, missionary Jean Johnson shares lessons learned from her sixteen years in Cambodia, in an area known as the Killing Fields, including why our Western culture, church experiences, and financial solutions to church growth are not the answer for the world.

For more information and samples, visit fivestonesglobal. org.


1 Steffen, Tom 1974 Passing the Baton: Church Planting that Empowers. La Habra, CA: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development, 4.

2 Johnson, Jean 2012 We Are Not The Hero: A Missionary’s Guide For Sharing Christ, Not A Culture of Dependency, Sisters, Oregon: DeepRiver Books, 175.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

In Otto’s Memory

Developing Peaceful Tourism in North Korea

In Otto’s Memory

In light of the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the Trump administration has temporarily banned Americans from traveling to North Korea, and Congress is considering a permanent ban. Representative Joe Wilson (South Carolina), the co-sponsor of the North Korea Travel Control Act declared, “Tourist travel to North Korea does nothing but provide funds to a tyrannical regime—that will in turn be used to develop weapons to threaten the United States and our allies.”

We very much understand the concerns regarding Americans detained in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). We acknowledge the inherent dangers and complications of international tourism to the DPRK, and urge would-be tourists to exercise prudence and to follow all applicable laws. At the same time, we wish to inform our representatives of the many positive things happening in North Korea which are directly related to tourism, and our motivation for providing such services.

One of us (Paul) has been involved with humanitarian work in North Korea since 2007. Paul has personally made 17 trips into North Korea, a country of more than 25 million people. One capacity is as an NGO worker for a water project, which drills wells in villages to access clean water. The second is leading tour groups. Paul has been doing so since 2012 and does the work not for any material gain, but to help improve the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is not yet open to the point where foreigners can visit on their own terms.  Tourists are not going to be able to land in Pyongyang, rent a car and drive around at their leisure. Tours take place under controlled circumstances; hence groups have official guides, are not allowed to wander off the beaten path and a preset itinerary is often strictly (yet not always) adhered to. The good news is, in our experience, tourists are given more latitude every year and North Korea is in the slow process of opening their doors.

When visiting, foreigners only get to see pieces of the entire picture. Please understand, however, that this picture is constantly changing. We might not be able to connect with everyone we see, but we connect with many. Today, North Koreans cannot easily travel outside. On tours, we are able to see and enter into their culture, but the door swings both ways, as they meet us and encounter ours. We get a glimpse into each other’s lives. For every foreigner who visits North Korea, bringing their culture and ideas, it not only helps local North Koreans get a better picture of the outside world but also opens their country even further. This is the kind of positive engagement no official strategy is currently taking advantage of. Nonetheless, it is happening on the ground and, we believe, making a significant difference.

Today we are also able to do a surprising amount of direct engagement, not only through regular tourism but also sports cultural exchanges. Paul specializes in this type of engagement and headed a project that officially introduced surfing to the country in 2014. Our group made subsequent surfing cultural exchange trips in 2015 and 2016. We also engage locals (esp. kids) with skiing/snowboarding and skateboarding.

Our experience is that this kind of engagement has absolutely made a positive impact in how North Koreans relate to not only foreigners in general but specifically to Americans. Every wave, every smile, every hand shake, every kid we get on a surfboard or skateboard, every person we get on skis or a snowboard, every conversation, every high-five is beneficial in breaking down barriers which exist between North Korea and the rest of the world. A YouTube video of a recent trip attracted more than 290,000 views worldwide.1

It is always gratifying when tour group members find opportunities to engage. Maybe it’s a local guy riding a bike down the street in Pyongyang or Wonsan and someone from my group tries to high-five them. It might be awkward for the guy but, more often than not, the North Korean local tries to return the high-five. One of our groups held a ping-pong tournament with local North Korea surf camp participants. After the tournament finished, we were getting ready to leave and the lady who took care of the room came in to straighten things up. The man who runs our surf camps saw an opportunity to bless this lady, so he asked one of our guides to translate for him. He then thanked the lady for taking care of the room and told her what a great time we had and how much we appreciated her job. He then picked up a vase of plastic flowers from a table, flowers which belonged to the room she took care of and presented them to her.

The cleaning lady began to tear up. Why? Because a foreigner’s expression of love and thankfulness touched her heart. She was not “elite.” She was simply a middle age North Korean lady, who was able to engage with a group of tourists.

We wish to inform our Representatives that things are slowly opening up and every year there are more opportunities for engagement. People visiting North Korea should be seen as helping to assist this process. According to North Korean tour guides, not counting Chinese, approximately five thousand international tourists visit the country annually. To quote Daniel Jasper from American Friends Service Committee, “there is no substitute for the firsthand experience and insights that come from regular interaction and communication.”  Even though traveling to North Korea carries risks, those are minimized if we operate within their legal rules and boundaries. The DPRK government gives us very strict parameters in which we must operate, and I stress this in my briefings to potential tourists. Since 2012, our tour groups have been blessed to interact with thousands of local people, and we have never left anyone behind.

In his travels to North Korea, Paul has observed countless checkpoints where local citizens are literally asked, “Comrade, papers please!” For most North Koreans, freedom of travel is not something they enjoy as they are required to obtain government permission to travel even to the next town. Our Representatives are proposing legislation which would impose a travel ban on American citizens. We understand their good intentions, but freedom of travel is a bedrock American value and Americans have traditionally maintained it despite the dangers.

We have only scratched the surface but there is a lot going on in the country which should be supported by the U.S. government as well as the international community. Restricting the travel rights of Americans only serves to keep North Korea in its isolated state as well as violate our freedoms.

We—NGO workers and volunteers who have devoted our lives to the people of North Korea—deeply feel the shock and pain of Otto’s tragic death. We grieve for the loss of the young man and pray for the Warmbier family. At the same time, we feel that Otto would have shared our goals and beliefs— that the long, difficult road of helping North Korea open up ultimately benefits both the people there and the world community.

By all accounts, Otto was a kind-hearted, warm soul, eager to make friends in new places. We have many tourists like Otto, who genuinely wish to make a positive, personal impact. We hope that relevant stakeholders learn from the inexplicable tragedy and make all efforts to ensure that international tourists travel safely and follow local guidelines.

We cherish Otto’s memory and trust that the people of North Korea would someday do the same. We believe that our Representatives can best honor his memory by letting us continue the work of peacefully opening up North Korea.

Paul is a pseudonym of an American NGO worker in North Korea. Paul  wrote this essay with Joseph Yi, who  is a volunteer supporter. Joseph Yi is associate professor of political science at Hanyang University ([email protected] This article was supported by Hanyang University Research Fund.

This article originally appeared in The Diplomat (5 August 2017). Reprinted with permission from the Diplomat Media Inc.

1 Fun For Louis, North Korea Day 7, watch?v=tGJH-S8bfgw&list=PLKdBO8TXUFBgaqcNCd8xyokjUFEd- Uu9LU&index=7 , August 16, 2016 

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Why We Should Still Give Engagement a Chance

Why We Should Still Give Engagement a Chance

In the past year, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has shifted from bad to worse. North Korea not only tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential range to hit major U.S. cities, but it conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017. Each North Korean missile and nuclear test is met with additional calls for tighter sanctions against North Korea and isolation of the regime. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have lobbed words   at each other in a dangerous spiral of escalatory rhetoric. Under such conditions, one might conclude that this is the worst time for engagement with North Korea, whether this includes state-led diplomatic engagement between government officials, or civil society centered people-to- people engagement between non-state actors.  In fact, on September 1, 2017 the U.S. government instituted a de facto travel ban on Americans by invalidating U.S. passports “for travel to, in, or through North Korea.” The traveler needs to apply for a special validations passport, issued primarily to Red Cross workers and the press, for “compelling humanitarian considerations” or for other travel in “the national interest.[1]

Contrary to popular beliefs, this essay makes a case for why people-to-people engagement still matters, and how it might help us think about diplomatic engagement with North Korea.[2] There are both moral and political reasons to continue people-to-people engagement with North Koreans, despite current restrictions issued by the U.S. government against travel to North Korea. Drawing a distinction between the North Korean people and its regime, ordinary North Koreans tend to bear the costs of the regime’s isolationist and autocratic policies. North Korea’s per capita GDP in 2015 was $1,700.[3] Basic political freedoms, including the freedom of movement, assembly, or speech are severely restricted.[4] Nevertheless, everyday life goes on in North Korea, and signs of an emerging market economy suggest economic improvements in major cities, including Pyongyang.[5] However, the regime’s policies still lead to constant food shortages, malnutrition, and chronic illnesses.

Stripping aside politics, the moral case for continuing people-to-people engagement is straightforward:  to help improve the lives of ordinary North Koreans. Civil society actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in such people-to-people engagement in North Korea are often motivated by a sense of mission that their work not only improves lives, but also fosters a sense of greater understanding between North Korea and the rest of the world. Examples of people-to-people engagement may include humanitarian assistance, such as the delivery of food aid and emergency supplies during periods of flooding and famine. It also takes the form of longer term, capacity-building projects. Projects and activities might include drilling wells, establishing greenhouses, providing technical assistance in the areas of agriculture and forestry, or operating tuberculosis and other health clinics. To a lesser extent, business operations with the goal of improving capacity and service, or meeting the everyday needs of North Koreans, also fall under the category of people-to-people engagement.[6]  Such business ventures have included the establishment of a noodle factory and the development of a logistics and transportation company to provide local bus service.

Several Christian and other faith-based organizations have made the case for pursuing people-to-people engagement including NGOs such as the Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends Korea, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision. Having cultivated long-standing partnerships in North Korea, and driven by a sense of higher purpose, some faith-based groups have managed to sustain operations for over two decades in North Korea.[7]

For Christians, there is a higher calling, a sense of obligation to Christ’s command to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, which comes into play.[8] People-to- people engagement is much more than simply dropping bags of food aid or delivering medicine into North Korea. In addition to addressing real world problems, it calls on individuals and groups to build relationships and trust where mutual understanding may be absent. Actions often speak louder than words, and the work of several faith-based organizations has helped North Koreans trust outsiders (and vice-versa), despite these groups being conspicuously Christian and even coming from places such as the maligned, imperial (in the eyes of North Koreans) United States.[9]

There are both moral and political objections against people-to-people engagement with the two objections often conflated. Critics argue that such engagement indirectly benefits the regime.[10] Even if aid or development assistance is properly monitored and delivered to its intended targets (i.e. vulnerable populations and ordinary North Koreans), outside assistance enables the regime to redirect scarce resources needed to feed its people towards expanding its military capabilities. A fundamental point of disagreement among secular and faith-based groups alike working to improve human conditions in North Korea is whether outside assistance, including support from people-to-people engagement, ultimately props up the regime, thereby prolonging suffering among North Koreans.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan stated, “A hungry child knows no politics.”[11] This suggests our response to need and suffering should rise above politics. International politics, unfortunately, tends to be driven by the “is” rather than the “ought.”[12] However, just as there are moral and political objections against engagement initiatives, there are also justifications on moral and political grounds for taking action.

People-to-people engagement provides a low cost means for outsiders to generate positive relationships with North Koreans. Outsiders, some who have engaged with North Korean counterparts since the famine of the 1990s, have perhaps the best grasp of North Korean norms, culture, thinking, and knowledge of daily life. Meanwhile, people- to-people engagement offers North Koreans a channel for receiving information related to markets, business and legal practices, and capacity-building principles which may spur greater curiosity and a hunger for knowledge beyond what the state can provide. By fostering better communication and understanding between North Koreans and the outside world, people-to-people engagement may be laying the groundwork for potential transition, whether that be the gradual opening of North Korea through reforms, or future reunification.

Finally, the current nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula warrants keeping open any channels of dialogue which offer an off-ramp away from armed conflict. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals regarding North Korea, ranging from threats of annihilation to suggesting the possibility of direct talks with its leader [which are now being planned for May,2018]. This has created confusion among both domestic and foreign audiences. However, in practice, the official policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” can be read as tightening sanctions but leaving a door open for engagement.

Although engagement here refers primarily to diplomatic engagement, it can and should include people-to-people engagement. It is unclear whether successful lower levels of engagement can translate into higher forms of engagement in North Korea. However, in the absence of diplomacy, people-to-people engagement is one of the few means of contact between Americans and North Koreans. Moreover, the longer-term effects may be positive if attitudes of local cadres and provincial leaders towards Americans begin to shift. Finally, by encouraging low levels of engagement, the Trump administration can provide a diplomatic opening for the South Korean government to continue pursuing its desired strategy of inter-Korean engagement, even as Seoul and Washington continue to apply pressure on the North Korean regime. For instance, South Korea recently approved $8 million dollars of aid to the World Food Program and UNICEF directed towards providing nutrition to children and pregnant women, and vaccinations and treatment for diseases.[13] While the timing of such goodwill gestures may be questioned given North Korea’s continued expansion of its missile and nuclear program, and with critics labeling such actions as “appeasement,” such gestures do signal to the regime that the path to engagement and dialogue still remains open.

Hard-nosed realists assume that the surest bet to survival includes maximizing a nation’s military capabilities.[14] This has been the path adopted by the North Korean regime, and at times exercised by the U.S. in the latest security standoff on the Korean Peninsula.  However, realism, as a foreign policy guide, also calls for pragmatism and prudence in foreign policy. I do not suggest an end to economic sanctions or the removal of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, all which serve an important purpose for deterrence, reassurance, and credibility in a region fraught by wider geopolitical and historical tensions. However, the current balance of sticks (that is coercion) and carrots (diplomatic engagement) has clearly not reduced tensions on the Peninsula. To provide an exit strategy from the current path of escalation and to avert an impending crisis, it may be more prudent to reshuffle the ratio of sticks to carrots to include more carrots (that is engagement) to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.


[1] See US State Departments travel advisory to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK):

[2] A focus on engagement does not imply that coercive actions such as sanctions should be abandoned, nor does it imply that engagement is the only tool to improve relations with North Korea.

[4] United Nations Human Rights Council. 2014 "Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Human Rights Council.

[5] Demick, Barbara. 2009 Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. New York: Spiegel &

Grau; Smith, Hazel. 2015 North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. NY: Cambridge

University Press.

[6] Yeo, Andrew I. 2017 "Evaluating the Scope of People-to-People Engagement in North Korea, 1995–2012." Asian Perspective 41:2, 309-39.

[7] Zadeh-Cummings, Nazanin. 2017 “True believers: Faith-based NGOs in North Korea,” March 14,

[8] Biblical verses include Luke 4:18; James 2:14-16; Isaiah 58:7

[9] Of course, the regime has also benefited in the material sense from people-to-people engagement, therefore permitting faith-based NGOs to operate in North Korea. However, it is paradoxical that some of the longest serving organizations have been faith-based given the regime’s relative intolerance towards religion. I suspect this has to do with the higher “tolerance” faith-based organizations are initially willing to put up with when confronted by bureaucratic challenges and North Korean demands. However, the durability of faith-based programs may also be attributed to greater familiarity and trust between local counterparts and foreign organizations.

[10] Noland, Marcus. 2011 “Food Aid Debate Continues.” Witness to Transformation Blog. May 10,; For an excellent, in-depth experience and discussion on providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea after the famine of the 1990s, see Snyder, Scott and Gordon L. Flake. 2003 Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea.  Westport, CT: Praeger.

 [11] Quoted in Lim, Wonhyuk. 2006 “When in Doubt, Blame South Korea: The Politics of Food Aid to North Korea.” Brookings Institution, February 16.

[12] Morgenthau, Hans. 1967 Politics among Nations; the Struggle for Power and Peace. 4th ed.  New York,: Knopf.

[13] McCurry, Justin. 2017 “South Korea approves $8m aid package for North Korea,” The Guardian. September 21,

[14] Mearsheimer, John J. 2001 The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. 1st ed.  New York: Norton.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

24:14 Coalition Update

God is moving!

24:14 Coalition Update

Without a full representation of the Church, we are incomplete. The lost desperately need you to be a part of this fight. Visit our website at or email [email protected] to learn more and get involved.

The 24:14 vision is to see movement engagements in every unreached people group and place by 2025 because we realize that the only way to effectively reach a group or place is through movements of multiplying disciples, churches and leaders. To facilitate that vision, groups of nationals and expats are meeting in each region of the world to engage that vision with urgency.

Recently a group of movement leaders from a large region in Asia met to discuss and pray about God’s plan for the 24:14 effort in their region. The stories of the “book of Acts” like movements in this region were amazing as multiplying disciples and churches are arising in many people groups, language groups, and communities—usually despite significant persecution. They are showing God’s love by healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching literacy, doing disaster relief, transforming communities and in many, many more ways than can be described here.

This group of movement leaders felt that since God was already moving in such mighty ways, the goal for their region should be not just movement engagement by 2025, but rather to pray and work together to see at least 4th generation multiplication of churches in every one of the thousands of people groups, language groups, and districts by 2025.

One local leader said, “We know this is not the case for other parts of the world, but for our part of the world, God is doing so much that we could almost accomplish movement engagement everywhere by continuing our current efforts. Praying and working to see 4th generation multiplication in every group and district is something only God can do.”

Since the last edition of Mission Frontiers, the 24:14 Coalition has been gaining momentum and making strides toward the goal of total Church Planting Movement (CPM) engagement by 2025. Here’s some of what God has done through 24:14 in the last two months:

  • Data. CPM organizations and leaders are sharing their data like never before on CPM engagements and movements. As we collect more data, the number of known CPMs globally continues to grow and has shattered our most optimistic estimates from a year ago. We are tracking 652 CPMs (at least four separate streams of at least 4th plus generations of new churches in a relatively short period of time) but that number will be surpassed by the time this is in print. These movements are on every continent so that they provide models to practitioners in virtually every geographic region and major worldview.

However, there is still a long way to go and many gaps, which is why we are working to leverage this data to accelerate engagement of gaps.  One example of this is a meeting with leaders from six different movements where they shared which districts of a large region had multiplying streams of churches from their movements. They realized between all of them, 21 of the districts had multiplication but seven did not. Immediately they began to make collaborative plans to start work in the seven neglected districts. With thousands of unreached people groups remaining, we still need thousands of CPM strategy engagements to effectively reach them.

  • Movements Heat Map. One way we plan to leverage this data is in developing a “heat map” that graphically represents CPM data—where there are movements and movement engagements, and where there are not. We are still working through security protocols to ensure that any data shared will not compromise local leaders and churches. However, our hope is that we will be able to share actionable insights with the mission community based on hard data to inform movement engagement decisions.

Security of local disciples is of utmost importance in this effort. Recently, we had a dialogue which led to the conclusion that we can share this data on a country or regional level without unnecessary risk.

  • CPM Hubs System. When God begins to do the same process with unrelated people around the world, we must pay attention. In the last few years, we have seen a great increase in a “CPM Hub training system approach” where God has given the same basic ideas to many people in different contexts. 24:14 as a global movement includes many of these people running hubs and we are now working to help tie these various CPM hubs into a relational global hub system.

As part of the 24:14 vision we have to train many more CPM catalysts and this emerging hub system seems to be one way God is going to prepare many more catalysts. Hubs can be developed from any organization, team, or network. Our desire in connecting these hubs is to develop more consistency in “CPM deliverables”— head (knowledge), heart (character), hands (abilities), and house (who to relate to and how). A key goal is to link workers to effective coaching and training through a residency program in a series of CPM hubs from their home context to cross-cultural contexts that act   as an on-ramp to effectively engaging a UUPG with a movement strategy.

  • Global Stewardship Team. In order to fully engage every unreached people and place by 2025, there must be regional champions that own the vision. To that end, we are recruiting stewards to join the Global Stewardship1 Team (GST), who commit to helping serve regions/countries in order to get to total engagement. These individuals are responsible for tracking CPM engagements in their area and recruiting/equipping workers to engage the gaps. We have begun getting traction with CPM leaders globally to adopt regions and countries in this capacity and continue to aggressively recruit GST members with the goal of having stewards covering every UN region, country, Omega zone (geographic region of 3 to 9 million people), and Omega district (geographic region of 50,000 to 150,000 people).

Security is an issue in some areas, but we are setting up email channels for people interested in various countries, regions, zones, and districts to be able to contact 24:14 stewards for that area to see how they can partner in movement efforts through prayer, funding, translation, field efforts, etc.

  • Regional Meetings of CPM Leaders. One way we are building a network of global stewards is through regional 24:14 summits. During these summits, CPM leaders from the region (both nationals and expats) gather to seek God’s heart for their region and to explore how they might partner together to fully engage their region with movement strategies.

One such meeting is the Asian region described above, where a representative group of the region’s CPM leaders agreed to partner together as a regional 24:14 team to pursue their vision: “Movements collaborating to see 4th generation movements in every language, people, and place in the region and beyond by 2025.” Similar meetings across the globe have either recently happened or are currently scheduled, such as ones for South America, Eurasia, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Our goal is to have these types of consultations resulting in regional 24:14 teams for every region of the world.

  • Hot Coals Strategy Formulation. One of the most effective ways we see movements starting today is through “hot coals” from the fires of one movement being transplanted into a spiritually dark place to jump-start a new movement. One of our task forces is focused on developing thought-leadership in this approach by collating case studies where this approach has been effective. Our goal is to have a process where large movements can send catalysts to unreached areas to jump-start new movements, further accelerating engagement in the darkest places.
  • For example, a task force leader recruited 66 leaders from a near-culture CPM to go to the oppressed “Ro” UPG refugees in their country. Their goal was not to incorporate new believers and churches into their movement but rather to see God start a new movement among these people. Their vision was “don’t the Ro people deserve a movement of God also?” Over a three-day period of time, 681 Ro people heard a clear explanation of the Word of God and 399 Ro people accepted Christ. Nine months later, there are 12 potential 4th soil Ro leaders being discipled and a budding movement with a handful of 5th generation churches.
  • God is moving; will you join us? In order to fulfill the Great Commission, the entire Body must work as one. 24:14 is not an organization, but is an open-membership coalition of individuals, organizations, churches, and networks committed to 1) fully reaching the unreached peoples and places of the earth, 2) through kingdom movement engagements, 3) with urgency by 2025. As you commit to these three things, you join thousands of others who are in this coalition.




1 We call these facilitators “stewards” using the Biblical language that Paul used to describe his desire to be faithful with the regions and responsibilities God had entrusted to him. This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:1-2, ESV)






This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

The Case for Engaging North Korea

The Case for Engaging North Korea

On March 6th, 2017, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched four ballistic missiles, three of which landed 200 miles off Japan’s coastline. DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong-un promises nuclear-armed, intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States. The Trump administration is currently reviewing its policy options, such as preemptive strikes or total isolation of the North Korean economy.[1] Brookings fellow Evans J.R. Revere argues the rationale for total sanctions.[2]

A hard-line strategy is not likely to persuade the DPRK regime to give up its missiles and nuclear weapons. Nor will it garner the support of the South Korean public, which elected a center-left President (Moon Jae-in) on May 9, 2017. Most importantly, preemptive strikes or enhanced sanctions will delay ongoing economic reforms in North Korea and its integration into the global economy. Internal economic and social change is ultimately the only path to moderate the DPRK regime and its policies.

Containment and Engagement

Since 2012, Kim Jong-un has pursued a dual strategy of nuclear deterrence and Chinese-style economic reforms. The prudent response of liberal democracies is to contain the military ambitions of North Korea and to support the belated integration of its citizens into global society. For instance, the USA and its Asian allies could continue their strategy of overt (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THADD) and covert (e.g., cyber-warfare) actions against the DPRK military. At the same time, we should endorse the regime’s move to a decentralized, market economy, such as increasing the legal autonomy of business enterprises and allowing farmers to cultivate private plots or pojon (vegetable garden).[3]

Kim Jong-un is belatedly recognizing and legalizing the people’s de facto transition to a market economy, a process already started during his father Kim Jong-il’s regime. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the devastating famine in the 1990s destroyed much of the top-down, governmental distribution system. To survive, ordinary North Koreans created non-governmental markets for goods and services, at first rudimentary and illegal, later more sophisticated and (at least partially) legal (Andrei Lankov analyzes the transformation in Real North Korea 2013; Felix Abt offers a first-hand account in Capitalist in North Korea 2012). With economic recovery and growth, the DPRK has developed an expansive transportation system and a nationwide cellular network, with more than 3 million subscribers,[4] which furthers the flow of goods and information.

North Koreans are increasingly aware and desiring of goods, information, and personal contacts from the outside world. Economic reforms offer legal space for foreign tourists, volunteers, businesses, and NGOs to contribute to social and economic development and to interact with ordinary citizens. Jamie Kim, director of Reah International[5], has documented about 4000 activities carried out by 500 western organizations (governmental, NGO, private) from 2005 to 2012. Significantly, they included about 50, mostly small-staffed and USA-registered, faith-based organizations (FBOs), such as the American Friends Service Committee, the Eugene Bell Foundation and Global Resource Services.

Since 2012, many secular organizations have left North Korea because of international sanctions and reduction of western government funding. Faith-based organizations receive donations and voluntary labor from Christians and are relatively immune to the vagaries of government funding.[6]

Probably the most famous faith-based operation is the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology[7] (est. 2010). North Korea’s first private university, PUST is largely funded by evangelical Christians in South Korea, the USA and other countries. About 60 foreign Christian volunteer professors instruct 500 undergraduate and 90 graduate students, who represent the academic elite of North Korea. A few students receive scholarships to study abroad in prestigious universities (e.g., University of Westminster and Cambridge University in Britain, Uppsala University in Sweden[8]). PUST has received much media coverage and controversy, including a BBC documentary.[9] Former PUST instructors such as Helen Kibby from New Zealand have also uploaded their own YouTube videos.[10]

One long-term PUST professor writes, “Although foreign faculty and North Korean students are both pretty guarded in general, their interaction is changing year by year. After PUST was opened in 2010, students didn’t talk much with professors outside their classrooms for a while. As time went by, they built up trust with each other to some degree and the campus atmosphere got to warm up. That has helped them become more open to have closer conversations. Dynamic interaction between faculty and students happens during different contexts: class, lab and research, advising students, thesis defense, events and contests, sports day, eating lunch and dinner together at the cafeteria, etc. Nevertheless, there are always certain boundaries that they both are aware of to respect and protect each other overall.”

The numbers and activities of FBOs have increased in recent years, especially entrepreneurs who combine nonprofit and business activities. Gabe* (USA) organized North Korea’s first surfing camp in partnership with the state-run travel company (Korea International Travel Company) and an American FBO (Surfing the Nations). The initial camp in 2014 (July 28 to Aug. 6) attracted 19 surfers, instructors and safety personnel from the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Australia to North Korea’s east coast. The summer camp offers surfing and skating lessons and other cultural exchanges between local residents and foreign visitors (Korea Times, 27 August 2014). On August 2016, celebrity British vlogger Louis John Cole posted a YouTube video about the surfing camp,[11] which attracted more than 700,000 views and global media controversy (Guardian, Forbes August 18, 2016; NBC News Aug. 23, 2016).

Less publicized are the hundreds of small groups that legally visit North Korea through tourism companies. Kevin* (USA) participated in a 16-person tour group, which planted 2,000 trees and conversed with students (in English) at a foreign language middle school in the Rason region near the Chinese border. Kevin was one of around 100,000 annual tourists to North Korea, the vast majority of whom are Chinese.[12]  Kevin, Helen, Gabe, and Louis all find a deep longing among North Koreans, especially the younger and more-educated, to better themselves and to engage the outside world. They wish to inspire millions more international tourists, volunteers, and businesses to come to North Korea, develop its economy, and befriend its people.

A large body of academic literature finds a positive, symbiotic relationship between economic development and liberal democracy.[13] In particular, the growth of a stable middle class generates powerful demands for the rule of law (not of arbitrary rulers), more popular participation in politics and resistance to military adventurism.[14] Another body of literature stresses the moderating effects of interpersonal contact. People get to know each other as individuals rather than as representatives of disliked groups (e.g., DPRK, USA); and personal relations of trust and friendship erode one’s dislike and prejudice of the disliked group.[15]

Any interaction between North Koreans and the outside world that increases information exchange and economic opportunity should be welcomed; these are the seeds that with time and nurturing sprout into stout trees of liberty. Andrei Lankov reminds us that the transformation of the former Soviet Union ultimately came from within, from citizens who were exposed first-hand to the West. Notably, two Soviet students selected by Moscow for the first study abroad in the USA in 1958 ultimately became the top leaders of the perestroika reforms in the late 1980s. Both men later said that their one-year experiences in the United States changed the way they saw the world. 

Let a Million Deals Bloom: The Imperfect Pakistan Model

The Trump administration should remember the enduring lure and power of liberty and the hunger of ordinary people to better their lives. As the administration pursues the “big deal” to contain DPRK nuclear weapons, it should also support opportunities for ordinary North Koreans to trade, attend school, sell their produce, make foreign friends and to negotiate a million other “deals” to better their lives.

American hard-liners claim that enhanced sanctions forced Iran to the negotiating table and will do the same to North Korea. Iran is not a useful analogy. Iran possesses the most powerful military in the Middle East (outside of Israel),[16] and lacks a credible military threat from any of its immediate neighbors (especially after the US conveniently ousted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein). Its regime survival does not depend on a nuclear deterrent. In contrast, the DPRK regime feels incredibly vulnerable to the USA and its Asian allies and absolutely believes that nuclear weapon is its only means of survival.

A better analogy for American policymakers is Pakistan, another historically poor, authoritarian country who believes nuclear weapons are necessary protection against more powerful neighbors (notably India). In fact, India’s 1971 military intervention in Pakistan’s civil war (which helped Pakistan’s eastern state become an independent Bangladesh) spurred Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to start its nuclear weapons program as a matter of national survival. Washington has yet to finalize a deal to satisfactorily contain Islamabad’s nuclear and missile program from potential proliferation or theft.[17] Still, the USA maintains trade and diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan, which has contributed to its stability and an expanding middle class.[18] Growing  the middle classes of Pakistan and its neighbor India are ultimately the most effective path to moderate each country’s politics and to limit the risks of  military  adventurism,  state failure and terrorism. Likewise, we advise the Trump administration to engage in targeted or “smart” sanctions[19] that would contain DPRK nuclear and missiles programs, but not the socioeconomic aspirations of its emerging, entrepreneurial middle class.

Talking with DPRK Refugees and American NGOs

As the Trump administration reviews its policy options it would benefit from credible, first-hand information about what is actually happening inside the DPRK. The administration should be cautious about the testimonies of “celebrity defectors” who receive financial incentives to depict the DPRK regime in a negative, sensational manner (e.g., dumping Christian prisoners in hot iron liquid[20]). More credible and objective testimonials come from ordinary North Korean refugees, most of whom left DPRK for better economic opportunities, not political dissent, and from foreigners who have worked extensively in the DPRK.

  1.; http://www.
  1. RWP11-035_Norris.pdf; cles/2009-03-01/how-development-leads-democracy
  1. ion/2012/09/201291194236970294.html
  1.; pakistan/us-sanctions-7-pakistani-entities-over-missile-programme/ articleshow/56269406.cms
  1. korean-defector-testimonies-so-often-fall-apart

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Living the Presence

Living the Presence


There is a remarkable work going on in North Korea that few know about and it is progressing despite tremendous difficulties. It is a work that only our faithful Lord could have brought into being. It is amazing, but God has chosen a devoted group of academics to be His hands and voices in this work. There is no sending agency to find the workers and provide the needed resources, although the Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture (NAFEC) has been working since 2001 to develop the campus in North Korea. Each worker is a volunteer who knows the Lord and is led to find his own support. He recognizes the Lord’s leadership and faithfully responds.

In North Korea, the people whose Christian faith becomes known are persecuted for their faith. The citizens of this country supposedly have freedom of religion, but openly there are only a few churches in the capital city that serve as showplaces. Known Christians in other places are not tolerated. There are reported to be many underground Christians, although in North Korea there are no reliable numbers. North Korea is even more restrictive than China, and this is where Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (or PUST) is located. The principle of the work is to follow the laws of the land and give the best education possible to the students. Because the volunteers are practicing Christians, their lives and their practices must provide the lifestyle example without the spoken words that the government will not allow. These Christians who volunteer to work in this international educational institution agree that they will abide by the restrictions set by the North Korean Ministry of Education. They do not evangelize vocally, do not openly carry a Bible or hymnal and do not openly pray at meals, even as they maintain their own personal life of following the Lord. They depend on the Holy Spirit to interpret their actions, their lives and their examples to the students and the local advisers.

The Beginning

When the founder of an international university in China was approached by DPRK government representatives in 2001 with a request to start an international university in Pyongyang, it seemed an impossible task. The president called in his advisers and donors and asked for their help with this decision. After much prayer and offers of help from his advisers, he agreed to found this second university as well. Dr. James Chin Kyung Kim had made a commitment to God on the battlefield during the Korean War when he was still a teenager that he would love these enemies, the Chinese and North Koreans, for the rest of his life and he would teach them about Jesus. This was the reason that he had founded the university in China with the Lord’s help and guidance. The Chinese university had prospered and grown rapidly, and the plan to use international Christian volunteers as the faculty and staff members had proven   to be an excellent plan of operation. This new university would be God’s university and the work was God’s work. God would make it possible.

The Plans

Soon the word began to circulate about the plans for the new university. It would be a science and technology university which was to begin as a graduate school, and later would add the undergraduate classes.  It would offer courses in agriculture, life sciences, electrical and computer engineering, economics, business and finance management and English.  As the school developed, the future plans would include courses in architecture, construction engineering and the medical sciences. All students would begin with at least six months of required intensive English because all classes would be taught in English. Their English usage would require high-level competency in composition, speech, listening and reading comprehension in order to excel in the high-level courses that the international professors would present in English.

Each faculty member would be required to have at least a master’s degree in the area of his expertise and would need to be a native English speaker or an English speaker with near native competency. Academics with years of experience in the classroom were preferable, but academics with years of work experience in the field of that expertise were also desirable faculty members. The goal was to always provide high-level education in whatever area of the curriculum.

The international professors would also need to be very sensitive in dealing with things related to local customs that may be very different from their own customs. They would need to be ready to deal with expressions that mean different things in this local culture, as well as expectations under certain circumstances that may differ. The leaders are considered deities of a sort, and anything related to any of them must be treated with great respect. Taking a photo in a room where there are pictures of a leader on display means that one must show the entire picture of the leader or take the photo so that none of the picture shows. Such matters are included in the required orientation that takes place either just before the journey or immediately after arrival in country and the internationals must be very careful to observe these matters.

Yet another, even more important requirement for the international faculty or staff is that they would need to live the life of a Christian as they perform these academic or administrative tasks. Jesus said that His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Christians at PUST must live so that their lives will shine with the love of Jesus to all of the students and the North Korean workers who help on the campus, even though they are not allowed to use words to explain the meaning. Living a life that is always on public display means that the Christians must always show, with sincerity, their own joy at being at PUST and their love for the people around them. This takes a spiritually mature person who is daily depending on the Lord for His strength and His presence in their lives.

Accordingly, the plans also included the gatherings for regular worship and prayer that allow an individual to re- energize his spiritual life. Weekly there is a joint worship time for all of the international faculty and staff that involves a lot of personal participation. There are also Bible studies and small group prayer meetings that take place during the week. The monthly or bi-monthly pot-luck suppers provide great fellowship and variety from the food in the cafeteria. Sadly, these activities are not open to the North Korean students and workers, but they help to keep the faculty and staff close to each other and ready to lend support to their brothers when it is needed. 

Interaction with the students and North Korean staff members

One of the long-term goals that the faculty and staff members have is to engage the students and the North Korean staff on as many levels as possible. The rules of engagement are that the internationals may not visit in the apartments or the offices with lone individuals. If a faculty member wants to talk with a student, he can request the student to come to his office and the professor will understand that inherently means that the student will have a companion with him.  Conversely, the student may not have a private meeting with one of the international professors unless his partner or friend comes with him. That sounds very restrictive but there are so many informal ways to meet and converse with others that the internationals come to feel relatively close to many of the North Korean students. The internationals always must remember that they are the visitors and are the welcomed guests of the country, so they must never criticize the country or its people. They also must stay away from conversations that include anything about culture, religion or politics. The point of being in the country is to try to set the example for peaceful interaction with each other.

One excellent way to encourage free conversation is for internationals to sit at the same table with students they know in the cafeteria. The tables have seats for only four people, so the conversations tend to be directly related to personal topics that someone wants to pursue.

The English corner groups are voluntary for the students, but are often well attended. They are excellent ways to be involved in informal conversations between the teachers and the students. There may be planned conversations or role-play games to stimulate talk. There may also be table games which allow informal conversation as the game moves along. The main thing, however, is that the object of being in the group is to stimulate English conversation. Practicing the use of English is a great way to learn English, but it is also a great way to stimulate informal conversations.

During the summer semester, the regular teachers are usually away and short-term volunteers take their places in the classrooms. The students love these youthful teachers who are so full of life and fun! The afternoons are all given to various activities designed to keep the students talking to each other and to the teachers. The students enjoy the extensive variety of activities. The classroom study is in the morning with only light homework assigned because the afternoons are so full for the students and the volunteer teachers. Conversational skills grow rapidly then, but the social skills also grow and the North Korean students come to know these short-term visitors well. Sporting activities lead to character development and understanding of integrity and a mutual respect and understanding is the natural result.

The Results

The results of the blending of these two very different groups of people is that each comes to know the other relatively well. There is acceptance of differences and tolerance develops for individual differences. There is also curiosity that stimulates questions from the students that let the professors know that they are questioning the spiritual things they have noted in the lives of these internationals. Privately, the professors rejoice because they know the Holy Spirit is at work. Remembering the students who were open and listening encourages the faculty to remember what Jesus said in John 7:38. The professors have been the channels for the Living Water and the Holy Spirit has been directing the flow. There will be fruit. This is the way of peace!

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Hope for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in the DPRK

Hope for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in the DPRK

Treatment for children with developmental disabilities is available for the first time in the DPRK. Prior to this project, no official specialized medical training or therapy existed for children with cerebral palsy or autism in the DPRK. Both were considered untreatable or were treated with lack of expertise. Worldwide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.3 out of every 1,000 children are affected by cerebral palsy and 1 out of every 110 children are affected by autism. Therefore, specialized treatment of pediatric developmental disabilities was a great need in the DPRK. 

Now, through one American family, treatment for children with developmental disabilities has begun in the Kim Il- sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. Although this family has been working and living in the DPRK for over ten years, they moved to the capital city of Pyongyang in 2013. They became the first American family to send their children to the Pyongyang Korean School for Foreigners and to reside within the apartments of the Foreign Diplomatic Compound. There have been many firsts for this unique American family, but the greatest firsts have been in the strides made for the rights of children with disabilities within the DPRK.

With skills in rehabilitation medicine and special education, this family is implementing, for the first time in the DPRK, treatment and education for children with developmental disabilities in the medical university system. Initially, the local hospital administrator did not acknowledge that developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and autism, existed in the nation. However, as patients came to be treated in the hospital, the need to treat pediatric developmental disabilities was officially recognized.

One of the first patients with cerebral palsy who brought awareness to disabilities throughout the nation came in the fall of 2013. She was ten years old at the time and diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia. This young girl could not walk, so her classroom teacher would strap her to her back and carry her to school every morning. Once at school, her teacher would then strap her to her chair so she could listen to class lectures. This girl’s greatest dream was to walk to school one day with the rest of her classmates. Following the beginning of official treatment for children with cerebral palsy in 2013, she was finally able to receive medical care. After approximately 11 months of therapy, she realized her dream: she walked out of the hospital! The local broadcast network came and televised her discharge and today she is attending school with the rest of her classmates. She now has a new dream to become a rehabilitation doctor so that she, too, can help children like herself.

Thousands of children like her are waiting in the DPRK for medical treatment and many of them have never attended school. Through this family and the establishment of a therapy program for children with developmental disabilities, other children now have hope for the future.

After the hospital’s successful treatment of children with cerebral palsy, the Department of Public Health began establishing pediatric rehabilitation centers in all 10 provincial children’s hospitals. In addition, a cohort of doctors is being trained in treatment methodologies at Kim Il-sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. The government has ensured the development of this specialty within all 10 medical schools in the country by signing an agreement with the sponsoring NGO known as IGNIS Community. Even the former leader, Kim Jong-il and the current leader, Kim Jong-un have signed off on this project!

But the story does not end there. Now, with the help of a partnering American therapist, the program for children with developmental disabilities has expanded to include not only children with cerebral palsy, but also children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Prior to June 2015, there was no diagnosis or therapy of any kind available for children with ASD in the DPRK. ASD was essentially unknown and both children with ASD and their parents struggled as they tried to cope with the challenges that faced them with neither resources nor skills.

In two short years, the Pyongyang Medical School Hospital has made great strides in learning about ASD and the therapies available. In cooperation with the DPRK government Ministries of Public Health, the hospital has hosted a series of four separate weeks of lectures and hands- on therapy skills training provided by IGNIS Community volunteers. Doctors who have participated in this training will be the pioneers of ASD therapy in the nation. In addition to specific skills and techniques in facilitating social interaction and communication in children with ASD, the training content also included foundational theories and philosophies of practice. Through the lecture content and discussions about different models of disability, whole child development and the importance of cultivating trusting relationships with children and families, attitudes and perspectives of both doctors and families have changed.

A seven-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) walked into the therapy room with his mom, his eyes wide and face ashen with fear. He had never spoken before and could not attend school because of his challenges with sensory processing and social communication. He could not tolerate anyone near him and responded by crying out in fear or spinning a toy to help relieve his anxiety. By the end of a 30-minute therapy session, he was engaged in a beautiful, back-and-forth tickle game with the therapist, laughing loudly and deeply. He excitedly grabbed the therapist’s hands and placed them on his stomach and even spoke his first partial word to ask for more tickles! His mom, with tears in her eyes, said that this was the happiest she had ever seen her son.

Another mom of an eight-year-old boy with ASD openly shared her struggles of raising a child with special needs. Her despair turned to hope as the therapists listened to her, encouraged her, and reassured her that she is not alone.

These are just a few of the stories of hope and healing that have taken place in the lives of children and families who come to the new pediatric therapy clinic started by IGNIS Community at Kim Il-sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital.

Besides the lecture component, the ASD training series has also included a significant amount of hands-on training. Morning lectures about theory and techniques are then implemented in the therapy clinic in the afternoon.  The techniques are first modeled by the visiting western therapist and then each therapist-in-training has had the opportunity to practice the skills they have learned    as they engage with a child with ASD and his caregiver. Each therapy session is followed by a time of debriefing and questions. The DPRK therapists and other observers have noted this debriefing time as one of the most helpful methods of learning for them, enabling them to see how techniques can be utilized and adapted to real-life situations based on the child’s individual needs.

The doctors are eager to learn and are motivated to help children with the new skills they are acquiring. The hospital, now equipped with basic developmental milestone charts and ASD screening materials, is screening each child that comes through its doors for ASD and other developmental delays.

Pyongyang Medical School Hospital has seen this training series as valuable and has invited others to join their learning. As of June 2017, a total of over 30 doctors from Pyongyang Medical School Hospital, Pyongyang Children’s Hospital and the DPRK Disability Federation have taken part in the lecture series. The Assistant Director and Chair of the Neurology Department at Munsoon Rehabilitation Center have also expressed interest in participating in future training.

The lecture series on ASD has not only been helpful for doctors and therapists providing direct care; but has also caught the increasing attention of government officials from The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Public Health. Their increased awareness and education about ASD is crucial in the adaptation of the medical system and formation of policies to include the diagnosis and care for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

IGNIS Community envisions that through the training of medical students in rehabilitation specialties, through empowering parents and through igniting change in the society’s perspective of disability, children with cerebral palsy, ASD, and other developmental disabilities will be transformed to their full potential and be able to participate in their community. Child by child, one family and one doctor at a time, we are seeing this vision become a reality.

This is an article from the May-June 2018 issue: Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places

Tribute to Jim Downing

A Pioneer of Discipling Movements August 22, 1913–February 13, 2018

Tribute to Jim Downing

Editor’s Note: I first met Jim Downing in 1990 just after joining the U.S. Center for World Mission, now Frontier Ventures. I was very impressed by Jim’s passion for discipleship and completing world evangelization. That passion continued to burn brightly throughout his life. I was honored to work with Jim and Robby Butler on the Jan-Feb 2011 issue of MF. This collaborative effort was the beginning of my journey to discover the power of movements—unbroken chains of multiplying disciples—and changed my understanding of the missionary task. Jim’s life as a disciple-maker and movement catalyst will be the most important and longest-lasting impact of Jim’s very amazing life.

Note the dates; that’s no typo. Jim lived 104½ years! He liked to observe that the very young and the very old track their ages in fractions.

Jim’s distinguished military career  included the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, where Jim repeatedly told God, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” But God had other plans. A decade later Jim commanded a ship in the Korean War, and he lived to be among the oldest living survivors of Pearl Harbor. In Jim’s last decade he became a talk-show celebrity and met several U.S. presidents. Jim’s 2016 autobiography, The Other Side of Infamy, made him the world’s oldest male book author.

But the distinguished career, public spotlight, and world record were all secondary to Jim. His passion was making disciples who make disciples. Jim approached interviews as an opportunity to influence his interviewers and audience for Christ. Jim included his testimony in his autobiography and was determined for everyone in the military and their families to have the opportunity to read it. 

Upon experiencing the joy of knowing Christ in 1935, Jim became the sixth sailor to join Dawson Trotman’s fledgling Navigator ministry.

Just three months later, four of the first five Navigators had left military service, and the fifth deferred to Jim’s leadership. “The future of the Navigators depends on an inside man in the Navy,” Jim thought. “I am willing to be that man.”

Jim re-enlisted to lead a residency program that won, prepared and sent reproducing disciples throughout the Navy. Dawson later estimated that under this first decade of Jim’s leadership and by the end of WWII, the Navigator discipling movement had spread to 1,000 ships and 1,000 military bases. Today the Navigator ministry is in more than 100 countries.

Jim’s involvement with the Navigators[iii] spanned more than 80 years, including 20 years as board chairman and nearly 35 years after his 1983 retirement, at the age of 70.

In the early 1990s, when Jim was already nearly 80, Ralph Winter invited him to visit the USCWM to regularly disciple its young leaders. Jim seemed to take special notice of me as Ralph Winter’s personal assistant, and we forged a lasting friendship.

Almost two decades later Jim traveled to invest in my life again. I was studying and praying about how to better mobilize the church and was drawn to focus on reproducing discipleship. In March 2010 I called Jim.

“I have some questions about Trotman’s vision for discipleship,” I said.

“Let me come visit you,” Jim replied.

Just the previous month Jim had lost Morena, his wife of 68 years. He was 96½, and ready for whatever God had next. God gave Jim the word “availability” for this season, and he traveled, discipled and spoke through December 2017, well past his 104th birthday, Jim made everyone feel special. He was comfortable among those of high position, but never carried an air    of self-importance and was concerned for the spiritual state of everyone he met. When Jim saw me in 2010, he resumed discipling me by discussing his next steps for discipling David, a young man who had helped care for Morena.

Jim was as eager to learn as to teach. Shortly after a Simply the Story[iv] trainer demonstrated the use of Bible storytelling in discipleship, I saw Jim use Bible storytelling with a gathering of veterans. When I talked with Jim about Avery Willis’s “Discipleship Revolution”—based on Avery’s collaboration with Real Life Ministries (RLM) in Idaho— Jim got interested as well.

In April 2010, just before Avery passed away, Jim and I traveled to New Orleans to experience the RLM model. Jim told me it was “the best church-based model of discipleship I have ever seen.”

Jim was nearly 100 then and had then been actively discipling for 75 years. His endorsement of RLM emboldened me to draw a dozen others (including MF editor Rick Wood and his wife) to a second presentation of the RLM model at Navigator headquarters a few months later. There Rick asked me for an article on RLM. With Jim’s support I countered by offering to prepare a whole issue on discipleship and discipling movements (Jan/Feb 2011)[v].

Jim contributed two articles for that issue: one emphasizing insights from Ralph Winter[vi] that impacted Jim during his 1990s visits to the USCWM and the other on knowing God vs. knowing about Him[vii]. Jim also gave a video interview expanding on both articles[viii] and approved my distillation of Jim’s transcript of Dawson Trotman’s 1956 call for reproducing disciples[ix].

This 2011 issue of MF led with a tribute to Avery Willis and the RLM breakthrough[x] and introduced the Training for Trainers[xi] Process from Steve Smith’s 2011 book T4T:  A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community!

Initial reports attributed Jim’s death to complications from surgery (for life-threatening conditions). Jim recovered well from the surgery but had a mild heart attack almost a week later. He passed away two weeks after the heart attack.

MF owes an enduring debt to Jim for modeling and helping us to recognize the significance of movements (unbroken chains) of multiplying disciples. Even researching this tribute has surfaced insights relevant for discipling movement residencies[xii] today.

This and other articles are available in PDF and booklet formats at












This is an article from the January-February 2018 issue: ARE YOU IN?

How to Get Involved

Jesus didn’t intend his Great Commission for just a sub-group of his followers, but for everyone who knows him as their Savior. He calls every believer to play a role in finishing the task. Join us via the avenues below to get involved!


Prayer movements always coincide with Church-Planting Movements. Join the global 24:14 prayer movement:

  • Sign up to join the 24/7 canopy of prayer supporting the 24:14 vision and receive weekly prayer emails (contact [email protected]).
  • Sign up to learn more about how to partner in prayer with a specific DMM team who are seeking to reach UPGs in their location (contact [email protected]).
  • Set a 24:14 alarm on your phone for 12:14 pm each day, to remind you to pray for fulfillment of Matthew 24:14.


  • Engaging every unreached people and place with a movement strategy by 2025 will require the Church to mobilize like never before. We need to provide financial resources for special initiatives, collaboration of movement catalysts, training leaders, and mobilizing national believers to cascade movements to new unreached areas. Go to


Get trained to effectively start CPMs, whether across an ocean or in your backyard. 24:14 has a network of home hubs and field hubs to provide a pathway for reaching a UPG, starting in your local context. Contact [email protected] for more information on getting involved. To learn more about hubs, see this Mission Frontiers article: left-in-our-generation.


24:14 has a list of roles that must be filled in order to make the eight-year vision a reality. See below for some key roles that you may be able to help with:

  • Join a Geographic Stewardship Team: Geographic Stewardship Team Members (GSTMs) will identify and/or train implementers who will seek to multiply disciples and simple churches within their focus People Group or geographic area. In order to engage every unreached people group, we need a huge number of volunteer GSTMs in many locations, to ensure the entire world is being covered. For more information, contact [email protected].
  • Become a Home or Field Hub Coordinator: Are you already implementing CPM principles at home or abroad? Turn your place of ministry into a training ground where others can come to learn and serve in your ministry before being launched into a new region. For more information, contact [email protected] or [email protected].
  • Provide Logistical/Administrative Support: Help provide logistical and administrative support for the GSTMs, implementers, and others involved in this effort. For more information, contact [email protected].
  • Become a 24:14 Advocate: Help us spread the word about 24:14 in your church, business, and other places of influence. You could mobilize resources, prayer, and funds for the cause. Contact [email protected].
  • Start a 24:14 Task Force: Are you passionate about an area not listed above? Start a task force consistent with the vision of 24:14 to accomplish a specific objective. (For example, mobilizing 100 missionaries from your state/region in the next 2 years.) If you would like to start a task force, please contact [email protected].

Not ready to volunteer, but want to stay in the loop? Fill out the form at

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

A Church in Every People

Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject

A Church in Every People

A Church in
Every People[1]

Plain Talk About a
Difficult Subject

by Dr. Donald A. McGavran
Introduction by Robby Butler, disciple of McGavran and Winter [2]

McGavran’s Legacy

McGavran stirred the mission world by shifting the question from “How does an individual become Christian?” to “How does a people become Christian?”

McGavran devoted much of his life to this latter question, publishing in 1954 his landmark book, Bridges of God: A Study in the Strategy of Missions.

In the mid-1960s, McGavran founded the “School of World Mission” at Fuller Theological Seminary. Over the next decade, with Ralph Winter and others, McGavran supervised 1,000 experienced field missionaries in studying how peoples are discipled—in the Bible, history, and these missionaries’ fields. [3]

This collaborative study with experienced missionaries revealed:

  • The Bible commissions us to disciple whole peoples (ethne).
  • Peoples are only discipled through indigenous movements.[4]
  • Indigenous movements spread only within individual peoples.

McGavran proposed, and Winter agreed, that

We cannot say we have evangelized a person until that person can join an indigenous movement in their society.[5]

McGavran further observed that a people is unreached until its members can follow Christ without their peers feeling they have “traitorously left their own people to join another people.”[6]

Alarmingly, McGavran observed that 90% of Western missionaries to the unreached default to methods that hinder indigenous movements, making the unreached more resistant.

Historical Context

In the early 1970s, influential theologians observed the presence of “national churches” in nearly every country. Presuming that these national churches all had the motivation and ability to evangelize their own countries, these theologians began calling for a moratorium on sending missionaries.

Winter responded at the 1974 Lausanne Congress by showing that 85% of the lost lived among peoples that resisted Christendom as an invading, foreign religion. By extension of McGavran’s insight, Winter showed that these peoples could not be won by normal evangelism, but required new efforts to start indigenous movements among what Winter later called “hidden peoples.”

The World Consultation on Frontier Missions (Edinburgh ’80) gathered at Winter’s initiative. And the delegates distilled the understanding that every people needs its own indigenous movement into the watchword “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.”  Through the late 1990s,[7] this became a global rallying cry for discipling all nations, and much good would be accomplished by the “AD2000 & Beyond Movement.”

Very soon, however, McGavran began expressing concern that the methods most missionaries were using to “plant a church” were working against the very goal of starting indigenous movements. TIn 1981 he detailed these concerns in the article below.[8]

Today’s Reality

Mission researchers are now tracking nearly 650 movements,[9] most having developed just in the past decade. And many of these movements are growing faster and stronger than anything Winter or McGavran saw in their study of past movements.

Yet in retrospect, McGavran’s concerns appears prophetic—and as relevant today as when he first wrote them:

  • In 1985, McGavran estimated that 50% of the world lived among unreached peoples—2.5 billion people.[10]
  • Today IMB researchers estimate that 57% of the world lives among unreached peoples—4.3 billion (nearly double).[11]

Ralph Winter wrote two Introductions for McGavran’s article.

  1. In 1995 for the Global Congress on World Evangelization:[12]
    [This is] one of the most significant documents McGavran ever wrote. It … distilled his misgivings at superficial attempts to barge into untouched groups with the Gospel. [His] life of insights is remarkably distilled here for all to see.
  2. For a Sep/Oct 1997 reprint in Mission Frontiers:
    In many ways this is the most remarkable article written by the most remarkable mission strategist of the Twentieth Century.

[No one] in history has tramped more places, inquired about the hard facts of the real growth of the Christian movement … and thought it through more profoundly—than Donald A. McGavran. … His burning, wide-ranging concerns took him everywhere [and] pushed his thinking into global prominence.

This [is] a cautioning letter to [those] coming after him, warning them against oversimplification [with] more solid understanding of the essential factors in Christian mission than most missionaries could accumulate in a lifetime.

A Church in Every People:

Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject[13]

by Dr. Donald A. McGavran


In the last eighteen years of the twentieth century, the goal of Christian mission should be to preach the Gospel and, by God’s grace, to plant in every unchurched segment of mankind—what shall we say—”a church” or “a cluster of growing churches”? By the phrase, “segment of mankind” I mean an urbanization, development, caste, tribe, valley, plain, or minority population. I shall explain that the steadily maintained long-range goal should never be the first, but should always be second. The goal is not one small sealed-off conglomerate congregation in every people. Rather, the long-range goal (to be held consistently in view in the years or decades when it is not yet achieved) should be a cluster of growing congregations in every segment.[14]

The One-by-One Method

As we consider the phrase italicized above, we should remember that it is usually easy to start one single congregation in a new unchurched people group. The missionary arrives. He and his family worship on Sunday. They are the first members of the congregation. He learns the language and preaches the Gospel. He lives like a Christian. He tells people about Christ and helps them in their troubles. He sells tracts or Gospels, or gives them away. Across the years, a few individual converts are won from that.[15] Sometimes they come for very sound and spiritual reasons; some-times from mixed motives. But here and there a woman, a man, a boy, a girl do decide to follow Jesus. A few employees of the mission become Christian. These may be masons hired to erect the buildings, helpers in the home, rescued persons or orphans. The history of mission in Africa is replete with churches started by buying slaves, freeing them and employing such of them as could not return to their kindred. Such as chose to could accept the Lord. A hundred and fifty years ago this was a common way of starting a church. With the outlawing of slavery, of course, it ceased to be used.

One single congregation arising in the way just described is almost always a conglomerate church—made up of members of several different segments of society, some old, some young, orphans, rescued persons, helpers and ardent seekers. All seekers are carefully screened to make sure they really intend to receive Christ. In due time a church building is erected and, lo, “a church in that people.” It is a conglomerate church. It is sealed off from all the people groups of that region. No segment of the population says, “That group of worshipers is us.” They are quite right. It is not. It is ethnically quite a different social unit.[16]

Slow to Grow

This very common way of beginning the process of evangelization is a slow way to disciple the peoples of the earth—note the plural, “the peoples of the earth.” Let us observe closely what really happens as this congregation is gathered. Each convert, as he becomes a Christian, is seen by kin as one who leaves “us” and joins “them.” He leaves “our gods” to worship “their gods.” Consequently, his own relatives force him out. Sometimes he is severely ostracized, thrown out of the house and home; his wife is threatened. Hundreds of converts have been poisoned or killed. Sometimes, the ostracism is mild and consists merely in severe disapproval. His people consider him a traitor. A church which results from this process looks to the peoples of the region like an assemblage of traitors. It is a conglomerate congregation. It is made up of individuals who, one by one, have come out of several different societies, castes or tribes.[17]

Now if anyone, in becoming a Christian, is forced out of, or comes out of a highly-structured segment of society, the Christian cause wins the individual but loses the family. The family, his people, his neighbors of that tribe are fiercely angry at him or her. They are the very men and women to whom he cannot talk. “You are not of us,” they say to him. “You have abandoned us, you like them more than you like us. You now worship their gods not our gods.” As a result, conglomerate congregations, made up of converts won in this fashion, grow very slowly. Indeed, one might truly affirm that, where congregations grow in this fashion, the conversion of the ethnic units (people groups) from which they come is made doubly difficult. “The Christians misled one of our people,” the rest of the group will say. “We’re going to make quite sure that they do not mislead any more of us.”

Easy For Missionaries

One by one is relatively easy to accomplish. Perhaps 90 out of 100 missionaries who intend church planting get only conglomerate congregations. I want to emphasize that. Perhaps 90 out of every 100 missionaries who intend church planting get only conglomerate congregations. Such missionaries preach the gospel, tell of Jesus, sell tracts and Gospels and evangelize in many other ways. They welcome inquirers, but whom do they get? They get a man here, a woman there, a boy here, a girl there, who for various reasons are willing to become Christians and patiently to endure the mild or severe disapproval of their people.[18]

If we understand how churches grow and do not grow on new ground, in untouched and unreached peoples, we must note that the process I have just described seems unreal to most missionaries. “What,” they will exclaim, “ could be a better way of entry into all the unreached peoples of that region than to win a few individuals from among them? Instead of resulting in the sealed-off church you describe, the process really gives us points of entry into every society from which a convert has come. That seems to us to be the real situation.”

Those who reason in this fashion have known church growth in a largely Christian land, where men and women who follow Christ are not ostracized, are not regarded as traitors, but rather as those who have done the right thing. In that kind of society every convert usually can become a channel through which the Christian faith flows to his relatives and friends. On that point there can be no debate. It was the point I emphasized when I titled my book, Bridges of God.[19]

Ineffective in Untouched Peoples

But in tightly-structured societies, where Christianity is looked on as an invading religion, and individuals are excluded for serious fault, there to win converts from several different segments of society, far from building bridges to each of these, erects barriers difficult to cross.

The People-Movement Approach

Seven Principles

Now let us contrast the other way in which God is discipling the peoples of Planet Earth. My account is not theory but a sober recital of easily observable facts. As you look around the world you see that, while most missionaries succeed in planting only conglomerate churches by the “one by one out of the social group” method, here and there clusters of growing churches arise by the people-movement method.[20] They arise by tribe-wise or caste-wise movements to Christ. This is in many ways a better system. In order to use it effectively, missionaries should operate on seven principles.

1. Aim for a Cluster of Growing Congregations

First, they should be clear about the goal. The goal is not one single conglomerate church in city or a region. They may get only that, but that must never be their goal. That must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations,[21] every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred. This cluster grows best if it is in one people, one caste, one tribe, one segment of society. For example, If you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taipei, then your goal would be to win not some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fisherman, but to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children and mechanics. As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion. Everybody feels at home. Yes, the goal must be clear.

2. Concentrate on One People

The second principle is that the national leader, or the missionary and his helpers, should concentrate on one people. If you are going to establish a cluster of growing congregations amongst, let us say, the Nair people of Kerala, which is the southwest tip of India, then you would need to place most of your missionaries and their helpers so that they can work among the Nairs. They should proclaim the Gospel to Nairs and say quite openly to them, “We are hoping that, within your caste, there soon will be thousands of followers of Jesus Christ, who will remain solidly in the Nair community.” They will, of course, not worship the old gods; but then plenty of Nairs don’t worship their old gods—plenty of Nairs are communist, and ridicule their old gods.

Nairs whom God calls, who choose to believe in Christ, are going to love their neighbors more than they did before, and walk in the light. They will be saved and beautiful people. They will remain Nairs while, at the same time they have become Christians.[22] To repeat, concentrate on one people group. If you have three missionaries, don’t have one evangelizing this group, another that, and a third 200 miles away evangelizing still another. That is a sure way to guarantee that any churches started will be small, non-growing, one-by-one churches. The social dynamics of those sections of society will work solidly against the eruption of any great growing people movement to Christ.

3. Encourage Converts to Remain With Their People

The third principle is to encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their own people in most matters. They should continue to eat what their people eat. They should not say, “My people are vegetarians but, now that I have become a Christian, I am going to eat meat.” After they become Christians they should be more rigidly vegetarian than they were before. In the matter of clothing, they should continue to look precisely like their kinfolk. In the matter of marriage, most people are endogamous, they insist that “our people marry only our people.” They look with great disfavor on our marrying other people. And yet when Christians come in one-by-one, they cannot marry their own people. None of them have become Christian. When only a few of a given people become Christians, when it comes time for them or their children to marry, they have to take husbands or wives from other segments of the population. So their own kin look at them and say, “Yes, become a Christian and mongrelize your children. You have left us and have joined them.”

All converts should be encouraged to bear cheerfully the exclusion, the oppression, and the persecution that they are likely to encounter from their people. When anyone becomes a follower of a new way of life, he is likely to meet with some disfavor from his loved ones. Maybe it’s mild; maybe it’s severe. He should bear such disfavor patiently. He should say on all occasions:

I am a better son than I was before; I am a better father than I was before; I am a better husband than I was before; and I love you more than I used to do. You can hate me, but I will not hate you. You can exclude me, but I will include you. You can force me out of our ancestral house; but I will live on its veranda. Or I will get a house just across the street. I am still one of you, I am more one of you than I ever was before.

Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.

Please note that word “most.” They cannot remain one with their people in idolatry, or drunkenness or obvious sin. If they belong to a segment of society that earns its living stealing, they must “steal no more.” But, in most matters (how they talk, how they dress, how they eat, where they go, what kind of houses they live in), they can look very much like their people, and ought to make every effort to do so.

4. Encourage Group Decisions for Christ[23]

The fourth principle is to try to get group decisions for Christ. If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately. Say to him, “You and I will work together to lead another five or ten or, God willing, fifty of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior so that when you are baptized, you are baptized with them.” Ostracism is very effective against one lone person. But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen. And when exercised against two hundred it has practically no force at all.

5. Aim for a Constant Stream of New Converts

The fifth principle is this: Aim for scores of groups of people to become Christians in an even-flowing stream across the years. One of the common mistakes made by missionaries, eastern as well as western, all around the world[24] is that when a few become Christians—perhaps 100, 200 or even 1,000—the missionaries spend all their time teaching them. They want to make them good Christians, and they say to themselves, “If these people become good Christians, then the Gospel will spread.” So for years they concentrate on a few congregations. By the time, ten or twenty years later, that they begin evangelizing outside that group, the rest of the people no longer want to become Christian. That has happened again and again. This principle requires that, from the very beginning, the missionary keeps on reaching out to new groups. “But,” you say, “is not this a sure way to get poor Christians who don’t know the Bible? If we follow that principle we shall soon have a lot of ‘raw’ Christians. Soon we shall have a community of perhaps five thousand people who are very sketchily Christian.”[25]

Yes, that is certainly a danger. At this point, we must lean heavily upon the New Testament, remembering the brief weeks or months of instruction Paul gave to his new churches, We must trust the Holy Spirit, and believe that God has called those people out of darkness into His wonderful light. As between two evils, giving them too little Christian teaching and allowing them to become a sealed-off community that cannot reach its own people, the latter is much the greater danger. We must not allow new converts to become sealed off. We must continue to make sure that a constant stream of new converts comes into the ever-growing cluster of congregations.

6. Help Converts Exemplify the Highest Hopes of Their People

Now the sixth point is this: The converts, five or five thousand, ought to say or at least feel:

We Christians are the advance guard of our people, of our segment of society. We are showing our relatives and neighbors a better way of life. The way we are pioneering is good for us who have become Christians and will be very good for you thousands who have yet to believe. Please look on us not as traitors in any sense. We are better sons, brothers, and wives, better tribesmen and caste fellows, better members of our labor union, than we ever were before. We are showing ways in which, while remaining thoroughly of our own segment of society, we all can have a better life. Please look on us as the pioneers of our own people entering a wonderful Promised Land.

7. Emphasize Brotherhood[26]

The last principle I stress is this: Constantly emphasize brotherhood. In Christ there is no Jew, no Greek, no bond, no free, no Barbarian, no Scythian. We are all one in Christ Jesus. but, at the same time, let us remember that Paul did not attack all imperfect social institutions. For example, he did not do away with slavery. Paul said to the slave, “Be a better slave, “ He said to the slave owner, “Be a better master.”

Paul also said in that famous passage emphasizing unity, “There is no male or female.” Nevertheless Christians, in their boarding schools and orphanages, continue to sleep boys and girls in separate dormitories! In Christ, there is no sex distinctions. Boys and girls are equally precious in God’s sight. Men from this tribe, and men from that are equally precious in God’s sight. We are all equally sinners saved by grace. These things are true but, at the same time, there are certain social niceties which Christians at this time may observe.

As we continue to stress brotherhood, let us be sure that the most effective way to achieve brotherhood is to lead ever increasing numbers of men and women from every ethnos, every tribe, every segment of society into an obedient relationship to Christ. As we multiply Christians in every segment of society, the possibility of genuine brotherhood, justice, goodness and righteousness will be enormously increased. Indeed, the best way to get justice, possibly the only way to get justice, is to have very large numbers in every segment of society become committed Christians.


As we work for Christward movements in every people, let us not make the mistake of believing that “one-by-one out of the society into the church” is a bad way. One precious soul willing to endure severe ostracism in order to become a follower of Jesus—one precious soul coming all by himself—is a way that God has blessed and is blessing to the salvation of mankind. But it is a slow way. And it is a way which frequently seals off the con-vert’s own people from any further hearing of the Gospel.

Sometimes one-by-one is the only possible method. When it is, let us praise God for it, and live with its limitations. Let us urge all those wonderful Christians who come bearing persecution and oppression, to pray for their own dear ones and to work constantly that more of their own people may believe and be saved.

One-by-one is one way that God is blessing to the increase of His Church. The people movement is another way. The great advances of the Church on new ground out of non-Christian religions have always come by people movements, never one-by-one. It is equally true that one-by-one-out-of-the-people is a very common beginning way. In my book, Bridges of God, which God used to launch the Church Growth Movement, I have used a simile, I say there that missions start proclaiming Christ on a desert-like plain. There life is hard, the number of Christians remains small. A large missionary presence is required. But, here and there, the missionaries or the converts find ways to break out of that arid plain and proceed up into the verdant mountains. There large numbers of people live, there real churches can be founded; there the Church grows strong; that is people-movement land.

I commend that simile to you. Let us accept what God gives. If it is one-by-one, let us accept that and lead those who believe in Jesus to trust in Him completely. But let us always pray that, after that beginning, we may proceed to higher ground, to more verdant pasture, to more fertile lands where great groups of men and women, all of the same segment of society, become Christians and thus open the way for Christward movements in each people on earth. Our goal should be Christward movements within each segment. There the dynamics of social cohesion will advance the Gospel and lead multitudes out of darkness into His wonderful life. Let us be sure that we do it by the most effective methods.


This article was written and copyrighted for the Perspectives Reader. This  annotated version is available (with permission) at

[1] Reprinted by permission from William Carey Library.


[2] I worked as Ralph Winter’s personal assistant for eight years, then on his leadership team and institutional boards for another eight. When Donald McGavran could no longer read, I had the privilege of reading to him and interacting with him also.


[3] McGavran used “discipling” to mean baptism into an indigenous movement. He referred to theological instruction beyond this as “perfecting” (2 Cor 7:1, etc.).

[4] Movements are how Asia was reached through Paul, and how Ireland, Europe, the Netherlands, and every other “Christian” land was reached”.

[5] “The Analysis of a Movement” by Ralph Winter for GCOWE ’95. Reprinted in Frontiers in Mission, available at

[6] McGavran in “A Giant Step in Christian Mission” (Jan/Feb 1985 Mission Frontiers)

[8] Written for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader

[9] A May, 2017 a “think tank of mission practitioners” identified about 500 movements unfolding around the world, most having started since the year 2000.



[12] Winter in “The Analysis of a Movement,” reprinted in Frontiers in Mission

[13] Some wording and concepts in McGavran’s original article are dated by changes in terminology and new insights. I have annotated many of these. See also my adaptation from McGavran’s outline: “Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached” at, or in this issue of Mission Frontiers.

[14] This was McGavran’s conception of a movement, based on historical precedent.

[15] Such one-by-one evangelism is sometimes referred to as “extraction evangelism.”

[16] In “A Giant Step in Christian Mission” (Jan/Feb 1985 Mission Frontiers), McGavran described unreached peoples as peoples:

  • that “believe intensely that ‘if any of us becomes a Christian, he leaves “us” and joins “them,”’” and
  • in which “individuals who are Christ’s followers are perceived by their fellows to have ‘left their own people and traitorously gone off to join another people.’ Putting it positively, a people is to be considered reached when its members who become Christians are perceived by their fellows as ‘still our people who are pointing the way to what they believe as a good path for us all to follow.’ In Guatemala in 1985, when one asks a person, ‘Are you an evangelical?’ he frequently hears the answer, ‘not yet.’ This is proof that many segments of society in that nation are now effectively ‘reached’ i.e., they believe that while linguistically or ethnically they still remain themselves (Indians or Mestizos), they probably ought to become obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

[17] In Chapter 26 of his book Frontiers in Mission, Ralph Winter provides this perspective on the spiritual dynamics which make a people unreached:

Satan holds whole peoples in bondage. We can’t wrestle a single soul out of his hand without challenging his authority in that particular people group. ... in groups where no real breakthrough has occurred, the contest is still a “power encounter” between the Spirit of God and the powers of darkness. This is why the front line is prayer. This is why Asian evangelists say they must first “bind the strong man” before entering a village that sits in darkness waiting for the great light. We must remember that taking the light into dark places will meet fierce resistance. In the Bible the concept of darkness is not merely the absence of light but the presence of a malignant, destroying Person. That is why the kingdoms of this world will not easily yield. ...

Satan wields his control over individuals by dominating their groups. Most people follow the lead of their own group. Very few individuals are perfectly unrestricted thinkers for themselves. Sometimes it is baffling to missionaries to know how to penetrate a group. Often the breakthrough comes through a miraculous healing or the unaccountable conversion of a key person, not through normal evangelism. Yes, normal evangelism only becomes possible after that breakthrough occurs. ...

Dr. McGavran’s conviction which had influenced so many others was that we cannot say that we have evangelized a person unless that person has been given a chance to unite with an indigenous movement within his or her own society.

[18] This is a sobering observation for those seeking to reach unreached peoples (which perceive Christendom as an unwelcome, divisive religion).

Our efforts must aim to avoid both:

  • winning individuals away from their natural communities, and
  • injecting foreign culture into the ekklesia formed of newly believing families.

[19] Central to McGavran’s concern is his awareness of the natural tendency for those schooled into individualistic evangelism (westerners and non-westerners alike) to overlook the fundamental difference in strategy and method required between:

  • peoples that view following Jesus as an acceptable option within their cultural identity, and
  • those who lump following Jesus with Christendom and reject both as incompatible with their cultural identity.

[20] McGavran’s research involved mostly congregations meeting in dedicated buildings. Later biblical scholarship, and the experience of nearly 650 recent movements, shows that multiplying ekklesia through households (without dedicated buildings) can be far more fruitful. McGavran himself is said to have later regretted focusing on church growth rather than church multiplication. Ekklesia meeting daily as believing households can spread far more rapidly, and with less opposition, to reach a critical mass for tipping a peoples’ attitude in favor of biblical faith. However visible churches (in dedicated buildings) within a single people can also play an influential role in persuading a people that the gospel is good news for them.

[21] English Bibles generally translate ekklesia (Greek) as “church.” Yet New Testament ekklesia lacked the modern trappings of “church”—buildings, programs, sermons and paid staff. Biblical ekklesia met mostly as pre-existing households or oikos (Greek), told stories of Jesus, and multiplied rapidly. A biblical understanding of ekklesia might be “Followers of Jesus, gathering in His name, often daily, to trustingly obey all He commands.” By this definition, the teams of two Jesus sent out modeled ekklesia wherever they were sent, as did Paul and his teams.

[22] In McGavran’s day few distinguished “becoming Christian” from following Jesus. And McGavran witnessed some smaller, oppressed peoples becoming “Christian” to elevate their global status. However among majority peoples of other world religions it is most effective to trust the Holy Spirit to guide them regarding their identification with Christendom, and focus simply on leading them to “follow Jesus.”

[23] Ninety percent of the salvations recorded in Acts involve groups believing together. Only on three of 30 occasions does an individual come to faith or get baptized. And despite the scriptural mandate for circumcision, Paul wrote three times that this sign of identity is meaningless; concluding the “only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Rom 2:25–29; 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 5:6). Yet missionaries often hinder movements by urging individual obedience in baptism in collectivistic societies.

[24] The global mission effort, including the training and sending of non-Western missionaries, remains heavily influenced by Western, individualistic perspectives.

[25] McGavran appears to be writing from an assumption that most of the evangelism is done by the missionaries. However modern movements demonstrate that new believers grow much faster through direct engagement in sharing the gospel than through receiving good teaching. This is a clear example of the widely recognized principle “The best way to learn is to teach.”

[26] McGavran appears here to be defending against a criticism that his focus on pursuing movements within individual peoples was tantamount to advocating racism.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began

McGavran’s “Plain Talk:” How It All Began…

In 1981 I was a student at the School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary. At the same time I was working with the incipient Perspectives movement, volunteering my time at the US Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures). I kept a light class schedule that year because I had been tasked with organizing and editing the first Perspectives Reader and Study Guide.

I was delighted to discover that three times a week, students could sign up to meet with Donald McGavran in his office while he ate his lunch. He was always punctual, allowing exactly 30 minutes. I did this often, usually coming prepared with questions, trying to get him talking about how churches could emerge for the first time amidst peoples that we could consider churchless.

I remember pressing him one day about how he would advise someone beginning work amidst an unreached people group. He rattled off five or six principles, all focused on the goal of “Christward movements.” He used the term “cluster of growing congregations,” to describe a multiplicity of growing churches, but I’m sure he would have been thrilled with present-day reports of movements using language of cascading, multiplying generations of churches.

At that time we were finalizing the Strategic section of the Perspectives course. The ideas that McGavran had just described would work beautifully in the course. I asked him to write them in an article for the forthcoming Perspectives reader. He agreed, somewhat reluctantly, but worked with our editorial team to produce the “Plain Talk” article. It was one of the last articles that we squeezed into the curriculum. It still serves us well as the lead article for what is now Lesson 14 of the Perspectives course.

Sometime in 1997, Ralph Winter began to extol the worth of the article, speaking of it in conversation as “a jewel of McGavran’s thought.” He had it reprinted in Mission Frontiers in 1997. Twenty years later, in early 2017, Robby Butler noticed the implications of McGavran’s statements for frontier mission mobilization. If, as McGavran implies, planting single “conglomerate congregations” by what amounts to “extraction evangelism” is actually a setback, making it even harder for many to follow Christ, then Robby was right to say that our efforts to mobilize and send workers may not only be wasted, our efforts may be largely counterproductive.

Robby took it on himself to rework McGavran’s article with some updated language, emphasizing the ideas most pertinent to those aiming to bring about ecclesial movements. I consider Robby’s reworking of McGavran’s article as a call to tap into the rich heritage of inquiry and research about Christ-following ecclesial movements that we can find in many parts of the church growth tradition. This tradition all began with McGavran’s work about how to serve and foment Christ-following, disciple-making movements. Although much of the church growth tradition is dated, there has been considerable theological reflection with insights from social science and history that can strengthen movemental ecclesiology, but only if we make use of it by considering, challenging and advancing it.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Stewarding Resources Unto Greater Fruitfulness

A ministry update from Francis Patt, General Director of Frontier Ventures

Stewarding Resources Unto Greater Fruitfulness

We at Frontier Ventures, together with William Carey International University, are moving forward with continued passion and vision for the Unreached. We are pursuing a future of increased focus and collaboration around the kind of complex problems in mission that got us started 40 years ago. How do we continue turning the church’s attention to the pressing needs and pioneering contexts of the “least of these?” How do we address barriers to the gospel that are bigger than any one organization, campus or even the western mission movement? 

An important part of our work continues to be seeing kingdom insights sown back into the work of the harvest, unto greater fruitfulness—much of it happening through Mission Frontiers and the Int’l Journal for Frontier Missiology

By now you may have heard that we at Frontier Ventures and WCIU are in the midst of a potential sale of a portion of our respective properties in Pasadena. I wanted to give you some background on why we are considering a sale. 

Much in the world has changed through globalization, mobile technologies, and the rise of Global South sending movements. As we have considered our next 40 years of ministry, we have asked ourselves how we can best utilize the resources we have for the purposes God has given us, in light of these changes. In doing so, we have felt the pressing strategic need to invest our resources into building ministry presence in multiple locations. That shift in strategy has led WCIU and Frontier Ventures to put a portion of their respective properties in Pasadena up for a potential sale. Thisdecision, while it may be new to you, has been something that we have discussed for at least a decade as we’ve considered how to best steward our resources for kingdom impact. The purpose of Frontier Ventures and WCIU is and always has been to see Jesus proclaimed and the Church established in all peoples. The vision was never just for the use of property in Pasadena. The vision is what my wife Sue and I had in our hearts when we made our “last thousand” dollar donation for the original purchase of the property. 

All that was invested into the property, the people, and the purpose will continue to be directed toward ministry among the unreached. It’s what we stood for then, and it’s what we’ll continue to stand for, God willing, for the next 40 years. 

We will retain a presence in Pasadena focused on training and collaboration with other Christian organizations, even as we seek to expand our presence in other locations in the US and around the world, some of them closer to the unreached themselves. Forty years ago we purchased a property to pursue a vision; now we are seeking the potential sale of at least some portion of the properties to more effectively pursue the vision, in a changing world. 

Thank  you for your faithful engagement with Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures over the years. We ask for your continued prayers as we navigate this time of transition and seek greater fruitfulness in the next 40 years!

For updates on where we are in the sale process, visit and

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a Micro-Level

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a Micro-Level

Living Out Micah 6:8 on a  Micro-Level

Micah 6:8 reads:  He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV) 

Imagine if every Jesus-follower was equipped by the church to live out Micah 6:8 on a micro-level: if all followers of Jesus were enabled to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God in their own communities and networks of relationships—in their own towns, cities, and villages—according to their abilities. 

One of the ways cross-cultural workers can inspire a lifestyle of Micah 6:8 around the world is to promote and model a micro-level of Micah 6:8. 

Most Westerners are accustomed to macro-level acts of justice and mercy; gathering at a stadium to pack meals for the hungry; promoting justice from big stages and near celebrity status; raising funds through summer youth campaigns; running food pantries; building schools and orphanages; drilling wells and constructing homes. 

These macro-level acts of justice and mercy are only doable for a few people in the world: those who have wealth or access to wealth. Additionally, when missionaries and cross-cultural Christian workers practice these macro-level acts in the majority world, they often overshadow and outrun grassroots justice and mercy. Once they show up and set up their macro-level acts of justice and mercy, cultural insiders characteristically stop determining and implementing acts of justice and mercy according to their own means and creativity—or worse, they never even start. 

What if we encouraged and made ample room for doable and reproducible Micah 6:8 acts of justice and mercy in our mission models, instead of modeling only what we can do with foreign money and status? What if every local Jesus-follower and church took up small and affordable acts of mercy and justice? Imagine with me every local Christian family adopting a widow or an orphan, sharing meals with a family who lost their crops, or teaching a vocational skill to someone unemployed? 

I know a Cambodian woman who saw an older boy forage through garbage near her home. Eventually, she invited him to stay with her family. Her family made ends meet from week to week, but she knew they could make a little space for one extra person. It would have been easier for her to bring him to a mission-run orphanage or charity. But she did what she could do according to her abilities. 

When we make Micah 6:8 the role of the nonprofit, the government, or the wealthy mission agency, we put these acts of service into the hands of a few, instead of into the hands of all. 

I believe the apostle Paul was urging and affirming Micah 6:8 at a micro-level when he spoke of the churches in Macedonia: 

Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: they were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. 

This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. (2 Corinthians 8:1–7, MSG) 

If every Christ-follower, every family, and every church in every community practiced Micah 6:8 at a micro-level, much like the churches Paul boasted about, we would see acts of justice, deeds of mercy, and love for God like never before.

 What does this mean for the cross-cultural Christian worker? 

  • If we have to raise funds outside the local setting or far from    geographical proximity, we are modeling macro-level justice and mercy.
  • We need to refrain from stifling local deeds of justice and mercy with our macro-level projects.
  • Like Paul, we need to be more creative in serving as catalysts for Micah 6:8 at a micro-level. 

What does this mean for indigenous Jesus-followers and churches? 

  • Cease relying on outsiders to drive and pay for acts of justice and       mercy in your so-called Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).
  • Let people know that small acts of kindness according to their means add up to big impacts in people’s lives.
  • Equip Jesus-followers, families, and churches in everyday, micro-level acts of justice and mercy.
  • Model for those around you how to practice Micah 6:8 on a micro-level. 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Collaborating in a Global Context

Collaborating in a Global Context

Collaborating in a Global Context

Reflections from a Senior staff member – January 2018 

In light of the ministry update Fran Patt gave in this issue of MF, I wanted to offer some historical context as to how our collaboration at Frontier Ventures has changed over the years since the early days of our ministry to help explain the rationale behind pursuing a potential sale. Having been on staff with Frontier Ventures since 1982—then called the U.S. Center for World Mission, I’ve had the privilege of seeing much of this firsthand.

Our original vision for collaboration on this campus was born in the 1970s. We wanted to bring together any and all who believed in the priority of reaching the “hidden peoples” (as we called the unreached back then) and work together to find new insights and strategies that it would take to reach them. Back then, there were no personal computers, email, or cheap long-distance phone calls. Physical proximity was necessary for collaboration. Hence, the purchase of the campus, which allowed such proximity, was a great and timely enabler of collaboration for the unreached. 

We saw many formal and informal teams and partnerships formed on the campus, but we increasingly realized that many of those who had contributions to make, especially in the area of strategy, were actually out engaged in the work around the world. Many would visit the campus as they passed through the L.A. area and would report what they were seeing and wrestling with on the field. In the pre-email era, this was one of the major ways we learned about what was happening beyond us and how we built connections. Not surprisingly, the rise of email and the Internet increased connections and learning opportunities outside of physical visits, lessening the need that workers actually show up on our campus (as much as we still enjoy and benefit from these visits). It also enabled collaboration to develop in more places and across geographies. 

There was also a trend of ministries and agencies relocating from Southern California to other states like Colorado, Florida and Texas, where the cost of living was significantly lower, helping them operate more efficiently. This began in the 1990s and continued throughout the early 2000s. It changed the way we worked. The campus continued to play a key role in our work, but more of our collaboration was happening beyond our campus. (Many of our staff relocated as well. Now, more than one-half of our staff are located outside Pasadena.) Though it was sometimes hard to see things change, we felt it was to the good that they could be more effective in what they were doing in their new locations. 

The rise of movements from the Global South sending non-western workers to the unreached is perhaps the most important development in pioneering mission work over the last twenty years. We praise God for this wonderful and amazing trend. In light of it, we at Frontier Ventures have had to re-envision what collaboration looks like in this context. This includes how we position ourselves to better partner, serve and learn from those in the Global South. As Fran mentions in his update, this also means, intentionally choosing places and partnerships closer to the unreached themselves. I think much of the mission world is waking up to this reality. 

In 1976, we envisioned workers coming to our campus to collaborate; in 2018 and beyond, we envision going to them to collaborate, so that we remain at the pioneering edges of the movement we helped to birth. While many still come here as they pass through the area, we connect, learn from and influence far more people outside of Pasadena than we could ever even fit on our campus here. Our collaboration continues, while the way we do it is changing. May we see ever more fruit as we press on toward seeing movements to Jesus among all the remaining unreached peoples. 

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry

Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry

Kingdom Kernels: Truths that have sustained a faith-filled ministry.

Editor’s Note: Please keep Steve, his wife Laura, and their family in your prayers as Steve battles liver cancer.

As I write this article, I find myself in a medical battle for my very life and the outcome is uncertain. This has given me many hours to pause for reflection.

As I’ve pondered how I’ve spent my life, and called others to spend their lives, I’ve found deep satisfaction with the path that Father has drawn me on from a very young age—a desire to live completely for His glory. In pursuing the glory of God with zealous fervor, it is easy to become disillusioned, burned out or defeated.

For three and a half decades the following values and truths have helped me maintain a level path in the pursuit of God’s kingdom (Isa. 26:7-8). These are the things I would share with anyone in ministry—young or old.

Two undergirding VALUES under the glory of God

Under the overarching objective of trying to bring the greatest glory to God with this solitary lifespan, two values have guided me in this path.

The first is the pre-eminence of God’s WORD.

My lifelong call has been to shepherd God’s people to love Him by being completely obedient to His Word. There is a huge difference between basing every decision and action on the Word of God and rubberstamping our actions with Bible verses that seem to validate those.

Every decision, methodology and expectation in my life has been subjected to the rigorous question: “Does this live perfectly in line with God’s Word.” Any discrepancies get jettisoned or adjusted. Also, I have resolved never to stand before any group apart from the foundation of the Word. Even when you lack experience in what you practice, you can live it and teach it if you know it is true from the Word. I have yet to find any group of disciples unchanged by spending enough hours under the convicting work of the Word (Heb. 4:12-13).

The second undergirding value has been FAITH in the majesty of a God who is the same yesterday, today and always (Heb. 13:8).

That God still acts consistent with His work in the past fuels my trust that He will work in power today. I try not to pigeon-hole Him but trust whatever way He shows up. I happen to believe in movements because I believe that the God of the Bible still shows up. It is my faith in His consistent character that drives me, not cute or clever methods.

When I was a 20-year old pastor, a precious 80-year old church planter said to me, “I just love young preacher boys! Because they don’t know what God can’t do!” I found myself asking the question, “Does there come a time in ministry when you start to doubt that God can do something?” I vowed to never get to that point. I am consumed with movements. I am consumed with the majesty of God and want my efforts to match His majesty. He is worthy of nothing less.

TRUTHS that result and sustain me

Emerging from these two values are truths that have kept my internal fires of love for God hot while keeping me from burning out these last 35 years.

  1. It is Jesus’ Great Commission, not our Good Idea (Mat. 28:18-20).

A few weeks ago, our family gathered to take stock of what will happen if Dad doesn’t survive this medical challenge. I expressed to them my desire to continue to help lead the charge to fulfill the Great Commission, but wanted God to do what would bring Him the greatest glory. My sons assured me they would carry the baton even if I passed on.

Amid many tears, in a sweet time of prayer, my youngest son prayed, “Dear God, thank you that this is not Dad’s Great Commission—it is Jesus’ Great Commission.” Immediately, I began laughing with joy. It is Jesus’ Great Commission, not the good idea of anyone else in history. Jesus will see His Commission through. It is freeing to know that no human agent is indispensable. You are just a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Phi. 1:1).

  1. The key to fruitfulness is a life of abiding in Christ—walking with His Spirit.

Proper biblical methods and strategies are important, but it is the Holy Spirit (abiding in Christ) that produces fruit (Joh. 15:5). In training and coaching thousands of people in biblical strategies, I have striven to never be a methodologies guy. Rather I have always sought to elevate the role of the Spirit in the process. Abiding in Christ—from the beginning to the end of your day—is the key to success. Yet I find that many Christian workers are strangely illiterate when it comes to walking in the Spirit. My new book Spirit Walk seeks to address this spiritual illiteracy, rather than being another book on missiological strategies.

The only way to lasting fruit is through death (counting the cost (Joh. 12:24).

Jesus made it clear that the only way that seeds bear fruit is through dying. No lasting fruit comes without sacrifice. Sometimes it means physical death, but it always involves dying to self, willingness to suffer and persevere when things get tough. There is no other path; there is no cheap shortcut to results. Do not strive for results if you are not willing to suffer for His Name.

  1. Most (if not all) periods of fruitfulness are preceded by wilderness purging.

Moses did not lead the people of Israel out of bondage until he had spent forty years in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that God met him and found a servant purged of personal aspiration, able to do His bidding (Exo. 3:1ff). God wants us weaned off selfish ambition so that we delight in Him and His glory (Psa. 131). Fruitfulness comes after God has purged us, and this purging can take years. He wants us to be servants to whom He can entrust His kingdom. Recently two fruitful young men told me that this was the most important advice I had given them—not my CPM training.

  1. Always let your efforts match His majesty.

Though you do not dictate when you will emerge from the wilderness times into periods of fruitfulness, always let your attempts match God’s majesty. William Carey said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” I have found that many of our attempts match our estimation of earthly resources, not the majesty of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. If He can do all things, then let your attempts match His character.

  1. When you live a surrendered life, expect the God of the Bible to show up.

I believe God put the stories of His miraculous work in the Bible to give us a proper understanding of His delivering character. He reminds us that He desires to show up and intervene. When you live a surrendered life, trust God to show up in power. God does not respond to formulas (A+B+C=D) and is not impressed by childish demands. But He loves to respond to faith in Who He is. For years, I read Acts monthly so as never to give up hope.

  1. Father determines the amount of fruit, so celebrate all fruit—yours and your colleagues’.

The parable of the minas (Luk. 19:11ff) and talents (Mat. 25:14ff) underscores a critical truth: God determines how much fruit will result from your efforts. Faithfulness always leads to fruitfulness no matter how much it is (Mat. 25:23). Gratefully celebrate whatever God does through you. Also, celebrate the fruit God bears through others because it is the same Bridegroom working through them (Joh. 3:25-30)! Never compare yourself. Ministry has never been about making a great name for yourself; all fruit is God’s.

  1. Your personal worth is tied to your identity in Christ, not your role, position or results.

If you live long enough, your roles, positions and organizations will change. If you base your worth on your current status or performance, you will live in bondage to the fear of man (Pro. 29:25). Jesus had little earthly status but completely fulfilled God’s purposes (Joh. 13:3-4). Let your worth be tied to your identity as a child of God (Luk. 10:20) and live for the applause of heaven alone (1 Cor. 4:1-4).

  1. Always be teachable and adjust your plans.

God’s Word is our guide for life and godliness. Your methods and plans are not the Word. Therefore, always subject your methods and plans to the Word. A teachable spirit is essential if you are going to bear fruit (Pro. 3:5-7, 12:1). Always learn new truths and adapt your methods from other case studies of God working (Psa. 111:2). Turn loose of your cherished, trade-marked methods when there is a more effective, biblical way.

  1. Balance emphasizing integrity of heart and skillful hands (Psa. 78:72).

Fruitful people who serve God’s purposes like King David (Act. 13:36) are people with the right heart (Act. 13:22) and are effective in their ministry skills. Despite his shortfalls, David was a man who tried to live with integrity of heart and skillful hands. Depending on the needs of my listeners (or myself), I emphasize heart or hands to keep them balanced. Effective ministry skills are essential, but are nullified by lack of integrity of heart. On the other hand, many sincere godly people prove unfruitful because they use ineffective approaches or lack proper equipping (Eph. 4:11-16).

  1. Thank God for the bad stuff (Eph. 5:20).

You will have tough times. A freeing reality is to thank God not just in all things (1 The. 5:18), but for all things (Eph. 5:20). This robs the enemy of His power over you and results in a life of joy despite the circumstances. In this season of greatest personal challenge, my heart is more filled with gratitude than ever. My family and I daily thank our Heavenly Father for every difficulty because He is omnipotent and perfectly good.

  1. Prayer sustains and carries the day.

Every movement of God starts simultaneously as a prayer movement. God moves His people to seek His face and then responds to their faith-filled efforts in power. Prayer must be accompanied by lots of hard work in the trenches daily. But it is mere human effort without the prayer of intercessors (Jam. 5:16). In addition, it is aimless ministry without the discernment God gives you in the prayer closet. And in recent weeks when I have been too weak even to pray coherently, I have found myself brought to the feet of Jesus by the prayer ropes of faithful friends (Mar. 2:3-4). Thank you, intercessors!

  1. Urgency is more real than ever

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psa. 90:12, NASB)

A life lived with zealous urgency is critical to living a wise life. Our Lord Jesus was remembered for the zeal that consumed Him (Joh. 2:17). Zeal, properly tempered under the mission of God, leads to wise living, not burning out. As I wonder whether I can continue my earthly service, urgency is more real than ever (Rom. 12:11).

  1. Trust the Holy Spirit in the good, faithful people around you.

When I assumed a role over about 500 missionaries in a new region, a wise mentor told me, “Don’t take any of your old pals with you but trust that God has faithful leaders to raise up there.” Bringing your leadership team to a new context communicates to new colleagues that you do not trust them. Look for and develop faithful, God-called leaders to present each of them as complete in Christ (Col. 1:28-29). They have the same Holy Spirit and standing of faith as other believers (II Pet. 1:1), so trust the Spirit in them.

  1. Walk the journey with lifelong friends.

This is not contradictory to the previous point. While the apostolic team of Barnabas and Saul did not yet know where they were going, they knew they were going together (Act. 13:1-3). With the number of high priority, unreached places on earth, do not get hung up on the “ideal match” so much as walking the journey with like-hearted friends. At times, you will serve on the same team, and at other times on separate teams. These lifelong friends will help you walk with integrity and be there for you decades later.

  1. Your joy must be that your name is written in heaven and your food must be doing God’s will.

Despite some amazing results among His disciples, Jesus cautioned them against letting their joy reside in results (Luk. 10:20) that can toss you like waves of the sea. Despite the results, your joy must be in your salvation. End each day with a full heart that you heard your Father speak, did His will and accomplished His work (Joh. 4:34).

  1. Let love alone serve as your motivation.

The most widespread movement in Acts (based in Ephesus) was chided decades later not for losing its diligence but for losing its motivation—first love (Eph. 2:4).

Love for Jesus and a desire to offer all ministry as a thank offering to Him (Rom. 15:16) is the sole motivation to keep you on track. When pride, selfish ambition or works-based esteem creep in, it shows. Keep rekindling your love so that every act of service is prompted by your love for Jesus. Live only to please Him.

  1. He is worth it! Why give your life to anything less than his absolute glory?

I am thankful that at the age of 18, God saw fit to instill in me a value to let my life bring the greatest glory to Him. Each next-step decision in my life has been guided by whether it gave him the fullest honor. This has led our family to some lonely places and impoverished circumstances as well as positions of influence and more comfortable locales. The circumstances have never guided us—only His worship. He is worth it. Why give your life to anything else?

  1. You will always be delivered, whether through life or death.

It is my earnest desire to continue on in this life to serve the purposes of God in my generation, but the constant prayer has been that God would heal or do something better.  No matter the circumstances, God always delivers His saints—whether through life or death (Phi. 1:18ff). Praise His Name!

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies

Jesus said, ‘Go into all the world’ (Mk. 16:15) but that task remains undone for over 1,300 people groups who have never in the history of Christianity had any form of gospel witness.  They are referred to as Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPGs).

Unreached People Groups (UPGs) are those peoples who have no indigenous movement to Christ that is able to reach their own people. Unengaged Unreached People Groups are those who not only have no Christ Followers, but they are often the ones that no one is looking for.

Jesus revealed His heart and His priorities in the story of leaving the 99 sheep who were safe to find the one who was missing (Lk. 15:4).  If this parable is the guiding beacon for the missionary enterprise, how is it possible that after more than 2,000 years of Christian missions there is any such thing as an UUPG?  The answer is that they are Unreached and Unengaged for a reason.  If there were a 10-point scale that combined both entrenched resistance and extreme difficulty, most UUPGs would be 11.

So where do we go from here?  The answer lies in what gives motion to movements. Readers of Mission Frontiers are regularly exposed to a range of insights about the ability of Disciple Making Movements/Church Planting Movements to take root and multiply in a given community or people group in a relatively short time frame compared to traditional ministry models.

One of the key ingredients that makes this possible is natural networking.  Everyone connects to others in one way or another.  It could be language, culture, occupation, marriage or whatever.  Relationships that intersect more than one network are what gives the gospel a chance to leap from one network to another. Therein lies the secret of engaging the unengaged.

If the main reason the UUPG door remains locked and bolted are resistant attitudes and difficult circumstances, then the key that unlocks the door may well be near neighbors who share the circumstances and can defuse the attitudes.  This is referred to as a proximate strategy.

Movements are based in a chain-reaction of one life impacting another in the context of some common denominator that they share. When the Kingdom takes root in a people group that is a cultural and geographic ‘near neighbor’ to an UUPG, the barriers to entry may not be totally gone but they are the lowest they will ever be. And that equals a strategic opportunity to do what has never been done – engage the unengaged.

Examples from Cote d’Ivoire 

Cote d’Ivoire yields examples of something that is happening across many parts of Africa today.  

Case Study #1: West of Côte d’Ivoire – a partner

Several years ago, Cityteam (now New Generations) catalyzed a replicating disciple making process among the Mau people in Cote d’Ivoire. Over time a few Mau people visited their extended families living among the Klaa people and introduced them to the Discovery Bible Study Method. Soon Klaa churches began springing up.

When Younoussa Djao, New Generations’ Africa Director, became aware of what happened, his first thought was: “If this can happen when new Christian families start Discovery Groups in new places, then what if we could be more intentional about the process?” So Younoussa started looking for ways to normalize this kind of progression in movements. He did not have to wait long for a second opportunity.

It turns out that New Generations had given DMM training to a few leaders of a Christian denomination and they had experienced encouraging outcomes. Some time later the denomination chose a new president who started his term by going throughout the country learning what was happening among the churches.

After he visited the leaders trained in Kingdom Movements he went to visit Younoussa to say thank you, and ask for a closer mentoring relationship. Younoussa responded: “If you will engage this process with intentionality, we will train as many missionaries as you are willing to send. They will all be your missionaries but we will be glad to train, coach, and mentor them as long as you feel it is of value.”

Eventually,  the  Klaa   and  Mau  peoples  engaged  the Toura people, and eventually the Klaa also engaged the Yacouba people. 

Case Study #2: From the Ouan to the Malinke

In the Kounahiri region, DMM initiatives were launched among the Ouan people who live among the Malinke.  The Ouan are more Animistic than Islamic, but in this case, the movements jumped naturally to the Muslim Malinke because they share many proximate spaces, customs, social events, and family connections through marriage. 

Case Study #3: In Burkina Faso-Multiple Proximate Engagements

In Burkina Faso, Disciple Making Movements were launched simultaneously among the Tussian, (123 churches) the Bouaba, (194 churches) and the Muslim Unreached People Group (MUPG) the Bobo Mandare (44 churches). The resulting DMM churches among these people groups all spoke Jula, had Muslim backgrounds and were geographically proximate. So, with a little bit of critical mass, the Tussian people (123 churches) engaged the Tiefo and the MUPG Senoufo (25 churches). The Bouaba engaged the Dagari (20 churches) and the Bobo also engaged another Senoufo group.

Another Region in West Africa

Another New Generations region in Africa began to observe the emergence of grass roots, proximate strategies about eight years ago, just four years into the DMM process.  It did not take much for the leader to realize that with some strategic planning and tactical support, this phenomenon could be leveraged for sending missionaries to local people groups, as well as for in-country missionaries to distant populations of their own people, and even in sending missionaries to their people group’s diaspora populations in other countries. 

The leader of that region notes that proximate strategies are responsible for about 57-58% of the 7,000 churches that have been planted in the region, because proximate strategies:

  • Fulfill and nurture the early apostolic spark in the hearts of recently discipled people! 
  • Create natural channels to lost people who in turn discover Christian transformations that make them jealous for the Kingdom of God.
  • Insure that apostolic teams understand that engaging an unengaged people is more than checking a box as “done.”  It is just the first phase of a natural stream of Kingdom of God advance—the subject about which Jesus gave many parables.

Currently New Generations is realizing that for many of the unengaged peoples whom they have engaged with Kingdom Movements there are often one or two more people groups that live nearby, and one or two that have cultural and linguistic connections in a different part of the same country, or have those same connections within another country.  In all those cases there are growing examples of successful engagements.

We are sure that this is a strategy that many other CPM/DMM ministries have experienced, and perhaps we can all find ways to improve our effectiveness and encourage each other in advancing God’s Kingdom coming from heaven, via “proximate disciple making strategies.”

Finally, the journey into Kingdom DNA not only includes obedience and replication, but also risk (living sacrifice) and ownership (an empowered disciple–not just a recipient). With 1300 challenging people groups still unengaged, may God give us eyes to find God’s proximate strategies that may be hidden in plain sight—His provision for our journey together towards “no place left.” Rom. 15:23

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Glimpses through the Fog

Multiplying Movements

Glimpses through the Fog

Astonishing Progress

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:19

Glimpsing cows through a fog on an unfamiliar road, one might wonder: “Just how many more cows are there?”

In the mid-1970s, many were stirred to pray for and go to unreached people groups (UPGs) and the 10/40 Window. Despite isolated glimpses of Acts-like movements, not much progress was visible. About 7,000 UPGs remain unreached.[1] Now, credible reports of multiplying movements suggest change is coming, and quickly!

Since 1995, less than 25 years ago, multiplying movements of small, reproducing churches have brought 50 million to faith in Jesus and equipped these new disciples to share their faith and disciple others. And the pace shows no sign of slowing.

The lifting fog

In late 2015, researchers estimated about 100 movements globally, consistent with movements verified by on-site visits. By late 2016, this estimate had risen to roughly 130. In May of 2017, Kent Parks reported more than 150 movements to the Lausanne network.[2]

Then in mid-2017, formation of the 24:14 Coalition[3] deepened trust between movement leaders and researchers, and many shared their data for the first time. Credible organizations and networks reported approximately 2,500 movement engagements,[4] including nearly 500 movements[5] that had produced millions of new disciples. As 2017 ended, the count was nearly 650 movements with 50 million disciples!

Why the fog, anyway?

Overlapping terms lead many to think of a church planting movement as just faster church planting. In fact movements and church planting are fundamentally different. Church planters typically pour vast energy into turning strangers into “family.” Multiplying movements focus instead on sowing God’s word into groups with pre-existing relationships, like the oikos (households) of the New Testament.

As in the first century, movement ekklesia[6] multiply rapidly without dedicated buildings. Those inclined to associate church with buildings can thus easily conclude movements aren’t real.

A few large, well-known, older movements go back 20 years or more, and have slowed in growth as they got bigger. However most movements are new, smaller, and growing much more rapidly.

Mission leaders have shared these reports in confidence, to guide collaborative strategy. They have good reason to restrict their reports to supporters and trusted colleagues:

Well-intentioned outsiders can quickly derail a movement.

Outside funding has killed off many budding movements.

Unwanted attention increases persecution of movements.

About 15 known movements have fizzled to date, but most continue growing exponentially, and some are multiplying to additional UPGs.

Movements multiply ekklesia faster than they can be readily counted, and terminology and methods for tracking such movements are still emerging. Where on-site verification by a visiting team is impractical, researchers seek detailed reports and independent confirmation.

The fog hasn’t fully lifted, so we don’t yet know what we don’t yet know. But the implications of these reports are truly…


By late 2017, credible reports supported this new expanding awareness:

In 1995: at least 5 full movements with 15,000 new disciples.

In 2000: at least 10 movements with 100,000 new disciples.

In 2017: at least 645 movements with 47,500,000 new disciples!

And at least 90% of these movements are among UPGs!

These movements are present mostly in multiple locations in a few hundred widely distributed UPGs—in 149 of 234 countries (60%), and nearly 80% of Joshua Project’s people group clusters.

Thus, in recent decades, at least 1% of the global population of UPGs have become—not just believers—but obedience-oriented disciples in rapidly multiplying ekklesia!

Thousands of movement engagements have been reported, but for this count of movements the 24:14 Coalition research team includes only credible reports of Level 5 or higher movements.[7]

Thousands more movements are still needed, yet there are many reasons to hope expectantly for their continued multiplication.













Hindrances and Accelerators

Various factors can hinder the growth of individual movements:

  • As movements expand, their growth rate usually declines.
  • Saturation of population segments inevitably slows movements.
  • Global attention could increase persecution and other inhibitors.
  • Relocation and/or moral failure can remove key leaders.
  • Visible churches planted by extraction can inhibit movements.[8]

Yet the global movement count will likely keep growing, through:

  • Further review of movement reports not initially deemed credible.
  • Spirit-led progression of existing engagements into movements.
  • Church planters learning to how to pursue movements.
  • Traditional (visible) churches learning to start movements.
  • Mobilization of more laborers to pursue movements.
  • Increasingly effective movement training, with guided experience.
  • Unprecedented learning from each others’ successes and failures.
  • Spontaneous spread of movements to new peoples and places.
  • Intentional multiplication of existing movements.
  • Multiplied believers praying explicitly for movements.
  • Further discovery of what God is already doing.





Common characteristics of movement ekklesia[9]

In movements, ekklesia typically …

  • Aim to bless and disciple families/social units more than individuals.
  • Raise up and equip natural leaders from within existing groups.
  • Focus more on obeying Jesus than on accumulating knowledge.
  • Disciple more by God-led discovery study than experts teaching.
  • Cultivate maturity more through loving obedience than knowledge.
  • Meet in private homes and public venues more than owned buildings.
  • Average fewer than 20 participants in regular, interactive gatherings.
  • Aim to multiply new ekklesia rather than grow in size.
  • Employ simple patterns each disciple can facilitate and replicate.
  • Involve disciples more in ministering than in receiving ministry.
  • Work toward multiple new generations (not just daughter churches).
  • Spread more through relational networks than attracting strangers.
  • Prove more stable than churches of gathered strangers.
  • Are invisible at first to outsiders and the surrounding community.

Historical perspective

Most believers since the first century have had no option but to live provincial lives—without opportunity to see the unfolding progression of God’s global purpose, or grasp our place in it. We have the unprecedented ability to view recent developments with historical perspective to anticipate what lies ahead.

Christ’s ekklesia was birthed in a prayer meeting—Pentecost. From that event His global ekklesia experienced double digit annual growth (10%+) only once—from 33–50 AD.[10] In that rapid growth, Christ’s ekklesia had no written scriptures or buildings, instead they had just…

Jesus’ ministry, training model and global commission,

daily prayer and fellowship with one another,

the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and

their testimony of Jesus’ life and work in their lives.

Yet by 400AD the church was centered in dedicated buildings and the annual growth of Christians had slowed to less than half a percent (.5%), where it stayed until the 1800s.

Even two hundred years after Martin Luther launched the Reformation, the growth of global Christianity remained below 0.5%. Then, in 1727, a band of 300 squabbling religious refugees from Moravia sought the Lord and experienced revival. Forty eight men and women began a 100-year long, 24/7 prayer meeting, and sent the first hundreds of Protestant missionaries.[11]

In 1738, John Wesley was transformed through contact with Moravian missionaries, and the resulting Methodist movement transformed both England and the United States.[12]

By 1792, access to scattered reports of the religious state of the world stirred William Carey to write a short booklet—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens,[13] then set sail for India. Carey’s booklet and example stirred a first wave of missionaries to the world’s coastlands, causing him to be credited as the father of modern missions.

Carey’s Enquiry lifted many from a provincial perspective into awareness of God’s global purpose:

  • Scriptural mandate
  • Historical precedent
  • Current realities
  • Future prospects

In the late 1800s, Hudson Taylor issued a challenge to the interior of China with an effect similar to Carey’s Enquiry. This stirred a second wave of missionaries to the interiors of the world’s continents and fueled the student volunteer movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wesley, Carey and Taylor all contributed greatly to this increase of Christians, from less than a fourth of the world in 1800 to a full third of the world by 1900, and set the stage for the globalization of the Church.

Ralph Winter estimated that, in 1900, 7.5% of Christians[14] were committed believers. Between 1900 and 2000 the Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal movements renewed the faith of many, so that by 2000 about a third of the world’s Christians[15] were committed believers.[16]

Distilling field workers’ insights

In the 1960s, Donald McGavran launched a graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary for experienced missionaries to study together how God had worked in their respective fields.[17] This collaborative learning environment yielded many important insights.

In 1974, Ralph Winter drew on these insights to distinguish two different contexts in which non-Christians are found:

Reached People groups (15%) accept believers as part of their people.

UPGs (85%) need a movement before believers will be accepted.

Winter and McGavran urged the launching of movements as God’s means for reaching UPGs, but the problem (peoples isolated from the gospel) was understood and embraced far more widely and rapidly than the solution (launching movements).

Thus, McGavran lamented in 1981 that 90% of missionaries among UPGs were not pursuing movements.[18] A former student of McGavran’s told me McGavran later wished he had advocated church multiplication instead of church growth.

Popularizing field insights

In 1974, to guide believers in embracing God’s global agenda, Ralph Winter distilled insights from this collaborative study of seasoned missionaries into a course that later took a variety of forms:

  • “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” (180,000 alumni)


  • Mission Mundial” (has fueled mission vision in Latin America)
  • “Kairos” (a global adaptation of Mission Mundial)
  • “World Christian Foundations” (an MA program), etc.

Alongside the strategy coordinators who were trained during the 1980s and beyond, alumni of these courses have become like Gideon’s mighty men—revealing God’s power through their disproportionate impact.

By the year 2000, perhaps 1,000 missionaries[19] were pursuing God for movements among UPGs. As God blessed their efforts, they learned from each other’s successes and failures, leading to multiplying movements that today may rival or even surpass first century growth.

Real-life examples

  • Ying and Grace were church planters. Each year, they would win 40–60 people to Christ, organize them into a church, then move to a new city. At the end of ten years, if each of these churches had doubled in size, this could have produced 1,200 new believers. Then Ying was asked to take responsibility for an unreached population of 20 million. In the year 2000, Ying and Grace were trained in movement principles and began training disciples to start multiplying ekklesia. Over the next decade, 1.8 million new disciples were baptized and discipled using a discovery Bible study approach, and ekklesia multiplied to 160,000 with an average annual growth rate of 50%![20] The researchers who later verified this movement with a field assessment team found that these numbers had been consistently under-reported.
  • Trevor works among a 99+% Muslim people group. He began by identifying local believers with a desire to bless Muslims and a willingness to experiment. He guided these believers to start multiplying small discovery Bible studies that discuss and obey Scripture, and to learn from each other’s successes and failures. Each started a movement of discovery Bible studies, through which Muslim participants consistently come to faith in Christ. By August 2017, relational sharing and natural migration had carried this network of movements to 40 languages in eight countries, yielding a total of 25 full movements and many more movement engagements. As of January, 2018, just five months later, this network had spread to 47 languages in 12 countries![21]
  • VC reports: “Many missionaries came to my country but did not see the fruits of their labors. We are privileged to see this fruit. We have gone from evangelism, to disciple making, to church planting, and now to igniting movements. Now we have a team of at two or more families in nearly 50% of my country’s many villages, and feel confident that by 2020 we will have a team in every village!”

Intimacy with God

God reserves a rare depth of fellowship for those who engage in a grand purpose together. Our intimacy with God, and answered prayer, are both tied to bearing multiplying fruit (Jn 15:7–8, 15–16).

Jesus said:

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (Jn 15:15).

The writer of Hebrews declared:

God wanted … His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised …(Heb 6:17).

Jesus prophesied:

This good news of the kingdom will be preached … as a testimony to all nations … (Mt 24:14).
As we go to disciple all nations (Mt 28:19), we rest in the reality that He is with us to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

The distribution of multiplying ekklesia remains very uneven. The 24:14 Coalition invites you to help address this injustice.

Let us press in to know the Lord better by joining Him in His pursuit of no place left (Rom 15:23) where Jesus is not yet preached, known, loved and worshiped.[22]


Take these steps toward becoming a reproducing disciple and fueling this now global development:

Engage locally

  • Pray persistently for the Holy Spirit to make you a “fisher of men,” one who makes disciples who make disciples.
  • Get the free M28 app or visit and see the Lord’s guidance in starting such a discoveryBible study that leads others to do the same.

  • Read Stubborn Perseverance—a movement manual written as a novel—to understand how discovery Bible study leads to movements, and how your team can pursue one (





Engage globally

  • Pray daily for UPGs, using the Global Prayer Digest ( and Joshua Project (, both available for daily delivery to your email box or smart phone app.
  • Read the Jan/Feb 2018 Mission Frontiers on the 24:14 Coalition ( and join the 24:14 Coalition (
  • Read No Place Left—a thriller saga (Hastening and Rebirth) of how movements are multiplying globally (

  • Take the Perspectives course to see how movements fit into the BIG picture of God’s purpose: (on-line or at a location near you). 

Get a free book and join the learning community at Multiplying Movements (


[2] (Kent leads the mission agency Beyond.)

[3] See the Jan/Feb 2018 Mission Frontiers on the 24:14 Coalition.

[4] Engaged with movement strategy, but not yet reproducing to four generations.

[5] Based on credible reports of 4+ streams replicating to 4+ generations.

[6] Ekklesia is the New Testament Greek word in Jesus’ declaration “I will build my ekklesia” (Mt 16:18). Four English Bibles before the King James translated this word as “assembly,” but the commission for the King James required translators to use “church” instead of “assembly,” apparently to delegitimize gatherings of believers outside the state-owned buildings.

[7] See the “CPM Continuum” at

[8] Movement ekklesia tend eventually to produce the visible churches common to Christian lands. Yet premature planting of visible churches through “extraction” evangelism often offends local UPG communities and inhibits movements. See “Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached” at

[9] See the YouTube video Traits of Churches that Multiply

[10] Report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, entitled “Table BB. Numerical trends in the worldwide expansion of Christianity, AD 30–AD 2200, with special reference to the 1st century AD.”


[12] and


[14] 2.5% of world population.

[15] 11% of world population.

[16] My estimate is based on published figures for these three movements.

[17] McGavran’s original School of World Mission later opened its doors to aspiring missionaries and became the School of Intercultural Studies.

[18] See “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Subject” at

[19] My own rough estimate

[20] T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! by Steve Smith (

[21] Watch for books “for movement activists” by Trevor.

[22] See the May/Jun 2016 Mission Frontiers on the No Place Left movement.


This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

A Leadership Strategy for DMM

“Lord, You can have your Church back!”

It was February of 2004. I was walking on my favorite hiking trail in the Land Between The Lakes area of Western Kentucky, and I was having an intense time of prayer. I had been in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years and I was going through a season of discouragement. Although that is certainly not uncommon for pastors, I was at a point where I was ready to question my paradigms for ministry. The local church was not growing as I hoped, and although we were one of the larger churches in our region, I was unsatisfied. In fact, I felt that I was at a crisis point. Something in my life and ministry had to change. As I took my prayer walk that afternoon, I released my own dreams and visions for MY church, and told the Lord that I was ready to simply seek HIS Kingdom. 

At the time of that walk, I was leading a church that had a Christian school and a missions sending agency called World Missions and Evangelism, Inc. I did not know it at the time, but that prayer on that trail put me on a path that would take me out of the pastorate and into a world of seeing remarkable multiplication in God’s Kingdom. It would take me on a journey of discovering new ways to pray, do evangelism, and make disciples as well as new models of church and leadership. 

For the next year and a half, I knew something new was coming, but did not know what. I felt like the Lord was telling me to wait for an open door. Finally in June, 2005 I prayed another unique prayer. I said, “Door….the door God is talking to me about…open NOW!” When I said that I felt the Lord say, “Take the Perspectives course.” Although I was familiar with Perspectives, I had never taken the class. So that summer, I took an intensive two-week version of the class….and one of the teachers was Jerry Trousdale, who told of a remarkable movement that was beginning in Africa. When I heard Jerry talk about what we now call Disciple Making Movements (DMM), I knew that this was the Kingdom focused strategy toward which the Lord was moving me. 

Through Jerry, I was introduced to David Watson, who had catalyzed a movement in India. With one of our missionaries who was focused on Latin America, I took an intensive training in the DMM strategy that David taught. David and Jerry became mentors to us and we decided to see what DMM would look like in Latin America. 

From the beginning I could see that a different model of leadership development would be needed. The methods that were designed to grow a traditional local church would not catalyze a movement. 

In 2008, we initiated DMM training for leaders in Honduras. We developed a tight knit team made up of 13 Honduran workers and two American trainers. We saw this as a pilot project to test how DMM would fare in Latin America. 

Up to this point, concepts and tactics for DMM strategy focused on unreached Muslim and Hindu cultures who had no concept of “church” or “baptism.” Though the principles for DMM were universal, in Honduras we discovered there were challenges translating the strategy into a “Christianized” culture. 

Over the last nine years, through trial and error, our team has seen a breakthrough in several Latin American countries with the DMM strategy. Our team has worked with over 50 denominations and fellowships using DMM principles to make disciples, start Discovery Bible groups and plant churches. Over 7,000 groups and churches have been birthed in a movement, 17 generations deep, and nearly 26,000 people have professed faith in Christ. 

One of the greatest challenges was relating the concept of leadership to a Christianized culture who already had a set model of church government and leadership. In Latin America, these concepts are deeply ingrained. Introducing a new concept of leadership has been vital to seeing the movement flourish. Facilitating a Disciple Making Movement requires a strategy of leadership that embodies certain principles. What we know about DMM is that highly centralized and controlling structures and leaders will kill movement. So what kind of leadership can intentionally catalyze a movement while avoiding control? 

A leader must choose a strategy when trying to accomplish a goal. There are several approaches that a leader can choose and each strategy delivers a different outcome. A leadership matrix can be envisioned around two concepts–initiative and releasing. Initiative leadership moves toward a goal. It initiates something. Leadership is not merely gaining a following or enhancing your own influence and reputation. True leadership is going somewhere, has a goal, and is attempting to accomplish a mission. It initiates. If it did not initiate, then nothing would happen. In the case of DMM, we want to initiate and catalyze a movement in a region or people group. 

Releasing leadership equips then frees others to accomplish the goal or the given mission. It is about releasing others into their own leadership role–allowing the person to move forward with their own initiative and the ability to modify the goal or outcome. The more a leadership pattern is releasing, the less it is controlling and the more compatible it is with DMM principles. 

To bring this over to a church or disciple multiplication example, think of the distinction between a cell leader in an existing church, and a church planter of a new church. The cell leader is equipped and performs ministry, but is under the direction of the pastor and the church mission. The cell leader follows the directions of their leader and teaches an approved lesson. Though released to ministry, there are constraints to the goal or mission. This is an example of a Low-Releasing model. 

On the other hand, the church planter has been equipped as well, but is fully released to plant a new work. The church planter is allowed to initiate and plan the work himself/herself. This is an example of a High Releasing model. 

Most of us will have one style that feels more natural, but there are times when another strategy may be more effective for the goal desired. 

1. Low Initiative, Low Releasing: 

In this style, the leader becomes a caretaker of the organization. However, due to the low initiative, the organization is not going anywhere, there is no goal or no mission being provided by the leadership. The leader is either unwilling or unable to influence people to move in a new direction, and has no sense of future strategy for the organization. With this model, the organization may continue to exist for a time, but eventually may wither or die.

 2. Low Initiative, High Releasing:

 In this style, the leader has the “title” or position of leadership but has little vision or little influence over the direction of the organization. The leader may feel comfortable allowing their followers to initiate leadership more than providing the direction himself/herself. This leadership style seems to encourage leadership from the bottom up, but often results in a plateaued organization or movement. A leader using this style must be very careful. A leader can hinder upcoming leadership or movement by saying “no.” When followers initiate things that may cause a problem, the leader steps in to squelch the new project or idea.

 3. High Initiative, Low Releasing: 

In this style, the leader is a visionary and an activist. The leader sees where the organization or movement should go and takes steps to lead and influence others in that direction. However, the followers are restricted and limited in terms of their own initiative. This type of leadership can be good or bad, depending upon the person and how it is implemented. Military organizations traditionally use this type of leadership. It is top down, directive, and focused. However, it can also be the kind of leadership in an oppressive dictatorship. It can help grow a mega-church and reach thousands with the gospel, but it can be perverted and create a controlling and dominating cult.

 4. High Initiative, High Releasing: 

This style involves the highest risk, but also offers the highest reward. The leader has vision and takes initiative to accomplish a mission and does his/her best to influence others to see the value of the vision and equip them effectively for the mission. The leader influences the follower but does not control those who pick up the vision. This is risky because no control can be chaos. But it also brings the possibility of exponential success. In fact, this is the ONLY style of leadership that has the possibility of boundless success. 

What was the practical impact of these styles of leadership in the intentional facilitation of DMM in Honduras? When our strategy team started in 2008, they invited both experienced church leaders and new potential leaders to hear about the DMM vision and gave them an opportunity to be a part of a new team that would focus on this strategy for one year. In the first year the focus was on training and initial outreach into unchurched areas of western Honduras. It was both training intensive and experimental, with a lot of focus on trial and error in terms of access ministry, finding persons of peace, and discovery Bible study. That first year the style was clearly High Initiative, Low Releasing, and the leaders were the Missionary Strategy Team. 

During this time the DNA of the strategy was being set and the Indigenous Team was being formed and trained. During this year everyone was learning;  both  the  Indigenous Team and the Missionary Strategy Team. This style of leadership allowed the strategy team to learn and make modifications, while not allowing the DNA of movements to be watered down or given up altogether. Beginning with zero groups in May 2008, there were 73 groups by June 2009. 

The next four years (during which time the project grew from 73 groups to 266 groups and churches) were transitional years in terms of leadership style. The Strategy Team gradually moved from a High Initiative, Low Releasing style to a High Initiative, High Releasing style. By the end of 2012, the entire Missionary Strategy Team moved home to the United States and continued as long distance mentors of the Indigenous Team. The Indigenous Team took responsibility for training and mentoring the movement at that time, and the missionaries moved into a role as partners, encouragers, and mentors of the team.

 For the last five years the movement has continued to multiply. By the end of 2017 here were approximately 7,000 groups and churches resulting from this movement. The Indigenous Team (which we now call the Vision Team) has now become a Team of Teams, with each member of the Vision Team focused on developing teams that multiply DMM leaders. 

Overall they employ the High Initiative, High Releasing style of leadership. What does that look like in a DMM in Honduras? In some cases the new teams receive individual visits, one on one with their mentor. New Bible study leaders and trainers/catalysts spend individual face to face time on a regular basis with their mentor. 

In another instance a couple of mentors work together. They are focused on leaders in six different areas and these teams are gathered bi-weekly or monthly for training, reporting or encouragement. 

Another Vision Team leader gathers his team each month for an all-day meeting. The daytime is focused on feedback and problems, the evening on teaching and solutions. 

Another team member focuses on multiple teams divided regionally or by affinity group. This involves a team being trained in a Bible Institute, two teams in the more remote La Mosquitia region, a team in a mountainous coffee growing zone, and university students. 

As the movement grows, some leaders rise to higher levels of responsibility. With more responsibility comes more accountability, thus even in a High Releasing model, people that rise to the level of staff have less freedom. But to see movements multiply the High Releasing model is crucial. To paraphrase Shedonkeh Johnson, “Control will kill movement.”

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements?  The Choice is Ours.

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements?  The Choice is Ours.

Will We Hinder or Accelerate Movements? The Choice is Ours.

This is a serious problem! All over the world Christian workers are employing mission methods that hinder the development of movements to Christ. Worse yet, these well-meaning, hard-working, self-sacrificing servants of God may be doing more harm than good. They may be creating a backlash to the gospel that is making the unreached peoples so much harder to reach. This is not just a Western or American missionary problem. This is a global church problem.

Whenever a person from a people or culture where the gospel has become indigenous seeks to go out to make disciples cross-culturally, that person is in danger of extracting new believers from their native culture, family, community and people to join a new artificial family of faith, thereby destroying the natural “bridge of God” for the gospel that this person could provide. When people are extracted one-by-one from their family, clan, tribe or people to form a new community of faith, the reaction from the family these people left behind is often hostile with the potential of bloodshed. Rather than being good news to lost people in darkness, for those left behind, the gospel has come as the “invasion of the body snatchers,” with all the horrors and grief attached to the death of a loved one. Instead of being more open to the gospel, the family, clan or tribe left behind have become more resistant to the loss of any more of their people. This community is now much harder to reach. Dr. Donald McGavran points out this tragic scenario and how to prevent it in his classic article, “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject ” which starts on page 627 of the book, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, A Reader, 4th Edition.

In this latest issue of MF, we revisit the foundational principles of how movements develop and grow that McGavran laid out decades ago. In our lead article, Robby Butler describes the modern-day implications of McGavran’s ground breaking missiology as we pursue movements of disciple making and church planting in every people. See Butler’s article starting on page 6.  This is not light reading but it is essential to understand these principles if we are to successfully foster and accelerate movements rather than preventing them from ever getting started.

As McGavran made clear, Christian history demonstrates one certain reality; the only way that peoples are ever reached is through movements. So if it is our aim to see all peoples reached with the gospel, then we must learn to cross the “bridges of God” into new peoples and start movements to Christ there.

A Better Way

What happens if rather than extracting people from their culture, family or clan; we were to work to keep the new believer within their family to share the biblical truths they are learning with their family and other relational connections?

According to McGavran, Winter, Butler and many others, movements can develop. If the new believer can share biblical truths within his sphere of influence without being expelled, then whole families, clans and tribes can choose to follow Jesus.  It may seem strange or even unbiblical to us as highly individualistic Westerners, but in communal societies groups of people can and do make joint decisions to follow Jesus. You can see throughout the New Testament that whole groups and families did choose to follow Jesus. T&B Lewis point out this fact in their article starting on page 16.

The Lewis' experience illustrates the pitfalls of extraction and the blessings of keeping new believers within their family or clan—what the Bible refers to as their oikos or household. They thought church planting was easy at first when they gathered together a group of people who had left their respective families to join a new artificial “family” of faith. The Lewises soon discovered that this new church was unstable and it soon disintegrated because it wasn’t based upon long-standing trust relationships of family or clan. But then God enabled them to discover a better way of planting churches that kept new believers within their family.

The Lewis' recount their story. “Struggling with our failure to plant a church, we received an entirely unexpected letter. The hand-carried letter notified us that two brothers from our people group had finished a Bible correspondence course. They now wanted to meet a believer. We promptly sent off our best Arabic speaker to their distant town. When he arrived at their house, it was packed. Our team member wondered if he had stumbled onto a wedding, so he hesitantly asked for Hassan, who had written the letter.

Hassan and his brother rushed forward to welcome him into their household. They had gathered all their relatives and close friends to hear their honored guest explain what they had learned in their course. They eagerly received the gospel and pledged as a group to follow Jesus. Our teammate was thrilled. When he returned home, we shared his amazement.

This new church, consisting of an extended family and friends, continues strong to this day. Decades later, they are still spreading the gospel from town to town through their natural networks.”

From the Lewis' account we can see that it is possible for new believers to take the gospel back to their family and not have the gospel or the new believer be rejected. The new churches being birthed were stable and reproducing because they were based upon strong long-standing family relationships. The gospel became good news to these people and they shared it with their wider network of relationships. The gospel was in the process of becoming indigenous—normal and natural—to this family and their people. A potential new movement was also birthed.

We Have a Choice

Even decades after McGavran highlighted the problems with extraction evangelism, around 90% of mission workers still practice it. These well-meaning people have not learned that there is a better way—one that leads to movements. Some even take pride in the suffering and sacrifices that their converts endure to become a “true Christian,” even if it means leaving their family and people behind and burning all bridges of relationship.

While some struggle to make progress with ineffective models of ministry, God is quietly showing the global church a new path that is far more hopeful than anything we have seen since the book of Acts, 2000 years ago. There are many practitioners that are having great success in seeing movements develop all over the world. They have learned to cross the “bridges of God” into unreached peoples. The article by Robby Butler, Glimpses Through the Fog, starting on page 32, tells the astonishing story of what God is doing to foster movements in various unreached peoples. In the year 2000 there were at least 10 movements with 100,000 new disciples. Today, there are at least 645 movements with 47,500,000 new disciples! That is an incredible rate of growth. The number of known movements has increased from 609 to 645 just since our last issue of MF. Read carefully this important article to learn what hinders and what accelerates movements.

The choice is ours. We can continue with missionary methods such as extraction that do not lead to movements or join God in the most exciting and historic opportunity in perhaps 2000 years to foster movements in all peoples. Are you in?

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

We have only had three weeks to collect donations since the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of MF hit the streets, but the donations have begun to come in. One reader wrote, “I loved reading your January/February 2018 newsletter, and hope that I would be able to organize myself to be an effective part of this work. Enclosed is $200 to start the translation work.” Jean, San Luis Obispo, CA.  To translate each issue of MF, we will need many more gifts such as this. So prayerfully consider giving so that the vision of reaching all peoples can spread much farther. Thanks to the very effective work of the 24:14 Coalition, featured in our last issue, MF has been translated into 10 languages for the very first time.  Go to and click on Articles at the top of the page to view these 10 translations. Share this with all your friends who speak other languages.

This is an article from the March-April 2018 issue: Movements: Learning to Cross the “Bridges of God”

Indigenous Movements

How Peoples are Reached

Indigenous Movements

Indigenous Movements: How Peoples are Reached

By 1975 Donald McGavran and Ralph Winter had guided 1,000 experienced missionaries in studying—globally, and in their own fields: “How are peoples reached?” Answer: indigenous movements. 

However, few outside their direct influence saw either:

  • the biblical model and mandate for indigenous movements, or
  • the historic significance of indigenous movements.

Yet McGavran, Winter and their colleagues concluded:

We cannot say we have evangelized a person until that person can join an indigenous movement in their own society. 

Furthermore, this era of collaborative study revealed that:

  • The Bible (Mt. 28, etc.) calls us to disciple peoples (ethne).
  • Peoples are discipled only through indigenous movements.

The World Consultation on Frontier Missions (Edinburgh ’80) birthed the watchword “A Church for Every People ….”(meaning “a church movement in every people”).

In 1981 McGavran clarified this intent, elaborating:

  • Peoples are only reached by movements, never one-by-one.
  • 90% of work among the unreached ends up with one-by-one.

Today’s Reality

Mission researchers are now tracking more than 600 movements, most having developed just in the past decade. And many of these movements are growing faster and stronger than anything Winter or McGavran saw in their study of past movements.

Yet in retrospect, McGavran’s concerns appear prophetic—and as relevant today as when he first wrote them:

  • In 1985, McGavran estimated that 50% of the world lived among unreached peoples—2.5 billion people. 

Today IMB researchers estimate that 57% of the world lives among unreached peoples—4.3 billion (nearly double).

In what follows I adapt McGavran’s outline with added biblical references and fresh insights from the new movements we see today.  


In the Sept.-Oct. 1997 edition of Mission Frontiers, Dr. Ralph Winter wrote an introduction to the reprint of McGavran’s article, “A Church in Every People: Plain Talk About a Difficult Subject.” Winter said in part,

“In many ways this is the most remarkable article written by the most remarkable mission strategist of the Twentieth Century.” I agree.

What is the most fruitful way to “reach the unreached”?

  • Shall we work toward just one or more growing congregations?
  • Should we aim for a minimal percentage to become believers?
  • Or shall we seek an indigenous movement of multiplying ekklesia?

This goal of indigenous movements must shape our methods. 

The One-by-One Method

Starting a congregation where none existed is relatively easy.

Missionaries arrive, pray, worship together, learn the language, preach the gospel and pray. They love Jesus, talk about Christ, help others in their troubles, and pray. They share scripture portions and practice “friendship evangelism,” and they pray.

Over time a few locals follow Jesus, and a church grows around the missionaries, who urge them to become “a new family.” A new social structure is formed, and a building may be erected.

Such extraction evangelism typically draws the marginalized from several peoples and segments of society—the elderly, youth, orphans, mission helpers and ardent seekers. The result is often a foreign, conglomerate church, alienated from the local peoples. Locals observe, “You are no longer part of us,” and they are right. This is a new social unit which, if it survives at all, becomes a new people group by the second generation.

Such conglomerate churches usually struggle and fold, but the Bible and recent experience reveal a more fruitful approach.

Extraction evangelism makes peoples more resistant.

Such extraction evangelism into conglomerate congregations actually hinders indigenous movements. How? Most unreached peoples place a high value on their group identity. Any group of individuals coming one by one from different peoples and segments of society looks to such peoples like an assembly of traitors who have left “us” to join “them.”

In marriage most such “high identity” peoples insist “our people marry only our people.” Yet when converts join conglomerate churches one-by-one they often feel forced to take a spouse from another group. This alienates the couple from both groups, and their kids are born into “no man’s land.”  

New believers who join such churches are thus often rejected by their relatives—sometimes thrown out or even killed. And when a new believer leaves (or is forced out of) such a tigh