This is an article from the July-August 1997 issue: The Southern Baptist “Transformation”

Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

Dear Reader,

No time to read this whole bulletin right now? Set it aside for a few quiet moments later on when you can give it some serious thought! Why? Because this unremarkable periodical reports some truly remarkable events!

You will also recognize some on-going themes in this issue. See the three articles on radical deWesternization beginning on page 19, involving both Muslims and Hindus. However, this issue is mainly a “Post GCOWE” issue, and stories of that thrilling meeting are here in force.

#1. The “Story After” is always more exciting. What really happened in South Africa?

First of all, Americans did not pay for this meeting. Out of nearly 4,000 delegates, only a handful needed their way paid!

Even more importantly, the central justification for this enormous meeting of globally conscious leaders can be highlighted by the very existence of the amazingly small list of “172 Unclaimed Peoples” on page 29.

Where did that number come from? Out of a total of maybe 8,000 specific doors to be opened by cross-cultural outreach, only 1739 are larger than 10,000 souls and many of the smaller groups are “kissing cousins” of the 1739 adopted by the Joshua Project. We’ve said all this before.

But now, at South Africa it was reported (after receiving 25,000 inputs from 80 countries) that only 579 of the 1739 groups did not yet have a church planting effort!

Then, during the meeting 407 of those 579 remaining were claimed by an agency pledging some form of church planting by the end of the century! That left the 172 groups listed on pages 29 and 30.

But, the picture is even brighter than that. Due to the nature of “obtainable data” as one researcher put it, all of these smaller lists are even smaller when you realize that they are what are called “country specific.”

Looking closely at this list we see that 13 of the languages mentioned are spoken by more than one group, usually a second or third group “across the border in an adjacent country.” In fact, a total of 29 groups (of the 172) list one or another of these same 13 languages. The groups listed twice in this way may be sufficiently different to require a new, pioneer beachhead—but maybe not!

Furthermore, I would guess that quite a few more of these 172 are “kissing cousins” to much larger, groups in other countries where strong Christian movements already exist. Note the presence of major languages like Eastern Panjabi, Bengali, and Mandarin Chinese. What does this mean?

Well, take the case of the Anuaks (listed under Sudan), the essential, initial missionary beachhead already exists for the much larger number of Anuaks across the border in Ethiopia. That means this group of Anuaks in Sudan can be reached by the evangelistic outreach of other Anuaks who are already strong believers!

This is the difference between missions and evangelism. When we finally finish the task of missions, there will still be the never ending task of evangelizing and re-evangelizing every generation. But, the mission task, strictly speaking, will be over! That will be when there is a church for every people, the rallying cry of the 1980 Edinburgh meeting, and now the AD2000 movement!

#2. Are we harvesting nickels in missions today? Are most people giving to missions just “playing missions”? Is this good enough? Why would we print another “Nickel Scheme” in this issue?

One unusual feature in this issue is actually a new gimmick. Are we in favor of gimmicks?

The gimmicks often used to raise money for missions are classically illustrated by the need over 100 years ago in China for rural people to be enabled to raise their own pigs. This is when the “Piggy Bank” was invented by American women mission enthusiasts back home.

Also, women missionaries started women’s fellowships on the field which in turn encouraged both young people to pick up sticks for sale as firewood and mothers to set aside “a handful of rice” at each meal for mission outreach on the part of their own Asian churches.

This handful-of-rice pattern is now seen all the way from India throughout South East Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, clear up to Japan and Korea in North Asia.

In the U.S.A. many new gimmicks have been invented, including our own promotion of the Daily Prayer Guide and its related “Loose Change Fellowship,” the latter being a direct attempt to parallel the Asian women’s handful of rice, which was, note, a small DAILY sacrifice. We feel the daily reminder is one of the most important ingredients for anyone who wants to keep global mission central in their lives.

World Vision came up with its annual “Love loaf” idea for congregations and the “planned famine” idea for young people.

But now we tell you (p. 40) about a coalition of younger mission executives (seven well-known agencies so far) who are launching an “Opening Gateways” campaign which will simultaneously emphasize a month of “praying through the 10/40 Window” along with collecting a small amount of money each day. Half of the funds families collect in little cardboard banks will go to the agency of choice of that congregation, the other half will go to the pool of agencies which will focus exclusively upon the 143 ”Gateway Clusters” of peoples, groups which include the entire “1739” of the AD2000 Movement’s Joshua Project list—as well as the 172 “unclaimed peoples” mentioned just above.

Why don’t you get your congregation to try this for the one month of the campaign this year? It is right upon you, so act fast.

OK, but what do I personally think about using gimmicks to “harvest nickels”… to collect small amounts of money?

It is not the only thing we should do. But, if this sort of thing can be done effectively, well, money certainly is needed in virtually every sphere of the mission enterprise. This I especially like: gimmicks like this in a local church attract the part-time attention of droves of people who would not normally be caught up in the mission cause. This, in turn, may lead in some cases to something more solid

and long-term.

After all, “short-term missions” are a gimmick in a one sense. They are awfully expensive for what is actually accomplished on the field, but are justifiable for the interest and education they create among young people and home churches.

However, as in any cause, the real backbone of mission promotion at home will be those who eat, sleep and drink missions 24 hours a day. They themselves give more than nickels; they give vision. Since I have now tipped my hat to various kinds of nickel-harvesting activities, let me make a case for you, dear reader (if you have gotten this far) for your participation on a much more serious level. That is my next point:

#3. Would you and your family be willing to consider becoming a “missionary family”? What precisely does that mean? Does God really value your time more than your money?

What I will describe is not an alternative to “planned famines,” short terms and all that. It involves an additional, profound personal transformation that should often come along in life naturally as families continue to make steps of faith in the right direction—in the Kingdom of God. Yes, the whole family has to be involved—which is a great bonus right there.

What I am talking about, therefore, is not how much money you are giving to missions, or how you could give more, but how much of your heart and time and your whole family is committed to specialized mission mobilization. It is precisely because we need more missionaries that we need more mobilizers. This is the only way thousands who now lack the necessary support will ever be able get to the field.

Ask yourself the fundamental question: Is my whole family focused on the most crucial effort it could possibly make in the Kingdom of God? This is not a matter of how much you earn or how much you give but who you are and what is the condition of your heart as reflected by where your earthly “treasure” lies. By treasure I don’t refer just to money but to the things for which you spend your time and money.

Ideally—and certainly if possible—God would want us all to find the kind of job that will not merely keep our families alive but can maximize the meaning of our earthly existence in God’s Kingdom. But, at this point in your life what is realistically possible for you and your family?

A family usually becomes a missionary family by doing two things:

  1. It joins a society of other highly committed families, willingly accepting a modest income based on need (so that more workers can be supported with the available amount of money), and
  2. It plunges into learning an exotic, tongue-twisting language all the while fighting cockroaches and strange diseases.

Your family may not be able now or ever to leave your present employment. Missionary vision, and thus support, is too scarce to stretch to underwrite all the thousands who would be willing to go if their churches would back them.

But why not take just the first step? No mission society will take you if you cannot make that first step (which nicely reduces financial motivation to zero while enabling more missionaries to go). Are there no insurmountable reasons why you cannot make that step without the second “step” to a foreign field?

Would it be helpful to take just that first step? It just might be a profound transformation whether or not the way opens later on to get a so-called “full-time” job in Christian service.

Suppose you and your family were invited to stay where you are and yet become an active member family of the Frontier Mission Fellowship (the organization behind the Center and the university here). Members of the FMF, whatever their wealth, whatever their income, inheritance, whatever, adopt the missionary lifestyle, being content with the necessary food, shelter and tools to work with.

For example, my wife and I draw a maximum of $2,232 per month. We don’t use more than that to live on. This fact alone contributes much to the simplification and focus of our lives.

Of course, we handle a lot more money than that. We work every day in a major institution that spends thousands turning people and churches upside down, so to speak. But even our organization is run as a missionary institution. That means we try extra hard to spend nothing more than we have to.

Yesterday I was given a tour through the spacious, bustling headquarters of the Gospel Light Press in Ventura, California. Only one room in that vast complex is air conditioned! For 17 years they have been saving $6,000 a month by taking advantage of Southern California climate. That’s a lot of money saved.

In our complex in Pasadena, which is a lot larger, we save even more by using very little refrigerated air conditioning. Refrigerated air makes sense in muggy climates but not where you have dry, desert type air. The main reason there is a lot of conventional refrigeration in Southern California is simply cultural, not technical. “It is the thing to do.”

But, this is not a lecture on air conditioning, it is an attempt to persuade a few hardy, healthy, dedicated families to become “missionary” in the sense of living on a specific, spartan level and using all the rest of their time and money to the best advantage in the Kingdom.

If your family were to be invited to become a member family of the Frontier Mission Fellowship a great deal of mutual understanding would have to precede even that first step. It would involve the approval and participation of every member of your family. It would involve spiritual and even educational discipline—we have high standards. Interested? Start with page 47.

4. Okay, there’s now no problem in recognizing “intelligent design,” What about the evidence of “destructive” intelligent design? That is, both “intelligent love” and “intelligent hate”? And what should we do about it? Does this have anything to do with missions?

Thanks to Michael Behe and his marvelous book, Darwin’s Black Box (he took his career in his hands to write it), believers now can dare to say that our immune cells are intelligently designed for good. Okay. Isn’t it equally possible, then, that we can observe that, say, the tuberculosis bacillus is intelligently EVIL?

The August 22 Los Angeles Times reported that researchers

…finally discovered how the tuberculosis bacterium and its cousin leprosy invade cells…The bacteria hijack one component of the immune system and use it like a Trojan horse to sneak into immune cells…which they then destroy.

Hmm. Intelligent! Hmm. How dangerous is TB? The article mentions that tuberculosis infects an estimated one-third of the world’s population. Who would design something like that? Not God!

Funny, isn’t it, how reluctant “politically correct” thinking is to recognize inherent evil in nature. An example: Science (August 1, p. 635ff.) tells of modern explorations of earlier man, and how difficult it has been for scientists to accept the fact that cannibalism has been found in virtually all cases—and not just in the case of ancient man. This story includes the Aztecs and the recent ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians. A 1970 paper was greeted with “total disbelief” at a time when supposedly earlier “Indians…were all peaceful and happy.” But now “30 years and 15,000 skeletons later,” the evidence is overwhelming. Why is EVIL so pervasive?

Take smallpox: one of the most horrible diseases in the history of life on earth. For the millions and millions who died agonizing deaths it was too late to penetrate its mysteries. But a tiny handful of far-seeing souls did seek a way to work intelligently against the incredible EVIL of this (intelligent) scourge.

As we suggested in an earlier issue: consider the theology of Jonathan Edwards, that godly, brilliant genius of a man, that earnest colonial revivalist, that valiant Calvinist. He did not blame all this agony on God’s will somehow, and then simply go around preaching repentance. Edwards died young, trying out on himself an experimental vaccine against the evil of smallpox.

Are Evangelicals today too “spiritual” to fight this kind of evil at this level? Who knows? Probably quite a few individuals here and there are actually involved. But I don’t read about them. Are pastors recruiting young people for this kind of a mission? Does the National Association of Evangelicals include a division that helps coordinate Evangelical efforts in this sphere?

What ARE Evangelicals busy doing? We believe, well—here is our principle article of faith—that all we need to do is to call individuals to “a personal decision for Christ.” And, God will do the rest?

Do our Christian colleges and seminaries fight malevolent microbes? Is there room for a Christian organization that will galvanize efforts to fight evil at tiny levels? Note that a former missionary to Africa co-directed the team discovering the gene that produces cystic fibrosis!

Please tell me if there is anyone reading this who knows of an association of microbe hunters or cell-level researchers who, under God, are at those levels straining to beat back the ingenious evil of the Evil One. I will gladly highlight such activity in these pages and try to reinforce those efforts. In fact, to highlight the crucial need for that kind of mission may be one reason my wife, specifically, has a very resistant form of cancer.


Princess Di:


She was very human. She did not score highly in the morality department. But in some other ways she set an example which we could wish more of the rich and famous would follow: she identified with the poor and helpless again and again in many places around the world. If this reflected real character then you can imagine that she lived up significantly to the statement of scripture: “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” that is, “I desire inward mercy more than the outward showy sacrifices of religion.”


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