EFMA Considers “Urban”, “Country”, “People” Approaches to Unfinished Task
In the historic castle of the Navigator's idyllic Glen Eyrie Conference Center in Colorado Springs, over 175 mission executives of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) met September 27 30 to consider "The Challenge of Our Task" the remaining task of world evangelization.
The Mission Executive's Retreat is an annual working conference. This year's program centered around a consideration of trends and patterns in world evangelization as presented in Dr. David Barrett's new World Christian Encyclopedia.
"The main challenge is to always think and act in global terms," affirmed Barrett, reknowned mission researcher and the conference's featured speaker. "Each follower of Christ must relate his efforts, his church, his denomination with all other activities of the church worldwide." With this global theology of
the Body of Christ in view, Barrett's Nairobi based Anglican "Unit of Research" spent 14 years completing the herculean survey of contemporary Christianity embodied in the World Christian Encyclopedia The student volunteer movement called for "the evangelization of the world in this generation." How are we doing? Has world evangelization progressed since 1900? Barrett's answer is "yes and no." Measured by formal membership figures, there has been a slight decline (34.4% to 32.8%).
"But the influence of Christianity on the world extends far and wide beyond the boundaries of our churches." Thus, in Barrett's view, "conversions" and "church membership" alone are not adequate indications of the growth or extent of world evangelization.
Barrett's controversial conclusion is to distinguish the activities of evangelism from the results, the availability of the gospel versus its usage or acceptance, the faithfulness of the church in proclamation which may or may not include the response of the people.
In this light, the veritable explosion of Christian outreach since 1900 sets the stage for and illuminates the challenge that remains. He notes a number of indicators:
• Christian Organizations a tenfold (900%) increase
• Personnel a four fold (300%) increase
• Scripture a nine fold (800%) increase
• Christian Broadcasting audiance growth from zero to one billion persons, 23% of the world's population
• Christian Books and Periodicals a seven fold (600%) increase (adjusted) in dollar giving to missions
• Finances a seven fold (600%) increase (adjusted) in dollar giving to missions
The EFMA Itself is both a powerful sign of evangelical vitality and a force for penetrating the frontiers. Founded in 1945 as a voluntary association of evangelical organizations engaged in foreign missionary work, the EFMA provides a forum where missions exchange information and work together. In
contrast to its sister organization, the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA), EFMA groups tend to be denominationally related (Conservative Baptist, Assembly of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, etc.) although groups like Campus Crusade for Christ and Mission Aviation Fellowship are members.
Groups like the U.S. Center for World Mission which are supportive of missionary work but do not themselves send out missionaries are Associate Members. The over 80 member missions of the EFMA send out more than 9000 missionaries (20% of the total North American Protestant missionary force) serving in 130 countries.
The main concern of this year's consultation was not the past, but the future.
"For all the encouraging events, the victories, the main task remains yet to be done," declared Dr. Donald McGavran, founder of the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary, and the Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Center for World Mission and William Carey International University.
Follow up speakers to David Barrett suggested three ways of looking at the remaining task¬evangelizing the cities, whole countries and people groups.
Urbanologist Roger Greenway of Westminster Seminary noted the worldwide growth of urban populations. In the decade of the 1980's, one billion people will migrate from rural to urban areas. By the year 2000, 50% of the world's population will live in huge metropolitan centers. These facts demand major attention In missionary thinking, strategy and assignment of personnel. "A new breed of street wise missionaries need to be recruited and trained for urban work."
"The challenge of a whole country" according to strategist Jim Montgomery of O.C. Ministries, is to work with the whole body of Christ in whole countries toward the discipling of those countries.
"It is to see every evangelical denomination and parachurch organization, every Christian leader and layperson, every activity and ministry mobilized and functioning harmoniously to the end that every citizen (of every people group) in a country has a real opportunity to decide for or against Jesus
Montgomery acknowledged that this strategy presupposes a fairly responsive population and an evangelical church of some strength.
In his address, "The Challenge of Unreached Peoples," Dr. McGavran noted "a sudden new concern of vast proportions sweeping across the mission scene... a concern for the Unreached Peopies."
(See extended excerpts from Dr. McGavran's address on page e it of this Issue.)
McGavran sounded a call for a "nation wide program of mission education" leading to "a nation-wide reawakening of missionary consciousness."
Greenway concurred. "We must educate the church from top to bottom in missions. Unless a church is involved in missions, It is not a true church. If we are preaching in our churches and teaching in our schools a God who is not a God of missions, then we are preaching and teaching heresy!"
EFMA and the Frontier Fellowship
Several conference speakers singled out the Frontier Fellowship as a major break through in providing missionary education and inspiration at the congregational level.
McGavran noted, "The Frontier Fellowship Daily Prayer Guide is a godsend. (It)... is aiding both denominational and interdenominational agencies. It stresses new outreach without negating existing work. It builds on the Bible. It soars with worldwide perspective. It generates spectacular mission vision in those who use it. It is a great new resource for today's mission."
Gordon McDonald, pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts, and Bible hour speaker for the conference, also cited the Frontier Fellowship as one of the most encouraging missions programs for local churches that he had ever seen. He said that churches need the help of missions in finding ways to increase the sensitivity of Christians to world need. "We must all work together to keep the vision alive," he declared. McDonald has recently inaugurated the Frontier Fellowship program in his own church.