Introduction to the Mission Frontiers Supplement
After mailing 100,000 of the September-October issue of our Mission Frontiers bulletin we were braced for negative responses to the controversial issue which we discussed. Surprisingly, however, we received mainly letters of encouragement, some of which we are including in this supplement. We hope that these thought-provoking articles which we also received will elicit further discussion and response. You can help by sending us additional articles or by responding to those found here. Perhaps this Mission Frontiers Supplement can become a compendium of related articles that will grow with time.
As I have interacted with some of those who have sent in articles, I have become more than ever aware of just how important the topic discussed is to fulfilling the Great Commission. Throughout there are clues clues as to how the the gospel might effectively penetrate the remaining unreached spheres of mankind.
For decades, now, missiologists have distinguished between the "responsive and the resistant fields." One even wrote a book with a sub-title "responsive or neglected." As many that were thought to be resistant have responded to the gospel, we have come to realize that rather than being resistant, they were perhaps neglected for one reason or another. The church has now been established among so many of these peoples that it is not wishful thinking anymore to say that the missionary task among the least resistant is coming to an end.
It is like agricultural land. The good fields across the earth that receive plenty of rain have been gradually used up. Apart from irrigation, there would be no more land that could be cultivated. In the same way the gospel has already been planted among the people groups most receptive to Westernized Christianity. Yet there remain large blocs of peoples who are still considered resistant. Just as
new irrigation methods have allowed farmers to grow crops in barren desert lands, so too, new missionary strategies may help to penetrate the final barriers which separate the gospel from what are too readily called the difficult, resistant peoples.
This supplement discusses just what it may be that "resistant" people are resisting. Is it the gospel as faithfully recorded in the Bible? Or is it simply the Westernized form of Christianity? When we recognize that the person of Jesus is of great interest to many of these so-called "resistant" peoples, we have to ask ourselves, are they really resistant to Him or only alienated from a degenerating Western culture perceived as Christian? Perhaps the only way they will accept the message is when they can receive it on their own terms or in a form that doesn't identify them with something that comes from Christianized lands.
The views in this supplement are probably not new to most of you. For years missionaries and missiologists, including the apostle Paul, have wrestled with how to make free the gospel from long held cultural tradition. What is new, however, is how this subject relates to this present moment in time as we reach the limits of people groups who respond to our present methods. Perhaps it is critical for us to look again at what Paul said and did as we try to understand how old ideas can be reborn in new strategies able to penetrate the final frontiers of missions. Otherwise the goal of a "church for every people" may take another hundred years.
Constantly, it seems, we hear stories today of wonderful success all around the globe--but they come mostly from the less resistant spheres. If we are not careful these successes will blind us to our failure among those peoples who remain resistant, and will conceal the need for a new front that goes beyond what is now being attempted. We do not argue with success where it exists. But is it good enough? Is Jesus willing to just write off millions of people as resistant? What would He do?
For me it is a slow process of trying to understand this important topic. Below are some ways that I plan to continue to learn. Please let me know of any others.
Frank L. Roy USCWM staff [email protected]
- Electronic conference (Simply send your name by Email to owner- [email protected])
- To All Men All Things, Web Page (This is an electronic version of a newsletter called To All Men All Things. It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the Hindu world. Find this by doing a search of the www by placing the following in the search box: xpjstophilus)
- Mission Frontiers , Bulletin of the U.S. Center for World Mission (Get on the mailing list by sending your name and address to the magazine at 1605 Elizabeth St. Pasadena CA 91104.)
- Dharma Deepika (This is an academic journal produced in India. Send $15 for a one year subscription to PO Box 6188, 55 Luz Ave Mylapore, Madras 600 004 INDIA. Make check payable to CBMTM.)
- International Journal of Frontier Missions (For a one year subscription, send $15 to 321 W Rio Grande, El Paso TX, 79902.)
- Evangelical Missions Quarterly (Send $21.95 to PO Box 794 Wheaton IL 60189 for a one year subscription.)