This is an article from the January-February 1984 issue: New Mission Executive for North America’s Largest Sending Agency

Is Wycliffe Biggest?

Is Wycliffe Biggest?

 COVER: Let us be praying for John tendor aaluei, the new Executive Vice President of this major organization, as it looks forward into astounding opportunities and formidable obstacles. David Dimming, an Australian, is President. John, an Englishman, has been a key Wycliffe executive in Africa as aeli as being in charge of the Summer Institute of Linguistics in England for the past 25 yearc. The international flavor has never been so prominent.

  • Wycliffe is so big that five moving vans are criss crossing the U.S. constantly just to pick up the belongings of their new people going to the field.
  • Wycliffe sends out more U.S citizens (3,555) into the foreign mission field than all of the 36 member denominations of the National Council of Churches put together. Plus another 1,493 who join Wycliffe from other countries (such as 425 Canadians).

However, let's not get started off on that kind of a tangent. On what precise basis, really, could we ever say that one mission agency is bigger than all others? For example, candidates for bigness might boast of many things.

  • Gospel Recordings has dealt with more languages (about 4,000).
  • World Vision and the Southern Baptist Foreign Board both handle more money, and the latter has about as many North American personnel (3,363).
  • Campus Crusade has by one definition 15,000 workers and touches more people through its Jesus film. (All standard missions have developed formally trained national leaders.Altogether they number well over 500,000.
  • Youth With a Mission actually processes more new people per year, perhaps 3,000 (in short term missions).

What Then, is Unique About Wycliffe

  1. WYCLIFFE took in more than 325 new career missionaries last year! (That, in one year, is more than the total number serving in most missions.)
  2. WYCLIFFE now draws its missionary candidates from 29 countries (and sends them to 40).
  3. WYCLIFFE has begun work with 907 tribal groups and is working right now with 495!
  4. WYCLIFFE has 130 Ph.D.s, with another 60 in process. Plus 700 MA,s and the world's largest network of linguistic institutes of the highest calibre  open to all missions.
  5. MUCH MORE IMPORTANT: Wycliffe has zeroed in on the world's tribal peoples, surely some of the most needy, threatened people on the face of the earth. Why is that important?
  • Tribal people are more numerous than the population of the U.S,  over 200 million.
  • They come in 5,000 shapes and sizes, requiring distinct approaches.
  • They speak at least 3,000 languages sufficiently different to require different printed materials to read.
  • Thus, tribal peoples amount to greater diversity than all the rest of missionary work in all the world!
  • Tribal peoples represent the most politically delicate of all mission fields. They are virtually imprisoned in their own countries in most cases. National governments, run by majority peoples, at best are embarrassed or indifferent and at worst are even hostile to them. (How can outsiders get past those officials who do not want anyone drawing attention to their tribal peoples? It is a wonder missions have been able to do it at all!)

What is Wycliffe's Secret

The deep human drama behind the astounding picture across the page can only be told in the amazing story of "Uncle Cam' who was the principal founder. (See the special half price book offer on the back cover).

But the fifty years you see on the left tell us two things that are very profound:

  1. Tackling jungles and building a solid team and measuring your output by whole New Testaments in previously unwritten languages is not a recipe for instant success. Note that after Wycliffe got started it was 17 years before a single NT was completed, and 30 before 7 were done. But then'whoosh'!
  2. The Spiritual Product" has BROWN FASTER than the missionary force! We'll see more in a moment why that blessed event has taken place. But now we are left hanging in the balance as to what can become of this huge, fantastic missionary team  from 29 nations to 40 nations (and to 907 HIDDEN PEOPLES).

Can Wycliffe do it alone?

Wycliffe (give them credit) has never tried to do it alone.

In fact, Cam Townsends greatest strategic error was to assume that all the existing boards would immediately rally to the tribal which he now became a modern day apostle with all the scuffs and bruises and hardships that involves.

Other missions, both interdenominational and denominational agencies, were doing some substantial tribal work in some places. But it would have been hopeless futility to expect them all instantly to grasp Townsends vision. Vision grows slowly.

To this writer, however, the best question is not can" Wycliffe do it alone.

To be sure, the teeter totter above would seem to imply a crushing, impossible load, but the projections across the page show that it is not unthinkable in terms of past growth rates.

Wycliffe does not WANT to do it alone! Even though Townsend somewhat failed to attract existing missions to plunge into tribal work, Wycliffe has never ceased to believe that other missions could and would and should help!

I was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands over the years, trained in linguistics and tribal techniques  and later worked with a tribe  although I was never a member of Wycliffe itself.

Wycliffe has encouraged Lutherans to form the Lutheran Bible Translators. Never suppose the Lutherans decided to "compete' with Wycliffe. Wycliffe will collaborate with any mission ¬denominational or other  if it is known that that group would like to share the tribal challenge.

Some missions already specialize in tribal work just like Wycliffe does. I think of Regions Beyond Missionary Union and New Tribes Mission, Unevangelized Fields Mission, etc.

Others, as the future unfolds, may seek to work creatively with Wycliffe, leaning on their expertise and considerable experience.

A Church for Every People by the Year 2000? (Tribe)

What will happen by the year 2,000?

Can Bible translation catch on in wider circles?

P single major event may symbolize for us the new forces that are on the horizon for tribal work. The World consultation on Frontier Missions at Edinburgh in 1980 was strongly supported by Wycliffe. George Cowan, one of Wycliffe's early anchor men gave the plenary presentation on unfinished work in the tribal sphere. The Sudan Interior Mission, now working worldwide as SIM International, was strongly represented by Gerald Swank, their specialist in new tribal fields.

The Africa Inland Mission sent no less than Richard Anderson, now International Secretary, plus the entire top (African) staff of the Africa Inland Church Mission Board In light of their 1979 commitment to '100 New Hidden Peoples by 1990, the Foursquare church sent a District Superintendent. The Missouri Synod sent their top mission exec, Southern Baptists sent two, etc.

Wycliffe's past growth rates show that the TRIBAL task is "doable" by the year 2,000.

Even more important: not only more mission agencies sent delegates to Edinburgh than to any previous world level meeting in history, but fully one third of the delegates were from non¬Western missions (like the AIM Africans mentioned above).

Panya Baba, for example, gave a plenary address. He is the head of the SIM-related, Nigerian-staffed Evangelical Missionary Society, which sends out 440 Africans, mostly in cross cultural work even outside Nigeria. Similarly, in Ghana as a result of Wycliffes school for translators started there in 1971, 46 Shanian scribers of Wycliffe now work with 2 different language!

Thus two things are happening: 1) tribal work is becoming more prominent as a major frontier along with Muslims, Chinese, Hindus, and Buddhists, and 2) we can count on more and more nationalities to help out, whether formally or informally related to Wycliffe itself.

Wycliffe and the U.S. Center

From the very founding of the Center for World Mission here in Pasadena, many mission agencies have shown great interest in its potentialities and have offered help. Wycliffe has lent help in several ways.

The letter to the right shows recent evidence of appreciation for the way in which these two organizations are closely related.

Still more recently, Wycliffe has decided to try to enlist its own missionary members, and in turn its 500,000 l,000,000 supporters, to help pay off this property. We feel this is a very, very significant step for which we are profoundly grateful.

One reason Wycliffe leaders decided to do this is explained in the letter to the right  they feel we are helping them in their cause. But another reason is the fact that we present no long term fund raising threat to their support base. Although they have never before urged their people to give funds to another mission, the USCWM presents a different case. Why Because we have been unswerving in our policy not to cultivate long term giving to our own operational costs. (We are, and always have been, operationally self sustaining.)We look upon Wycliffe as a strong, experienced agency. If

Wycliffes collaboration in our "Touch Ten" campaign reaches the outer limits of their support base, we may soon find ourselves over our financial hump. Wycliffe also will benefit: the Touch Ten" campaign could bring them 100,000 to 200,000 new supporters.

But this is only the beginning. The Touch Ten campaign can be taken up and copied by any group. Our basic purpose is to broaden the support base and the vision base of the entire mission movement. We believe God wants to help us do that.


There are no comments for this entry yet.

Leave A Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.