Q & A With the Director
The U.S. Center for World Mission is a group of former missionaries and mission leaders who in September 1978 took over an entire college campus in Pasadena, California, which was vacated by a Christian college that had moved to another city.
Already 110 people are working in the Center each day, performing a variety of functions, all of which focus on the development of new efforts to get the cause of frontier missions moving again in America. The exclusive emphasis is upon 16,750 populations around the world which are stilt beyond the reach of any existing church or mission. (We have dubbed these people "the hidden people.") The cost of the entire project, making it a self-sustaining venture which will no longer require donations, is $15 million.
But, the Evangelical Movement in America today is bursting out all over with breathtaking new projects. Most of these seem to encompass the whole world in their purpose. Almost everyone knows Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, Robert Schuller, Pat Robertson, Bill Bright, Oral Roberts, Jerry Faiwefi, Morris Cerillo, etc. Just these eight brothers-in-Christ alone are out to raise $1500 million dollars. (That's 1.5 billion dollars.) By what audacity do WE propose to raise another $15 million, which amounts to an additonal 1 percent?
Well putt We are not famous like those men We have no radio or television program, no audience, no constituency, no mailing list of on-going donors, no millionaire friends.
WHO ARE WE, ANYHOW? IS THERE REALLY ANY DIFFERENCE IN WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO? First of all, we are not going to be critical of these wellknown leaders. I who write this am personally known to most of them, and I have great respect and admiration for all of them. I pray earnestly that God will bless their efforts.
The difference is we belong very nearly in a different world. First of all, I myself, am a former missionary commissioned in 1956. I worked for ten years with aboriginal peoples in Guatemala. I worked another ten years in a School of World Mission where a thousand missionaries from 90 countries passed through my classes. Yes, on the Board of Reference of the U.S. Center for World Mission we have eight well-known Christian leaders who are not necessarily mission leaders. But we have 42 Consultants who are virtually all specialists in missions, only a few known widely to the general public, but all very well-known in the world of missions. Our Board of Directors consists of nine missionaries or mission loaders plus three mission. devoted businessmen.
Furthermore, most of our friends and closest associates live and move and have their being in the world of missions. I refer to the executives of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association, leaders of the major mission boards today (like Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Southern Baptist Foreign Board of Missions, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, Sudan Interior Mission, and various denominational boards of missions - Methodist, Presbyterian, American Baptist, Conservative Baptist, etc.). These are the people who know us well.
True, Pat Boone has been very kind to us. Billy Graham has gone out of his way. But it is a former missionary, Donald Hoke, founding director of the Billy Graham Center, who said, "This is the single most strategic institution. In the world today aimed at evangelizing the 2 billion persons who can only be reached by "missionary" evangelism. You may freely use my name in commending the Center to God's people everywhere." Jim Montgomery, Overseas Field Director of Overseas Crusades said," If. the U.S. Center for World Mission fails, our mission cannot succeed." Missionary families number among the most sacrificial supporters of this project.
Why? Because this, I believe, is the first time a group of missionaries have themselves taken the initiative to establish a center in the U.S. which will study, evaluate, and assist all mission effort in a constructive and helpful way, to move dynamically and decisively to push back the barriers limiting present efforts and penetrate the last 6,750 human groupings within which there is not yet a culturally relevant church.
Aren't missions already doing this?
Without any criticism Intended, the answer is mainly "no"! Generally speaking, affluent Americans, far better able to contribute to overseas effort than ever In history are going home before the party Is over- like a doctor leaving the delivery room before the baby is born. The mission agencies know full well there is an immense amount of work to be done, but the agencies are having a tough time keeping present work supported without adding new fields of endeavor. We want to help Americans rub their eyes, awake to the remaining challenge, not to be weary in well-doing, and give a massive new push to the cause of missions to the frontiers. We have no desire to add one more mission to compete with what is now being done.
Aren't you perhaps over-emphasizing "the unfinished task"?
Study the chart on the opposite page. Notice that column 5 represents the basic widely published statistics whlch add up to the total world's population of 4,321 million people (as of July 1979). To the left of column 5 are four columns that break down those column 5 totals into two kinds of Christians and two kinds of non-Christians. It is column 4 on which the U.S. Center for World Mission and its sister Centers around the world are focused. You will note from the total of column 4 that it represents more than one-half of the world's population and 80 percent of the non-Christians of the world. Thus, column 41s not only a larger task, but it is much more difficult than the column 3 task. The masses in column 3 are not only smaller in number but easier to reach: within every group listed in column 3 there are already at least some Christians in a worshipping fellowship that speaks their languages and represents their same cultures. This is precisely not true for column 4. In view of the truly staggering magnitude and complexity (see col. 7, 8, 9) of the column 4 task, one modest-sized campus devoted exclusively to it does not seem to bean over-emphasis!
What did you say about sister centers?
We are not presuming for a moment that Americans will be or should be the only answer to the unfinished task of missions. It is a wonderful fact that we can confidently assume that Christians in every land are as willing as we are to try to fulfill the Great Commission. Therefore we assume that the Idea of a Center focused on frontier missions will be acceptable for every country (and for every region in large countries, like India). There are already boards of directors in South Africa, Scotland, South India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea concerned to establish sister centers. Interest exists In a half-dozen other countries. All these centers will be supported and operated by citizens of the respective countries. It is not for Americans to go around the world telling others what to do. We are delighted, however, whenever word of our efforts has aroused interest in doing the same thing, whether it Is Brazil, Nigeria, etc. Our International Consultant, George W. Peters, has the responsibility of lending encouragement and maintaining contact with all such parallel interests in other lands. Only in this way can the lob ever be properly done. All the Christians of the world must get involved!
Can't the national churches overseas do this job by themselves?
Many American Christi, assume that somehow the job will be easier for, and more effectively done by, "national Christians." Where the job is a column 3 task (reaching out to people in the same culture and language as those national Christians) that is a true assumption. But the column 4 task Is by definition as much a missionary task for so-called "national Christians" as it is for Americans. We are all "national Christians," meaning we are all citizens somewhere. But whoever we are we will have to learn a foreign language and adjust to a strange culture to reach column 4 people - column 9 shows that they live in at least 16,750 sub-groups where there is no church at all.
Furthermore, to expect the national churches to automatically be a success at this kind of missions is the same as assuming that an Anglo church in any American city can automatically be effective in reaching out to Navajos, Lebanese refugees, Chinese, or even Spanishspeaking people in their neighborhoods. No matter how much the church may want to evangelize these people, it is simply not the best instrument for the cross-cultural ministry which such a task involves. This requires special skills and special gifts. And throughout history It has required special organizations, supported by the church, but free to determine with missionary wisdom just how to do the job.
In the last twenty-five years many such "special organizations" have sprung up overseas. It is welcome news that Christians in other lands are responding to the call to get involved in missions which are also "foreign" to them. But the task is so immense that it is going to take a concerted effort on the part of Christians everywhere to fulfill Christ's command. We cannot escape our responsibility just because Christians elsewhere are beginning to help us bear the task.
Why do you need the campus?
We feel we must attack the root of the problem. Young people by the thousands streaming to Urbana and making a missionary decision do not have the hard facts upon which to build the serious next steps that can take them into a challenging task within the Great Commission.
Most of our campus at any given time will be filled with students taking a single semester out of their regular college course. Most will be from secular universities and colleges because that is where 90 percent of all evangelical students are!
This special short course in "International Studies" has been developed over six years, three years on the Wheaton campus, and has had outstanding success in giving college young people a completely new foundation upon which to build their careers, whether or not they go overseas. They come away knowing not only what the Bible teaches about mission strategy but what 37,000 American missionaries are actually doing around the world, where they are concentrated, what agencies they work for, what languages and cultures they have or have not penetrated, what is left to be done and how to do it. It Is called "International Studies" merely to safeguard the transfer of units to a secular school. But it amounts to a completely new Christian intellectual foundation for most students. Every church needs at least one member who has received this kind of intensive education in the worldwide Christian cause. Yet there Is no secular university in the country that provides courses of this sort.
Do you have a graduate program?
Yes. We already have a sister corporation (under the very same Board of Directors) called the William Carey International University. The state of California has authorized us to grant six M.A. degrees and five Ph.D. degrees, in fields such as Chinese Studies, Hindu Studies, Muslim Studies, Tribal Studies and International Development. In addition to our very special one-semester program already mentioned, we expect to have a growing force of experts on campus connected with a series of mission strategy offices dealing in specific detail with the great unwon blocks of humanity. These senior researchers will mainly be missionaries retired, returned, reassigned to us, who will bring immense field experience and constitute an outstanding graduate faculty. Furthermore, there are at least 300 U.S. missionaries scattered all over the globe who have Ph. D. degrees. The word "International" in the title of the university corporation indicates our intention to set up adjunct faculty and graduate committees In most of the major centers in the non-Western World and thus be prepared to sponsor both missionaries and nationals in graduate degree studies without their having to come to the U.S. This will also - and most importantly - allow us to harvest hundreds of thousands of hours of additional field research at essentially no cost of us.
Why this particular campus in Pasadena?
First of all the place. In the last 25 years Southern California has become the one place on the entire earth's surface most closely approximating a Pentecost of Nations. There are larger concentrations of a larger number of nationalities there than anywhere else In the world (and generally each foreign group has a higher percentage of Christians than in its home country!). This fact has implications both for training programs and strategic developments. Secondly, this campus.. This was and is literally the only campus available, where we can set up shop, start operating and claim the ground for this dream. Despite the active competition of a monied spiritual cult that had a temporary lease on 2/3 of the campus, we now own it having completed the down payment in September of 1978. To build the same campus elsewhere would cost almost three times as much. To lose this campus by failing to make the payments will set back the exclusive and crucially necessary emphasis of this Center for many years-at a time when to delay is truly tragic in terms of world events.
How do you expect to pay for the campus?
We are already being carried on a wave of positive response. All kinds of leaders of all kinds ranging from devout but hard-headed businessmen to mission statesmen have Investigated our methods and objectives. No one, no church, has heard us out and turned us down.
While we lack the widespread notoriety that would make It easy, we feel sure that as fast as people hear about the challenge they will respond.
Obviously we are making it harder for ourselves by asking for only a $15 one-time gift, but there are two good reasons for this: we do not wish in any way to conflict with regular mission agencies, and we do indeed want to get to as many people as possible with this challenge.
One challenging plan Is for people who want to help us to organize letter-writing parties to send out a specially prepared letter to their friends. If just 50 people sent out an average of 30 letters each, this would bring back 1,000 of the $15.00 one-time donations we seek, assuming only 2/3 of the friends responded.
We would much prefer that to big donations, and we are eager to help arouse Americans to give more for frontier missions through standard mission agencies of all kinds.
What is your background?
I was born in California, grew up In Christian Endeavor, Youth for Christ, Navigators (in the Navy in WW II), graduated from Cal Tech, taught one year at Westmont College, attended the first "Urbana" (at Toronto), helped launch a non-professional missionary effort to Afghanistan; further studies at various places (including Prairie Bible Institute) led to an M.A. In Education at Columbia University, a Ph.D. at Cornell in Anthropology and Linguistics and later a B.D. at Princeton. I worked with Mayan Indians in Guatemala for ten years, helped to found the theological-education-by-extension movement (extending seminary to Indians), was elected Executive Secretary of the Latin American Association of Theological Schools, Northern Region (17 countries), was invited to join McGavran and Tippett in the second year of the new Fuller School of World Mission in 1967. In 1972 I helped to found the American Society of Missiology (of which I have been both Secretary and President), the William Carey Library, the Summer Institute of International Studies, the Order for World Evangelization, etc. I was asked to give a plenary address at the Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization, and the opening address at the 1976 Triennial Mission Executives' retreat of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association, the same thing again at the opening session of the 1979 EFMA Executive Retreat. My father has been an active lay Christian, headed up the development of the freeway system for the City of Los Angeles. My older brother, an engineer, has been President of the Board of African Enterprise, and my younger brother is President of Westmont College. On November 1st, 1976 when I left Fuller Seminary I was a tenured full Professor of the Historic Development of the Christian Movement.
What is Your Theology?
Our people are central in the evangelical movement. We adhere without qualification to the full inspiration and authority of the Bible, to the uniqueness and saving work of Christ,.to the power of the Holy Spirit and His guidance in our lives. Specifically we hold the Lausanne Covenant and the statements of faith of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) as bench mark documents with which participating individuals and organizations must be in agreement. We do not have nor do we contemplate any formal relationship with any denomination or church council, but we do welcome representatives of evangelical mission agencies to work with us in our various strategy institutes and mobilization centers. All of our staff are supported by some mission agency or other and are on loan on a short or long-term basis to us except for several of our central staff who raise their own support directly under the banner of the U.S. Center for World Mission.