Questions about the U.S. Center for World Mission
I have something to share with you that is so grave, so staggering, so hopeful, so crucial, that I had better begin with a few of the less spectacular facts behind the scenes here. (Note: this letter does not ask you for money.)
Do you have weird religious rituals?
Yes. Each weekday morning our 77 Central Staff gathers to share Bible verses from our own personal devotions that day, and pray briefly in small groups. Then we turn our chairs around and share in the larger group what the Lord has done in our midst the last 24 hours. All this runs from 7:45 to 8:15 a.m. Our member organizations each begin the day in their own way.
How much pay do you receive?
The same as my wife. The U. S. Center for World Mission pays me the same monthly allotment it pays to the newest, youngest staff member. I have no special allowance of any kind. This equal pay idea is not our invention. This is the way most mission agencies operate.
What kind of furniture do you have?
We have never purchased a desk or a chair. Almost all our furniture is used, surplus, donated. We don't scrimp on essential tools, but this whole place is certainly a sleeves-rolled-up economy operation.
Why do 42 different mission organizations contribute their people to your staff?
One executive said, "We send one man out there and get back the work of ten."
Give me an example.
Gospel Recordings assigned Allan Starling here. With the help of some keen young computer science graduates on the staff of our Computer Center he has developed a 2,700 page Peoplesfile It indexes 168,000 places, languages, and people group names as they are found in the research files of Wydiffe Bible Translators, World Vision/MARC, and Gospel Recordings (you can get the whole index on 12 microfiche cards for $12).
Ok, so you are tracking down left out or hidden people groups. How do you help them, how does this get to the churches?
Christianity Today recently sent out a deck of cards to a large group of Christian leaders, mainly pastors. One of those return post cards was ours. Within days 2,000 of those cards came in from pastors and church leaders requesting our Hidden People Sunday kit and Jericho book, free of charge. Even before that we had over 4,000 get in touch with us. Meanwhile, we are encouraging mission agencies to allow local churches to adopt specific Hidden People groups. This may grow into the major trend in America in the new era.
Your growth is rather amazing, how do you attract staff?
We have one person who deals with people who walk in or write in. Our little book, Once More Around Jericho has traveled all over the place. Most of our people caught the vision by reading that surprising story of what God has done.
What is your special financial secret?
It is not a secret, but in order to be a cooperative Center, available to all evangelical agencies without competition for funds, we have, since December 1977, never asked for money from any church budget, nor asked for more than a single one time gift of $15. 95 from any individual. When we get unasked for larger gifts, we treat them as loans to be reassigned (to individuals) or returned (to churches) once enough people give $15 gifts.
But is it working; are you out of the woods?
No, it really isn't working and we are still in grave danger. Although our operational budget is (and always has been) in the black, a little over a year ago we fell 90 days behind on our property payment and haven't yet caught up. We're glad we haven't fallen farther behind, but we haven't caught up. This is serious.
Could you lose the property?
Yes. In the foreclosure process we could easily lose most of what we own.
How do you see this spiritually?
We believe profoundly that being behind like this is dishonoring to the Lord. We believe to save the project God has temporarily urged some people to give larger gifts (accounting for 85% of what we have received), but that He has done that only to give us time to reach out by some new method that will more rapidly capture the hearts and lives of more and more people.
Will that help quickly enough?
A workable plan is the very next best thing to cash in hand.
Well what is the workable plan?
At this point let me summarize the immediate reason for this letter. It is to enable you to pray earnestly and more intelligently about both our March 1, deadline and the fundamental challenge of reaching more and more people. It is not to give you a final detailed plan.
However, let me drop some clues. We believe the fundamental problem is to win people to frontier mission vision and frontier mission giving (not giving to us). It is as though God has said "Seek you first the spreading of the vision and all these $15.95 gifts will be added unto you! In giving people vision, one fact we have not known how to deal with is: a one time gift does not keep reminding people about the vision.
Are you then going to give up the one time gift policy?
No. Not yet. First we are going to make absolutely sure we cannot (and we think we can) solve the problem of people giving their one time gift, reading the Jericho story, gaining a tremendous vision and enthusiasm only to have it gradually slip away because they are not borne along by many more repeated little "obediences" to that vision that would nourish and sustain it.
But how will that help you suddenly reach out to thousands of additional people?
Two answers. First if we can show thousands of new people (who have already given) a simple, exciting way to share your vision the immediate result will be explosive.
Twenty thousand of you have given and are receiving this letter. Suppose even 80% of you had irretrievably lost your vision, but 20% would pass on your vision to 10 others? That's 4,000 x 10 = 40, 000 new people with live frontier vision. Now suppose by our new approach half of these new people are enabled to reach 10 others, that's 200, 000, etc. Do you see how crucial it is to enable people to retain and pass on their vision? But how? Just a minute. There is a second part to the present question.
Secondly, we are in fact, so weak and helpless at this point we have in fact so manifestly failed to discover thus far how to reach thousands of new people by any modest, economical method, not having a massive constituency like many other organizations have that we have been re¬reading those verses about when you are weak you are strong, and we actually believe that a number of key organizations, long friendly to us, will at this point plunge in to help us in our new plan.
Finally what, pray tell, is your new plan?
There are some tribal Christians in western Burma who in their poverty still put aside every meal time "a hand full of rice" which is collected each week and sold in the open market for cash which then goes to support their own missionaries to other tribes.
We feel the explosive significance of this approach as a permanent way of life is that it lifts their mission cause before them every single day of their lives. And it is accompanied by at least a small act of generosity.
We have reflected that "nothing that does not occur daily will ever dominate your life." If you do not want to forget the world's by passed, hidden, still to be reached people then you must do something daily to remind yourself.
Our proposal is that something equivalent to the Handful of Rice is for Americans to pause before going to bed each day to empty out their pockets of whatever loose change they may have accumulated that day. An average of only 27 and a half cents per day from 10 million people will produce 2. 7 million dollars per day, or one billion dollars per year, and thus double the total amount now committed annually to all Protestant missions in this country
You mean these loose coins won't go to the uscwm?
Not at all. Possibly the first $15.95 will, from anyone who has not given to us before. But from that point on the thousands of little Fellowships across the country, which we hope will be founded in this movement, will designate their coins for whatever frontier mission cause they feel most comfortable with.
How can you say "possibly" when you face a March 1 deadline without enough money and you may lose the very base you stand on?
Well, most of the agencies I know best will be quite willing to urge new people to give their first $15.95 to us, but we do not believe that should be a requirement.
Why do you think in such large scale terms - "million people" for example?
All signs point to this. Major events in 1980 you've been reading our monthly Mission Frontiers¬ provide evidence that 1) the frontier vision of Hidden Peoples "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000 is a truly global phenomenon, and 2) there is a greater willingness to cooperate among evangelical leaders in this moment of history than ever before.
Note well for your prayers (why not begin tonight to pray as you put aside your loose change) the very thought of boosting 10 million Americans into a daily renewed frontier vision is probably the most important single intermediate goal anyone can think of. This will have more to do with our, survival as a nation than any act of Congress, any change of political leadership. As God weighs our nation in the balance, our willingness to share our blessings with the world's least reached people groups is utterly central.
Pray in faith; 10-20 major Christian organizations can move 10 million Americans to this vision. Isn't that exciting? Fill out the coupon below if you want to pursue this great challenge and say YES to the vision.