New and Noteworthy Mission Progress in 1997
At the U.S. Center, looking ahead
The staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission, with its associated university, at present consists of a nucleus of 158 adults and well over 100 children who are members of the intergenerational, evangelical Frontier Mission Fellowship, the founding entity, which is a standard mission society (with every member living and working on a missionary salary level). We also have dozens of other related organizations on our 33 acre college campus—there are 455 phone numbers in the campus-wide phone log. (I was able to get that number more easily than the number of children!)
As part of this working community we have Pre-school, grade school, high school, college, grad school all the way to two different Ph.D programs, at all levels deliberately alert to the international realities of the cause of global mission. To be sure of what we are doing our members include (and highly respect) older field-experienced returned missionaries. (We have no interest in disengaging ourselves from the grass-roots reality on the front line.)
We also have people with pastoral experience, secular experience, and right out of school, rounded out by carefully engineered on-going studies and trips to different mission fields, including the many frontier people groups in the U.S.A. We emphasize the role of the “scholar-activist” in the world of Frontier Missions.
This year we have, amidst all our other preoccupations conceived of making a major push to undergird our staff with missionaries who for one reason or another are forced to return for a short or longer period. Our prime attractions are 1) Opportunities for advanced study—either at Fuller or other nearby schools or in our own university, 2) Assistance for missionary families needing help for children with learning-disabilities. In addition, of course, 3) there are missionaries whose work on the field comes to a turning point, and who just might feel God’s call to continue their missionary careers in a major strategic center such as this one.
A major strategic center?
In case you wonder in what sense this is “a major strategic mission center”, reflect for a moment on the following:
This past year we have achieved something very decisive in regard to the threat of the massive “Re-amateurization of the cause of missions.” After six years of work by a team of very keen people we have done what few schools could afford to do. What would that be? We set aside six people for six years to develop an entire 32 semester-hour curriculum combining the content of college and seminary, plus constant additional emphasis on Biblical, international and mission perspective. It involves 140 text books and 1,500 additional chosen readings and is integrated into 320 three and a half-hour individual study packages. And, this year, two of the five “regional” accrediting associations have approved schools employing this curriculum, on both the graduate level (for which it was originally designed) and as the last two years of college.
One of the most widely respected mission scholars today, David Hesselgrave of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, said he knows “no other curriculum on planet earth that combines such an enormous amount of relevant information in a study program that is so absolutely and unapologetically biblical.” Wait until we tell you the strategic ways this can now be used!
Toward the Completion of the Missionary Task
The Targetting of Nearly All Remaining Unreached People Groups
Most of the estimated 8,000 people groups that may still lack an effective church movement in their midst have already been identified directly or indirectly in the Joshua Project list of 1739 “priority clusters.” In early July, mission executives gathered in South Africa for GCOWE ’97, (the Global Consultation on World Evangelization) to coordinate efforts on these clusters. Prior research showed that 1160 of these priority clusters already had some church or work among them, and at the meeting, the executives made commitments to target 407 of the remaining 579, the expectation being that the final 172 major clusters would be targeted as these executives return home to consult with their staff. That is already happening. Very soon every remaining people group may be the specific concern of at least one mission agency!
The Southern Baptist Mission Board Restructures to Emphasize Unreached Peoples, Opens Arms to Work With All Other Mission Agencies
A massive restructuring of Southern Baptist mission outreach has taken place, the chief purpose being an increased emphasis on unreached people groups. This year the FMB has in the process changed its name to the International Mission Board (IMB). The first two of five points stated as rationale for the change are:
- God is accelerating the redemption of all the lost people of the world. We are in the midst of the greatest mission opportunities in history. We must make whatever changes are necessary to keep pace with what God is doing to complete the unfinished task.
- At this unprecedented moment in Christian history, our missionary advance does not seem to be keeping pace with the opportunities or with what God is doing through others
Other documents indicate that they have opened their arms to assist and work with other agencies as never before.