Reflections of a Heart Aflame
The following candid remarks were made by Ralph Winter at the close of the Frontier Fellowship meeting in Pasadena July 9, 1981. Dr. Winter followed Titus Tineau, a Christian and Missionary Alliance church leader from Upper Volta. The remarks appear here as originally spoken, without substantial editing.
I sort of wish that there wasn't time left tonight for me to talk, I would have been very glad to hear a lot more about Upper Volta. I think maybe that must be a translation from the French. In this country we speak about "high voltage," not "upper voltage." (laughter) I was just fascinated by what was being said tonight.
I guess my only function here will be to make sure you caught some of the points he made. Very, very significant points.
Kopecks for Missions
Now he said that their group [Christian and Missionary Alliance CMA] was working with one of the larger groups that is there. This isn't always the case, but it is often the case. Missionaries come into a country, they know there are many different languages, like say 400 in Nigeria, and they look around for the place where their efforts can go the furthest once they break into that language.
So they get into that language, they work with that kind of people, and then those people, who very often are dominant in that country, people who crowd out the minorities that are around them, have a kind of snobbishness about the other people. And it just thrilled me to hear his reference to the minorities, and a concern for those people.
How similar it is to Jesus' life among us. He was always disconcerting to the disciples! They always thought that He should talk and give His attention to the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, or somebody here or somebody there, and their intuitions were almost always wrong.
And you can also catch the contrast between this man's vision and the vision of many of the [national] pastors.
Somehow Americans today have this erroneous supposition. Christians in this country, as we well know, are pretty selfish people. Generally, we cough up a few Kopecks for missions which, all across the country amounts, you know, to an enormous sum of money, equal to what we spend for chewing gum. . . and we ship it off, and we're very proud of ourselves! But most Christians are really behind the 8 ball still. They're still struggling with their own salvation.
Mass of Flabby Blessings
About all they've heard of the Gospel is that God loves YOU. And they take that to mean themselves, period. About all they've heard the Bible is good for, is that God has blessings for you. That's them, period. And so, they even buy Bibles with all the blessing verses tinted in and things like that. It's the same way, I'm sure in High Voltage. (peals of laughter) In other words, people are the same everywhere.
You know, I'm sure none of us could take it if we were to fully plumb the significance of this simple message tonight. There is a secret here. That the gospel as it works produces people who want the blessings for themselves. Not just in America, but in Upper Volta, in Singapore. You go where the Christians are in this world, and you'll find most Christians concerned and even theologically sophisticated primarily about the blessings that God is talking about for them.
You take the great theological statements in history (which of course is what you study in seminary the Westminster Confession, for example). . . there's nothing
in the whole Westminster Confession that even implies that anybody should share their blessings with anybody outside their own group! The whole masterpiece of all theological history comes down to us absolutely nerveless, spineless, boneless a mass of flabby blessings! And, I must say, that this is not so much a criticism. It is a reflection on what we are, we Christians.
Outback and Upfront
I was ten years in the outback of Guatemala. I was ten years in the upfront of Fuller Seminary School of World Mission. I had a thousand missionaries going through my classes and one day (you know I am telescoping a long rather slow learning process), one day it became clear that I could stay at that school, deal with those national church leaders and missionaries going out, coming back, for another hundred years, and it would be virtually impossible to focus primarily upon those minorities, those bypassed peoples, those places where the church is not yet.
I wrote down some phrases here [from the previous speaker]: "No organized evangelism to reach out to the Dafing," "The Sambla tribe, no church among them," "The Fulanis cannot be converted." You could just substitute for Fulani the names of 16,000 people groups across the world and you could repeat that with identical significance in every Christian community across the world. Here's another item: "Evangelism on the part of Christians, reaching out in this way, has not yet begun," that's the exact phrase, has not begun."
Outsiders are Best
Or, here's a fascinating insight. Most people would never think of this, they wouldn't believe it. If he had said this and let you think about it, you would have said, "Now wait a minute, that can't be right!" Let me repeat it so you can say, "That couldn't be right!" (laughter)
He said, "The people who can best evangelize them are outsiders." (pause) Now, you know that couldn't be right! Once there are Christians in Upper Volta, you don't need to send any more missionaries, you don't need Nigerians, you don't need Koreans. Just let the people win their own people.
What simplistic thinking this is! We know that the white citizens of Phoenix Arizona are not going to be the ones to win the Navajo Indians. Even if somehow the Spirit of God would come down upon every church in Phoenix, and all those people
would be filled with all the love of God, and they would go up to reach the Navajos, the Navajos wouldn't believe them. They know what those people are like. You need Indians from Bolivia to go and reach those Navajos. And that is the reason there are people from Upper Volta in California, and hopefully people from California in Upper Volta.
It was last Thursday night that one of our people, working on our staff here for several years was off to the what tribe was he going to? (This is just a final exam here!) He was going to a tribe in what country? [voice in audience: "Sierra Leone!"] Sierra Leone! And to what tribe that had no missionary, no church? What was the name of it? You've been praying all week for it. [voice in audience: "Kono!'"] The Kono people.
Now, the fact is that, these people groups about whom no one cares are little known and easily forgotten.
Missions is not Good Enough
What a thrill to flip on the television in a motel in the Chicago area when I was back there for the Billy Graham Center dedication, and to catch Robert Schuller in mid sentence. He had just come back from the Thailand meetings, where among other things, they were talking about the world's hidden peoples. He said. 'For the rest of my life, my ministry will focus on those peoples in the world about whom no one else is thinking or caring!"
Now, I want you to realize tonight, that the word, "missions" is not good enough. "Missions as usual' is not going to do this job! Most missionaries, like the national pastors, are concerned about what is already going on.
Ninety percent of all missionaries are going to work with wellestablished churches and most of them will never even be exposed to the insight you've heard tonight that we need to break out of our box and go to those people groups where there is nothing going on.
That isn't in the cards for them. They're not thinking about it. They're not bad people, they're not evil people, they just never stop to think. And 95 per cent of all mission funds are going simply to widen and broaden the existing beachheads, without any leapfrogging, without any intentional penetration of other people groups.
Rustling in the Mulberry Bushes
Well, this is CMA Night. Let me tell you my CMA stories. I taught at Nyack one semester, myself. (laughter) Some of ray best friends are CMA'ers. (great laughter) But what I remember about the CMA is what I learned before I ever met them face-to-face.
The CMA was not a denomination, it was a movement. It made enemies in almost every denomination. And finally, so much so that many of the Presbyterians involved were just sort of pushed out, and they ended up starting their own denomination. The CMA (as a Presbyterian, I can't take credit for it, but I believe it) certainly shows the reluctance of Presbyterians to move out to new places. Why?
Because it was born back in the days when there was, like there is today, a rustling in the mulberry bushes; in the treetops you hear the rain, you think something new is happening.
CMA, Simpson, Studd
Back in those days, A. B. Simpson and other leaders in the so called "faith mission movement" which produced 40 new mission agencies, and retooled a hundred other mission agencies, marched the whole Christian missionary enterprise out, beyond where they were, into Upper Volta, precisely, in places they were calling "inland" places.
They still weren't thinking of people groups, or pockets, or that sort of thing, bypassed groups, they were just thinking about geographical inlands. But, Simpson was one of the men along with C. T. Studd and others, who backed this movement which electrified and irritated the slumbering Christians who were willing just to send missionaries where there had been missionaries before.
And he tore the whole church wide awake! The Alliance the Christian Alliance, the Missionary Alliance those two organizations coalesced and formed an unbeatable combination. And they tore this nation up and down, top to bottom.
It is not the absence of volunteer young people, it is not the absence of funds, it is not the absence of anything but of hearts set on that which is God's highest.
Now, they are pretty much keeping to themselves, they don't attack the Methodists or the Presbyterians. They don't try to worm their way in and get frontier mission vision in there, you know, but that was an illustrious past. What a tremendous background.
Ninety Percent of all missionaries are going to work with well established churches.
They were originally a frontier mission movement! More than any other in the United States. No other movement that size ever attacked (that's wisely chosen!) the complacency of all the churches. They enabled those churches to wrest themselves out of the rubbish of neutralism and complacency and 'everyday ism" and all the other "isin's that overtake us, like the little sins that entangle our feet, when we are not on the frontiers of obedience to the living God!
Tearing Away the Blinders
Oh, I pray that either the CMA or some other movement of that scope will come into being. This is why this meeting is here on Thursday nights. The name has been changed, I hope you've noticed.
Ever since Pastor Vuta and Pastor Bawla have come from Burma, we've learned something from them. We've learned if you want to turn the nation upsidedown, you've got to promote something so radical as a new daily habit of devotion that will gradually, gradually, day after day tear away the blinders from our eyes and open our eyes to these pockets of people.
There will be a day, Titus, when we will know the names of every single hidden people group in Upper Volta, and not only be praying for them by name, but I hope sending people. Probably not exclusively from the United States. . . I hope some of these Koreans [in the audience] will get there.
Network of Centers
Our hope and prayer, of course, here at this Center is, and Ben Jennings will help you work it out, that there would be a sister center in Upper Volta that would, like this center,
perform a two way street for its own nation. It would consider its own nation as a mission field (not too difficult for that to be done after what he has told us of the need that's still there), and also as a mission base
If all the Christians in every concentration across the world look at themselves and their own context as both a mission field and a mission base (and there are sister centers in a network of insight and challenge for the frontiers) then I believe it will be possible to do what we have the muscle to do today!
Needed: Hearts, set on God's Highest
Never in history has there been the muscle, the unused muscle in the Church of Jesus Christ. Oh, it is not the absence of volunteer young people, it is not the absence of funds, it is not the 'absence of anything but of hearts set on that which is God's highest, reaching out to those least¬reached people with the least opportunity that has always been God's highest goal, and highest purpose.
If you want to turn the nation upside-down, you've got to promote something so radical as a new daily habit of devotion.
I pray that all of us may take a lesson from the CMA, that we'll be challenged by what they did; and that we, too will become irritating campaigners who will disturb the complacency, as the Bible says, "Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." (laughter) all across this country and the whole world so that it will not be necessary to go on hearing reports of how Christians are being so successful at keeping the blessings of God for themselves.
Shall we close in a word of prayer.