The Challenge of Unreached People
Dr. Donald McGavran and Dr. Ralph Winter of the U. S. Center for World Mission delivered key addresses at the recent mission executive's conferences. Mission Frontiers is reprinting excerpts from each address. For a copy of the full text of each address, check the box on the back cover of this issue.
Since 1975 or thereabouts, under the impact of the church growth movement and other forces, a sudden new concern of vast proportions has appeared on the missionary horizon a concern for unreached peoples. A mighty current is flowing in the minds and hearts of most informed thinkers on missions. The pendulum, which had swung so far toward mission as "helping younger churches," is mow swinging faster and faster toward mission as effective evangelization of thousands of peoples who have yet to believe.
Helping national churches is and will remain a legitimate auxiliary concern of mission. The main concern must be biblical. The main concern must be to follow our Lord. He came to seek and save the lost His Body, the Church, must do likewise.
Missionaries have been sent to countries and regions rather than to specific peoples. However, as our Lord and His apostles looked out on the world of the first century, they saw not nation¬states, but peoples, tribes, castes, extended families, clans, ethnic and linguistic units. They saw a vast mosaic of thousands of pieces, each piece a separate ethnos. The Bible clearly indicates that it was and is God's unswerving purpose that all these segments of society be discipled, be enrolled as Christ's followers.
The Gospel flows most easily and naturally within each segment of society. It takes special abilities and a special effort to start it flowing across racial and linguistic lines. In other segments of society, the missionary is God's plan for spreading the faith. If all the peoples of the world are to be discipled and that is clearly God's command a great many missionaries are going to have to be called, and trained, and sent out, and continue in the work.
When a missionary society sees the great continuing goal clearly, accepts it as the biblical goal, realizes the enormous number of unreached peoples, sees that cooperating with young churches is but a step toward the main task when all this is clear in our minds, what then shall we do to disciple the thousands of unreached ethne of the world.
I am increasingly convinced the people at the Center for World Mission are right when they say that today we must generate in our churches a vast collaborative effort in promoting prayer, education and giving focused on the unreached peoples, unreached segments of society.
The vision, the determination to obey Christ, must be shared with supporting churches and Christians. Here is the wonderful Frontier Fellowship Daily PrayerGuide... a tremendous resource.
It stresses new outreach, without negating existing work. It builds on the Bible. It soars with worldwide perspective. It generates spectacular mission vision in those who use it. It is a great new resource for today's mission.
All missionary societies can lead thousands of their supporters to join in a veritable "march of coins for the frontiers," for the unreached peoples, for a determined discipling of panta te ethne The promotional task is most important.
If the Lord tarry, missionary societies look forward to decades of rewarding toil. Every people ought to be given a real chance to become Christian. We face the most fruitful years of missionary effort ever to be seen. No expansion of the Church during the last two thousand years can compare with what you will see. Africa south of the Sahara by the year 2000 will be a largely Christian continent. Dr. Barrett estimates that there will be 357 million Christians in Africa by that date. South Korea will soon be a largely Christian country. Kanyakumari, the southernmost district in India, is now fifty one percent Christian. We shall see other districts in India become mostly Christian. The 150,000 Muslims who have become Christians in Java will see burgeoning congregations in Muslim populations in other countries. The amazing growth of the church in China is only the beginning. The Protestants in the Philippines have covenanted to plant forty thousand new churches there by the year 2000. As James Montgomery has said, we enter an era when DAWN Discipling A Whole Nation has become a real possibility in many regions.
All this can happen. Please God, it will happen. But for it to happen, mission agencies must determine to enter new peoples perhaps one new people a year for ten years. They must seek those peoples to whom the Holy Spirit directs them. They must constantly research the peoples of the world and thus act in the light of the best knowledge available. They must undergird the whole enterprise with prevailing prayer, focused on discipling thousands of as yet unreached peoples. Believe me, we stand not in the sunset, but the sunrise of Missions.