This is an article from the January-February 1991 issue: The State of the World

The Diminishing Task

The Field and the Force

The Diminishing Task

This message by Dr. Winter was given at a community night meeting on the campus of the U.S. Center with an emphasis \ on the State of the World. We had asked him to share his vision of what's ahead, what we need to be doing, and how the task remaining fit s in with all the different pieces of the puzzle of what God is doing in these days. We should consider his words a challenge to prayer and personal commitment.

Where do we fit in God's strategic plan to reach every people, tribe, tongue and nation? How do we go about finishing the task? ;; I have just two points; one is the I HELD and the other is the FORCE. The field has to do with what we are talking about tonight÷it's the task that has yet to be done. It's the sort of thing that we used to refer to as "Mission Fields."

The Field

Now-a-days we have to understand that the fields, as you look out across the world, are not really just geographical places÷they are groups of people, groups that don't stand still. They move. They're here today and they're gone tomorrow. For example, the Dai÷or other groups in China we were hearing of tonight÷are there right now, but they weren't necessarily there earlier, and may not be there tomorrow. And parts of the group may be in more than one place at a time.

There are many, many migrations taking place, like the incredible exodus from the Gulf that has taken place just in the last week. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have gone back to Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, or other countries from which they came because of the crisis there. Where is a group? It is where it is at the moment, and parts of it may even be in two or three places at once.

Perhaps tonight, however, we can use the word "FIELD" in a general sense, at least to paint all that has still to be done. There isn't enough time to go into a lot of detail, as we refer to these major blocs ofunreached peoples. But here's an easy way to remember them: the Muslims, the Tribals, the Hindus, the Chinese, the Buddhists and the "Other." In proportion, they go: four, three, two, one, one, one [in thousands of people groups within each bloc that remain to be reached]. That ought not to be too hard to remember: 4-3-2, 1-1-1.

Now, if the angels of Heaven rejoice because of a single person converted, think how much Heaven would rejoice--- or boast--- if all these peoples were converted! So all all you have to thing of is: the Most That Heaven Can Boast Over, and you've got the 6 first letters of Muslims, Tribals, Hindus, Chinese, Buddhist and Other (M-T-H-C-B-0). The "Most That Heaven Can Boast Over" will give you those 6 words. You can write this down, you can pray, you can tell other people about it.

These proportions are rough estimates, of course, and are changing constantly. But it is true that there is wide consensus recently brought about by the Lausanne Statistics Task Force headed by David Barrett on the idea that there are roughly 12,000 groups that may need still to be reached. They are snuggled together within maybe two or three thousand clusters of unreached peoples, and those 12,000 break down into: 4,000 (Muslim groups), 3,000 (Tribal groups), 2,000 (Hindu groups), then 1,000 (Chinese groups), 1,000 (Buddhist groups), 1,000 (Other groups). This is not all the groups of people there are in the world. These are just those that are yet to be penetrated, or "reached."

Right off the bat, you realize that we are not talking about evangelism. Evangelism always means evangelism of people, individuals÷ winning people to Christ. Missions is never merely winning people or planting churches; it is always church-planting in a pioneer situation. Although there are, of course, other legitimate meanings to the word "missions", the classical meaning is "to go where Christ is not named."

Thus, when we say "Go," we are-not talking about going to the people of the world but to the peoples of the world. That, in turn, means we are not talking about going to the geographical fields of the world. The overall FIELD consists of 12,000 peoples, and of those peoples roughly 4,000 of them are in the Muslim sphere.


We can be grateful for the others who have described the challenge and opportunity in the realm of Islam. The Muslims are the largest unreached bloc in sheer number of human beings. And the estimated 4,000 Muslim groups are relatively large in their average number of human beings÷over 200,000 on the average, which is ten times the average size of the remaining tribal groups.

However, unlike the tribals, there is a common denominator across all of Islam. This doesn't mean you can just go after everybody with the same approach, with the same language or anything like that. But there is a common denominator of faith that is carried from one formally Muslim group to another more readily than, say, from one tribe to another tribe.

Furthermore, in the other things presented here÷especially the article, "Unlocking Islam" on page 24÷you can see that it is already evident that God is taking things into His own hands in presenting us with something like the Cornelius experience Peter ran into in the New Testament. Muslims who are still culturally Muslim are finding Christ and worshiping God through the Jesus of the New Testament. It appears that the New Testament is easily more attractive than the Koran. This allows the Gospel to befriend many truly devout Muslims instead of making their whole families out to be opponents.


For some of these very reasons the task represented by 3,000 Tribal peoples is incredibly more difficult than, say, the 4,000 Muslim peoples. In fact 3,000 Tribal peoples would in some ways be more difficult than 10,000 Muslim peoples.

Why? First, because there may be only 1500 languages that separate Muslims from each other, while Tribal peoples are separated by at least 3,000 languages. Those languages aren't necessarily even "cousins" of each other; many of them are radically different. We would have to stand back and say, "Hey, we can't do this job by the Year 2000," just in terms of the Tribal challenge alone if it were not for the fact that God has raised up the Wycliffe Bible Translators.

They are the world's largest mission, the world's most sophisticated mission, in terms of advanced studies and University backgrounds. (There are more Ph.D.s in Wycliffe than in all the other mission agencies put together). Wycliffe Bible Translators is a sophisticated mission, a mission that was not just "born yesterday." It has been in this precise business for almost 60 years now and has whittled the translation task down more efficiently than ever before. We must be grateful for the fact that if Wycliffe continues to grow at the rate it was growing three or four years ago, it would be able to do this job by itself

Today many other mission agencies÷denominational or otherwise ÷are sending their people through Wycliffe. Even as the old China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship) used to constitute the supervising field body for many small missions in many countries, so Wycliffe has become somewhat of a C.I.M. type mission for Tribal peoples in recent years for denominations ranging from the Assemblies of God to the Presbyterian Church in America, and we are very grateful for that.


Now we come to the Hindus. We j have an article going in the Mission Frontiers in a day or two (see page 18) which talks about the 575,000 villages in India where there are no Christians. It points out that if all the Bible Schools and training programs in all of India put together I produced graduates to reach out, one per village, it would take 75 years of output to reach that group.

Well, good news! At Fuller Seminary where they study the growth of the church around the world, their studies will tell you that the church never grows rapidly on the basis of school products for pastors. There is no way schools can catch up, or keep up, with the evangelistic growth of the Christian movement. I think it's something like 80,000 new churches have been formed in this country in the last 20 years, almost all of them in the charismatic sphere. Very, very few of them, (maybe one out of 20) have what you could call a Bible school or Seminary graduate for their pastor. We don't need for the schools alone to tackle this job. They are very essential, but if there is one person in a congregation who can read, that's all you need for the non-literate populations of the world; the rest of the people can hear what is said. You do need the Bible in print, but there are now ÷ and always will be÷hundreds of millions of people who cannot read.

So, back to the 575,000 villages of India which can be reached by school-product-leaders in 75 years. Suppose you stop to think that in India there are at least 200,000 evangelical congregations. If each 1 congregation produces three workers who go with a passion for Christ to other villages, those 575,000 villages could be reached!

But it is much simpler than that. A single caste may extend through a hundred villages, and a Christian penetration of that particular caste will almost automatically reach to other villages. We list 2,000 beachheads to be made in India. Those 2,000 will put the Gospel into contact with all 575,000 villages!

So there you are÷4-3-2:4,000 Muslim peoples, 3,000 Tribal peoples, 2,000 Hindu peoples. These three big blocs right there constitute 9,000 out of the 12,000 unreached peoples. That leaves three relatively smaller blocs yet to reach (although I the groups themselves may not necessarily be smaller): the Chinese, the Buddhists and the "Other."


Most of the Chinese are Buddhists to some extent so "Chinese" doesn't sound like the right classification. But we're talking about the Han Chinese who are not only Buddhist, maybe, but are definitely Chinese. And they have to be taken seriously as Chinese, not just as Buddhists, if you are going to reach them.

Today, things are looking very good for the Chinese. I can remember Arthur Glasser saying years ago that when the missionaries were thrown out of China, you could draw a line across that vast landscape of China, and every 15 miles on that line there would be a church, no matter how you drew the line. Well, there is no change in China that is comparable to the growth of Christians that has taken place. At no time in all the history of the world has anything that size grown that fast, and certainly not in the history of Christianity.

Apart from the non-Chinese tribal peoples of China which others are mentioning here, China is really barely a mission field by comparison, let's say, to the Muslims, Tribal or Hindu peoples. Not only that, but the phenomenon of church growth, since it was to a great extent the growth of Christianity into Buddhism, proves that the Buddhist world itself is not impervious or unapproachable, doesn't it? If  50 million people who were significantly influenced by Buddhism, have become Christians in the past 35 years in China, then surely other Buddhists in other places can be reached! Take Korea, for example, with its 40 million people of whom 20 million are Christians. Since Koreans were mainly Buddhists in their background, what do we have if this isn't Buddhists becoming Christians?

And then there is the "Other" category, which definitely means OTHER÷a vast variety of smaller categories which are not contained in any of the previous classifications. Thus far, many of these have been the most receptive to Christianity; that is why they are now in this catch-all category.

To sum up, the "FIELD" picture is not by any means something we need to give up on and think of as hopeless.


But let's shift quickly to the "Force." Do you recall the diagram of the little men÷one man in 100 AD carrying 360 people on his shoulders, then 900 years later, 220 on his shoulders; then 500 years later, 69; 400 years later, 27; and so on?

We arrived at that diagram by essentially taking the number of people in the world who do not consider themselves Christians and dividing it by the number of truly committed, Bible-believing Christians. This ratio has gone from 360, to 220, to 69 to 27 (in the year 1900), 21 (in the year 1950) to 11 in 1980, to seven last year. Now, these numbers could be wrong. They could even be 20% wrong, or 50% wrong. But you would still get a progression, a trend that would be irrefutable.

I believe that we need to take very seriously the FORCE which has been steadily mounting across the centuries. It can be attributed really only to God Himself! The "Field" is one thing; the "Force" is another. And I would encourage you to believe that the overall picture is a runaway sucess, especially in the global sense of the term, in terms of the expansion of the power of the Spirit of God on the face of the earth.

Now as usual, a lot of the things that we would like to say, we can't say in public. But places like Outer Mongolia are totally different from what they were, as is true with many other countries just in the last few weeks.

On the mobilization front, the marvelous Association of Church Mission Committees now is talking clearly of the goal of the Unreached Peoples. Bill Waldropjust told me at Urbana, "We're getting a lot of flak about this. People are saying that 'missions' means something else besides unreached peoples. But I am with you, Ralph! We've got to press for the unreached peoples as the cutting edge of missions. And this has got to be finished by the Year 2000." Now there is no larger organization on the face of the earth, related to local congregations and denominations than that particular group. The fact that they have this clearly in mind is a very significant thing.

Then, there is the Adopt-A-People movement. It IS a movement today. We find people all over the world who are picking up the idea, without being officially enfranchised, or anything like that. They're pursuing it because it seems clear that the Bible speaks of every nation, tribe, tongue and people. And we must look for these groups by name, and reach out to them. We know that countries all over Latin America have accepted a certain proportion of the total. A similar diagram was drawn up by Harold Peskett, the chief research person for the present-day O.M.F. at the recent Korean congress for all of the Asian nations. There are all kinds of possibilities in this area.

Stop and think for a moment about the spectacular emergence of a missionary mentality in the minds and hearts of the mission-field churches. In Africa, Latin America, Asia, today it's a clean sweep. Ten years ago, the picture was nowhere near what it is today. Twenty years ago, it was almost non-existent.

I remember being in Argentina not too many years ago when there was not a single mission agency in the country. Today there are not only mission agencies, but there are enough of them to form an association of agencies. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Evangelical Mission Association has a number of member mission agencies, one of them alone with over 600 missionaries.

In country after country around the world, there are not only new mission agencies, there are associations of mission agencies. Then, these associations of agencies are gathering in even larger, regional groups, like the Asian Missions Association (AMA). And on a global level, there is the Third World Missions Association (TWMA). This has got to be a major factor in the FORCE.

I sat next to a man named David Kim at Urbana. I know this man very well. I have spoken in his church in Baltimore, a brand new building on the outskirts of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (The auditorium must seat 2,000.) He just gave up that church to go back to Korea to pastor an even larger church. In his new situation there is a huge building being built, or already built÷the tallest building in Korea. On one of the floors there is this new Center for World Mission, which he is in charge of. We just got a Fax from there the other day.

At this Center there is a group of students being trained in a special missionary college÷the first of its kind in Korea. They want an American teacher of English. They will pay $24,000 a year, plus room and board. Now that's not too bad! (Is any reader interested? They need someone by March 1. It is a specifically missionary program, with the students heading for the ends of the earth.)

Right here let me also mention a rather "in-house" something that has to do with the FORCE for missions. That is our Perspectives program which we at the USCWM sponsor.

I get the feeling that this Perspectives program is getting out of control! I've been saying for years that the Christian movement is like a fire burning out of control. The Perspectives movement is like that÷it's getting out of control, too. We can be glad for that, although you can pray for Lee Purgason and the staff that is struggling under the crushing burden of 47 centers this coming year. We used to have five or six fulltime people to supervise five or six regional Perspectives courses across the country. Now we have 47 courses and only three full-time people in that office. This isn't just an interesting course; it has to do with the very nature of what God is doing on this earth. Pray that we will be able to deal with it.

Aren't we blessed? What does it mean for us to be blessed? What does it mean for us to be a blessing? Does it mean sending CARE packages? Or sending powdered milk? Does it mean sending all kinds of good things to be a blessing to those people? NO! It does mean that, but not merely that. The word "blessing" in English is one of the most defective translations of any Biblical concept. It means to adopt! God said to Abraham, "I am going to adopt you. And through you, I am going to adopt all these other families of the earth." Maybe re-adopt or re-inherit would be better, since it was a re-conquest, a reconquering the world for Christ, a benevolent infusion of the authority and power of God to bring son-ship÷family relationship÷to all of the peoples of the world. It does not mean less than that.

But you know, that IS happening. In spite of all the chaos of the Gulf War, it's putting Muslims and Christians together on the same side; it's pitting people who thought their religion held them together against each other. For example, when Pakistan blew up and the Bengali Muslims were being slaughtered by the West Pakistan Muslims, this obviously didn't tie them together. More recently, as Don Richardson pointed out, the Iraqis fighting against the Iranians did not tie them together. The whole world is opening up, it seems, to the benevolent outreach Of the living God, through His Holy Spirit, in His global church, so that all the unreached peoples might be touched by the year 2000.

I got a phone call today from a radio station in Lincoln, Nebraska. I am going to be in a six-hour Saturday seminar there next week. They asked, "Will you tell us, in 30 seconds, why you believe that the Great Commission can be fulfilled by the year 2000?"

I answered, "I cannot do that in 30 hours. I do not know what it means specifically, 'to fulfill the Great Commission.' But I can tell you this. All of the unreached peoples of the world can conceivably be reached if Christians get busy and get going. And that, whether it fulfills the Great Commission or not, CAN BE DONE!"

I remember the words of one of the young men at Urbana who was giving his testimony at one point. He said, "We've got to dream a dream that cannot be fulfilled apart from the intervention of God!" Now since when has God been unwilling to intervene on behalf of His glory?

What a phenomenal challenge we have before us!


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