The Story of the Frontier Mission Movement
Chapter One: Where the Idea Began The GCOWE '95 meeting in Korea shoulders a very significant burden.
Is it part of a discernible movement to the final frontiers? What other meetings have had that burden? What does this movement look like?
William Carey, 1810 In India for more than a decade, William Carey, in 1806, thought that it would be a good idea if all of the missionaries in the world were to meet together four years later at the Cape of Good Hope, in 1810. The purpose of such a meeting would have been very simply to plan together to finish the task of world evangelization. His proposal may have been the first time any human being thought in such concrete and planetary terms.
Carey was obviously not just a field missionary in India, but (like Hudson Taylor after him, and John R. Mott still later) he had his eyes on the whole world. His letters inspired people to go to specific, strategic places other than India. His own son went to Burma. Missionaries often recruit for more than their own fields! Despite his considerable influence by 1806, his idea of a world-level gathering of missionary strategists in 1810 was dismissed by one of his followers as merely "One of William's pleasing dreams."
Chapter Two: Where the Idea Almost Ended
John R. Mott, 1910 But Carey's dream for 1810 didn't die. It was actually a delayed- action fuse. It went off a century later at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910.
William Carey was called into the ministry in August of 1786 and made his proposal 20 years later, after being in India over a decade. John R. Mott stood up as one of the "Northfield 100" in August of 1886 and made his proposal 20 years later after tramping the world for over a decade on behalf of the Student Volunteer Movement.
By 1906, John R. Mott wielded an enormous influence. He had attended a regional meeting of mission leaders in Madras, India, in 1900. By 1906 (exactly 100 years from the date Carey made his suggestion for a world-level meeting of mission leaders) Mott announced his resolve to attempt to head off another "Decennial" popular meeting already scheduled for 1910 and to transform it into a radically different type of meeting. He had been stirred by the significance of mission leaders getting together by themselves to discuss the task before them, and was impressed by the immediate significance of a world- level meeting constituted specifically by missionaries and mission executives.
Thus, in 1906 he wrote: To my mind the missionary enterprise at the present time would be much more helped by a thorough unhurried conference of the leaders of the boards of North America and Europe than by a great, popular convention. I feel strongly upon this point.
Unlike church leaders (parallel to mayors and governors) who provide the all-important nurture and spirit of the mission enterprise, mission leaders are parallel to military generals. They have literally in their hands the troops to carry out expeditionary goals. Although a world-level conference of a more typical kind was already contemplated for 1910, Mott resolutely switched to the mission-leader paradigm he had seen in action in India. It took two more years for him to convince enough others. The result was that beginning in 1908, with only two years to go (and with the help of his friends, notably J. H. Oldham), Mott drummed up one of the most influential conferences in world history.
Why is 1910 so well remembered? No doubt because it was the William Carey paradigm. That is, it was not based on church leaders who have only indirect connection to the mechanisms of mission. Well- meaning church leaders often speak warmly of causes in great gatherings but do not necessarily have the administrative structure with which to follow through.
No, the meeting at Edinburgh in 1910, following the example of the India regional gathering (plus the gust of wind coming from a similar meeting in Shanghai in 1907), consisted of the electrifying concept which William Carey had proposed.
Granted, the 1910 meeting was not immediately succeeded by similar meetings. The next meeting in this stream (Jerusalem, 1928) included a wide variety of church leaders and, as a result, switched back to that all-important sphere of church leaders who guide and nurture the troops but do not command them. At the same time, while there have never been many "liberals" among the missionaries themselves, once you invite a wide spectrum of church leaders you will find that theological debates and issues of liberalism tend to crowd out the kind of strategic mission discussions that are the hallmark of dedicated mission leaders who have most of such discussions behind them.
Thus, unfortunately, the 1910 meeting has become known more for the kind of meetings that followed it (eventually leading into the World Council of Churches) rather than for the meeting it really was.
Edinburgh, 1910 What then actually took place in 1910 that did not happen again--for a long time? What made it so unique?
- It consisted solely and exclusively of delegates sent by mission agencies. (You could not be invited and decide to attend. You had to be delegated--and delegated by a mission agency, not by a church or denomination.)
- It focused solely on whatever it would take to finish the job. (The topics for discussion were not church/mission tensions nor other mission-related topics which had more to do with the concerns of the national church than with outreach to new areas.)
- It focused specifically, therefore, on what in those days were called, "the unoccupied fields." Missionaries working in Latin America loudly complained that the conference did not accept delegates from Latin America or Europe. It was assumed that the reason for this was that the conference organizers considered Catholics as saved--and thus did not consider Latin America "an unoccupied field"--the Bible was there, etc. In hindsight, we can see the harm of Mott and the other leaders considering huge territories as "occupied" (e.g. Latin America, North America and Europe): the result was they overlooked the Indians of the Americas, for example. They thought in "field" terms, not "people" terms that is, in geographic terms rather than ethnographic terms.
Therefore, Since 1910 there has been some confusion about that conference. While a number of other conferences have been organized to follow in the 1910 tradition, they have fallen far short. We have to ask ourselves, what have people thought the 1910 conference was but which it actually wasn't? The fact is, 1910 was very simply the first world level conference that consisted of Mission Agency delegates--and the first that focused as exclusively as it did on "the unoccupied fields."
In any event it was not until 1972 (62 years later) at a meeting of the (North American) Association of Professors of Mission, that Professor Luther Copeland of the Southeastern Baptist Seminary specifically proposed another meeting like the one in 1910 to be held in 1980.
However, before jumping from 1910 to 1972 (and on to 1980) let's look at some intervening world-level or very large meetings which were not quite the same as the 1910 meeting. Since a general description of such meetings would take more space than we have available here, what key ideas should we look for in these other meetings that were significant factors in 1910?
- Did they have closure goals? Was there any reference to "finishing the task" and, if so, in a certain length of time? Goals need dates.
- Did they focus on mission fields or on peoples? That is, did they speak in terms of geography or ethnography?
- Who was invited? Mission leaders, church leaders, or both? Western leaders or leaders from the Two-Thirds world, or both?
- Were all missionaries present Western? Were Two-Thirds World churches expected to send their own missionaries?
Chapter Three: Significant Ripples of 1910
Chicago, 1960 The 1910 meeting was a specific impetus for a very large and influential meeting sponsored by the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association in 1960 deliberately on the 50th anniversary of the 1910 meeting. Chicago, 1960 was a huge success, bringing together 500 missionaries and 800 pastors as well as thousands of lay people. Its published report was entitled "Facing the Unfinished Task." Its use of geographical language was similar to the 1910 conference: We call upon Christian young people to rise in force for the speedy occupation of the remaining unevangelized portions of the world field. It is painful to point out that this magnificent congress suffered unintentionally from pessimism in regard to a key statistical point: By 1960 world population growth had alarmingly expanded. A widespread assumption was that the Christian movement was being left behind-- even though the evangelical sector across the world was expanding much more rapidly than the general population explosion!
Thus, Congress documents highlighted the "left-behind" concern: That the unfinished task of world evangelization was greater by far than it was 50 years before at the Edinburgh Conference of 1910. The editor of the published report noted that world population had increased by 75 percent but failed to note that the number of Bible- believing Christians had swelled by 170 percent in the same time period. This caused him to comment,
As of today we are failing…we have actually lost ground…oh, God, it is the knowledge of these things which causes us here to confess that 'we know not what to do.'
Also, marvelous as the 1960 meeting was, it was not a world-level conference. It was sponsored by only the IFMA. Also, note that its program was clearly designed more to motivate church leaders than gather mission leaders to plan for global mission. Only five out of 27 major speakers were missionaries.
A second, similar conference was planned for 1964, but due to changes of leadership and perspectives about cooperation the next conference was shelved in favor of even larger plans for a conference to be held at Wheaton in 1966. This time the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association was involved as a co-sponsor. The EFMA (then called the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association) had been in existence for fifteen years at the time of the 1960 conference, but the EFMA was too new to be taken seriously by the much older IFMA. Furthermore, some leaders felt that the EFMA (as with the National Association of Evangelicals to which it is related) seemed dangerously to involve Pentecostals-and it even seemed to be too open to the world of the historic denominations.
Wheaton, 1966 Thus, at Wheaton College in 1966 a record 150 mission agencies were represented as well as 39 special interest groups, 55 schools, and even 14 non-North American mission agencies.
However, the focus was not so much on plans for finishing the task as on unity around essentials. This emphasis was not unreasonable since the meeting united the IFMA and the EFMA for the first time. The ten themes stressed in the conference were syncretism, neo-universalism, proselytism, neo-Romanism, church growth, foreign missions, evangelical unity, evaluating methods, social concern, and a hostile world. These were summarized in the widely heralded "Wheaton Declaration." Note, however, that only one of the ten phrases, "foreign missions," referred to the unfinished task. The meeting closed, however, with a "Covenant" which spoke of "the evangelization of the world in this generation," which was part of the watchword of the movement that produced the 1910 meeting. The Canadian historian, Charles Tipp, said The Wheaton Congress provided the most comprehensive forum for evangelical interaction since Edinburgh in 1910.
Berlin, 1966 Credit goes to Carl F. H. Henry, at that time the editor of Christianity Today, for the idea of a world level meeting on global evangelization. It was held on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the magazine, with Billy Graham as a co-sponsor, but it consciously leaned back on the vision of the 1910 conference. Both Billy Graham and Carl F. H. Henry referred approvingly of the 1910 meeting.
Unlike the Chicago 1960 and Wheaton 1966 meetings, Berlin 1966 was a large world-level meeting called the World Congress on Evangelism. Had it been a "congress on world evangelism" rather than a "world congress on evangelism" a closure emphasis might have been more prominent. The idea of closure, however, was mentioned by Billy Graham in his opening message when he said, "We have one task--the penetration with the Gospel of the entire world in our generation." A notable feature of this meeting was the publication, as an official congress document, of a book by Paulus Scharpf, The History of Evangelism," (translated from the German by Dr. Henry's wife, Helga) which described a number of true evangelists preaching justification by faith long before the Reformation.
Outstanding evangelists from all over the world--not necessarily mission leaders--were prominent at this important meeting in Berlin. At one exhibit a "population clock" kept ticking all through the meeting, emphasizing the fearfully fast growth of world population. However, there was no parallel evidence of awareness that the growth rate of the enormous global community of evangelical Christians was greater, and getting steadily greater.
Leysin, Switzerland, 1969 A small but global Saturation Evangelism Consultation in 1969 reflected in part a growing global enthusiasm over the "Evangelism-in- Depth" movement emanating from the Latin America Mission in Costa Rica and subsequently tried out in many other countries in Latin America and the world. (This strategy was to be greatly improved and promoted more recently by the DAWN movement.) Such an approach, however valuable it is, can sometimes be misunderstood as an emphasis on finishing the job where we are rather than going where we aren't. Theoretically, the saturation of any one area or country will turn up pockets of unreached peoples. The problem then is the fact that the near neighbors of such unreached groups are often the least loving or at least the least trusted by those who are still sealed off in unreached groups. Thus, missionaries from a good distance (not necessarily those who are culturally closest) are often needed wherever unpenetrated populations exist. Therefore, nationwide, nation-focused evangelistic planning often tends to overlook or bypass precisely the most needy sub-populations. To reach such populations it is probable that every nationwide strategy needs to send and receive workers from other countries. In huge countries like India, people from a totally different part of the country may often be more acceptable than immediate neighbors.
Greenlake, 1971 One of the urgent concerns that surfaced at the Wheaton, 1966 meeting-- but was not seriously dealt with --was the matter of the increasingly complex relationships between mission agencies on the field and the growing national churches on the field, that is, mission/church relations. Thus, this was taken up five years later at Greenlake, Wisconsin, but it was broadened to include (a subordinate emphasis on) the long-standing complexities of the relationship between sending churches and the mission agencies, that is, church/mission relations. Since I was invited to be a consultant at this meeting, I asked specifically at the opening session whether any aspect of the meeting would be devoted to the relationship of the field churches to their own foreign missionaries (missionaries sent out by the national churches themselves). In 1971, apparently, the concept of non-Western mission agencies had not been widely understood. Missionaries had planted churches but had not planted mission agencies!
As a result of my question, the leaders of the conference held a hasty huddle on the platform and concluded that my concern was not on the agenda. Peter Wagner, who later edited a book on the conference, invited me to include a chapter which I entitled, "The Planting of Younger Missions" in Church/Mission Tensions Today.
In attendance were 378 people from 122 mission agencies (only 75 IFMA or EFMA) and about 50 other entities (schools, churches), as well as national church leaders from "mission fields." As a single-issue conference on the chosen subject you would not expect any reference to closure or the unfinished task, although the concept of unreached peoples within existing mission fields might well have been addressed.
Chapter Four: A Second 1910?
Wheaton, 1974 The only reason for mentioning Wheaton, 1974 is that we must now take note of the first formal proposal of a second 1910-type meeting. We earlier mentioned that Luther Copeland had proposed this in 1972 at a regular meeting of the Association of Professors of Mission. The next year I stood up and "seconded" Copeland's proposal, and at the meeting the following year, in 1974, Copeland himself presided at the blackboard when the wording of a formal "Call" was hammered out. Signing this call were two prominent international scholars--David Cho of Korea and David Bosch of South Africa.
Inspiration was high. Arthur Glasser, Dean of the Fuller School of World Mission, had 3,000 little red buttons made up for the Lausanne Conference which was to occur a few days later, each button proclaiming "World Missionary Conference 1980." As a result, thousands of these buttons were passed out at the Lausanne meeting which followed.
But what was in that "Call"? Its exact words were:
It is suggested that a World Missionary Conference be convened in 1980 to confront contemporary issues in Christian world missions. The conference should be constituted by persons committed to cross- cultural missions, broadly representative of the missionary agencies of the various Christian traditions on a world basis.
- Note the crucial phrase which spoke of representatives of the mission agencies constituting the conference.
- Also note that "missionary" was defined to be "cross-cultural," presumably in outreach to non-Christians.
- And note that this Call clearly did not address itself merely to Western mission agencies.
- It failed to employ either geographical or "people" terminology.
- There was no hint about closure. These defects were remedied by the sponsoring committee of agency representatives before the meeting actually took place six years later. Indeed, long before 1980, the '74 call was subject to two other major streams offering to sponsor and control it.
Meanwhile, however, a few weeks after this Call was drafted, the world turned its attention to a perfectly huge and amazing meeting.
Lausanne, 1974 The International Congress on World Evangelization (ICOWE) was an unforgettable meeting. It became the first international meeting to frame the remaining task in people terms rather than geographical terms. It also launched the phrase "Unreached Peoples," defining an unreached people by the presence of less than a certain percentage of Christians (later defined by the presence or absence of a church movement--that would come in 1982). This meeting is famous for all of the regional meetings which it spawned of a similar type. Probably no meeting since 1910 had an equivalent "fallout" of beneficial influence on subsequent meetings all around the world.
But what kind of emphasis did this original Lausanne meeting have? It is ironic but fair to say that the surprise and pleasure of the Western world at the vital surge of believers in the former "mission fields" generally tended to lead to the conclusion that we don't need to send any more missionaries. The thought follows immediately that we just need to encourage and reinforce the new believers in the non- Western world and let the Church in each country deal with its own evangelistic challenge.
Thus, in 1974 it seemed quite obvious that there was widespread (but unfortunate) agreement that each country ought to be able to take care of its own evangelistic challenges. In-country evangelism should suffice, according to this perspective. Both at Lausanne '74 and at the World Council of Churches the idea of expatriate missionaries still being crucial was virtually ignored--despite the fact that Christian communities in many countries are still tiny, embattled minorities, and pockets of unreached peoples abound.
But even if every country contained sufficient evangelical strength, what is often ignored is that pockets of unreached peoples cannot be reached by ordinary "near-neighbor" evangelism. What fell to this writer at Lausanne '74 was a plenary paper in which I endeavored to show that over half of the people in the world who are not Christians are people who cannot be reached by anything but pioneer missionary techniques, not ordinary mono-cultural evangelism, not believers speaking their own native language.
As Arthur Glasser put it shortly after Lausanne, "If every congregation in the world were to undergo a great revival and reach out to every person within their own people--that is, to everyone in the cultural spheres represented by each congregation--over half of all remaining non-Christians would still not be reached." My earnest plea at that conference is apparent from the title of my talk: "Cross- cultural Evangelism, the Highest Priority."
The Lausanne Congress is also widely known for the Lausanne Covenant, a marvelous document which came out of it, and, in particular, for the articulation of a social concern (as if missions have not always had a social concern).
But to this writer, the most important achievement of the conference was the great emphasis on looking at the world as peoples rather than as countries. Strategically, Lausanne also changed one key word from Berlin: the World Congress on Evangelism of 1966 became the International Congress on World Evangelization in 1974-the word evangelism being a never-ending activity, and evangelization being intended to be a project to be completed. Here, in embryo, was the concept of closure.
At this point in our story we could conceivably move on to the 1980 meeting at Edinburgh, which has been called by some Edinburgh II, although its actual name was the "World Consultation on Frontier Missions." But before doing that, we need to glance at a number of other milestones in the global movement we are tracing.
Chapter Five: Events Along the Way: 1941-1995 If we only chronicle the great meetings, we will overlook other evidences of the growth of a significant historical movement. Here are a few other kinds of events which reflect the exploding rebirth of global vision. (I regret that I may have inadvertently overlooked some very important conferences and events, and will welcome suggestions. In general I have omitted purely regional meetings.)
- 1941-After Pearl Harbor "awakened a sleeping giant," America sent millions of its youth all over the globe. Many of these were evangelical Christians.
- 1945-Eleven million Americans began to return from the "ends of the earth" where God had forced them to study missions "on location." (As a result 150 new mission agencies came into existence!)
- 1946-The first of the "Urbana" Missionary Conventions was held, this one in Toronto.
- 1955-Publication of The Bridges of God by Donald McGavran
- 1960-The Chicago Conference
- 1964-Founding of the Evangelical Missions Quarterly, jointly sponsored by IFMA and EFMA.
- 1965-Founding of the Fuller School of World Mission by Donald McGavran.
- 1966-Wheaton Conference (See comments, page 7.)
- 1966-Berlin Conference (See comments, page 8.)
- 1972-Founding of the American Society of Missiology, and its journal, Missiology, An International Review.
- 1973-Founding of the Association of Church Missions Committees
- 1973-Founding of the Asia Missions Association
- 1973-The great reversal of student attitude toward missions as evidenced by the sudden rise in the percentage of students who responded to the missionary call at the Urbana Missionary Convention in December 1973; one direct result of that was the beginning of the Perspectives Study Program.
- 1974-Lausanne Conference (See comments, pages 12-14.)
- 1976-Founding of the U. S. Center for World Mission
- 1978-International Students, Inc. assigned Leiton Chin to coordinate the development of the 1980 World Consultation on Frontier Missions.
- 1979-The EFMA Executives Retreat focused on Unreached Peoples.
- 1980-A follow-through world-level conference sponsored by the Lausanne Committee, in Pataya, Thailand
- 1980-The original Call for a 1910-type meeting in this year actually brought three into existence (see below).
- 1982-The formation of the IFMA Frontier Peoples Committee
- 1982-The Lausanne Committee sponsored a two-day study retreat of about 30 representatives from a wide variety of missions to settle the meanings of key words for speaking of unreached peoples. The definition of "Reached Peoples" now required evidence of a viable, indigenous, evangelizing church movement-not a certain percentage of "Christians."
- 1983-The World Evangelical Fellowship sponsored a global meeting at Wheaton; one of three tracks was Unreached Peoples
- 1983-The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association held a conference for 10,000 Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam.
- 1984-Founding of the International Journal of Frontier Missions
- 1985-The first national level missions conference in Latin America
- 1986-Founding of the International Society for Frontier Missiology
- 1986-Caleb Resources met 13,000 college students face to face, challenging them for missions.
- 1986-A second Itinerant Evangelists conference was held in Amsterdam by the BGEA.
- 1986-Nine regional student-led mission conferences were held in North America. But student-led organizations tend to self-destruct as their leaders graduate.
- 1986-The launching of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) in 1886 commemorated by four U.S. bodies: --the American Society of Church History --the Wheaton College Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals --the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship --a general student gathering at the original site at Mt. Hermon, Massachusetts. The heads of Campus Crusade, Navigators and Intervarsity all attended.
- 1986-The Asia Missions Association met on a world level producing the Third-World Mission Association.
- 1986-At Amsterdam a meeting of 7000 TEMA students was held. (TEMA=The European equivalent of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.)
- 1987-COMIBAM (Congreso Missionero Ibero Americano), the first continental mission congress launched by Latin Americans, also the largest evangelical meeting ever held in Latin America on a continental basis (3,500 delegates, including 500 from Africa and Asia). This was followed by a similar meeting in Korea, sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Asia (related to the World Evangelical Fellowship).
- 1987-At Dallas, Texas, the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board sponsored a very strategic conference of (U.S.) mission executives to consider the overall global challenge from the standpoint of working on it together.
- 1989-The Singapore Global Consultation on World Evangelization, and the founding of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement
- 1989-The Lausanne II meeting at Manila
- 1989 to 1995-An incredible whirl of activity by the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement, leading to the May 1995 meeting in Korea, the Global Consultation on World Evangelization-GCOWE II.
I lack dates for other key developments such as the founding and remarkable growth of the India Mission Association, the Nigerian Evangelical Mission Association, the Third World Mission Association, plus the highly significant development during the last few years of a renewed and activated Missions Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship. The latter, in turn, has highlighted the existence and recent emergence of many mission training programs, centers and specialized schools.
Thus, we must at this moment leave for a later edition of this booklet many additional evidences of a growing, global awareness of the ability to finish the task, a task often shunned or considered hopeless. Let us now return to the specifically 1910 thread.
Chapter Six: Finally, Edinburgh, 1980 The 1972 proposal for a second 1910 type of meeting to be held in 1980 finally materialized. It almost didn't. It was not easy to defend the significant features of the 1910 meeting which it followed, namely: 1) that its only participants were delegated executives from existing mission agencies, and 2) the focus of the conference was exclusively upon "unoccupied fields." Key leaders in both the World Council (Emilio Castro) and the Lausanne Committee (Leighton Ford) suggested that their traditions respectively would appropriately be the ones to coordinate the proposed meeting. Consequently, the World Council moved its meeting at Melbourne back from 1981 to 1980. The Lausanne Committee organized a large meeting in Pataya, Thailand, also for 1980. The chosen date of the latter (during the summer) forced the convening committee of Edinburgh 1980 to move its scheduled date to November, and even to change its more general name (World Missionary Conference--as it was in 1910) to "World Consultation on Frontier Missions" at the suggestion of the Lausanne leaders.
Both the Melbourne and the Pataya conferences were significant gatherings, but neither of them were designed to be parallel structurally to the 1910 conference in the terms mentioned above. Thus, instead of the 1980 meeting being sponsored by either the WCC or Lausanne, a number of well-known mission agencies contributed members to an ad hoc planning committee for a worldwide conference of mission executives. Larry Allmon, chief executive of Gospel Recordings, became the crucial chairperson of that committee. Although there was a certain sense of being overshadowed by the two giant conferences planned for that same year, the organizers clearly understood the distinctives of this particular conference and met every month with a keen sense of anticipation. In a little over a year the entire consultation was organized, and was convened in November of 1980.
In the spring of 1979 International Students, Inc. contributed Leiton Chin as Coordinator of the conference. It is hard to imagine what would have happened had it not been for his secondment for the crucial pre-consultation period.
Long before 1980, the Call of 1974 had been doing its work. In 1976 an article in Missiology, An International Journal, "1980 and That Certain Elite" described in great detail both the Call (see above under 1974) and the response to it. Max Warren, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, indicated his interest and pledged cooperation (which happened even though he died before 1980). The Liebenzell Mission of Germany offered its facilities for the meeting. Then Roy Spraggett of WEC in Scotland suggested that the meeting convene at the original 1910 site in Edinburgh, and offered to be responsible for arranging for the facilities there. The committee felt this would be ideal, and Larry Allmon made several trips to Edinburgh to conclude the arrangements with Spraggett. In August of 1979, more than a year before the meeting, the sponsoring committee of mission agency representatives voted, That those formally participating consist of delegates from agencies with current involvement in or with formal organizational commitment to reaching hidden people groups.
Note that Hidden Peoples were defined as "those cultural and linguistic subgroups, urban or rural, for which there is as yet no indigenous community of believing Christians able to evangelize their own people." This definition, with slight changes of wording, was later adopted by the Lausanne-sponsored meeting in March of 1982 as the meaning of the phrase, Unreached Peoples.
A book, Seeds of Promise, edited by Alan Starling, contains the complete papers and presentations of the 1980 World Consultation on Frontier Missions. Its statistical data indicates that more mission agencies were represented at this meeting than at any previous (or subsequent) global conference, and that Edinburgh 1980 was the first world-level conference since 1910 to be composed exclusively of delegates of mission agencies (rather than invited participants of various kinds).
The cost of the meeting was very low since agencies appointing delegates provided travel costs as well as food and lodging expense. At the last minute a grant came from Anthony Rossi which assisted some of the Two-Thirds world delegates to be able to come. A similar financial plan was followed by the January 1989 Singapore Global Conference on World Evangelization by the Year 2000 and Beyond, sparked by the vision of Thomas Wang. Dr. Wang had been deeply impressed in 1980 by the question of what God might be expecting of His people by the year 2000. He wrote a widely influential article, "By the year 2000, Is God Trying to Tell Us Something?" The resulting meeting in Singapore was simple, unadorned, very low budget. A substantial gift from the Maclellan Foundation gave last-minute assistance.
Since Wang was one of the four plenary speakers at Edinburgh 1980, it is no accident that the purpose statement of GCOWE II came, in essence, from the 1980 meeting, namely "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000." To these words, the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement added for clarification "and the Gospel for Every Person."
But the most unusual and powerful feature of the 1980 meeting was the fact that fully one-third of all of the delegates came from Two- Thirds World agencies. By comparison, in 1910, although a handful of non-Western agencies existed, they were accidentally overlooked! Bishop Azariah, for example, who had already founded two different mission agencies in India, was not invited to send delegates from his agencies. He was, instead, sent to the conference as a delegate of the Church Missionary Society working in South India! That was appropriate, but it revealed the woeful fact that the Mott leadership team failed even to conceive of the possibility of what we now call Two-thirds World mission agencies!
All of the largest non-Western agencies were represented at Edinburgh 1980. Three of the four invited plenary speakers, including Thomas Wang, came from the so-called mission lands. The delegates to this conference, on going back to their countries around the world, have been involved in many notable advances of the specific emphasis on finishing the task and upon reaching the unreached peoples (as the necessary precursor to reaching every person). That amazing global impulse of the 1980 meeting for the build-up of momentum for world evangelization is a story that will have to be told later when the data is gathered.
In highlighting the Edinburgh 1980 meeting--this first intentional repetition of the 1910 pattern--it is not intended to imply that the many other great meetings (sometimes with 20 times the attendance, such as COMIBAM in Sao Paulo in 1987) were somehow less important. The fact is that we need both kinds of meetings--meetings of church leaders, church people, church and mission people, and now and then, meetings exclusively of mission executives.
As alluded to earlier, if you want to fight a war you need the backing of the mayors and state governors. But for the planning and execution of the war it is also necessary for the military leaders to get together and weld themselves into a single fighting force. Recently we have certainly seen that kind of wholesome and hearty cooperation between otherwise totally independent agencies in Russia where both the CoMission and the Strategic Alliance for Church Planting are the intentional integration of more than 50 separate agencies working in great harmony. Why not tackle the whole world in the same way?
A Call For the World's Mission Agency Leaders to Meet in 1996 The time has come for those who are the active leaders of mission agencies to gather in a low-budget conference not just for fellowship but for the purpose of joint planning and action, for the kind of goal setting for each agency which is not developed by the agency itself but by the consensus of the group. It is as if an agency in a "Strategic Partnership" voluntarily gives up its right to determine its own goals and instead takes its orders from the combination of minds and hearts of a number of different agencies which then work in complete harmony. This has already happened many times down through mission history. In recent years Interdev has marvelously spearheaded developments of this kind on a regional level. A single, world-level gathering of this type in 1996 would be a marvelous way to follow through on the foundation laid by GCOWE II at Seoul, Korea in 1995.