What is World Evangelization and Is It Possible to Achieve?
by Ralph D. Winter
Many organizations are already "taking aim on the year 2000."Usually their goals are phrased in terms of the particular type of work they do.
Like what? Like the radio people saying they want every person in the world to hear the Gospel in at least a trade language÷by the year 2000.
Or the goal of another organization might be to establish its work within every country of the world. That should be a bit easier.
One spokesman wants "to give half the world to Jesus on His 2000th birthday"÷whatever "give half the world to Jesus" actually means in measurable terms.
On the other hand, a large congregation might have a goal of a $1 million mission budget, or "90 missionaries by 1990" or 50% of its budget for missions, or 50% of its mission budget for pioneer church planting, or 50% of its members pledging at least 5% of their income to the mission budget, etc.
Anything wrong with these goals? Not at all. They are exceedingly important parts of the whole.
What IS best meant by the key phrase World Evangelization?
"World Evangelization" Means Whaf?
To penetrate this mystery, note that the two common elements in these passages are:
1) A concern not merely for "souls" but for some entity on the order of "the peoples of the earth" (families, nations, peoples, Gentile nations, etc.).
2) A concern that this entity, whatever it is, be blessed, gain a reverence for God, receive the light, salvation, be discipled, etc.
All this boils down, I believe, to the establishment within a group of a godly, outreaching fellowship. Worded differently, the goal has been stated as a church for every people by the year 2000.
Both of the Biblical elements are present in this goal statement. So is the concept of peoples. Salvation is certainly there÷in the high goal of an authentic, accountable fellowship of believers, which can reach out effectively to every person in that group.
The particular wording in this goal statement comes officially from the World Consultation on Frontier Missions, held in Edinburgh in 1980. If measured by the number of mission agencies sending delegates, that consultation was, amazingly, the largest world-level meeting ever held. One third of the agencies represented were new ones which had sprouted up in the so-called mission lands, a first in history.
Also a first, and giving even more impetus to our topic, was the simultaneous, overlapping, and autonomous younger leaders consultation at Edinburgh in 1980. This International Student Consultation on Frontier Missions spawned Theological Students for Frontier Missions and the sprightly International Journal of Frontier Missions.. It also supplied the commitment statement now employed by Caleb, that fabulous team which talked face to face with 35,000 students during the '86-'87 academic year.
It had taken almost two years prior to 1980 for the Edinburgh convening committee (composed of the delegates of a number of well-known mission agencies) to get a grip on the key concepts as stated here. But it was their keen thinking which eventually hammered out the "Church for Every People" goal statement.
Almost two years later, in February of 1982, the newly created Frontier Peoples Committee of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association voted to suggest to all of its 90 or so member mission agencies that they each begin to employ synonymously the three commonly used goal phrases. Unreached Peoples, Hidden Peoples, and Frontier Peoples, and that the definition for these be the E-80 wording.
Then, in March of 1982, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization's Strategy Working Group decided to adopt essentially the same (E-80) definition. In so doing, they replaced their own earlier working definition of Unreached Peoples, which had been based on a 20 percent-Christian measurement. Their slight modification was no doubt for the better. It now read: An Unreached People is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group. This valuable definition, however, builds in turn upon a key term which itself deserves attention: what is a peopled The March 1982 meeting convened by the Lausanne Committee also dealt decisively with this question. Their definition:
It is important to note that the wording here defines a group which normally would be capable of having within it a church movement.
By contrast, I have recently suggested the term "bridge peoples" for those often smaller, highly specialized groups like Osaka barbers, or Taipei taxi drivers, or Manila prostitutes, within whose more restricted fellowship evangelism can often be startlingly effective but which might not result in a church movement as such.
Once such individuals become Christians, they will seek to help their families, which likely will not fit in the restricted fellowship where the first one was reached. As a result, the entire family might best find church membership in some larger, more diverse sphere. Yet the existence of such evangelistic "bridge peoples" explains why the word largest is crucial in the definition of the kind of people groups that are candidates for a church movement.
As I see it, the careful consensus of March 1982 on the definitions of peoples and unreached peoples produced a marvelously wise pair of formulations. These two definitions can help us avoid many pitfalls, and protect us from misunderstanding the key goal of "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000."
But now that the goal is well defined, it is time to ask if it is possible!
In the past few years, a number of very significant events have pushed us closer and closer to grappling effectively with this question. I have selected a few which shed light on goal terminology, closure and countdown thinking:
1. The Lausanne 1974 congress and its subsequent meetings.
2. The 1979 founding of the Caleb Resources.
3. The Edinburgh 1980 consultation.
5. The 1982 Chicago huddle convened by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
6. The 1984 founding of the International Journal of Frontier Missions.
7. The 1986 founding of the Society for Frontier Missiology.
8. The 1986 world level meeting of Third World mission agencies (sponsored by the Asia Missions Association), resulting in an absolutely unique world-level structure of collaboration and communication.
9. The 1987 meeting of the American Society of Missiology, which focused on the future of missions.
11. We could add that at a number of mission executives' meetings since 1974 the theme of the unreached peoples has been the focus - in the United States, in England, in Germany and Scandinavia. In this vein I may be pardoned if Imention the growth of the whole complex at the U.S.Center for World Mission÷plus the other six "centers for world mission" in North America as well as 20 or more in other countries÷and that I have been invited to teach a course entitled "An Introduction to Frontier Missiology" at both the Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Unfinished Task is a new emphasis in seminaries. Somehow the mission agencies have gotten ahead of the schools of missions in this regard!
There, is also, now, the growing "Adopt a People" movement. And the Frontier Fellowship Global Prayer Digest, now promoted by 36 organizations and heard over 500 radio stations daily.
All of this blessed, potent novelty is helping to clarify terminology and focus energies, and÷here is the point÷ will make the attaining of the goal of world evangelization more feasible.
But now is no time to get confused. Many people are asking for some kind of Wall Street Journal listing of concrete progress with the countdown of the world's peoples. Patrick Johnstone's marvelous Operation World goes further than any handbook that size to show what has been done and what is left to be done. And David Barrett's brilliant, ponderous World Christian Encyclopedia sets the pace for total, detailed, comprehensiveness.
I'm sorry to introduce some complexities. In their writings, both of these Englishmen focus more on the question of the degree of exposure to evangelism (the term is Jay Gary's) rather than on the degree of church planting response to evangelism, as emphasized by the LCWE definitions I have quoted above. It isunfortunate (but essential to note) that Barrett's massive Encyclopedia uses several different definitions for the phrase Unreached Peoples, and that while marc's latest articles use the new definitions, their Unreached Peoples listings are still based upon the earlier, now discarded, 20 percent definition.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that both Barrett's and Wycliffe's concern for a printed translation in a sufficient number of languages gives us a different measurement of progress than Gospel Recordings' concern for audio cassettes in sufficient languages.
Actually, Gospel Recording's figure is closer to the number of unreached peoples than is the number of unprinted New Testaments. Why? Simply because of the difference between the written and the spoken word. Literate members of slightly different groups will happily read the same written translation, but may recoil in disgust at the audio rendering of the same thing (via an audio or video cassette or by radio). Their reaction often depends entirely on which sub-group is voicing it, easily recognized by the slight but pivotal cultural and linguistic differences revealed in the audio rendering.
The fact that to understand is not sufficient explains why the phrase or acceptance has been utilized in the definition for a people above. Thus, two different people groups may be able to use the same New Testament in its printed form, and yet require different church movements in the early stages at least.
In our next two installments, we'll be looking at how much has been done already÷that will give us great hope÷and we'll be looking at exactly what remains to be done and the obstacles involved.
Is World Evangelization possible? At the rate we were going, say, between 1960 and 1974, we certainly would not finish by the year 2000. But in view of the mood and movement in many circles around the world today, it would be very foolish, I believe, to say that it can't happen by the year 2000.
Perfectly momentous things are taking place, over the entire range of the essential features of the now global evangelization movement. Gloomy Americans may too easily underestimate what God has in mind, and too easily gloss over what He is up to right now! I fear that some evangelicals today are determinedly pessimistic. Is this a cloak for misuse of their lives and their funds? Optimism has disturbing implications. It does not so easily jlistify triviality or the "we've got it, why not spend it" syndrome. We are in a WAR!
Pastors and evangelists naturally want to attract, not repel. They seek to win, not lose, people. Yet we are getting to a point where in trying to win the world we are accepting its standards and values and selfish trivialities. If we were closer to the Lord and not so isolated from the needs of the world, this attitude could not survive for an instant.
God chose to confront the snobbish Cambridge students with an unlettered D. L. Moody. That unambitious farm boy addressed more of England's elite than any other evangelist in history. A century earlier, it was a reformed John Newton, up from the dregs of human slavery himself, who influenced Lord Wilber-force and through him the nation, to eventually abolish slavery. God apparently did not choose to confront Agrippa with a Paul who sported a tuxedo and a Rolex watch.