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September 1988


Editorial Comment

The Misunderstanding of the Mission Agencies

1. Is the Mission Field "Overseas"? 2. Are Lay Tentmakers the Manpower Answer?

SEPs: Partnering for Kingdom Profits

Paraclete Mission Group: Fostering Cooperation Among Agencies at USCWM

For Wan of a Secretary Might the War Be Lost?

At the Center

Malcom Hunter and the Adopt-A-People Concept

Adopt-A-People: Alive and Growing

Why God Will Not Bring Revival in America

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1. Is the Mission Field "Overseas"?

2. Are Lay Tentmakers the Manpower Answer?

Ralph D. Winter

First note the two thick dotted lines. They draw two quite different distinctions, the one between home and foreign, which is the way most people still think, the other between the groups which already have a well-established church movement within their midst, and those that are not yet thus blessed.

1. Thank God for His centuries of faithfulness! The Unreached peoples of the world are a rapidly dwindling task. And, they are flooding into the Western world where it is at least theoretically easier to reach them.

Thus, if it was ever true it is no longer true that the mission field is simply "over there." More than ever congregations in this country must be willing to support strategic missionaries assigned to work in this country.

Missions overseas is no longer the same as it used to be either÷it is more and more like the homelands, in that Christians over there have a dual task, to evangelize their own people and to join the global mission force. How is that?

Once the Gospel has effectively penetrated a human society, that group is no longer needing the unique services of a mission agency÷ pioneering new fields÷thus many missions are phasing out of older fields and getting started in new ones, sometimes in collaboration with mission sending agencies of their own earlier fields! 

It has never been quite proper to send people to certain places. The Bible sends us to certain peoples. And, since peoples are a moving target, g that means they find there way to the U.S.A and  other Western countries.  

Bakersfield, California has to deal with 83 languages. The City of Los Angeles 137. Many of the people groups represented in our midst are authentic Unreached Peoples.

Five years ago I proclaimed that the next major change in missions would be the expansion of overseas agencies back to this country. Already the Overseas Missionary Fellowship has a full-time, seasoned veteran heading a U.S. office focused on unreached peoples in this country.

It makes sense. The people they have been working with 'over there' are, many of them, now 'over here.' We saw that in our last issue of Mission Frontiers when we commented on the vital presence of Korean churches now in this country by the thousands. Of course the Koreans are no longer an unreached people, but they are certainly a great potential mission force!

Thus, only some of the remaining mission fields are overseas, and only some of the manpower solution will be in the form of lay tent-makers. This lead us to the second question.

Now note the four boxes of potential workers÷400,000 and 100,000 and 100,000 and 10 million. These represent USA manpower potential. Three of these are located right now in the mission lands. The largest is not. The only 'full timers' are the 100,000 overseas missionaries.

2. The greatest need is still overseas. But it is increasingly true that coordination between what is going on overseas and what is, or ought to be, going on here is highly crucial.

I heard with my own ears only a few days ago in a large church meeting that "70% of the countries of the world are closed to missionaries." I could scream when I hear this!

This is not just quite false (most of the most effective 'tentmakers' working in closed and highly restricted countries are in fact missionaries under the standard boards÷they of course cannot publish this).

But the effect of this kind of a statement on college young people considering missions is that they might as well forget about applying to any standard mission. Again, one standard mission has 65% of its fairly large force working as tent-makers, many in 'closed countries.'

Furthermore, people who support the standard missions get the idea that they better send their money somewhere else "if there are fewer and fewer places missionaries under the standard boards can go." But it is just not true.

A great deal of confusion exists here. The "traditional mission societies" are taking it on the chin as this word goes around, when in fact many of our former staff members have been working in a completely 'closed countries' now for years, but working under regular church-planting mission. Sorry, no details!

The great tragedy is that this seems to imply to countless young people that it is, therefore, of no use to apply to the standard mission agencies, since 'traditional missionaries' can't get there!

And, I was wrong five years ago when I predicted a major expansion of overseas agencies working back in this country. Why hasn't it happened? I believe the agencies are more willing than the people back home, who mostly can't see it and are not eager to support work here!

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