Things are changing all around us every day with increasing speed. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. But in all cases, we are forced to adapt to the new realities that change brings. Some people adapt easily to change, and others do not. For 45 years now, Frontier Ventures has proclaimed the biblical mandate to reach all peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the realities on the mission field are changing. The fact is, ever since the promise came to Abraham to bless all peoples, the tribes, clans, families, peoples and nations of the earth have experienced. continual change. The problem in our day is that the rate of change is growing exponentially, making it difficult to cope with a rapidly changing people group picture. That is what this issue is all about. See all the articles
Things are changing all around us every day with increasing speed. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. But in all cases, we are forced to adapt to the new realities that change brings. Some people adapt easily to change, and others do not. For 45 years now, Frontier Ventures has proclaimed the biblical mandate to reach all peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the realities on the mission field are changing. That is what this issue is all about. How does the promise of God to Abraham in Gen.12:3 to bless all the families of the earth through him match up with the tectonic shifts now taking place in the world today?
In the sweeping narrative of Scripture, the focus of God’s self-disclosure is the peoples of the world. The biblical image of “the people of God” makes sense only against the background of a tempestuous mix of other “peoples,” from which God selects one “holy nation” (Israel)—“you above all peoples” (Deuteronomy 10:15).1 His ultimate purpose, however, is to dwell among a people from “all the families of the nations” (Psalm 22:27; 96:7; Revelation 7:9). “For once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10). From the standpoint of creation, redemption and eternity, a world full of “peoples” reflects God’s beauty, creativity, and love.
An emphasis on “people groups” has become a common way to map our mission to the world. It was not always so. When Donald McGavran emerged from caste-ridden India in the 1960s, evangelicals were confronted anew with the strategic role of social and cultural boundaries in world evangelization. The persistent individualism at the core of our Western gospel made many nervous at the idea that large, ethnically homogenous peoples could move so quickly and powerfully towards the gospel. The idea of group conversion remained suspect. Then, in 1974, when Ralph Winter used this controversial idea to map a new demography of “unreached” peoples, the idea of “people groups” began to find its place in mission vernacular.
Sometimes we hear that people groups are a recent invention of social science. In the following article I answer this critique by showing that in fact, people groups are as old as Scripture itself.
Sinclair, Daniel. 2021 Mission: Possible— Defining and Empowering Your Ministry Among the Unreached. MOF Publishing. If you’ve never had a coach work with you in your church-planting ministry, this book would work toward solving that problem. In the sequel to his well-received Vision of the Possible: Pioneer Church Planting in Teams, Daniel Sinclair digs deeper into the subject of sharing the good news in some of the most difficult places with Mission: Possible—Defining and Empowering Your Ministry Among the Unreached. This easy to read yet full-bodied text is a mix of both theory and practice, highlighting foundational understandings from Scripture of authority people carry in church- planting along with extremely practical guidance on best practices in church-planting ministry.
“Help our people group. Help them to be safe. And help them to know you.” This is a typical breakfast prayer for 8-year-old William. He listens to the Unreached of the Day podcast or learns about the people group on the mobile app. After leading his family in prayer for them, he taps the “I am Praying” button and announces the count of people who have declared that they, too, are praying.
Gathering people group data is important, but how we use it is just as important. There is more than one way to use the data to help shape strategy or inspire mobilization. Recently, I used a data technique to help a group make a specific decision. But when I showed it to my colleagues, they pointed out that it could be used more widely. So, I share it with you now as an example of what can be done with prayer, with Joshua Project data and with a bit of Excel skill.
The theme of this edition of Mission Frontiers is a topic dear to my heart. It is at the very heart of our purpose here at Frontier Ventures, and it is dear to the heart of Jesus: “The Changing Shape of People Group Strategy.” I want to begin with a special mention. I am grateful for Len Bartlotti's clear discussion related to Rethinking People Groups. I have known Len for a long time. He has been on the ground among the unreached, and on the ground here in Pasadena. He knows whereof he speaks. I will talk first about the three hearts: mine, ours, and Jesus’. Then I will talk about the two halves of this edition’s theme: people groups and strategy.
I was leading a meeting of about 30 local national church leaders from various different ethnic groups. I asked everyone, “What’s the biggest struggle you're facing?” One leader from the Hmong tribe stood up and said their biggest problem was that salaries had been cut and the ministry of the church was suffering. He explained that the national denomination office had been sending a salary subsidy each month (received from foreign donor sources) for the leaders of his local church.
""My job is to honestly preach the Word, not to hold people accountable," said the slightly defensive Christian leader to my friend. It is a common perception among us pastors. A hands-off approach lets us off the hook. We say things like; "I will do my part, God will do His." Or "Everyone has free will. Our job is to give them the gospel (information), they choose what they want to do with it." There is truth to these statements. Where we go wrong is when we label the above as discipleship. Is the idea of “live and let live,” a biblical approach to discipleship? Is a “you do you” worldview taking precedence over living and ministering like Jesus?
What is God doing in mission mobilization around the world? I believe the global Church is on the cusp of an explosion of focused mission mobilization across denominations, organizations and individual local ministries. More mobilization-focused ministries, courses, tools and trainings have sprung up globally in the last decade than ever before in history. We are in a changing world—where a globalized Church is positioned as never before to reach a globalized world through globalized mission mobilization.
As I noted in the last issue of MF, we are each a product of a mixture of influences. The answer to the age-old question “was it nurture or environment” is: yes – both. And lots of other things come to mind when we consider what environment means for us. In this issue, I’d like to apply the idea to how we strategize for mission.
Click on the attached .pdf icon within this article to read the Unreached of the Day