A Giant Step in Christian Mission
This stirring proposal is written by Donald McGavran. More than any others, he and his disciples have added "Church Planting" to the vocabulary of evangelistic practice. Now he proposes the "Planting of Mission Fellowships" as a crucial step in congregational renewal.
Christian mission, world evangelization, must take a new and significant step if Gods will is to be done.
We rejoice in past achievements of hundreds of mission agencies, thousands of young denominations, the Church firmly established in almost every nation state, the Bible or parts of it available in more than 2,0(10 languages, new missionary societies arising in nonWestern lands, more than a billion souls who consider themselves Christian, and on and on. We praise God for all the great victories of the cross.
But we also note that world evangelization, the task the eternal God commanded (Rornans 16:25), is very far from being completed. Three (soon to be four) billion have yet to believe on Jesus Christ, Many of these have never even heard of Him. More specifically, half the world's population is virtually isolated from the Gospel in "Unreached Peoples."
In many segments of society and in some whole lands less than one in a hundred is a Christian. Often it is one in a thousand. If the Church is there, it has very little power. In many countries, 95% of all church members are tribesmen or come from oppressed and depressed classes of society. Thousands of peoples (el/vie, ethnic groups, segments of society) believe intensely that if any of "us" becomes a Christian, he leaves "us" and joins "them."
These are the Unreached Peoples. They are segments of society in which individuals who have become Christ's followers are perceived by their fellows to have left their own and traitoriously gone off to join another people. Putting it positively: a reached people is one in which members who become Christians are perceived by their fellows as still "our people" who are pointing the way to what they believe is a good path for us all to follow.
In Guatemala today, when one asks a person, "Are you an evangelical?" they frequently hears the answer, "Not yet." This is proof that many segments of society in that country are now effectively reached i.e., they believe that while linguistically or ethnically they can and should remain themselves (Indians perhaps, or Mestizos), they probably ought to become obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, Guatemala is a country in which God is bringing great church growth. The evangelical churches there are working and praying that by 1990 half the entire population will be Bible believing, Bible obeying Christians.
Some missiologists place the number of Unreached Peoples at 17(100. This is a surprisingly small number in view of the great potential of evangelical resources. But it is huge and is quite out of proportion to our present level of mobilization. (What shall we say to the fact that, on the whole. American evangelicals may spend more on pet food than on missions?)
The Center for World Mission in Pasadena, Fuller's School of World Mission, World Vision's MARC, and other organizations have done valiant work in calling on Christians to reach the Unreached Peoples. A new consciousness of the huge undone task of world mission is already in the process of being aroused. This is good. But now in 1985 unless a giant new step forward is taken, the tremendous movement toward the Unreached Peoples may turn out to be little more than words.
Thousands of ambassadors and millions of dollars must very soon be devoted to reaching the tens of thousands of unreached segments of mankind. It is not enough merely to call attention to the three billion who have yet to believe. Mission agencies, old and new, must very soon place welltrained, well equipped, lifetime task forces in the thousands of remaining Unreached Peoples.
Existing promotional schemes ate naturally tied to existing mission structures. These are sometimes philanthropic, sometimes educational, sometimes evangelistic. They are most frequently controlled by alreadyestablished churches in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or Europe. They do not intend to reach the unmached. They intend to help younger churches.
These younger churches are often small and weak, and are engaged primarily in nurturing and managing themselves. Certainly come mission resources ought to he sent to help them. This is obvious. But most mission resources ambassadors and money should now be invested in work that either directly or indirectly multiplies sound churches among the two and a hail billion lost men and women who are presently locked our of and locked away from any persona] witness within their group. It is a huge but feasible task.
The Frontier Fellowship, now with 36 organizations collaborating, has launched a campaign to raise up a million American Christians who will use the Global Prayer Digest, pray, and give loose change daily for the evangelization of one or mom Unreached Peoples. The Frontier Fellowship has followed the lead of Asian Chrstians who set aside a handful of rice at each meal specifically for missions. Their daily "loose change" giving, with this specific purpose, does not threaten any existing budget Yet one group with a goal of 10,000 participants estimates the loose change offerings from their numbers alone will amount to one million dollars per year of new money. Amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars are already coming in. One million people daily dedicating loose change will generate $100 million peryear specifically for new frontiers! This is a good first step. But I am now proposing A GIANT ADDITIONAL STEP: in every congregation in Norm America practicing Christians should organize themselves into frontier missionary societies: men's missionary societies, women's missionary societies, youth missionary societies.
A Giant Step
Let the Holy Spirit lead groups of earnest Christians to meet regularly to study one or more of the very numerous unreached pieces of the mosaic of mankind, and to give and pray to the end that within each group to be reached a beachhead of saving faith might be established. Let all monies raised by these groups be given solely to frontier mission entreprises through new or existing missionary organizations which promise to spend the money exclusively on new evangelistic efforts among unreached elhne groups that are clearly out beyond the actual reach of any congregation or denomination or mission agency in any of the six continents.
Let these new local missionary societies focus on the unfinished task of world evangelization! Let them pray for the effective evangelization of specific unreached segments of society. Let them give their sons and daughters to he lifetime missionaries to the millions dying in the great famines of the Word of God. Let them send millions of dollars to establish effective, wellorganized evangelizing forces to find and feed the lost and spiritually starving multitudes.
We must act on our belief that there are at least one million individuals who will pray for and give to frontier missions, and we must encourage them to organize themselves into local missionsty societies that are singlemindedly devoted to finding, fostering and founding new outreach to unchutrhed segments of mankind. The task is urgent and enormous. Today, in early 1985, mom than three billion are still closed off in unreached groups. They have yet to believe on Christ They are lost sheep. The Great Shepherd wants them found.There should be thousands of local missionary societies even in 1985, but as the vision spreads there should be tens of thousands of them.
Some denominations will recognize, welcome, and even organize such groups themselves. They will see that this is the best way to regain true missionary purpose. Other denominations will grudgingly acknowledge such frontier groups once they have been formed, and will say, in effect, "Yours is not a good idea but, if you insist we will see that your gifts go exclusively to evangelize the unreached." But, we fear, leaders from still other denominations may say bluntly, 'Give through our unified budget We will use the money as we see fit. We bow the situation so much better than you do. God bless you."
However they are formed, these local groups will hear of new missionary ventures to unreached segments of society, will evaluate how effective they are, and give to them through denominational, interdenominational, or faith missions which are clearly maintaining frontier missions among unmached peoples.
As local missionary societies are formed, they will want to make sure that their God given purposes we carried out. These groups should not stop supporting existing efforts, yet, at the same time, they should be allowed to add strength to those efforts designed exclusively to reach the unreached, to disciple people groups that have been heretofore undiscipled.
The members of such bands of ardent frontier minded men and women should gather around the challenge of the Unreached Peoples: daily, in their families; weekly, at church, highlighting their vision wherever possible; and monthly, in their own special meetings. At their special meetings they should participate in study, prayer, praise, and giving, all focused on some pan of the unevangelized thousands of millions.
The members of these bands must be made to recognize that theirs is a new task. They must be made acutely conscious that they are doing a task for unreached groups which to date no one else has ever done. The Holy Spirit is sending them as true pioneers, just as He sent Philip to Samaria and Paul to Rome.
Unless here in America literally thousands of new frontier missionary societies are founded in thousands of local churches in most denominations, the Unreached Peoples will not be reached¬certainly not in our generation. Let us boldly face that unpleasant fact. Unless this GIANT STEP is taken, many earnest Christians who would want to work for, pray for and give to the evangelization of the unreached will remain essentially unhopeful if not entirely hopeless and will simply continue to give modestly to existing mission efforts.But if we spread this new, realistic vision of devoting ourselves heart and soul to evangelizing the multitudinous peoples of earth, we shall see an enormous surge of Christian activity.
The time is ripe. God is now pointing His finger at the most responsive world believing Christians have ever contemplated.
God at Work
The DAWN movement is fast spreading. It believes that many regions and, in at least twenty cases, whole nations can now be discipled. That is the meaning of the acronym DAWN Discipling A Whole Nation.
Africa south of the Sahara will soon be as Christian as North America. The Holy Spirit leads us to ripe harvest fields. He also calls us to many which have yet to be sown.
The great day of Christian Mission is dawning, a day in which Christians of all six continents will spend themselves. We can at least set a good example for other concentrations of believers to follow.
Even in the lands where the Gospel has long been present, the true power of the Gospel is not wanting. After 67 years of suffering, the church in the Soviet Union is probably spiritually and perhaps even numerically stronger than ever. Certainly in China, despite 34 years of suffering, the Christian movement is unimaginably larger and stronger.
Now is the time to move forward. Let us organize at a furious pace frontier missionary societies in eve!)' congregation of every denomination in North America. Other nations will follow.
An aroused Christian conscience on the world level is all it will take for the peoples and nations that are already blessed to fulfill the Biblical mandate to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth (Gen. 12:2,3).
Dear fellow believer: Has your heart been stirred as you have read this amazing proposal by this elderly mission statesman? Would you like to know more about what others are planning to do in response to it? Would you yourself like to be counted in this new movement of mission renewal?