It is not easy to see very far ahead at this point in world history. But what we do see is staggering.
This issue hums with excitement flowing from the AD 2000 meeting in Singapore (January 5-8) and with anticipation of the upcoming “Lausanne II” congress in Manila. Just think: this congress will feature 20 major “tracks” focusing on different themes—one on Unreached Peoples, another on AD 2000, and another on the heart-warming phenomenon of Third World Missions!
But what if not enough people take notice? What about the mainline denominations? What about the mass of charismatic fellowships that now dot our land and that often haven’t begun to think seriously about missions?
Well, let’s take a look.
Can Old Dogs Re-Learn Tricks?
In one of the older and more diversified churches there is apparently room for a wide diversity of things—including Frontier Missions!
Let’s be honest. Over the years, decades, centuries, just a whole lot of strange people have accumulated somehow in the Presbyterian Church (USA)—the 3-million member denomination, the Lutheran Church (the new mega-church called the ELCA), the Methodist Church, etc. Strange? Yes, strange to the faith. These are cultural streams by now, not just fellowships of the recently converted. I’ll bet not one in 100 of the members of these churches prays even once a week for the completion of the Great Commission.
In any case, there is now—it is a fact—a “Frontier Mission Program” in the PCUSA. They are doing their work with funds raised by the offerings associated with the Global Prayer Digest (a Presbyterian version thereof). Over $1 million has come in from that source so far.
And their “Advisory Committee” met here at the USCWM yesterday and today. Their “Global Mission Unit,” now located in Louisville, has this officially within their purview. Twelve different Unreached Peoples are being tackled with these funds, and more is planned as the word spreads.
Furthermore, the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship (the group that actually edits the Presbyterian version of the Global Prayer Digest) will have a full-time director beginning in June—Harold Kurtz, a veteran missionary from years of evangelistic and church-planting outreach in Ethiopia.
Another “older denomination” that has already gotten going in unreached people efforts is the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the only sizable body that stayed out of the recent ELCA union. They took hold of the Edinburgh 1980 watchword, “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000,” shortly after the 1980 meeting. Their Synod voted to triple their missionary force by 1990, and to enter 10 new fields where they could engage unreached people groups. Already they have entered 18 new fields!
But What About the Young Dogs?
Was the Assemblies of God overseas mission harmed by the Swaggart affair? Yes, momentarily, but this year their mission budget is up 13% and will likely approach $100 million!
Phil Hogan, who for years has headed up their work, was a driving force in the Global Consultation on World Evangelization by AD 2000 and Beyond.
Or take the Foursquare International board. Clear back in 1976 (the year the USCWM was founded, and at the same conference on Unreached Peoples where this center was first publically mentioned as an aspiration), they prayerfully chose a goal of 100 unreached peoples engaged by 1990. They are now on the 160th! And their mission program has grown all out of proportion in totally new ways.
I expect to be in Singapore by the time this goes to press. The reason I am going is simply to encourage a “mission field” church that is going all out to send missionaries (giving $250,000 per month already). The Calvary Charismatic Center, humanly speaking, is the work of a missionary kid, but all the rest of its 20 pastors are “mission field Christians.” I am asked to speak on the prospect for AD 2000. I'll tell them that in AD 40 there were 40,000 non-Christians for each committed Christian believer. In 1900 there were only 100 per believer. In January 1989 there are less than 10 non-Christians per evangelical believer (only six in Unreached Groups). The future is staggering!