Mission Executives Section
The IFMA Frontier Declaration of 1982
Introduction by Ralph Winter
Here is a fascinating chain of events: A small bombshell exploded at a meeting in 1972 of mission executives and professors. A Southern Baptist missions professor proposed that eight years later (in 1980) there be a world level meeting comparable to the most famous mission meeting in all history--the 1910 World Missionary Conference (which was consciously an outgrowth of William Carey's proposal for a similar meeting in 1810--see "Lessons from William Carey for the '90s"
(In 1910 every Protestant missionary society in the world was invited to send delegates to Edinburgh for a historic "Summit" which would allow for coordinating and planning to address and complete the "Unfinished Task" by stressing the frontier fields remaining.)
In 1974, with the same professor leading the discussion, a "Call" was hammered our and Arthur Glasser, Dean of the School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary provided thousands of little red buttons people could wear on their coats, announcing the 1980 meeting. These were passed out to many hundreds of the delegates at the 1974 Lausanne meeting in Switzerland. I wrote a paper entitled, "1980 and that Certain Elite" which described in great detail all of the background and rationale for such a conference. (Send a self-addressed envelope plus 50¢ to the editor for this) This paper caught the attention of Max Warren, then secretary of the Church Mission Society in England, and he wrote heartily approving the idea of such a meeting.
When the meeting was finally held--the "World Consultation on Frontier Missions," Edinburgh 1980--not only Warren's people attended but more mission agencies gathered at one time than any world level meeting of agencies either before or after. One third of all agencies represented were from the Third World. The rallying cry was "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000." Thomas Wang, founder of the AD2000 Movement was a plenary speaker.
In 1981 the English Evangelical Mission Assoc. took up the subject. In 1982 the German Evangelical Mission Alliance took it up. In 1982 the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Assoc. of North America took it up and the following declaration resulted, along with the paper that follows titled "Facing the Final Frontiers"
Ten years later the IFMA (last Sept) voted to poll every member agency to see how many unreached peoples are within their current work or proposed strategies. Also in Sept, Luis Bush of the AD2000 Movement gave the phenomenal paper, "How Can All Peoples Be Reached By The Year 2000? "
The IFMA Frontier Declaration of 1982
We, the delegates to the 65th Annual Meeting of the IFMA, recognize the historical objective of our member missions has been that of pioneering church-planting evangelism. We declare our renewed determination to penetrate the remaining frontiers of those people who represent the final barriers to the completion of the Great Commission.
We acknowledge with deep gratitude the blessing of God on our whole worldwide ministries, and we praise Him for the growing dynamic church, at home and abroad, that is our partner in this task.
YET, WE CONFESS:
- that though we have been challenged repeatedly to mobilize people in specific prayer for specific fields, and though we agreed to the urgency of that challenge, little has been achieved;
- that in many instances we have stayed too long in established ministries when our resources should have been redirected to new frontiers;
- that we have not adequately challenged and trained others to share in evangelistic outreach;
- that we have failed to prepare sufficient missionaries for the frontier task and to challenge them to a life commitment;
- and that we have fallen short as missionary agencies in ministering to home churches in that we often have been more concerned about what we receive without adequate concern about what we can give.
WE THEREFORE DECLARE that we will be more attentive to the plaintive cry of a lost world and the compelling mandate for the Glory of God to fill the earth.
Whereas we rejoice in the momentous impact of evangelical missions in most countries of the world, yet we acknowledge that all of the world's peoples have not been reached. We reaffirm, therefore, that our chief and irreplaceable duty is to share the blessing of God with all these peoples, and that we are called anew to prayer, devotion and sacrifice so that we can join with others to complete the remaining task.
To that end we reaffirm our highest strategic priority to be the planting of churches among the remaining peoples by the penetration of those frontiers. We will do this both by sending new forces to new fields and by conveying new vision in old fields.
We further declare our belief in the primacy of evangelism, yet we humbly desire to follow our Lord by expressing deeds of love and mercy, especially among the poor and oppressed peoples of our world.
We humbly accept renewed responsibility to churches to labor with them toward their full involvement in the penetration of frontiers. We are willing that our methodologies and structures be submitted to the urgent need of new outreach. In this effort our commitment is nothing less than the accomplishment of our Savior's command to make disciples of all peoples.
The IFMA is a North American association of 72 "faith" mission agencies founded in 1917. Well over 11,000 missionaries and staff from North America and 3,000 from other countries serve with these agencies.