Remembering a Life Well-Lived: Tributes from Around the World
Ralph Winter was a man of God who gave a vision to many Christians of a world in need of the gospel. I used to meet with him on many occasions, often in small group prayer. Some of my vision for world evangelization came from my interaction with him, and I am grateful.
Associate Director, Missions Commission, WEAAs
I learned of Ralph’s passing, a lot of personal memories of my long-term friendship with him came to mind—his lovely help for me during my time in COMIBAM, his counsel during my time in GCR (the Great Commission Roundtable), and his challenging writing. But the most special time was a “heavenly appointment” in Guatemala’s Airport when he was surrounded by his grandsons coming from Xela. He was full of joy, especially when he mentioned to me that one of his disciples was now the mayor of the city. I was astonished by the sensibility of Ralph that, in the midst of the major issues he continued developing, he kept a clear focus on people instead of programs, and he made it the measure of success in his ministry.
Please receive and share my feeling to his family and my personal gratitude for a life invested in my country, COMIBAM, GCR and my personal life.
President, Youth With A Mission International
On behalf of our founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham, and the whole international family of ministries associated with Youth With A Mission, I join with followers of Jesus worldwide in honoring the life and work of Ralph Winter.
I was present when Ralph introduced his revolutionary ideas during the historic Lausanne Congress in 1974 and personally witnessed the pioneering of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena. I have also observed the profound influence of his life and teaching on the work of YWAM missionaries worldwide.
Many years ago during a time when Ralph faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties, I told him I thought he was a prophet disguised as an academic. He dismissed such an idea but my reason was simple. I could see the Holy Spirit at work. A man of humility and diligence was being graced with revelation. Ralph’s ideas were much more than the educated hunches of a brilliant mind. His ideas were refined in prayer and bore a weight beyond reason. They became the effective strategies of a generation of missionaries.
Just a few weeks ago, Ralph and Barbara visited our campus in Kona. He was as brilliant as ever and gave context to our whole journey. He validated so much of what is happening among us by giving an historic overview of our efforts and looking far into the future. He had particular praise for Jim Stier’s compilation on the discipling of nations. Ralph profoundly strengthened our commitment to a missionary university that penetrates all spheres.
Years ago, Ralph stepped onto the international stage as a pioneer and innovator, however he walked among us in Kona as a father of fathers surrounded by the evidence of a fruitful life. We love this man. He taught us, and he served us, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
As I contemplate his recent passing, I am overwhelmed with a sense that his life was a completed life. Through unrelenting diligence, he walked all the way out to the boundaries marked out for him.
Thank you Ralph. You are an inspiration. Thank you Jesus, for taking a comfortable civil engineer and building him into a blessing to the whole earth, a man who laid foundations in time and eternity.
Missions Professor, Dallas Theological Seminary
I have nothing but great memories of Ralph Winter.
In 1978, Ralph and Roberta were considering the purchase of the Pasadena property to begin what they would call the U.S. Center for World Mission. Ralph came to the annual meeting of the IFMA, now CrossGlobal Link in Dallas. After laying out the proposal for the center and why there needed to be a focal point to study and engage unreached peoples, he concluded with what I have come to term a “pedagogical hyperbole” (of which Ralph was the master!). He said: “As I think about the probability of you mission executives adopting this idea, I think it will be about as difficult as changing the tire on a Mack truck while it is rolling downhill!”
We were a bit stunned. When those of us from TEAM got home, some of them asked me: “Mike, Ralph Winter is your friend. Was he trying to say that we agency guys are a stick-in-the-mud?” I replied that he probably was, but in any event his proposal was the only thing we were discussing after we got home to Wheaton!
That was the way Ralph was. He goaded mission leaders into making the main thing the main thing. As a result, countless agencies and individuals have reoriented their work toward reaching unreached peoples, and that is principally why by God’s grace we have identified, engaged and begun to see fruit among Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist peoples in the past thirty years.
Some leaders reach their maximum potential while subordinating the talents of others. A winsome aspect of Dr. Ralph Winter’s personal greatness was his penchant for freely inspiring others to maximize their potential. Peace Child and my subsequent books might never have been written, let alone published, had not Ralph looked this young missionary in the eye back in 1973 and said confidently, “Write that story, Don! I guarantee its publication!” And that is exactly what he arranged (without requiring an agent’s fee!). How many thousands of other Christians younger and older has Ralph encouraged as his co-editors for USCWM publications and as managers, co-ordinators, teachers and graduates of USCWM’s worldwide course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement? How many new frontiers has the Church bridged with the gospel due to Dr. Winter’s persuasive focus on reaching “unreached peoples”? Only in eternity will the full range of Ralph Winter’s influence become known. To know Dr. Winter was to be awed by his intellect, charmed by his candor, enriched by his flair for analogy and swept up with zeal to see God’s kingdom come!
Pastor of Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church
Nobody in the area of missions had a greater impact on me. Others, like Jonathan Edwards, had a greater impact on me in the area of missions, but no one actually in missions affected me more than Ralph Winter.
First, he was a professor of mine at Fuller Seminary and introduced me to the stunning works of God in missions in the last two hundred years. His vision of the advance of the gospel was breathtaking.
He wore a bow tie in those days, iconoclast that he was, and was fined by the seminary for not returning our papers on time. None of us begrudged him his scattered approach to life. It was thrilling in those days.
Second, in 1974 at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Winter reached up and pulled the unseen rope called “unreached peoples” that rang a bell that reverberates to this day.
This concept, and the subsequent emphasis on unreached peoples (as opposed to unreached “fields”) has been globally seismic in the transformation of missions. It gripped me and shaped all we have done in missions at Bethlehem ever since the mid 1980s.
Third, in the 1980s he bought a $15 million college campus with virtually nothing in his hand to start the U.S. Center for World Mission; and he paid for it by persuading enough of us (thousands) to give “the last thousand.” Brilliant! I think I sent $2,000. Couldn’t resist the vision.
The point of the U.S. Center was to trumpet the vision that there are unreached peoples in the world, and then equip the church to reach them.
Fourth, Ralph Winter was probably the most creative thinker I have ever known. I mean, on any topic that you brought up, he would come at it in a way you have never dreamed of. He saw all things in relationship to other things that you would never think of relating them to.
This meant that stalemates often became fresh starting points. If you were struggling with a tension in your church, he might say: “Well, think about the Navy.” Or if you were having a marriage problem, he might say, “Did you notice how that bridge was built?”
Fifth, Ralph Winter befriended me. He encouraged me. In my most restless early days, he would tell me to stay at Bethlehem because I could do more by sending than by going.
Finally, he did not waste his life, not even the last hours of it. He was busy dictating into the last days. He taught me long ago that the concept of “retirement” was not in the Bible.
What a gift he was to the church. To the world. Thank you, Father, for the legacy of this visionary, risk-taking, creative, encouraging lover of unreached peoples who lived unstoppably for the glory of God.
Founder, Prison Fellowship
The Church on earth recently lost a great visionary. If you’ve ever heard the terms “unreached people group,” “frontier missions,” or “10/40 window,” it’s because of Ralph Winter’s catalytic effect on the Church to fully embrace the Great Commission.
Winter burst onto the international stage in 1974 at the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization. There among Christian leaders like Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and John Stott, Winter blew the lid off some of the most pernicious misconceptions of the day. Because the gospel had gone to every continent and nearly every country, many people had begun to assume that the work of missions was over. They thought that the only thing now was for local Christians to engage in evangelism.
In a paper circulated prior to the gathering, Winter wrote, “The awesome problem is...that most non-Christians in the world today are not culturally near neighbors of any Christians, and that it will take a special kind of ‘cross-cultural’ evangelism to reach them.”
Winter knew that if every Christian in the world shared the gospel with his neighbors, only half the world would hear it.
To illustrate his point, Winter explained the case of the Batak church in Indonesia, where the gospel had taken root and people were actively evangelizing. But because of Indonesia’s mosaic of languages and people groups, for the Batak to reach others—even in their own country—they would have to engage in cross-cultural missions.
With America becoming more and more multicultural, and with our secular neighbors not even speaking our language, we would do well to see our evangelism at home as Winter taught us to see it around the world.
Ralph Winter’s strategic emphasis on reaching not simply every nation with the gospel, but every people group, dramatically altered the strategies and budget allocations of missionary organizations around the world. In fact, Billy Graham wrote, “Ralph Winter has...accelerated world evangelization.”
A few years later, Winter founded the U.S. Center for World Mission and soon after the William Carey International University. He had no financial backing at the time, and only $100 to begin with. Audacious? Yes. But as Winter wrote, “We were willing to fail because the goal we sensed was so urgent and strategic.”
But the center did not fail. Since then the center has not only trained thousands of missionaries and support personnel, but also has worked tirelessly to bring the vision of reaching hidden peoples to the wider Church. In 2005, Time magazine included Winter as one of the top 25 most influential evangelicals. Last year, the North American Mission Conference gave him the lifetime service award. But no doubt Winter will take greater pleasure in meeting the men and women from every tribe, tongue and nation who praise the name of Jesus in glory—all because of his passion to spread Christ’s message.
Director, Mission Korea
All mission leaders and Perspectives graduates in Korea, including those of us with Mission Korea, are deeply sorrowful over Dr. Winter’s passing away. While his influence on world missions was extraordinary to everyone in the world, his impact on Korean missionaries and Mission Korea was truly remarkable. Dr. Winter was one of the first persons to introduce the concept of missions mobilization to the Korean Church as he spoke about Unreached People and missions mobilization at the Mission Korea conference in 1992. And his perspectives played a crucial role in the rapid growth and development of the Mission Korea movement for the past two decades. When I met Dr. Winter in 1998, he suggested to me that an umbrella organization like Mission Korea should introduce the Perspectives program to Korea. As a result, nearly two hundred Perspectives classes have been held in Korea for the past eight years and about ten thousand Christians have effectively been trained and challenged for missions. Dr. Winter had fully understood the importance of mobilizing young adults. He had always been proud of the Mission Korea conferences as a collaborative missions mobilization effort for Korean young adults and he encouraged me whenever we met.
For decades, Dr. Winter’s wisdom on non-Western missions provided much encouragement and challenge for the newly emerging missionary-sending nations like Korea. Nobody could deny the fact that Dr. Winter had a special love for the future and development of non-Western missions, although he himself was a Western missions leader. He persevered and endured to finish the unfinished task through his creative thinking and many practical recommendations. He was an excellent example for any missionary. I personally experienced my thinking and perspective changing each time I met Dr. Winter. He visited Korea two years ago and he spoke to a group of Perspectives graduates. When someone asked how he could remain so successful in his ministry, Dr. Winter replied, “Everything depends on how consistently USCWM partners and I are connected to God on a daily basis.” Now, Dr. Winter is at home with the Lord at all times. May the Lord bless his soul!
Mission Historian, Author, Former Dean, School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary
I first met Ralph when we were students at Princeton Seminary in the early 1950s. Our paths crossed again in the mid 1970s when he was at Fuller and I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, CA. When I became Dean of the School of World Mission at Fuller in 1980, I was also appointed Professor of History of Mission and Latin American Studies. So I inherited the course on the History of the Christian Movement that he had taught. Ralph had not been trained as an historian. He was an engineer, anthropologist and linguist. That was probably an advantage because he examined the history of mission through a different prism. His insights were fresh and different from any other mission historian I had known. He spoke of the “Christian Movement” and sought to discover the dynamics that were important in producing that movement. One of his most important insights pointed to the crucial role of mission structures, committed communities of what he called “second decision” people. Using anthropological terminology, he called those structures “sodalities,” in contrast to “modalities.” (I have preferred the simpler terms, “mission structures” and “congregational structures.”) But the importance of his insight can scarcely be overestimated. Cross-cultural mission has rarely been carried out effectively without such “sodalities” or mission structures that mobilized, trained, sent, and nurtured men and women in mission. And he brought that insight just as the older “mainline” denominations, including the Presbyterian Church under which he and Roberta had served, were disbanding their mission structures and focusing primarily on interchurch relations and other programs. That erosion of focused mission structures, along with the loss of conviction about the absolute need of men and women everywhere to hear the gospel, led to a disastrous decline in personnel and financial resources devoted to world mission by those denominations.
Secondly, Winter’s term, “second decision people,” pointed to the need for multitudes in the Church to experience a double conversion, similar to that of Paul of Tarsus. In his encounter with the risen Christ, Saul the Pharisee not only recognized Jesus as Lord and Messiah, but heard His call to take the gospel to the Gentiles. There were many logical results of that insight. One of the most important was the creation of the course, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. That course has been used to bring about that “second decision” in the lives of thousands of men and women in the United States and now in two dozen other countries.
U.S. Director, FrontiersIn October 2007
I sat with many others who had gathered to hear whatever Dr. Winter would talk about. We would have heard him speak on any issue, but when he had been introduced Dr. Winter said, “If you have a burning question, I’d like to hear it; I may not be able to help, but I like to work on burning questions.” The reason I wrote his words down and am looking at my note today is because I think this was the essential Dr. Winter. So often, such as in Guatemala when Dr. Winter proposed what became known as Theological Education by Extension, he was a social engineer offering solutions to problems that everyone around him was facing.
As there were no burning questions that day, Dr. Winter proceeded to wow us with his prepared remarks. But the tribute Dr. Winter would like is not that we would be wowed, but that we would follow him, follow him in being students of the Bible as though we could change the world. Some people see things as they are and ask, “Why?”; Dr. Winter dreamed things that never were and said, “Why not?”
President, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA
Dr. Ralph Winter was a man whose convictions and passions reflected the heart of God as expressed in Luke chapter 15 for the least, the last and the lost. His words and life challenged the rest of us to open our hearts to love and our lives to serve the often ignored unreached and unengaged people groups of the earth. Because he shared our commitment and pioneering spirit, it was natural for Wycliffe USA’s Board of Directors to extend honorary membership in Wycliffe to Ralph more than a decade ago—he was, after all, an extraordinary champion for Bible translation and an enthusiastic missionary for those who are marginalized and still waiting for Scripture. We will miss his insight and vision.
Who can measure the influence of Ralph Winter on the 8,000 disciple-makers in residence among Muslims in some 50 Muslim majority countries plus India, China and Russia?
Before I met Ralph at Penn State University in 1980 (where we shared the joint missions weekend of CCC, IVCF, and Navigators), I hadn’t heard a fresh thought in missions for years! It was his vision and encouragement that sowed the vision of birthing Frontiers.
He invited me to the USCWM, where I devoured every fertile thought-provoking idea coming out of the Zwemer Institute, WCIU and the Center. Very quickly, we saw what seemed to be impossible becoming open doors.
Former Director, Inter-denominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA)
I have been a friend and admirer of Ralph for some 45 years. Our first encounter, that I can remember, was a 1964 IFMA meeting of pastors and church mission chairs held at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. (I don’t recall there being mission pastors at that time.) Charlie Mellis, president of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, was the leader of the IFMA Southern California Group. He and his committee had arranged the meeting. Since I was the newly elected Executive Director of IFMA, Charlie asked me to come to the meeting and serve as emcee. As I remember, there were well over 100 attending this successful interaction between pastors, their mission committee leaders and mission agency leaders. Among the interested participants were Drs. Ralph Winter and Peter Wagner.
During the following months, Ralph and Peter set up a meeting to be held the next year (1965) for church leaders giving between $100,000 and $200,000 to missions in their annual church budget. Wade Coggins of EFMA and I attended this meeting held in a hotel just outside of LAX Airport. At this meeting ACMC (Association of Church Mission Committees) was born. Wade and I were named as advisors to the new board of directors.
Another brainchild of Ralph’s was a series of summer programs, again coordinated by Charlie Mellis. These sessions were held at Wheaton College for several years. Again Wade and I served on this committee. This program developed into the mightily blessed Perspectives course.
Toward the end of one of these sessions in Wheaton, Grace and I invited the leaders to our house for fellowship and refreshments. The group included, as I remember, Ralph, Peter and Doris Wagner, Charlie and Claire Mellis and several others. As we interacted around the table, Ralph pulled an envelope from his coat pocket and started to diagram the vision he had for what became the U.S. Center for World Mission.
Jack W. Hayford
President, International Foursquare Churches, Founding Pastor, The Church On The Way
Personally, I am touched deeply by Ralph’s homegoing. I have never known a more diligent servant of the gospel; one so marvelously wrapped in the gift-packaging of a profound scholar, missionary, pioneer thinker and friend. The imprint his footsteps have left in the sands of Church history will not wash away with time, for the impact of his life has literally become an engraving in the minds and souls of a host of pastors and Christian leaders just as truly as they have my own.
In behalf of Anna and myself, as well as my fellow-laborers across the global body of the Foursquare Church, we rise to say, Thank you, Lord for Your servant and our brother, Ralph Winter.
Author, Operation World
How can one portray in a few sentences all that this remarkable man has meant for world evangelisation? We praise God for his many unique contributions.
It is hard to over-estimate the impact of his plenary presentation at the Lausanne Consultation in 1974. Unreached peoples became mainstream in missiological thinking and mission practice after decades of being a fringe concern of a few. If this were all he achieved in his ministry, this alone would have accorded him a place of honor in God’s Kingdom!
I think of all the challenges and obstacles he went through in ministry and in the launching of the USCWM. Nothing deterred him. It would be a long list if a heavenly survey were done of all individuals and agencies deeply impacted because of his faith and tenacity in pushing the message of missions. I think of TEE, Mission Frontiers, the unique Perspectives course.
He saw the possibility of great turnings to God among followers of the major non-Christian religions long before many others had realized that this was a possibility! Today contextualization, Messianic believers, Jesus mosques, and Hindu followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are concepts being pursued, and millions of new believers have emerged from these cultures with a non-traditional Christian expression.
I remember some 12 years ago, Robyn and I travelled by car from Pasadena to San Diego with Ralph. We were talking as we travelled. Ralph came out with a range of statements about Islam and portraying it as a Christian sect. We expostulated that going public with such views would cause upheaval in the Christian world. His comment, “I can now say what I like, I am now over 70!” I think this independent thinking preceded his passing that age frontier! He bowed to no man, but sought to honor his Lord! So much of his ministry left us a legacy of gems and nuggets—even if a few of those nuggets were flammable coals!
I want to close with this beautiful characteristic which so impacted me. In the 1970s I was a missionary evangelist in Africa, and part-time world researcher. We had just printed our first full Operation World to help African Christians pray for the world, but found too late we could not sell it in South Africa because it had not been printed by a press with union workers. Ralph obtained a copy and asked to publish it through the William Carey Library—the first marketable edition of Operation World (under the title World Handbook for the World Christian). Several years later we were based in the UK at our WEC International headquarters, and we were struggling to print successive editions of Operation World. Ralph was concerned for us and our lack of resources. He wonderfully gifted me with one of those first laptops (a Tandy, I think!), which showed 8 lines of text on a small LCD screen. This I used all over the world in my travels, and was a vital part of my ministry. Thank you Ralph for your concern, care and generosity to a young missionary not yet known on the world missiological stage.
Former Director, Evangelical Foreign Missions Association
In the fall of 1966 I was first captivated by what I was to later recognize as the genius of Ralph Winter. It was his first teaching assignment at Fuller. I was a young missionary completing my first term in Brazil. Dr. Winter was in the midst of a career change. From many years of creative missionary service in the mountains of Guatemala, he was transitioning to become a professor and world-renowned Church and mission historian. Our classes were a “Winterian” stream of consciousness on The Training of Leadership, but embedded in each class was a totally brilliant new idea or concept that defied my previously fixed categories.
Over the 35–40 years of our association, I found that his original and fertile mind would regularly challenge the thinking of those of us in mission leadership. There were, however, attributes that made Ralph Winter’s thinking even more powerful than its creativity. That was his firm commitment to the trustworthiness of Scripture and his unwavering passion for reaching those with no access to the Good News.
When with very primitive, unpretentious diagrams in hand at the first Lausanne Congress, Dr. Winter challenged those of us present to reach the hidden, unreached peoples of the planet, the paradigm of modern mission changed forever. Winter had given voice to what would become the driving force in missions for the next 30 years.
In the audacious move of founding the U.S. Center and the Frontier Mission Fellowship, Ralph Winter made sure that unreached peoples remained on all our agendas. His creativity and U.S. Center platform made sure we continued to be challenged as to our focus and methodologies. The Perspectives course, of which he was the principal architect, has built a foundation of common understanding of our task among mission people of all evangelical persuasions.
As a champion of majority-world cross-cultural missions, Dr. Winter used his writing and influence to make sure that unreached peoples occupied a priority place on the agenda of emerging missions. He also made sure that the leaders of these new movements became known and respected in the West.
An indication of Dr. Winter’s influence was the degree to which missions leaders across the world were obligated to respond to his views on the task and our methodologies. At times one might argue about the novelty or applicability of Winter’s approach, but never with the fervency of his Christian faith or his commitment to extending the Reign of Christ among all peoples.
Day Star Ministries
I had the longest phone call of my life when Dr. Winter called me shortly after the publication of my book, Show Me God, when we spoke all afternoon about strategies for reaching unbelieving skeptics. The things I was just discovering were things he had been dealing with for many years, not only about what it takes to get science readers to listen to Christ’s voice, but about the many specific challenges in science/faith dialogue. Dr. Winter encouraged me to spend my time where it would count most for the Kingdom, in original research and writing. I’ve often reflected how encouraged and renewed I felt in my own calling to do the work of an evangelist from that phone call and others with him since. Praise the Lord for Ralph Winter’s life of selfless obedience to his own calling! What a discipler and vision caster!
General Secretary, India Missions Association
I led a team of 10 people, from several countries, in a discipleship group to study Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Our study group read a chapter a week and met to discuss our discovery on that chapter. We shared many great perspectives, which we richly learned, and we missed almost nothing. Then we prayed for missions across the world. All our books were marked with highlighters of the things that affected us. I believe that eventually our Perspectives books were perhaps the most highlighted books in the world. We were affected much by the thoughts in the articles, especially Dr. Winter’s. I ended up quoting them in many of my writings. Almost all the people in that study group ended up as missionaries or great mission mobilizers and great friends across the world.
Subsequently, the article on Sodality and Modality, the connection and balance between mission organizations and the churches made much sense. The thoughts on the insider movements and Hindu Christians made much sense. I was nourished on many of his revolutionary thoughts and grew to appreciate his writings as an admirer, even before I met him personally.
I found Winter was creating more thinkers by his books, articles, the William Carey International University, the U.S. Center for World Mission, and by his influencing, enthusiastic talks, both in the lectures and also in individual conversation. After speaking to him, I found my thoughts provoked and it always took time to digest.
Hosting cutting-edge missionaries and mission organizations in the USCWM campus allowed multiple thinkers and practitioners to meet and sharpen each other. I found that people can never be indifferent to many great mission thoughts after being in the USCWM or reading Winter’s thoughts in all his writings or speaking engagements. This was a real inspiration for me.
Meeting and dialoguing with him on several occasions as an evangelist, a mission leader, and as the leader of the Indian Missions Association brought many subjects to be discussed. He genuinely admired and encouraged the emerging missions in the Global South. He always openly said, “What the Western Protestant missions have done in 300 years, the Indian missions (and other non-Western missionary sending nations) have done in 30 years.” Whenever he said that I squirmed, as I was aware of the many difficult issues we were grappling with. Of course, he was also aware of them too as similar issues were dealt by the Western missions in their eras.
He was one of the first individual donors to give a sizable gift to the Vision City of India Missions Association, which is designed with a similar purpose of the USCWM to stimulate missions thinkers for Asia and eventually for the globe. He understood the direction of the Vision City, and whenever we met, there was warmth of appreciation for each other.
He also encouraged his other disciples to interact with each other and learn. He continuously listened and learned and created a culture of learning. I, personally, will miss a great friend and a thought provoker. Though I will not be able to attend all the great gatherings, I will listen and read his thoughts being quoted by many of his beneficiaries, as the greatest spokesman for mission in this century.
Our deep condolences to all his family members and co-workers in the USCWM. May his vision continue to grow in many ways. Amen.
Jesus Film Project,
Campus Crusade for Christ
Just wanted you to know that we will be praying for you and the whole family during this time. Ralph was a tremendous encouragement to me from the time I came on the Lausanne Committee at 30 years old. When I asked him for endorsements for the JESUS Film and many of the other projects I was involved in, he was always very gracious. I continue to feel the impact of his life. My own personal commitment, if the Lord permits, is to see every people group in the world engaged with evangelism and church planting in the next 10 years.
Oxford Center for Mission Studies
On behalf of the OCMS family and particularly for the Korean mission community, I would like to convey the following thought: When western missionaries worked hard to plant and strengthen national churches, they often forgot that these new churches were to become missionary churches. Only a few believed otherwise, and Dr. Winter was one of them. What the Korean church is today in Christian mission owes greatly to his firm belief in the new churches in mission, and more importantly his action to advocate, educate and prepare them as early as in the 1960s in Korea. Dr. Winter, you have seen only a tiny beginning. I am proud to be part of this great new missionary movement, and I want to thank God for your prophetic life.
Founder, Nomadic Peoples Network
I had heard about him and read some of his always-original articles, but it was only when I first saw him at the Edinburgh ‘80 Conference that I appreciated what a unique genius was this man. I understood this gathering was at his initiative as a platform to present his latest assessment of the unreached peoples of the world. These happened to be the focus of my young life from the rather different perspective of a pioneer field practitioner called to Africa to find the ethnic groups who would be the last and least likely to hear the gospel. At that time we called them unevangelized tribes. After 17 years of cross-cultural exploration I had come to the conclusion that, certainly in Africa, these included all the nomadic and most of the semi-nomadic peoples. I was wondering whether this situation was found on other continents and what I could do next with this conclusion.
Dr. Winter entered my world at just the right time to encourage me along the road that led me to found the Nomadic Peoples Network with global coverage. He stood on the old-fashioned stage behind a small table, on the edge of which stood a stack of tractor feed computer paper. He began to talk in his gentle, undemonstrative style about the huge number of what he called “Hidden Peoples” in the world who were not being targeted or engaged by any Christian witness. I found his delivery all the more striking to me because it was so quiet and even contemplative. At the same time I could not help thinking about the many missionary efforts I knew of where there was a witness being made but it was so inappropriate to the host culture as to be ineffective, if not a negative communication of Christianity.
My discouraging thoughts were suddenly interrupted when Dr. Winter tipped the top pages of the stack of computer paper off the table and we all watched mesmerized as the concertina of pages slowly moved from the top of the table to the floor whilst he quietly explained that these pages contained the names of all the known unreached peoples on earth at that time. In those days when there were no PowerPoint presentations this was probably the most unforgettable means of conveying the scale of the task that confronted the global missionary enterprise.
It was some years later that my wife and I were very surprised to be asked by the SIM, our main mission agency, to go to the U.S. Center for World Mission “on loan” for a period of two years. Dr. Winter had apparently been to visit the SIM, amongst other mission U.S. headquarters, in his quest to find some proven mobilizers to add some field experience to his mobilization division. SIM decided that we were amongst their most effective recruiters and “rabble rousers”; we were available due to the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia, so we were assigned. I was invited by Dr. Winter to accompany him on many of his teaching seminars to illustrate his missiological principles from my field experience. That was a high privilege which allowed me to get to know Dr. Winter on a different level of personal friendship.
Some ten years later we came to another turning point in our lives at which Dr. Winter became the guiding light. I had been wondering on how to expand my vision for ministry to the unreached nomadic peoples after we reached retirement age and were released by SIM with their blessing to “go global.” Dr. Winter got in touch with the SIM leadership again with the proposal that we should establish the Institute for Nomadic Studies at the USCWM, and together an agreement was reached that has proved to be a great blessing to my wife and me and the wider Nomadic Peoples Network, which we established in England twenty years ago.
Dr. Winter may never have met a real nomad, but he showed that he certainly understood their worldview. In one of the lead articles he wrote in Mission Frontiers entitled “Nomads to the Rescue” (March/April 2002), he declared that they have much to teach our Western churches. We thank the Lord for the life and work and every personal memory of this “gentle genius of the Kingdom.”
Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Focus on the Family
Dr. Ralph Winter is being remembered as a pioneer of the modern world missions movement, and indeed, he was. I remember being moved and inspired by the courage he demonstrated when he purchased the old Pasadena Nazarene College campus back in the 1970s. We all knew at the time that Dr. Winter was faithfully following the Lord’s leading, but we were also aware of the serious financial obstacles that seemed to stand in the way of his dream.
But with every financial challenge that arose, the Lord made a way around them. God’s people caught the vision and responded generously, and the U.S. Center for World Mission and William Carey International University were born. The establishment of these institutions represented a tremendous answer to the prayers of many people, as well as a significant advancement to the cause of world missions. I did what I could, but it was Dr. Winter who led the charge in those days. Everyone who cares about the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ—and who is passionate about the salvation of lost souls from every tribe and tongue and nation—owes Dr. Winter a debt of gratitude. He was one of a kind, and he is sorely missed. But his legacy lives on.
Vonette Z. Bright
Co-Founder, Campus Crusade for Christ, International
Ralph Winter and Bill Bright were classmates at Fuller Seminary. Ralph was a full-time student and Bill attended as his business would allow. The two remained friends and consulted each other on occasion. Bill’s questions for Ralph consisted of more theological matters and Ralph’s questions related more to business management and personnel concerns. There were few men in whom Bill had more confidence. We enjoyed Ralph and Roberta’s company on many occasions. After Roberta passed away, Barbara and Ralph visited in our home and were among the last couples we entertained before Bill became bedridden.
I often used a quote Ralph made at a gathering of classmates at the home of Dan and Ruth Fuller. It was certainly a statement of which my husband and I agreed. Ralph was concerned that so many of their classmates and colleagues were beginning to retire at the ages of 55-65. He elaborated that if a person begins his ministry at the age of 30 (ages of Ralph and Bill) and lives to the age of 90 he is only half through at the age of 60. Ralph pointed out some of the most significant work accomplished in ministry and in the secular world is accomplished by persons in their seventies and beyond. Dr. Donald McGavran, at the age of 80 with the Church Growth Movement, is an example.
Ralph and Roberta invested their lives in missions and the education of young people. They have been stalwarts in maintaining conservative points of view of theology. Their brilliance and zeal will be missed. Their example and influence, however, will live on in countless numbers in whose lives they have invested. Ralph set a standard of achievement for which young theologians will desire to achieve in the future. It will be exciting to see how God leads others who will stand on the shoulders of this great man.
Global Ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance
This week the full team of the Mission Commission, WEA, were meeting in my home for our biannual week of prayer, evaluation, planning and projection. In the very middle came the word of Ralph’s “permanent address change.” We simply register our profound gratitude for his contribution to the global church of Christ, especially in that cutting-edge venture of mission from everywhere to everywhere.
He and I both served in Guatemala, though we did not overlap in those years, as it was later that we met. But I was at Lausanne '74, and, along with the thousands of others present, was challenged to the very core to see the entire world with new mission lenses. Since then his contribution is without parallel in so many ways.
David J. Cho
Founder, Asian Missions Association
It was 1971 at the Green Lake Conference; I met Dr. Ralph D. Winter to invite him to Seoul for All-Asian Mission Leaders Consultation, 1973. Since then, I was associated with him and constantly kept up until he was called to his heavenly home. He was my mentor and consultant for network development of missionary leadership in the non-Western world. He was always with me to form AMA (Asia Missions Association), TWMA (Third World Missions Association), and the establishment of the East-West Center for Missions Research & Development. He even played an important role to build a bridge between the United States and North Korea for my Peace Mission to North Korea. In 2006, he was with me at the Ephesus Conference of AMA and in 2008 at Bangkok Forum of the Asian Society of Missiology with his wife. His prophetic voice was always amazing, so creative, and unforgettable. He was really my giant hero.
International Director, Pioneers
On behalf of the international leadership of Pioneers, I want you to know that we share in the sorrow of the passing of our brother, Dr. Ralph Winter. At the same time, we give thanks for his incredible life of dedicated service in the Name of Christ and on behalf of the gospel which has inspired a generation and movement of the Global Church to focus on unreached peoples—to send and be sent. Among those so influenced were my parents Ted & Peggy Fletcher, the founders of Pioneers, who were living in Southern California near the newly established U.S. Center for World Mission, immediately prior to starting Pioneers. Both Ralph and Roberta Winter were a source of steady encouragement to them, to “reach the unreached” and to stay focused on those places and people of greatest spiritual need and least opportunity to hear and be saved.
We will be praying for the Winter family, as well as the fellowship of the U.S. Center for World Mission, as you grieve this immense loss and continue wholeheartedly in the challenge of your on-going work as single-minded advocates for the unreached.
International Director, Kairos Course
Dr. Winter was introduced to me through the Perspectives course in 1992. My life has not been the same since! To say that Dr. Winter was a modern-day prophet would not be an exaggeration—his ministry has realigned the Church to her central calling (world missions) and his strategic thinking has placed the Church once again at the cutting edge of achieving closure to Christ’s “all nations” commission.
Since that “introduction” in 1992, my wife and I, together with our Filipino team, have dedicated our lives to seeing the Church capture a vision for world mission. Through the generous endorsement of the U.S. Center we have seen our Kairos Course travel to more than 30 countries around the world and translated into 14 languages!
May Dr. Winter’s legacy live on through the multitudes of mobilized believers, for the years remaining prior to the Lord’s return where He will claim the “reward of His suffering”—multitudes from every tribe, language and nation!
Our love and prayers to Dr. Winter’s family and all at the U.S. Center for World Mission!
Founder, Mission to Unreached Peoples
I first met Dr. Winter in 1980 in Scotland where he introduced the concept of Hidden Peoples based on Matt. 24:14. I went back home to my newly-created mission agency and re-named it Mission to Unreached Peoples in light of God’s perspective on the “nations” of the world. Since that time, our focus has been to take the gospel to every nation through every means possible.
The Perspectives course that came out of the USCWM has also had a profound impact on my life. I have used it in several of its versions to impact the countries in which I’ve lived and the churches I have attended.
Dr. Winter was a humble man of God who changed the focus of missions in our generation. We started with 16,750 unreached people groups and we’ve checked off many of those peoples in the past 30 years. May God give us the grace to finish the job so we can all go be with Jesus just like our dear brother is doing right now!
Associate General Director, Frontier Mission Fellowship
Dr. Winter left a legacy of remembrances... beyond the bow ties, balding hair, “glued shoes,” stacks of paper, articles, filing cabinets and books. I’m grateful for the remembrance of one who sought to make decisions that would benefit a greater cause, a cause beyond one’s own personal welfare or organizational benefit; for the remembrance of one willing to risk failure for sake of that greater cause; for the remembrance of one who took personal or organizational problems and sought solutions on a macro level for many others.
I’m grateful for the example of one who modeled life-long, intergenerational community learning; from morning devotions to the development of a university that would explore the glory of God in our world—not only in the book of Scripture, but the book of Creation. I’m grateful for one who sought to disciple through work assignments, “birthing” new teams and organizations, involving those who could “stay beside him” in finding new solutions to significant unmet challenges and problems. I’m grateful for the open office, the personal touch, the humility of mind—accessible to the ordinary, the young, the one of little reputation as well as the “great.”
I’m grateful for the family ties, the humility in prayer, the pie charts portraying unreached peoples, the example of serving in spite of one’s ability or gifting when necessary, the faithfulness in financial accounting, the wartime lifestyle, the inexhaustible new perspective that constantly envisioned and motivated us into attempting greater things for God, and expecting great things from God. Lord, help us, help me remember for the sake of your Son’s Name in all the earth.
U.S. Director, SIM
Ralph Winter’s impact on the World Christian Movement has probably been greater than any other person in our generation, with the possible exception of Billy Graham. He shaped and popularized some of our most basic missiological ideas. For me personally, my life was changed when I heard him speak at Lausanne 1974. His presentation of unreached peoples and E-1, E-2, E-3 evangelism challenged me to think about the direction of my life and to elevate reaching the unreached to the top of what I wanted my life to be all about. I’m sure Dr. Winter’s impact on my life has been repeated thousands of times over. The World Christian Movement will miss Dr. Winter’s creativity and ability to popularize and communicate core biblical and missiological truth. We praise God for allowing us to have experienced the life and thinking of Ralph Winter.
Allen J. Swanson
A giant in Missions has departed to be at last with his Lord. In all the schools I attended since high school (7) no professor left a greater impact on my life and mission work. I was in the first class Dr. Winter taught at Fuller in the fall of 1967. We were only 17 students back then, and he was fresh from the field. I had just concluded five painful years of work in Taiwan and was determined to find answers—or remain home. Dr. Winter was the one I was looking for. Never a class went by without him spinning new ideas from his keen mind. He would arrive in class to teach a course on mission history carrying a huge load of books he had researched the night before to find “Epochs of Mission History,” and he kept coming up with new ones. For his first time at teaching this subject his creative insights were brilliant. One day he came into class waving a thesis manuscript in hand (mine) and announced what a tragedy it is to leave such writings to collect dust in library archives, and thus was born “mini-publishing” and the William Carey Library movement. He was a light among lights, a leader among leaders. He will be sadly missed by all. I will forever cherish my year with him.
International Consultant, The Navigators
I would like to express my sadness at the loss of Ralph Winter. This leaves a huge gap in the fabric of evangelical missions. He was a leader of immense stature. Earth is far poorer and heaven is richer.
The Navigators’ connection with Dr. Winter goes back a long way. He participated in Lorne Sanny’s Bible Study at Fuller Seminary and spoke with affection of the powerful influence that Dawson Trotman had on his life in the 1950s. More recently, Jim Downing used to visit the USCWM Campus to interact with Dr. Winter at his request.
I first heard Dr. Winter at Lausanne '74. I was at once convinced by his remarkable analysis of The Highest Priority. Later that year, he gave four challenging lectures at Glen Eyrie, the notes of which I’ve just reviewed again! Ever since, I’ve read anything by him that comes to my notice and admired how fertile his mind was until the end. What a convincing advocate for worldwide missions!
On several later occasions, he invested time and energy to participate in gatherings of our Navigator leaders. He was unfailingly gracious, patient and incisive. We learned much. We were challenged to work all the harder at advancing the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom.
My last exchange of letters with him was last year, concerning a small point in the new Perspectives course. As usual, he was open and warm. I’ll miss him greatly.
Yong J. Cho
International Director, Global Network of Mission Structures
When I came to prepare for the AMA Convention in Pasadena in 1986, I met a man with a giant heart. Although I knew about Dr. Winter before, I came to know a true man who lived with his words in a wartime lifestyle. He wholeheartedly understood the position of non-Western mission leaders and supported them by any means. When I was asking permission to make a Philippine edition of the Global Prayer Digest, he was so happy about it and gave a full right to use it without asking any copyright. Recently, when I was considering accepting the role of International Director of Global Network of Mission Structures, Dr. Winter persuaded me to take the position because it would be historically significant. When we visited Japan together to promote the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation and Celebration, he clearly presented the significance of the conference to the Japanese Christian leaders and they agreed.
Dr. Winter’s thoughts were always challenging, his ideas were brilliant, but more than that his heart was always with the non-Western Christians for the cause of global mission. He will be really happy to see Tokyo 2010 going well.
In 1978, while pursuing study at Fuller, I first met this unpretentious genius of the discipline and practice of missiology. I was awed by this rather frail-looking man who seemed to come up with an innovative and often startling new postulate each class period. The status quo was abhorrent to this visionary. He was called to drive the missions movement into new frontiers.
Ralph was a restless person. His mind never seemed satisfied. Often he would lose us with his statistical overload. But slowly we of more ordinary intelligence would catch up to Ralph and have an eureka moment. Then off we would go back to our mission outpost to seek to implement some of our guru’s insights.
So much from one man! His accomplishments are legion and legendary. The mission enterprise bows, not in worship of a hero, but in love and gratitude that a man such as Ralph Winter has walked among us.
Director, TIMO, AIM International
I received your note of Dr. Winter’s promotion through my connection with CrossGlobal Link. I just wanted to mention that we, as the TIMO (Training In Ministry Outreach) program of the Africa Inland Mission, are deeply indebted to Dr. Winter. It was at a “World Consultation on Frontier Missions” in Edinburgh in 1980, Dr. Dick Anderson, then the International Director of AIM, met with Dr. Winter and basically asked him, if he were starting a strategic outreach to the unreached, how would he do it. Dr. Anderson took his ideas and TIMO has come out of that. Today, TIMO is being used of God within AIM as its main means of getting in amongst the unreached across the African continent, while effectively training new workers (both African and international) to effectively impact their host communities with the gospel message. Beyond AIM, TIMO is partnering with other mission organizations as well as indigenous African churches and missions to run teams. As well as being blessed by his writings, we exist, partially because of his input. We are grateful to God for his life!
Former General Director, Send International
A giant of the missions movement has been promoted to glory. No one, over the last 50 years, has done more to bring the focus of the mission world on the unfinished task than Dr. Winter. His contributions are too numerous to list. I counted Ralph as a friend, mentor, educator, brilliant missionary statesman and at times antagonist (I really think he enjoyed a bit of controversy). My mind, heart and ministry were enriched by his writings, and our limited but significant personal interactions. We shall all miss him!
Int’l Christian Technologists’AssociationDr. Winter was a great gift to the Body of Christ, and always full of surprising insights. I can never forget when we first heard reports of the messianic mosque movement. In a hallway discussion afterward, he paused, tipped his head, and said “Y’know, throughout history every major move to Christ began as a heresy!” Dr. Winter is the only person I’ve known with the background to develop such an insight, let alone know it off the top of his head. A man inspired by God for His Kingdom. A man we’ll all surely enjoy spending more time with, once we go home as well.
Founder, Keren Ha Schlichut
In the late 1970s, Dr. Winter had a profound impact on my father, inspiring him to go back to school to train for world mission. In 1983, our whole family emmigrated to Israel with a vision of the restoration of mission work from Israel to the nations. In 1997, Dad died in a plane crash in D. R. Congo, together with 20 African pastors. In 1999, we founded Keren HaSchlichut, the first Israeli world mission agency.
I finally met Dr. Winter myself only in January 2004. Yet, he quickly became a significant mentor to me. We met during each of my visits to the U.S. Center, usually including a meal. Throughout the rest of the year, we would brainstorm over the phone and exchange each other’s writings for feedback. Dr. Winter was an incredibly creative and prolific thinker, and he influenced me far more than he probably realized. In our discussions, there were so many eureka moments when multiple incomplete thoughts and ideas would click into place and become whole. There were other moments when he would verbalize things I already knew in the back of my mind, but had not been able to express. He served to refine and make more relevant what we do, propelling and accelerating much of our work. I will remain forever grateful for Dr. Winter’s friendship.
In his remembrance, I recite a phrase from Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of mourning. “Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded is the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world.”
May the Holy One, blessed be He, comfort you.
International Director/CEO, World Evangelical Alliance
On behalf of the World Evangelical Alliance and our entire global family, I want to extend our deepest sympathy to the Winter family, friends and colleagues in ministry. I first became aware of Dr. Winter in the fall of 1974 during my missionary training in Chicago. I had the privilege of having Paul Little, the program director of the Lausanne '74 Congress, as one of my trainers. Through Paul’s teaching, the content of the historic congress, including Dr.
Winter’s landmark speech, were outlined to us. However, as a young missionary I was not fully aware of the impact that Dr. Winter would make on the late 20th century mission movement.
In the years that followed I became more aware of Dr. Winter’s teaching through his provocative and mind-stretching writings. I watched with amazement the vision, the purchase and ultimately the development of the U.S. Center for World Mission. I was deeply inspired by his audacious faith and trust in God.
Dr. Winter profoundly impacted my thinking about the task of world evangelism and my work as a missionary, a mission mobilizer and a mission agency executive.
In my current capacity as the International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance, I travel to many countries and meet with hundreds of leaders. It is very evident that Dr. Winter has influenced the thinking of much of the evangelical world.
(I am writing this report from Korea, which now has the second largest mission movement in the world. It is clear that the global strategies of the Korean church have been strongly influenced by Dr. Winter’s insights.)
In recent years, my personal interactions with Dr. Winter revolved around the integral nature of the gospel and how it is needed to transform every arena of society. I was deeply enriched by these conversations.
I will miss the prophetic voice of Dr. Winter. However, his impact for God’s Kingdom will continue through the thousands of people he has influenced throughout his lifetime.
It is my prayer that the Church around the world will continue to be inspired to see the gospel taken to all peoples and transform the nations.
I want to acknowledge that God has graciously privileged me to know, think and work with several truly great Christian leaders of my day. Ralph D. Winter was one of them. The writings and doings of this man of God constitute a rich treasure trove, which women and men of missions will explore for years to come. Without question, scholars and practitioners alike will give careful consideration to Ralph D. Winter’s numerous contributions for many years to come. They will constitute an abiding legacy. Without question, they will give praise to God and voice to his thinking both in halls of learning and in fields of labor. That will constitute a continuing tribute.
Founder, Great Commission Center
I thank God for the life of Dr. Ralph Winter. His life in pioneer missions has inspired countless young people to devote their lives for global missions. Ralph was always my big brother in Christ in terms of both age and wisdom. He was a few months older than me and was my “coach” in global missions.
Time magazine honored him as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals. For me, he was the leading mission strategist in our world. His thinking was ahead of his time. I remember in the early 1990s when I was in a meeting at the U.S. Center for World Mission and shared with the audience, “If you do not agree with Ralph today, you will five or ten years from now.”
He was the one who awakened mission leaders of the world to the awareness of unreached people groups and frontier missions in his address to Lausanne '74. That changed our mission strategy from geographical concerns to the people group concept and thus ushered in a new era in global missions.
I am grateful for Ralph’s support to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. He and his staff kindly helped to compile the Compendium of the first Global Congress on World Evangelization (GCOWE), which was held in January 1989 in Singapore. It was before brother Luis Bush joined the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. It was a great encouragement to me as the movement was facing difficulties in the beginning. In fact, Ralph was the one who gave birth to the idea of “A Church for Every People Group by the Year 2000” and used this as the sub-title for the 1980 Edinburgh Mission Conference. Luis and I merely added the words “And the Gospel for Every Person” in front of his phrase. Frankly speaking, Ralph was the forerunner of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.
We will miss Ralph and his prophetic insight. But I am sure his writings and the U.S. Center for World Mission will continue to inspire churches and mission leaders around the world for years to come.
Rodolfo J. Girón
Executive Director, IIET
Former President, COMIBAM
On behalf of the Instituto Iberoamericano de Estudios Trasnculturales (IIET), based in Granada, Spain, all its leadership and personnel, and on behalf of myself, we extend our condolences for the departure to his home of dear Dr. Winter. Institutionally, we at IIET recognize the great contribution Dr. Winter made to the very reason of our existence, namely, to reach the unreached among the Muslim peoples and train the workers on the field, a passion that dominated Dr. Winter&