The Frontier Mission Movement: What Do We Need to Move Forward?
Thus far in this issue of Mission Frontiers we have looked at some of the strategic problems that face us as we seek to widely impact the Hindu, Muslim and Chinese spheres with the gospel. In this article we present some of the structural issues that we face as we seek to work together in a coordinated effort to bring the gospel to every people. The topics discussed are not meant to be a comprehensive list, but are designed to promote discussion.
Our Current Situation
Building on the tremendous success of the Global Consultation on World Evangelization 1995 (GCOWE '95) in Seoul Korea, the AD2000 and Beyond Movement continues to move rapidly forward with its cooperative plans and strategies. Their latest efforts are focused on mobilizing the global Church to focus on the unreached peoples with populations over 10,000. They call it Joshua Project 2000. Thanks to their marvelous work, we now see cooperative efforts toward a church for every people by the year 2000 moving forward today with increasing speed. There has never been such a high level of cooperation and organization toward world evangelization on a global scale.
We have more resources, better technology and a greater understanding of what needs to be done in order to complete world evangelization than at any time in history. The opportunity to complete the initial penetration of all peoples with the Gospel stands before us.
With the development of the Internet, we now have the needed technology and basic information needed to launch the final push to complete world evangelization. The Joshua Project 2000 List of Unreached Peoples, published in the May-August 96 issue of MF, is still imperfect, but it is a reasonably good look at the unfinished task among those peoples with over 10,000 population. Right now many mission-minded computer people are working together to make available to churches and mission agencies the critical information needed to propel a coordinated effort at reaching the unreached peoples.
But while we are grateful to God for the progress that has been made, we still see things that need to be done in order for the Frontier Mission Movement to move forward toward that ultimate goal of a church for every people and the gospel for every person.
In the following pages we will explore some of these areas and I will recommend some things that can be done to move more rapidly forward with bringing the Gospel to every people. This is not a comprehensive list and I am sure that many would add or subtract from it, but it is presented here to encourage discussion and debate about how we should move forward toward the completion of world evangelization. Here are some suggestions for the following areas.
Information, effectively gathered and distributed to those who need it, is key to reaching the unreached peoples. As always this must be accomplished with precautions taken to maintain security.
1. Better Unreached People Information:
In order for us to move forward we need to improve the gathering and distribution of more and better up-to-date information on the unreached peoples and who is working among them. This is the only way that we will be able to reach every people in an efficient and coordinated manner.
Churches need up-to-date information in order to pray effectively and to coordinate with other churches who have adopted the same people. Agencies need information on which agencies are working to reach each people so they can work together in a coordinated effort that avoids duplication and competition.
2. Better Mission Agency Cooperation:
Volumes of information on the unreached peoples are already in the hands of specific missionaries and mission agencies, but because of a lack of communication and cooperation, this information is not shared. As a result, churches and agencies do not have the information they need to work together in a coordinated fashion.
Mission agencies and missionaries on the field need to cooperate on a global level by passing on the people group information they have to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. This updated information supplied by the agencies would then be evaluated and appropriate data included in each revised issue of the Joshua Project list which is printed in Mission Frontiers. The Joshua Project List of Unreached Peoples would be a far better list today, if there were greater cooperation in sharing of information.
4. Better "Work-Among" Data:
A relatively accurate list of what agencies are working with which groups is needed in order to organize Strategic Partnerships along the lines of Gateway Clusters and to divide up responsibility for reaching the various peoples. The AD2000 and Beyond Movement International Office has already been working to collect this information, but only 12% of those contacted have responded. The mission leaders meeting in S. Africa, as part of GCOWE '97, could help facilitate this collection process. (See page 42.)
5. Effective Information Distribution System:
An effective system of electronic information distribution needs to be set up so that those churches and agencies working to reach a people or cluster can get information without heavy manpower
involvement. An electronic mail and World Wide Web system would be helpful in making it available. The AD2000 International Office, in conjunction with the Brigada e-mail network and others, is currently working on this project. This must also include an effective system of security to protect this information.
6. Researching the Sub-Groups: ,
Churches need to be mobilized to find the sub-groups of unreached peoples which live in their area. Agencies can then target these groups to reach and mobilize them to go back to their homeland as witnesses. This effort could be included in the Mission America effort.
There is also a need for a consultation to include those agencies who are involved and committed to this ministry. An agreed upon system of research, data collection and distribution needs to be developed. National Initiatives in various countries could also be encouraged to look for these displaced sub-groups within their own countries.
Coordination and Non-duplication of Mission Agency Efforts
As Phill Butler of the agency Interdev says in his article on page 28, there is no higher strategic need than for the establishment of Strategic Partnerships to reach each of the Gateway People Clusters.
1. Mission Agency Leaders Need to Meet to Set Up Cluster-based Strategic Partnerships:
A meeting or series of meetings of mission agency leaders are needed to allow for the organized distribution of responsibility for reaching all of the unreached peoples. The upcoming meeting of mission leaders in South Africa at GCOWE '97 could be the first step in this process of coordinating mission agency efforts by initiating Strategic Partnerships for each of the Gateway People/Clusters listed on the Joshua Project 2000 List of Unreached Peoples. Phill Butler of Intedev could help these agencies set up the needed Strategic Partnerships. (See the article starting on page 26.)
Periodic meetings of agencies working within particular Gateway Clusters will likely be needed to provide for a coordinated effort at reaching those unreached peoples that are discovered through the process of research and church planting.
2. E-Mail Conference Coordination: ,Between the meetings just mentioned, e-mail conferences could be set up using the Brigada network to help the agencies work in partnership along the lines of the Gateway Clusters on a day-to-day basis.
Adoption of Peoples
1. Emphasize Adoption of Joshua Project Peoples
Churches should adopt each of the Joshua Project unreached peoples as a first step to adopting and reaching all of the unreached peoples. We should also encourage them to be aware of the other peoples related to their adopted people in their Gateway Cluster.
2. A Call for Adopt-A-People Cluster Advocates:
In addition to the establishment of Field-based Strategic Partnerships along the lines of each Gateway Cluster, we also need a Home-based Resource Network that is able to help churches become actively involved in supporting the work of agencies which are part of the various Strategic Partnerships. The key to this resource network is the raising up and training of Adopt-A-People Advocates, sometimes referred to as Gatekeepers, who can both promote the cause of their particular Cluster as well as help guide those interested churches into a positive working relationship with other churches and the agencies on the field.
John Hanna of the Caleb Resources has been spearheading the idea of these Adopt-A-People Advocates who work with others outside of their own church. (See the article on page 31.)
Phill Butler of the agency Interdev says about the Field-based Partnerships and Home-based Advocate Networks, "This team of a Facilitator in the field and an Advocate at home is vital... Lack of available, qualified people for these new, critically strategic roles is the greatest single roadblock to the establishment and operation of effective Strategic Partnerships among Gateway People Groups/Clusters. I cannot imagine a higher priority assignment of personnel in the world if we are really serious about speeding the fulfillment of the Great Commission!"
In this issue of MF we are calling for these Advocates to step forward and fill this manpower gap that is keeping these effective Partnerships from forming. The first step is to raise up 146 Advocates--one for each of the Gateway Clusters.
The Advocate for each Cluster could include one person or a team of people working together for the Cluster or for a number of different peoples within the Cluster.
If the mobilization of thousands of interested people takes place, we will need these people group Advocates to help guide and direct the enthusiasm of these churches and individuals into more constructive support of the existing efforts of missions agencies and the Strategic Partnerships. (See the charts on page 24-25 to see how these Field-based Partnerships and Home-based Advocates can work together and help guide new churches and agencies.)
3. Denominational Leaders:
An increasing number of denominational leaders need to endorse the concept of adopting a people and urge their churches to do so. The Christian and Missionary Alliance and Baptist General Conference are examples of denominations who have done this.
4. Agency Commitment to Adoption
Mission agencies need to commit to more actively encouraging churches to adopt the unreached peoples they are targeting. Africa Inland Mission has been a leading example of an active commitment to the Adopt-A-People effort. The Adopt-A-People vision needs to be shared and a commitment asked for at the GCOWE '97 mission leaders meeting.
5. Adoption Guidance Program ,With the growth in the use of global Internet technology, a widely accessible distribution system of Adopt- A-People information and resources is needed. The AD2000 and Beyond Movement is currently working on an electronic Adoption Guidance Program for the World Wide Web.
This will provide a place where churches can get non-sensitive information on specific peoples and the name of the Advocate who can help them. It will also have general Adopt-A-People information that can help churches walk through the adoption process and have access to resources. Agencies can use it to learn of other agencies working with the same unreached people, thereby allowing for coordination of efforts and possible involvement in a Strategic Partnership. Prudent safeguards would be built in to preserve security.
6. Coordination with Prayer Network:
The United Prayer Network of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement is actively working toward the October 1997 Praying Through the Window III effort focused on the Gateway Clusters. Thousands of churches will be involved praying for these Clusters. The United Prayer Network could be very helpful by directing these praying churches to the Advocates for the Cluster they are praying for. The Advocate can then help provide information and direct them to the agencies who are targeting their Gateway Cluster.
Making Mobilization Part of the Missionary Task
For years Dr. Winter has talked about the missionary imbalance with almost 90% of missionaries still working with reached peoples. To solve this problem, Dr. Winter has argued for making the ministry of mobilization part of the normal ministry of missionaries rather than redeploying all missionaries to work with unreached peoples. In order to make mobilization in reached areas a reality, the following steps are needed.
1. Agency Commitment to Mobilization
The mission agencies need to make mobilization a priority in their ministries and commit themselves to training their missionaries to carry it out. The IFMA and EFMA agencies could sponsor a joint meeting focused on mission field mobilization of national Christian leaders and how to train existing missionaries to carry this out.
2. Training Resources:
All materials used for missionary training should include training in mobilizing national Christian leaders to go cross culturally and set up their own indigenous agencies. This should impact the training people receive in Bible college, seminary and specialized courses, in preparation for missionary service. , In Conclusion:
As we approach the year 2000, the opportunities are abundant. It is my hope that the suggestions made here will help us to think seriously about the issues involved. I recognize that the suggestions I have made are not the only answers to the obstacles that face the Frontier Mission Movement, but are designed to help move us forward as quickly as possible in our thinking and planning.
Rick Wood has been the managing editor for Mission Frontiers since 1990 and is a graduate of Western Baptist Seminary.