A World Task
Used by permission
One word says it aII for 30 years of North American foreign mission agencies: staggering, surprising growth.
The economic prosperity of American churches (and American society generally), religious freedom, and the entrepreneurial spirit have all coalesced to give birth to more agencies than these have ever been. While some smaller agencies threw in their lot with larger ones, new ones arrived and bit the trail for money and recruits at a feverish pace Today some 700 plus agencies serve Overseas.
The younger agencies tended to seize on some unique, narrowly focused nun lairs, or they successfully captured youth's lcal so do sonseshing on short notice that could he seen to make a difference in some hurting past of the world Youth With a Mission and Operation Mobilization, for example. Some new agencies, like Mission to the World of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Mission Society for United Methodists, owed their birth to new evangelical groupings in U.S. mainline churches.
In terms of names. agencies reporting figures so she latest Missions Advanced Research Communication Center (Marc) survey said they have received more than $1 billion for overseas work, which is an all time high. Less than 20 years ago the total was $317 million In terms of personnel, in 1956 there were some 30.000 North American Protestant missionaries; today there are 68,000.
Hidden in has 68,000 total is a highly significant trend: 30,000of these people are short term, as opposed to career, missionaries. Only 6 years ago short sermers numbered 8,000. and 30 years ago she idea was barely tiunkable. You volunteered for a lifetime commitment to foreign missions or not at all.
What missionaries actually do has also changed. front traditional pioneering so institutional work. Probably no more than a quarter of today's missiunaries are now front line troops doing raw evangelism This is true partly be... sechurches have been planted in astounding numbers during the lass three decades in fact, foreign missionaries have an enviable track record ul acccintplishrr.g what they set out to do. It is also true because institutional stork ahsurbs more and more money and mote and more people in such miiist rica as schools, hospitals, radii, stations. and printing and publishing establishments Today she missionary vocation, short-term or long term, is basically the same as any existing society, in the US,
But pioneering hasn'r been forgotten. thanks to new impetus to track down and evangelize pockets of people yes to be touched with the gospel. If the church growth movement forced mis sionaries to use social science research to plant churches among responsive peoples, the unreached peoples movement has forced them to forge unique strategies to gain a hearing among car. rawly focused tribal entities.
Also, in she last decade or two, U.S. missionaries have looked over their shoulders to find thousands and thousands of coworkers joining their ranks not front state-side churches, but from churches that previous generations of mrssiunaries had founded. World evangelism is in fact now the task of the world church. And that is perhaps the most significant trend of all.
What Makes the Church Grow? That question continues to pique Donald McGavran's interest as intensely at 88 as it did when he was a young missionary. When the youthful missionary found himself "exiled" to a remote area of India, the Yale-educated Ph.D. spent years "growing" a church - and the thesis for what was to become the church-growth movement. When he returned to the U.S. in 1954 after 30 years in India - when most career missionaries would be planning retirement - McGavran developed his ideas and preached them wherever he could get a hearing.
Moving to Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission in 1966, McGavran's ideas gave rise to the church-growth movement that has since spread worldwide.
W. Cameron Townsend (1896 - 1982)
What's a Bible salesman to do. Cam Townsend wondered, when the Spanish-language Bibles you're selling cannot be read by most of the Guatemalan Indians to whom you're trying to sell them. So Townsend learned their language, devised an alphabet, and worked for 12 years to translate the New Testament. He also found time to start a clinic, press, coffee cooperative, and five schools. Townsend's translation efforts led to the establishment of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and then to Wycliffe Bible Translators.
When U.S. International involvement and the foreign mission enterprise both expanded after World War II, so did Wycliffe, and linguists penetrated remote tribes in more and more countries. Still, when Townsend died in 1982, his lifetime dream of extending the Bible to all people in all known languages was still unfullfilled: there are still some 3,000 tongues to go.
Called everything from genius to visionary to impractical agitator, Ralph Winter has had an impact on world missions like few others in this generation. His U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena is a beehive of activity, stirring people and organizations to reach the world's hidden peoples with the gospel.
Garnering a fistful of scholarly degrees in his youth, Winter went to Guatemala where he and other missionaries launched TEE - theological education by extension. When he joined the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological seminary, he taught missions and advocated TEE. There he observed Donald McGavran's church-growth principles, and developed his own: reaching people groups with no church. Today, Winter and his U.S. Center occupy a leading edge of missions research.