Is It Possible by AD 2000?
Never in the history of the church have there been so many special program and campaigns, literally around the entire world. The highest goals and aims in the history of the Church are being set by many different denominations and agencies. Many of these organizations are now tied together in the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement.The overall goal is that everyone in the world receives the Gospel, and that the Church be planted in every Peoples' Group. The Track of the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement concerned with the mobilization of new missionaries has set as a goal the mobilization of 200,000 new missionaries in the next six to ten years. In God's providence, I now find myself the Chairman of this Track. Part of me cries out, "Lord, how did I get into this?"
I recently returned from the annual meetings of the AD 2000 Movement, and what a challenge to be with key missions and church leaders from all over the world. I feel like a real "Doubting Thomas" when I listen to some of these optimistic mega- motivated people. I was especially inspired by the presentation of Patrick Johnstone, the author of Operation World.
It does seem that across the world there is a great desire to work together more, as hard as that may seem in the pluralistic societies in which we live. It also is encouraging to see major, mega denominations in many lands setting powerful goals and aims in the area of church growth and evangelism. Testimonies from Korea, Ghana and Brazil, were especially challenging.
The main focus of AD 2000 is the area of the 10/40 Window where about 90% of the unreached peoples live. When some have complained to me regarding the 10/40 Window, I have told them to go and build their own window. Of course, the whole field is the whole world.
Though with this Movement I sense a renewal in my own life and vision, I have a negative and cynical streak that needs constant attention. Waves of discouragement seem to come upon me almost daily and I'm trying to learn how to spiritually "surfboard" on them. To me, the task, and especially the Muslim world, seems like a triple Mt. Everest. Some of the goals and aims of some groups to me seem not only unrealistic, but ridiculous, and in some cases, not in line with what the Bible really teaches. At the same time, I'm convinced that the positives in all this far outweigh the negatives and I want to lock hands and heart with all who build upon the Word of God and love the Lord Jesus. One thing for sure is the fact that the goals and visions of this Movement and other movements will never become a reality without the massive mobilization and education of millions of believers, and of the Church.
Let us be honest and admit that at present, only a tiny percentage of believers are really taking ownership of the Great Commission. In most places there is more talk than walk and some of it leads to a cloud of deception and unreality. Many times people are willing to talk (and even pray) about missions, but when young people volunteer they are unwilling, or unable (so they say) to come up with the money to send them out. We especially are seeing that in certain new mission-sending countries right now. People often get defensive at this point and give wonderful stories of workers being sent out by their church, but in fact, it's the exception rather than the rule.
A major grass roots missions movement is on the way....but it's not here yet!
Education is not the whole answer, but it is a vital part of the answer. Believers everywhere need to be taught the basics of evangelism and world missions. They need to know what the Bible says. They need to know something of what has been done, and then they need to know what needs to be done and how vital their part is in it all.
Before we can blanket the world with the Gospel, we must blanket the church and God's people with the biblical vision and reality of what this is all about. This must not just be the English-speaking world, but the whole world!
Those who already have the vision must unite and make every effort to bring a much greater part of the body of Christ into action. There already is a prayer movement, but this must be increased ten-fold and, strengthened so that it will lead to real commitment, perseverance and obedience on the part of millions of believers.
We need to see the financial breakthroughs to see at least 100 million vision-building missionary books, leaflets, tapes and videos in at least 30 languages flooded out across the world. Since pastors are so key, and often the bottleneck, in world missions, we need to make sure that every Christian pastor in the world gets at least some of this material. This will not be done by one organization in some centrally controlled way, but as much as possible, those involved should be linked together in some kind of network. For me, AD 2000 & Beyond is the ideal network, but whether people are linked into that or not, they can be part of this great vision and mobilization.
History is on our side as it has proven a thousand times over that powerful Christian literature and communication has been part of the backbone of the entire worldwide church growth and missionary movement.
When this communication is received and read, I believe it will result in vision and obedience. That has been proved again and again! There are thousands of testimonies as to how God has used such communication to change individual lives and whole churches. Think of how God has used such books as Operation World. Think of how God has used the writings and communication of Ralph Winter, Billy Graham, OJ Smith, Elizabeth Elliott and a host of others. All we need to do is multiply all that has been done by 100 and make sure it gets into all the other major languages as well, not just English.
It's so simple in some ways that every believer can get involved. Write to your favorite mission group and get a good supply of their books and literature, tapes, etc and start reading and distributing it. Can you imagine if simultaneously around the world God's people would do this? Backed with love, action and prayer, I believe it would be a major factor in enabling us to reach the goals and aims that are burning on so many hearts in these days. There already are hundreds of publishing houses ready to help. There are hundreds of Bible schools and similar training centres who are ready to train the workers raised up by prayer and communication. Of course, much of the action will be in local fellowships of which there are now so many hundreds of thousands across the world. There are now thousands of agencies, missions and groups that would provide much of the structure and pastoral care that is so needed for major missions thrusts. Not so many of these are in the 10/40 Window, but many are starting to aim in that direction; and the materials we distribute, like Operation World and the AD 2000 Handbook could be used of God to move more and more attention in the direction of the unreached.
Let us immediately pray for the release of finances needed for this huge foundation laying, mobilization, and educational effort.
Finance seems to be the greatest obstacle as books, tapes, etc. cost money. The real obstacle is a lack of love, faith and biblical commitment. We can't separate what I'm saying here from personal reformation, reality and revival. It is a mistake to think that the next big move is God's. His big moves have already taken place: the Cross, the empty tomb, and Pentecost. Now It Is Our Turn!! We need to repent and turn from all that is hindering us from doing God's will in our day.
(George Verwer is the Founder and International Director of Operation Mobilization. OM now has 2,200 missionaries in more than 60 countries.)
New US Coordinator Named
Mrs. Amy Stearns was named recently as the US Coordinator for the Mobilizing New Missionaries Network of which George Verwer is the International Director. After Verwer's announcement of the new effort to mobilize missionaries, Mrs. Stearns said, "There is no way there will be a church for every people and the Gospel proclaimed to every person by the year 2000 without a massive surge of new missionaries."
This new thrust is necessary, according to the latest MARC North American Mission Handbook which records for the first time in American history that the number of career missionaries is dropping. In 1988 America fielded more than 50,000 missionaries. By 1992 that number dwindled to about 41,000. Stearns says, "Many of the missionary generation that went out after World War II are now retiring. But they are not being replaced."
Stearns adds, "A hundred thousand new American missionaries over the next six years seems like a pie-in-the-sky goal--even for the 300,000 plus churches of the U.S. But mission leaders estimate there are 40,000 ready to go right now if churches would back them and send them out. That means we're also calling for an energetic homefront mobilization effort, since for every frontline missionary there needs to be a whole troop of missionary senders."
Churches, denominations and mission ministries are encouraged to pray toward a goal of how many missionaries they could send out by the year 2000. "After all," says Stearns, "it was the Lord of the Harvest who told us to pray for laborers, not just George Verwer!"