Where are we?
A Church for every People
The Edinburgh 1980 Conference was largely the vision of Dr Ralph Winter of the US Center for World Mission to focus on the world's remaining unreached peoples. In one plenary session of that Conference a strange incident occurred. I was leading the meeting, which made the incident even more memorable to me. A Scandinavian missionary to Greenland unexpectedly came to the platform when I was at the podium and he told me he wanted to say something. He then shouted out the slogan, "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000". This he repeated a number of times and then asked all the hundreds in the meeting to chant it with him. Everyone was stunned and a bit embarrassed - not least me as the leader of the gathering! I then commented, "That was not on the program!", which hopefully reduced the tension. The idea was born but none of us grasped the significance of this prophetic incident at the time. A decade later it became part of the over-arching goal of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.
In this coming hour we come to the heart of the Conference - where we give account before God, to us all and to our brethren around the world of what progress we have made in attaining the goal of:
I will take each of these two goals separately and seek to show some of the achievements over this remarkable decade. Not only have I, together with John Robb, been the leaders for the Unreached Peoples Track, but also in the last three years we have both been intensively travelling to and gathering information from every country of the world for prayer. I have been working on the new edition of Operation World, which will be published, God, willing, in September next year. I therefore have been privileged to have a global ringside seat to observe and measure in some part what God has been doing. I trust that this will encourage you! It has been worth the effort and pain. We have been part of the most global and focused movement for world evangelization that there has ever been! I want to back this up with firm evidence that we have progressed far further along the road of world evangelization in this decade than anyone would have dared think. Sure there yet remains much to be done and much that has been done could have been done better. So forgive me if I come over somewhat optimistic - but I believe I have good grounds for that optimism!
This is the heart of the challenge of Jesus to us, His Church "Go and make disciples of all nations or peoples". In Seoul 1995 at GCOWE '95 we committed ourselves to ensuring that there be a mission-minded church planting movement within every unreached or unevangelized people on earth by the year 2000. Our purpose was that all peoples might have opportunity within their own cultural setting to experience the love, truth and saving power of The Lord Jesus together with other believers. We only had 6 years to see this accomplished.
How could we fully obey this command without knowing WHO the peoples were, WHERE they were, and WHAT their spiritual need might be? When we launched the AD2000 and Beyond Movement with the challenging goal of a church for every people, there was still no published list of the world's peoples. How could we know which peoples to pray for and to whom we should send church planters? We had much to do!
At the Lausanne Congress in 1974 Ralph Winter gave one of the most stirring visions of the latter part of the last century - he spoke of the 16,750 Hidden or Unreached Peoples and gave new impetus to missions around the world. Many asked him, "Ralph, where is that list of the 16,750?". He did not have one, and could only refer to us researchers as having the names of these peoples!
What lists of peoples were there? We had the unique Wycliffe Ethnologue, which is the most complete listing of the worlds languages and their Bible translation needs. Then there was the remarkable, but unpublished, list of peoples painstakingly compiled by David Barrett of the World Christian Encyclopedia with help from some of us researchers. This latter will eventually be published in the new Encyclopedia in March this year. Barrett's unpublished work became the basis of the Joshua Project List and for this he deserves full credit.
We worked hard on pulling together a workable list of peoples in the early 1990s. We simply could not tackle the challenge of finding out about all the approximately 13,000 ethno-linguistic peoples of the world let alone see churches planted among them. So we had to limit our list to those over 10,000 in number and also below 2% Evangelical or 5% Christian as the ones most likely to need a church planting initiative. We concentrated our research and analysis on these. After much hard work a small group of us together with the IHQ of AD2000 and Beyond Movement were able to provide the list that was launched in 1995 as the Joshua Project. It was the flagship tool and focus of the efforts of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement for the remaining years of the decade. Here, then, is the breakdown of the world's peoples as defined by ethnicity, language and country.
|People Category||Number of|
|Above 10,000 pop.|
and more than 2% evangelical
or more than 5% adherents
||Above 10,000 pop.|
and less than 2% evangelical
and less than 5% adherents
||Below 10,000 population|
[many being migrant or cross-border minorities]
|over 5,400||30 million||0.5%
||World Totals||13,000||6,000 million||100.0%
Our division of the world's peoples may have appeared arbitrary, but it helped to give focus. It is interesting to notice that the total population excluded is relatively small nevertheless important for our vision for the future. Probably only 40% of these small groups are still unreached.
Praise God for this list. It needed constant adjustment, the addition or removal of peoples as further research improved our understanding, but I am only too aware of the gaps that remain in our information in the JPL. It had its critics, it had it weaknesses, it brought frustration to many but it became an outstanding instrument for God's Kingdom. Please look at the sheet in your folder. Praise God for the meticulous and loving care with which Dan especially lavished on this, and in the analysis of the JPL we can mark the progress towards our over-arching goal of a church for every people by the year 2000.
Most of these peoples were then profiled by Bethany in the USA, mapped by Global Mapping, researched by national bodies in many lands, strategized by Interdev for partnerships for clusters of these peoples, adopted by churches for prayer, visited by Christian teams, many of their languages recorded for literature, film, cassette, video, broadcasting and television, and taken up for church planting by agencies and churches. The Joshua Project List [JPL] led to an explosion of prayer and activity. It became the biggest global effort for the unreached ever attempted! I believe the impact in eternity will be dramatic! I want to briefly show you some of these achievements!
Out of this list came stimulation for national networks to research their own countries once the inadequacies of the categorizations and information on peoples became clear. Of special note is the work done in countries in Africa, India, Indonesia, China, Brazil and South East Asia. Never before have we had so much information about unreached peoples! Let us make sure we use it well!
As the JPL peoples were plotted on a map, it quickly became apparent that almost all these peoples were to be found in the belt of territory from North Africa to the Pacific, most lying just north of the Equator. It was Luis Bush himself who coined the phrase that has possibly become the distinctive of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, The 10/40 Window.
There were many frustrating and sterile arguments about which countries ought to be included or excluded, but we must not miss the point that it was a general call to a focused mobilization. That the phrase achieved. It became known all over the Christian world, the map of the area was endlessly repeated in print and on videos. Some took the concept too far and virtually dismissed any mission activity outside the 10/40 Window area as valid for ministry. This was never the purpose - rather it was to draw the attention of the Church to the most needy, most ignored, the least resourced, most challenging remaining part of the unfinished task of world evangelization. That it did in no small measure. That focus was essential if we were to mobilize the Church world-wide for prayer, recruitment and deployment.
From all over the world came a clamour for information. Adopt-a-People programs developed in a number of countries. Research by churches, agencies and national networks was undertaken. Prayer cells and networks emerged; prayer journeys made to the far corners of the 10/40 Window. Mistakes were made, but overall a new awareness and concern grew into what Peter Wagner calls the greatest prayer mobilization the world has ever seen. More congregations were committed to involvement in world evangelization than ever before. Should we be surprised that the growth of evangelical Christianity is proving to have grown faster and more widely than ever before?
Prayer was followed by specific commitment around the world to make sure that these peoples were actually reached. The aim was to challenge church planting agencies to commit themselves to target these peoples for specific ministry. Over the years the list of untargeted became shorter, then at the Amsterdam Evangelists Conference this year, all the remaining peoples were embraced.
It was quickly realized that the 1,600 Joshua Project peoples and their evangelization could not be done in isolation. All these peoples were related to wider groupings of peoples. We then developed the concept of 11 Affinity Blocs of peoples into which nearly all the JPL of peoples fitted. Here is a map showing these. Notice the fact that these Affinity Blocs more or less cover the area of the 10/40 Window. Then we grouped clusters of peoples with closer affinities such as shared cultures, history and language families. We identified around 150 of these People Clusters such as the Kurds, North African Berbers, West African Fula and the Malays of south-east Asia.
The Partnership Development Task Force of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement under the leadership of Phill Butler of Interdev greatly expanded the brokering of facilitating partnerships of agencies and churches. A large number of these partnerships were specifically for people clusters. Over the period 1990 to 2000 the number of partnerships launched rose from 5 to 73 and a further 85 are in various stages of emergence. Without these partnerships anarchy, duplication of ministries and competition would have been even more problematic. There are now very few peoples not under the oversight of such partnering networks today.
These concepts helped communicate to ordinary Christians the nature of the challenge we faced in an understandable way. It also helped us to strategize in our planning to reach them. It also forced us to see that we could not pick a people for adoption in isolation from other peoples or other agencies seeking to reach them. We had to do it in partnership with others
We have been much encouraged from accounts from around the world of significant progress to go further and establish a church planting team within these peoples as the table below/on the screen shows. I have been thrilled by the continuing vision of our brethren in Indonesia and India for the many unreached peoples in their countries despite the severe pressures they have experienced in the last few years. Much has been accomplished and only in heaven will the full story be revealed. Yet from the information available, there are now teams on site in over 2/3 of the JP peoples.
Our vision is for a mission-minded church within every people. This was theoretically possible, but knowing something of the long and hard years of tears, pain and sweat between the start of pioneer work and the spiritual breakthrough, this was unlikely in the short span of the decade of the 1990s and, even more, the six years between the launch of the Joshua Project and the end of the Millennium. With this in mind we set the goal of a basic minimum of a vital, witnessing congregation of at least 100 individuals within each people. We have had reports of such congregations in nearly 1/3 of the JP peoples, and I suspect this is higher for some in the list I know have churches but these were not reported. Look at the tally below!
|Joshua Project - Least Reached Peoples Progress towards church planting 1990 - 2000|
|Percent of Peoples||1990||Oct. 1997||Oct. 2000||Achievement
||Commitment for church|
planting by mid-2002
||Commitment for church|
planting by 2000
||Church planting team|
currently on site
||Reported Fellowship of|
at least 100 believers
What does this mean in absolute numbers for the world? These are approximate, but give a good idea of the scale and the progress.
|Ethno-linguistic peoples and church planting|
|Church planting stage||Population||Percent of|
|Commitments for mid-2002||6,000 million||100.0%
||Commitments for end of 2000||5,925 million||98.8%
||With Church Planting Team||5,990 million||98.2%
||With Church of at least 100 individuals||5,620 million||93.7%
The down side of these figures is that the need of the huge populations in some of the least reached peoples is obscured. Some such are the 220 million Bengalis in India, Bangladesh and elsewhere, the vast populations of caste Hindus untouched by the gospel, the millions of Muslims in peoples with no more than a handful of churches, most of whom have never has a chance to hear and understand what Jesus came to do for them. One church in such large-population peoples is insignificant. In many of these peoples we need to see the planting of thousands of churches before the majority of these populations would have a chance to be a member of one.
We give thanks to God for what has been achieved, but humbly realizing that our limited success spells out a clearer agenda for us in the coming decades. We do not want just numbers, but also vital, dynamic spiritual life in congregations that is going to transform cultures, heal the world's wounds and proclaim the gospel to every people and person on earth. To this I will return later in this session.
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