Where do we go from here?
We have now moved into 21st Century ministry. The task is not finished, the Great Commission is just as valid in 2001 as it was in 1999. What enormous challenges await us! The vision, ways of working and the networks formed in our AD2000 and Beyond Movement were good for the last decade. Now we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into new networks, new methods, a new generation of leaders and a new understanding of the meaning of the Great Commission for us in this new decade. In this last section of our program I want to do some broad-stroke dreaming and envisioning of the coming decades. There are three words: Momentum, Vision, Partnership which are the foundation of what I share.
The hype of the end of the Millennium gave us great impetus and motivation for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement and its goals. Much was achieved in the last ten years, but now we need to be just as enthusiastic and full of faith for this coming decade. Many have complained that the AD2000 emphasis would leave everyone so exhausted that they would then sit back and relax. We must not let this happen! It would be tragic if we reach 2010 and then have to write off the decade as a failure. Our goal is a Completed Bride for the Lamb, and for this we must be passionate. This cannot happen until the requirements of the Great Commission are fulfilled. Today we can say that this goal is now far more attainable that we would have dared hope in 1990. We therefore need to maintain the momentum in three areas:
Numbers are not everything, but they do tell us something! Donald MacGavran gave us a vision for church growth three decades ago that changed our whole perspective of missions. Too many have belittled this today and we have lost something of the wonder of God's working in the world in the process. One of the encouragements for me as we work on the statistics of the world's denominations is to see that the growth of Evangelicals during the 1980s has been maintained in the 1990s. There has been significant continued growth in Latin America, Africa and Asia and the proportion of Evangelicals in the non-Western world has continued to grow. Evangelicals in the West now constitute only 20% of the total. See this diagram which plots the growth of both. [diagram]. One of the biggest problems we have had to deal with is evangelical exaggeration. Let us guard against triumphalistic boasting and be more humble! We need to encourage national research into the growth and decline of the Church. This gives accountability and strategies for advance and outreach but too few countries do this.
The 1990s was a time of growing enthusiasm for missions in the non-Western world but a stagnation or even decline in the West. Sometimes reporters have over-stated the rise of recruitment for missions in the non-Western Church by only counting foreign missionaries in the West but foreign and home missionaries elsewhere. We are near completion of a big survey of the world's mission agencies and a number of amazing facts are coming to light. The USA is still the biggest sender of foreign missionaries, but second to the USA is now Korea with possibly near 9,000 foreign missionaries today. The biggest sender of cross-cultural missionaries today is India with almost double the numbers of the USA - most are serving in pioneer areas of their own vast country. Singapore has by far the best ratio of missionaries to churches in the world but has their zeal peaked? Truly we have become a global Church reaching out to the world. That vision and willingness to send our best people cross-culturally must be encouraged whatever the cost. That cost will continue to be high as persecution becomes more normal for Christians. George Verwer's vision of 200,000 new missionaries is still unrealized.
Each generation needs a new articulation of vision that is relevant for the time. God gave us the AD2000 and Beyond Movement watchword which has given strong motivation. The need has not lessened, but it must be re-formulated and passionately promoted for this rising generation. May God lead in this.
The time of the lone pioneer missionary is long past. The time of being able to find undiscovered and unreached peoples who have never heard the gospel is almost past. We have run out of countries where there are no groups of Christians living and witnessing, we have run out of peoples anywhere in the world over 10,000 in population who are not targeted for ministry by some church or agency, and almost run out of such peoples where there is not a team of church planters preparing to enter for ministry. Often our biggest problem is not finding an unreached country or people, but how to work together with others with a similar calling! There have been some sad stories of new countries opening up for missions after the collapse of Communism where the divisions, cultural insensitivities and fleshliness of the expatriate missionaries have harmed the credibility of the Gospel. The 21st century must be one of partnering and humble fellowship and networking to work together for the blessing of those we seek to reach.
When Western missions alone were working there were relationship difficulties between them. Now that the missions movement had gone global the potential for difficulty has greatly increased. In the agency which I represent we have nearly 2000 missionaries but they come from 50 nations. Some of our field teams have 16 nations represented. We know that there are problems in working in this way, but we strongly believe that it is worth the effort, and, by God's grace, it is working. It is our love and unity in the gospel that will give credibility to what we proclaim. Will we fail on this vital point? The major emphasis made in AD2000 and Beyond Movement, Lausanne and WEF in recent years is on helping partnership to flourish. This must be cultivated nationally within peoples, in specialized ministries, and also regionally and globally.
I have great longings for the Global Round Table initiative - which may prove to be the birthing of a worthy successor to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. It should be a more inclusive, globally represented network of the world's Evangelicals. May it prosper and may we be supportive.
I want to put out a challenge to you to whom we pass on the torch of world evangelization. Keep the vision clear and simple so that ordinary Christians will rise to support it! Some criticise us in the AD2000 and Beyond Movement that we have been too narrow. [diagram-map of 10/40 Window]. The 10/40 Window is not the only area of need, but it gave clarity and motivational drive. Planting a church of 100 in each unreached people was simplistic, but it generated enormous enthusiasm and moved many teams out to the least reached. Holistic ministry in combining the preaching of the Word with ministry to social needs may have been downplayed by some, but the simple dual goal of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement united a wide variety of the greatest Christian activists of today from very different streams of biblical Christianity. Many movements inspired by God in the past have multiplied visions and ministries to the point where the unifying glue was lost, and the movement floundered or became a focal point for fellowship rather than extending the Kingdom of God.
There are issues and needs we could not address in the decade of the life of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. These must be on our global agenda for future visions. I mention six.
Great areas within the 10/40 Window and some outside it are still sparsely sprinkled with vital congregations of indigenous believers. [diagram-map of several people clusters] I have not the time to describe them, but make mention of such areas of tremendous challenge -
Every nation or region needs a dedicated research team that constantly analyses the needs and challenges Christians about the unmet challenges for evangelism and church planting.
Over this last decade we have had a relatively complete list of the significant least reached peoples on earth. This is a vital tool we pass on to you who follow. This list was too limited in scope. It left out the several thousand smaller peoples. Much work is being done by the Harvest Information System (HIS) team to refine the list and make it globally inclusive, and also to make it more meaningful in every country by not just allowing for ethno-linguistic distinctions but also cultural, social, geographical and religious boundaries between peoples. This is being launched at this very conference.
Look at some of the challenges! [diagram-map of affinity blocs]. We have scarcely started the task of reaching out to the 100 million in nomadic cultures across the world -
We have not seen significant breakthroughs yet among:
We began the last century in 1900 with only 14% of the world's population living in cities. We now have just entered this century but now about 50% of the world live in cities and by its end we may have reached 90%. [diagram]. The 21st century will be the first urban century for humankind. Our pioneer vision for this new century must be increasingly urban. This is the new frontier for missions, but it will require courage, dedication and new ways of working and living if we are to impact coming generations and see continued growth of the Church. It is the cities where we have the dynamo for social change - often for the worse. How are we going to apply the Gospel to the massive problems of the cities with their multiplied poor living in terrible slums, the rampant crime, violence, drug abuse and family breakdown? We have had relatively few good models for innovative church planting in cities. We need them and we need to multiply them.
Over the past several decades the hostile reaction of Evangelicals to what was once called the "social gospel" has waned. We increasingly see the need to have a holistic ministry that ministers to the social and physical needs of people as well as to the spiritual. These must go hand in hand. Evangelicals have gained a good reputation in some countries because of loving service rendered in the name of Christ and thereby churches have been planted. All involved in social ministries must not lose sight of the all-important eternal destiny of those to whom they minister - all are potential participants in the Bride of the Lamb - but all must be based on deep rootedness in the Body of Christ. All involved in spiritual ministry must ensure that their ministry is earthed in the very real human needs of those around them.
We have the perfect answer in the Gospel, rightly proclaimed, for every trauma of humankind. Family breakdown and the dire consequences for this and subsequent generations can only be reversed through repentance and a warm personal faith in Christ. The causes and effects of economic unfairness that impoverishes millions need to be addressed by the Gospel we preach; we want changed lives and changed societies too. The desperate state of the poor, of children in need, drug abusers, prisoners and victims of war are all clamouring for our love and ministry. I see a whole new range of special ministries multiplying to meet these needs.
Medical missions is something we see as of the past, but it is also of the future. Many old diseases are rearing their ugly heads such as TB and malaria. They are beginning to decimate populations and the authorities are often without the resources to deal with them. Then we have the new diseases often caused by ecological degradation (poisoning, cancers) and promiscuity (sexual diseases and AIDS). Where else will those with the love, commitment and stamina to minister to those affected? The AIDS calamity is a terrible scourge in Africa and parts of Asia. Who else is going to give the message that will abort the development of this disease and minister adequately to the victims and bereaved as a result of this dread disease?
While we rejoice in growth and expansion of the Church, we must also grieve over the failure to really face up to the challenge of religious ideologies that have grown stronger, more militant, and often adopting some of our Christian methodologies. [diagram-map of Ideological blocs] These ideologies and systems are often violently opposed to Christians and our message - even more so if we proclaim that salvation is found in the Lord Jesus alone. The least reached peoples we long to see coming to Christ are largely within these ideological worlds and significant advances will only come through God's power and grace and prevailing prayer. What then do we need?
It is easy for us to speak of statistics, of church growth, of new ministries, of better methods for proclaiming the Gospel, but this is not enough. The most important of all is my relationship with Jesus. If I am not walking closely with Him in the Spirit, I can do nothing and I am nothing. What concerns me is the many "great" men and women of God who rise to prominence who fall - secretly and sometime publicly. Unless I am passionate about my Saviour and Lord what use is it to come to a conference like this? Our condemnation can be the greater. The devil will rejoice, and the Cause we stand for discredited.
Now we come to a decisive moment of our Conference. The AD2000 and Beyond Movement becomes history. We make a deliberate act of committal of the ongoing task to a new generation. We bequeath to you a wonderful inheritance, a finishable task, amazing new tools for its accomplishment. Run with it for the sake of the unreached, for the sake of those dying without hope, for the sake of Jesus! Let us give ourselves to Him Who gave Himself totally to us!
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