April 28-29, 1997
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
The one hundred delegates from across the United states, armed with pencil and paper like so many attentive students, scribbled notes, raised hands to ask questions, and thoroughly concentrated on each of the speakers. Perhaps it was the Colorado mountain air or the air conditioning turned up briskly, but more likely it was the dynamic presentations which kept energy focused in this first afternoon of the consultation.
The format of the day's presentations, organized by Bill Waldrop of Mission America worked well to give shape and scope to the dream of Joshua Project: from the first broad sweeping strokes of the visionaries of the movement early on, to the very specific tears of the last presenter, a missionary appointee who shared how her church's adoption of a Muslim people group eventually led to her family's decision to go to live among the people as missionaries. As she shared her joy over the first public baptisms in a people group where just four years ago, there were only rumors of one or two believers, many in the audience shared what she called her "gift of tears".
The first presenter, Paul Cedar, has had many prestigious positions, as an organizer for Billy Graham, executive pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian and senior pastor at Lake Avenue Congregational, two Southern California megachurches, and finally, president of the Evangelical Free Church denomination. But he was also the first president to resign in office. He chose instead to commit himself to a cause which spans denominational compartments: Mission America Cedar explained
"Partnership in the U.S. used to mean 'I have a plan, you come help me.' But real partnership comes when people say 'It's impossible to do alone.'" As chairman of the US Lausanne Committee, Paul realized that God was challenging the committee to go beyond words, to become proactive for reaching the United States or cease meeting. At the same time, Luis Bush and Thomas Wang of AD2000 felt that God would have Paul lead the AD2000 national initiative for the United States. In confirmation of Paul's sense of God's direction, the Lausanne \committee enthusiastically endorsed the pairing of the two organizations, AD2000 and Lausanne in Mission America, with Paul at the helm.
Bill Waldrop too was a successful pastor before becoming president of the ACMC, a position he enjoyed for ten years. He came out of retirement to join the Mission America movement because, as Bill shared, "Dear brothers and sisters, God is in this! AD2000 and Joshua Project is where God is moving in the world. We in North America need to hear!" He shared that the AD2000 movement is the biggest movement ever in the history of the Christian church--bigger than the World Council of Churches or the Lausanne movement. But in the average church in the United States, you'd never know it. Church leaders throughout the world have embraced the goals of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000."
The next presenter was the man who first invented the term, "10/40 window," AD2000 and Beyond's International Director, Luis Bush. He chronicled the evolution of the movement, from its inception with the goal of reaching the world, to the focus on the area of greatest concentration of those lacking a witness, the 10/40 window. From AD2000's first large-scale global consultation, GCOWE 95, the next refinement was the Joshua Project, a 5-year plan to plant church-planting movements among unreached peoples. But in order to do that, mission agencies which had traditionally flown solo would have to learn to work together. At a meeting of top mission executives in 1995, it was finally agreed that, even though each agency had good rationale about its own way of defining "unreached people" they must unify to present one message to the church. The result was the Joshua Project List of 1739 largest least-reached groups of the world, containing less than 2% evangelicals and less than 5% who would label themselves Christian, living in populations over 10,000.
The minimal stated goal of Joshua Project 2000 is a church planting team for every one of the 1739 selected Joshua Project 2000 peoples and a one hundred vital Christians in reproducing fellowships by December 31, 2000.
Other more focused emphases in the movement are:
In September 1995, the EFMA urged its member agencies to plant teams of church planters in every one of the JP groups by the end of the millenium. In a mission survey taken over the past few months, the AD2000 International Office has discovered that over 1,000 peoples of the original 1,739 now have mission agencies sending church planting teams to them. Those statistics are exemplified by the commitment of one agency, who sent researchers to 100 unreached groups in South Asia and prepared prayer profiles describing each group. Church planting teams followed shortly after. The work has been so successful, another 100 groups have been targeted.
In addition to regional meetings, the AD2000 movement is made of Task Forces and Networks, 22 functional groups dedicated to the AD2000 and Joshua Project vision and sharing a common vision of ministry.
AD2000-sponsored events seek to mobilize various portions of the Body of Christ toward the Joshua Project. At the next Global Consultation on World Evangelization in South Africa this summer, ten different tracks will run concurrently in 10 separate consultations. For example, the mission executives track will host 400 people from 100 countries. 700 posters showing the remaining Joshua Project peoples still without teams involved in church planting will line the walls to remind those gathered that some groups still have no agency targeting them.
Although the audience was certainly not dozing, every ear perked up when Bush offered to list the current tensions affecting Joshua Project 2000 today.
Greg Fritz, director of Caleb Project reported on the People Cluster consultation held last week in Pasadena, which Caleb Project had organized. He mentioned that originally it was called the Gatekeepers People Cluster consultation, but the first word was dropped as in the song "Bingo." He agreed that partnering with different agencies and churches may have some disagreeable side-effects, but the harvest is so increased, that it is well worth the working on alleviating problems.
The outcome of the cluster consultation included each network of churches involved in a cluster adoption electing a "recruited, trained, informed, accessible, networked" advocate, a.k.a. "key contact" and the field also appointing a "partnership facilitator" to send and receive communication. The three primary "next steps" identified were 1. To find a clearinghouse to gather and distribute "work-among and adoption information" 2. To recruit and train advocates and partnership developers and 3. To clarify terms.
Pete Holzmann, the leader Of the AD2000 Interactive Task Force, challenged the group to imagine God's purpose for information technology: to facilitate relationships, rather than blithely accept the enemy's purpose: to isolate and tempt to sin. In fact Email especially has the ability to break down walls and empower people who previously have not been in the forefront of missions effort, namely the handicapped and women. He pictured the internet as a new nervous system within the Body to allow all parts to communicate with each other.
United Prayer Track leader, C. Peter Wagner introduced his presentation with an assumption which drives the prayer movement: "Pro-active, powerful, strategically-targeted prayer can exponentially increase the spread of the gospel." (He mentioned that if anyone in the audience does not agree with that concept, his people would pray for them.) Ten years ago, prayer was a sidelight, now it is mainline.
He described some features of the developing World Prayer Center, now rising from its foundations just North of Colorado Springs. Local churches willing to sponsor prayer rooms in their own buildings with 24 hour intercessors will be linked electronically to the WPC. So far, 2,000 churches have committed to sponsor such a room, the majority from United Methodist and Southern Baptist fellowships.
Wagner described the reluctance of the traditional denominations and churches to support the Joshua Project agenda, because it would divert energy from their own plans. But the New Apostolic Church movement churches are taking on the task of Joshua Project with zest. One church in Southern California has 2500 members with a $6.5 million budget, but gives $5 million of it to support its work overseas. It has planted 3,000 churches, (300 in the Soviet Union, 1800 in China, 700 in East Asia and 280 in Vietnam).
Dr. Wagner introduced Michael Fletcher, of Manna Church in Fayetteville, NC, whose goal is to recruit 17,390 churches to adopt the 1739 Joshua Project Peoples in prayer until the year 2,000. But in the past few months, over 12,000 churches have responded, so the goal is being doubled. He explained his passion for prayer "We used to think that prayer was what you did to get ready for the work. Now we understand that prayer IS the work." His greatest sadness is that over half of the churches are not in the United States and that Americans are largely missing out on what God is doing.
He ended with an important statistic "More people have been saved in the past ten years than in the entire history of Christianity." Fletcher attributes this fact to the ocean of prayer which God has been calling forth.
The final presenter of the afternoon was Avery Willis, the Vice President of the Foreign Mission Board (SBC). He described the metamorphosis which God has brought to his denomination, partly through its creative missions division "Cooperative Services International". The goal of the denomination is no longer to lead but "to see where God is working and figure out how we can get in step with Him." They have decided to wipe the slate clean and restructure in order to reduce administration, selecting 75 new overseas leaders, each with an administrator. "God is on mission," Willis asserted "we don't want to be left behind."
The first presenter was Don Steiger, pastor of Radiant Church in Colorado Springs, an Assemblies of God congregation of 1400 people. Don's initial synopsis of the adoption is that the adoption "brought fresh life to the congregation."
The adoption idea was first conceived by a lay person in the congregation, but quickly gained the support of the pastor. The congregation looked for a people to adopt which was serviced by the Assemblies denomination and chose a Muslim group. Soon after, the church also adopted the 5,000 Chinese living in Belize because of a particular church member's interested and contacts there. The two groups, one accessible, one in a "closed" country, presented two different challenges. In the Chinese group, short term teams were welcome and effective, working under a missionary who lived in the area, but was at capacity working among a different people. The commitment to the "closed" group has largely been in funding missionaries and in informed prayer-but not in any haphazard way. A guest speaker, the denominational director of that field, challenged the people to set prayer goals. From the 800 adults attending his presentation, 13,000 hours of prayer were committed. Members turned in a monthly prayer log of hours prayed.
A prayer task force was developed who would keep the vision alive. The church hosted cultural meals, missionaries from the region, monthly prayer in the Sunday service, and a seminar on the culture. Radiant has also been one of the founding members of the network for this people.
The church's budget has not suffered from the adoption. Quite to the contrary, all types of giving have increased. In the first year of adoption, 1994, mission designated giving rose 26%, from $250,000 to $324,000 and has continued to rise since. Giving to the general church budget has increased by 14%. "We see God's blessing us because of the adoption," Steiger said. "We didn't cut anything or quit supporting any missionaries. This has only strengthened us."
The next presenter was John Rowell from Northside Community Church of Atlanta, an Evangelical Free congregation of 450 members. Northside has planted three other churches, including one Farsi-speaking congregation of 70 former Muslims.
Rowell emphasized his ordinariness and that of his congregation, but insisted that small churches can become big players in meeting critical needs. In fact, Pastor Rowell has no seminary degree. (The denomination does not require a lay person to go to seminary in order to be ordained). He was very gifted, however and founded Northside church with a $5,000 per month budget and a commitment to spend $1,000 of it on missions. The church's mission commitment evolved as new members joined, from giving money, to adopting national missionaries through Partners and Ambassadors for Christ. Then Keith Brown of OC Ministries challenged them to be come a sending church. They began to pray that God would raise someone from the congregation and soon after, the first missionary went to Wycliffe to work in administration. Rowell said "It just never occurred to us to get involved directly, to visit or be involved on the field."
That changed when Rowell got involved in Eastern Europe with refugees. Through the influence of ACMC, the church leadership became more proactive in spotting and training prospective missionaries in the congregation. They asked themselves "What would a layman need to know to plant a church?" and designed appropriate training. They now have extensive training programs to feed their mission enterprises, in the local area as well as overseas.
The congregation eventually formalized an adoption of the Muslims of Bosnia and began work there. In what must have been a surprising sermon, Rowell warned his people that someday their grandchildren would have Bosnian blood, that their daughters and sons would marry into the people group. This has already happened.
In 1992, there were no known believers among the Bosnians. When the 4-year seige of Sarejevo began, the church worried that the opportunity there would end. The pastor and a team took a journey into the war, to see if there was still a role for them. They found a refugee center where people were hurting and available. They excitedly hurried home to prepare long and short term teams to help in the camp. Northside numbered only 250 members at this time and another more experienced agency said "What makes you think that, as a small church, you can accomplish something that hasn't been accomplished in eight centuries?"
Northside didn't listen to the discouragement. They trained and sent three types of teams: prayer, short term and long term. A two-week on-site prayer team prepared the ground for the others. Over a period of seven months, the church and its daughter church sent in 70 people. More people came to the Lord than had ever before in Bosnian history. A base team stayed on to help facilitate the short term teams. Now there are 5 American and 3 national church planters in Mostar. They have already planted four churches with six in the process of organizing. There are hundreds of new believers. During the course of the adoption, 60% of the church's teens and 40% of the church's adults have done a tour of service in Bosnia-over 200 people. Even though this continued during the war and workers were caught in the middle of a battle, not one person has been injured.
Because Northside was so small, the greatest need was financial. But, the Lord honored the church for its faith and commitment, supplying needs miraculously as they arose. First the airfare dropped to a few hundred dollars. When the leaders decided that an evacuation vehicle would be wise, a complete stranger who overheard a comment in the Frankfurt airport, sent a check for $10,000. The Jesus film supplied a film and funding to buy equipment. The Gideons supplied Bibles. World Relief helped raise $45,000. In various ways, the Lord has supplied millions of dollars to fund the ministry.
The church itself gave generously out of their passion for the work, from $89,000 at the outset to $635,000 today. Rowell's parting words "NEVER underestimate the power of a small church."
David Henderson is an associate pastor of Covenant Presbyterian, a PCUSA church in Colorado Springs. He brought a perspective on how to initiate an adoption from Joshua's preparation to take the land.
Henderson described Covenant's adoption of a Central Asia people. The people were selected partly for very pragmatic reasons-the senior pastor wanted to visit some missionaries in Moscow en route to a Praying Through the Window prayer journey and there were only three unreached people groups where the flight would need to go through Moscow. The pastor returned from the prayer journey totally enthused. Henderson emphasized that there was nothing better to secure an adoption than to send the senior pastor.
The church session then voted to adopt the people, spawning many initiatives. Cathy Brown is a Covenant church member who is moving from adoption coordinator to missionary. She and her husband and children are now preparing to live among the people. Cathy shared practical ways in which they have kept the adoption alive for the church.
There were not many dry eyes in the room as Cathy shared her own emotions at seeing a video of the first public baptism among the people. When the church started the adoption, there were no documented believers. Last month, over 400 came to Christ. "This is great that God has let us be part of this."
Rev. Henderson concluded with the three biggest blessings for the church
As the testimonies concluded, everyone was eager to throng the speakers and excited talking lasted for long after the official conclusion. Tomorrow: final presentations and discussion groups
New tables had to be added to the room in order to accommodate the capacity crowd which opened in worship Wednesday morning, singing "I stand in awe of You". It was awesome to reflect on all that God had been doing in the churches and agencies represented. As one pastor was overheard commenting: "I'm in shock. We've been so large and successful, even in missions, that we've ignored everything else going on. We can't ignore it any longer. We need to get on board with what God is doing around the world! I can't believe that I almost refused to come to this meeting."
This gathering is intended to be the catalyst and precursor for a much larger Joshua Project Consultation which Mission America plans to sponsor next year. Let's hope that the enthusiasm of these few will cause other "leaders of influence" in their regions to want to attend "the big one," to be held probably sometime in the second half of 1998.
John Robb was the first of three presenters Wednesday morning. A graduate of Yale and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, with a background in church planting, Robb now works with World Vision's unreached peoples division. He began with a striking statistic "There are 75 million adults in the United States who profess Christ." These believers have an unequalled amount of discretionary income, but increasingly, the American church has been a sleeping giant. North American involvement in world missions is in severe retrenchment. Barna estimates that 75 churches per week are closing their doors. Why? Isolation and apathy are some reasons. In 1994, the then-president of ACMC, Bill Waldrop, estimated that 85% of American churches are stagnating or dying. But like Jack and the Beanstalk, when giants are awakened, they are a force to be reckoned with.
How to awaken the giant through the Joshua Project:
Robb highlighted a church he knows in Oregon which has adopted the Woloff people. They prayed and sent a team to visit. The result? The team "fell in love" with the Woloffs. They saw that water was a problem and raised $30,000 to drill wells, kept praying, sponsored Bible translation, and made two videos to inform other churches of the needs among the people. "We have been transformed! These are OUR people."
Another aspect which bring meaning to today's often disjointed American is relationship, connection around a common vision. Churches want to have a part in shaping mission strategy, not just give funds. The model of funds-only is passing away in favor of a synergistic relationship. Rather than a negative trend, James Engle, author of "A Clouded Future" says "this is the best scenario for the cause of world evangelization."
Not everyone would agree, however, and Len Bartlotti, a field missionary with the Assemblies of God, presented an opposing viewpoint. He was concerned that new models of mission effort is overlooking the tried and true models of the past. His central point was that the field and the home should be more sharply divided domains, with career missionaries on the field and churches staying home to support them in prayer and giving.
Citing his own experience, he felt that it was unnecessary for people in the home country to have "a touchy feely experience" except for one in God's throne room. People on the homrefront do not need more than basic information in order to pray for unreached people groups. Better information doesn't make better prayer. He suggested that the Joshua Project emphasis was a capitulation to the boomer philosophy, which was ungodly and should be opposed.
Other key points of disagreement:
A missionary statesman among the group, John Kyle, presented next, to give his perspective of many years. He was a coworker with "Uncle Cam" (Cameron Townsend) in the early days of Wycliffe. When Townsend started, he estimated that there were only 500 groups worldwide which needed a Scripture in their own tongue. Kyle went to the Philippines, where, of 109 languages, 70-80 still needed Scripture. In 1974, Kyle was invited to the Lausanne meeting where Dr. Ralph Winter presented the world-changing concept that the mission force needed to be directed towards ethnic peoples rather than geographical nations. Since joining AD2000 himself in Singapore in 1989, Kyle has seen the movement surge forward.
He sees "the genius of Joshua Project 2000" as the means of linking church, agency, field operation and the people needing to be reached. In acknowledging Bartlotti's concerns, Kyle said that while it needs to be used properly, Joshua Project "is a God given tool."
In giving the agenda for the discussion and prayer groups, Bill Waldrop emphasized the importance of adequate time in prayer to seek God's agenda. "More damage has been done to the cause of Christ in America by shooting up little perfunctory prayers and then going on with our own agenda."
Discussion groups were organized into:
Following a time of unhurried prayer for unreached peoples, groups discussed three questions relating to the task of how to influence local churches to adopt the 1739 major unreached people groups.
As people gathered their luggage and exchanged final business cards, organizer Bill Waldrop was already making his plans for "the big one" which would multiply this group many-fold and bring the message of Joshua Project to churches across America.
Back to the AD2000 home page