Mission America to Encourage Adoption

Publications Director
AD2000 and Beyond Movement

Colorado Springs, CO - "AD2000 and Joshua Project are where God is moving in the world. We in North America need to hear!" Bill Waldrop, the Facilitator of International Ministries for Mission America spoke these words to 100 "leaders of influence among local churches in world mission" gathered here April 29 - 30, 1997. He shared ways in which the church in the United States can participate with churches worldwide in Joshua Project 2000, a plan to establish a reproducing church among the largest, least-reached people groups by the year 2000. He said that the AD2000 movement, which sponsors Joshua Project 2000, 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," Waldrop continued, "you’d never know it." Only outside the United States has AD2000 and Beyond and its motto, "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000," become a household word among Christians.

Mission America, the national initiative of the AD2000 Movement in the United States, hopes to raise the awareness and facilitate the involvement of American churches among the Joshua Project Peoples. Waldrop, the former president of Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment (ACMC), convened the meeting in Colorado Springs as a precursor to a much larger meeting of American "leaders of influence among local churches in world mission" which Mission America will sponsor in 1998.

The method gaining popularity throughout the United States to help churches get involved with the Joshua Project is "people group adoption." In people group adoption, a church pledges to focus concern on one ethno-linguistic people which needs the gospel. This can take many forms, including prayer, sponsoring a missionary, funding specific ministries such as Jesus Film distribution, or actually sending lay teams to work in tandem with a missionary on the field. The church vows to remain committed to the people until a thriving ethnic church is established among them. The AD2000 and Beyond International Office has prepared a program containing instructions and resources for people group adoption, called the Adoption Guidance Program, available on their WEB site.

In one of the most striking presentations of the two day-conference, John Rowell, pastor of the 450-member Northside Community Church of Atlanta, an Evangelical Free congregation described his "ordinary" church’s people group adoption.

Northside, however, is far from ordinary. Despite, or perhaps, because, Pastor Rowell has no seminary degree (Evangelical Free does not require one), Northside has emphasized training gifted laity to plant churches. It planted three daughter churches in its own community, including one Farsi-speaking congregation. Finally, it committed to adopt the Bosnian Muslims, a Joshua Project People.

In 1992, there were no known believers among the group. When the four-year siege of Sarejevo began, Rowell’s church worried that the opportunity there would end. The pastor and a team took a journey during the war, to see if there was still a role for them. They found a refugee center where people were hurting and accessible. 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 a 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 was not discouraged by the challenge that faced them! 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 others who would follow. Now there are five Americans and three nationals on the church planting team. Working with national leaders from Croatia, they have helped to plant four churches with others in the process of organizing. There are hundreds of new believers in Bosnia today. During the course of the effort, 60% of the church’s teens and 40% of the church’s adults have participated in short term teams serving Bosnian refugees -- over 200 people. Even though this effort continued during the war and some workers were caught in the middle of shelling and gunfire, not one Northside member has been injured.

The church committed to its adoption, not knowing where the funding would come from. But mission and relief agencies were willing to supply materials and funding at several junctures to support Northside’s determination. The church itself gave generously, increasing its annual missions budget from $89,000 in 1990, to $635,000 in 1995. Rowell’s parting words were "NEVER underestimate the power of a small church."

Also attending the conference, Luis Bush, International Director of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement reported surprising progress for Joshua Project 2000 worldwide. In September 1995, the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association (EFMA) urged its member agencies to send teams of church planters to each of the Joshua Project groups by the end of the millenium. In a landmark survey taken recently by AD2000’s International Office in Colorado Springs, 800 Christian organizations responding from 77 nations revealed that more than two-thirds of the Joshua Project 2000 peoples now have an agency planning to reach them and over half have church planting teams in their midst.

Conceived in 1996 following the Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCOWE 95 in Seoul), AD2000 developed the Joshua Project 2000 to bring particular focus on those large groups, many within the 10/40 window (a term coined by Bush which has gained wide popularity), which have no substantial Christian witness. The list of target peoples was the first-time consolidation of research prepared by Wycliffe, World Vision, Operation World, and the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, using an agreed-upon criteria of 1. Size (population greater than 10,000 individuals) 2. Christian background (less than 5% which would call themselves "Christian" and 3. Evangelical Believers (less than 2%). The list has evolved as field-based operations have submitted updates to the data contained in its numerous fields of information.

Internationally, AD2000 and Beyond Movement will be convening its third Global Consultation on World Evangelization in Pretoria, South Africa at the end of June this year. The last GCOWE, in May 1995, in Seoul, Korea, hosted nearly 4,000 delegates from 186 nations.

Information on Joshua Project Peoples, People Group Adoption, Global Consultations (GCOWE’s) or the Joshua Project 2000 consultation, may be found and downloaded for personal use at the AD2000 WEB site http://www.AD2000.org.<> Printed copies of the Joshua Project 2000 Unreached Peoples list are also available.

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