RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A “new wave” of missions outreach has been launched by four evangelical organizations that have commissioned the first overseas workers in a unique partnership focused on billions of people who cannot be reached with traditional methods.
Epic Partners — a global missions partnership founded by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, Campus Crusade for Christ, Wycliffe and Youth With A Mission — uses chronological Bible storying to communicate God’s Word and plant churches among unreached people groups that are “oral learners.”
An estimated 4 billion people — about two-thirds of the world’s population — learn through the spoken word rather than the written word. Mission efforts focused on increasing literacy rates and providing written materials simply do not work in any significant way, said Avery Willis, recently retired IMB senior vice president of overseas operations.
Willis, who spoke during an Epic Partners commissioning service in Asia in mid-October, said rethinking the concept is simple.
‘HANDICAPPED BY LITERACY’
“We must meet people on their own terms,” Willis said. “Where is the barrier? Is it in them or in us? The difficulty lies with us, the literates. We’ve been handicapped by literacy.
“We’ve got to lay that aside and communicate in a manner that connects with the people we are trying to reach — and that is through orality.”
If manufacturers can sell products in the most remote parts of the globe, why shouldn’t the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ also be available, Campus Crusade President Steve Douglass asked.
“We’ve spent millions of budget dollars on unreached people groups,” Douglass said. “Why can’t we reach them? If Coca Cola can do it, why can’t [the message of] Jesus Christ?”
Because Epic Partners personnel will be working in locations that are often dangerous and Gospel-resistant, the ministry destinations of the new workers could not even be discussed at the commissioning service. Attendees ended the service by encircling each person, family and team to pray for guidance and protection.
Each organization participating in the Epic partnership brings its own unique ministry tools to the table:
— In the past few years, Wycliffe Bible Translators has found ways to accelerate the process of putting Bible stories into the heart language of an unreached people group.
— YWAM excels in training young people and nationals to be enthusiastic soul-winners.
— Campus Crusade is known for its longstanding commitment to evangelistic audio-visual products, such as the “JESUS” film, and facilitating local peoples and partnerships.
— The IMB specializes in church-planting strategies and has conducted nearly two decades of research on orality and chronological Bible storying.
“We’re seeing that we can get the job done,” Douglass said, noting that although these four groups founded Epic Partners, they believe others also will catch the vision and come alongside the work.
“What we’re committed to doing at Epic Partners is passing the ball. We’re not ball-hogging. That’s how you win,” Douglass said, adding that the task will be completed through the involvement of the local church “taking the ball” and maximizing the use of resources and funds.
RIDE THE WAVE
“A new wave in missions is coming,” Douglass added. “It can crush, or it can be ridden. If the wave is ridden, there is no limit to what we can see. We will not see increases of 10 percent, but a 10-time increase.”
The Epic Partners commissioning service officially launched that wave of missions advance — primarily focusing on South Asia. Some of the field workers commissioned are self-supporting volunteers while others are financially supported by the parent organization. But all received training through their individual sending entities before beginning specialized training in issues of orality.
Organizers of the Epic partnership envision three types of projects:
— Epic Ventures: a team or teams working with existing field personnel among an unreached people group to assess the need for a chronological storying approach.
— Epic Quests: partners jointly engaging an unreached people group through a two-year program with a chronological storying approach to church planting.
— Epic Journeys: short-term evangelism and church-planting initiatives using audio recordings of Bible stories produced by an Epic Venture or Epic Quest project.
“I’ve been a part of commissioning about 7,000 people over the past 10 years,” Willis said. “I don’t know if there is a group I’m more pleased to see go out than this Epic group.”
David Hamilton, international associate provost for YWAM’s University of the Nations in Hawaii, quoted an African Maasai proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with someone.”
“Partnership is at the foundation of God’s intentions. It’s not just strategic, it’s essential,” he told the gathered mission workers.
If oral learners who have never been touched with the Gospel are going to be reached, missions organizations and workers must be reprogrammed in their thinking — not only concerning orality, but also about partnering with others.
“A gateway is opening to a whole new way to do missions together. Ego and logo are just stashed someplace else,” Douglass said in his charge to those attending the Epic Partners commissioning service.
“This causes you to believe that the Great Commission can get done. And each organization involved has got the picture that God has called us to do something special together.”
EPIC PARTNERS: http://www.epicpartners.org.
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