RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Historians identify William Carey’s departure for India in 1793 as launching the modern missionary movement. But most would acknowledge that more has been accomplished in global missions following World War II than in the previous 150 years.
However, with the disintegration of the communist power block in the last decade of the 20th century -— along with advances in communication, travel and technology —- progress toward fulfillment of the Great Commission has accelerated more in the first five years of the 21st century than the last 212 years combined!
Chaos, conflicts and political upheaval have combined to create an openness to spiritual answers that only the Gospel can provide. A focus beyond nations to evangelize every people group has made the Good News accessible to masses hearing it for the first time.
The growing numbers of believers and expanding networks of churches around the world have changed the roles of missionary partners from the West.
Yes, missionaries primarily still go to witness to the lost, but the imperatives of discipleship and training have become more prominent. Yes, they still engage in the diverse ministries and tasks of teaching, media, health care and development work, but the role is much more complex as they train and equip national Baptist partners to assume leadership and responsibility for these tasks.
Most would see their role as “catalytic” -— their presence producing a reaction and movement to Christ rather than working for whatever may result from their own efforts. More countries are closed to a missionary presence than ever before, but that doesn’t inhibit today’s missionaries from finding legal ways of creative access through a business, humanitarian or educational platform through which they can be an incarnational witness and share the Gospel.
A strategy coordinator (SC) is especially critical to reaching all peoples. A strategy coordinator is an innovative missionary who has been trained in strategic thinking to devise multiple ways of communicating the Gospel through cultural filters and religious barriers. The overarching objective of the SC missionary is to see that all people in the population segment become evangelized and have reproducing churches planted among them.
To accomplish this, SCs are not bound by residential restrictions -– in fact, they often use computers to facilitate their teams’ work, mobilize resources and stay connected with a network of prayer intercessors. SCs collaborate with all Great Commission Christians, enlisting other missionaries, volunteers and local Christians to reach their objectives.
After 150 years of missions work, the IMB was working in 184 countries but had evangelized only 338 distinct ethnic-language groups. In the last eight years, more than a thousand new people groups, most of them previously unreached, have been engaged with the Gospel.
One of the deterrents to reaching all peoples is the need for more SCs -— those willing to step into the servant role of a strategy coordinator and assume responsibility for whatever it takes to get the Gospel to another people group. Would you allow God to speak to your heart and say, “You could do that; will you be the one to reach another people group that is still waiting?”
Jerry Rankin serves as president of the International Mission Board.