Back in 1964, in the very first issue of Church Growth Bulletin, Donald McGavran set the tone for a new pragmatism in missionary thinking with these striking words:
Christian mission wanders in a rosy fog of vague objectives and promotional hopes. Its objectives are frequently phrased in words—outreach, extension of the Gospel, witness, opening a province, beginning a work, carrying on mission work—as vague as they are wide. “Outreach”—to what end? Beginning what kind of “work”?
Instead of ambiguous and slippery terms, Christian mission needs to speak positively and exactly about the growth of the Church. Not what missionaries did, but how churches grew. Not national trends, but how congregations arose. Not nationalization, urbanization, devolution and mechanization, but how well are we getting on with disciplining a particular part of a particular nation. Not “what do they hear?,” but “have they confessed Christ?” [1964:10, 11].
No matter what form a particular mission strategy might assume, McGavran would ruthlessly haul it before the bar of missiological judgment, asking the stinging question: Has it produced?
Produced what? For McGavran, one of today’s top missiologists, the question of priorities in missionary objectives has never been negotiable: faithful obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord implies bending all efforts, energies, and resources toward bringing men and women to follow Christ in true discipleship, and to join themselves together in the fellowship of local churches. This is not some vague, misty goal. People and churches can be counted. If tens are being won where thousands could and should be won, the strategy being used fails the pragmatic ...1
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