His ‘unreached people’ strategy seems to be taking hold among other missions.

The U.S. Center for World Mission faced imminent foreclosure last year (CT, Sept. 18, 1981, p. 46). Indeed, founder Ralph Winter’s missions push toward the frontiers seemed destined to die at the loan desk.

But last minute funds rolled in, much as they had in several previous crises, and past-due payments on the center’s campus were made. The Pasadena, California, missions complex remains very much alive, and its priority on frontier missions is increasingly being embraced in evangelical circles:

• The Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) made “Penetrating Frontiers” the theme of its annual meeting in September. In a declaration there, the IFMA’S 85 member agencies confessed to “staying too long in established ministries” and made evangelization of the world’s unreached peoples its “chief and irreplaceable duty.”

• Among denominations, the Evangelical Free church recently named a staff person to work full-time promoting frontier missions in its local churches. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel has set a goal of contacting 100 unreached people groups by 1990.

• Missions agency officials report an increasing number of young people who make as a criteria for their candidacy whether the mission is involved in the frontiers.

• Influential spokesmen such as author Don Richardson (Peace Child) and missiologist Donald McGavran are sounding the call. Wrote McGavran (U.S. Center board chairman) recently: “So long as the contemporary delusion persists that the best missionary work today is helping the young denominations, so long will these unreached peoples of earth remain unevangelized.”

Of course, talk won’t pay the U.S. Center’s next financial obstacle: a $6 million balloon payment due in September 1983. But Winter, 57, believes that if enough evangelicals catch his vision for frontier missions, the money will come in.

Specifically, he and others are counting on the success of the Frontier Fellowship. This U.S. Center-related group is promoting to mission agencies and denominations a daily prayer and giving discipline, which seeks to involve one million people by December 1983.

With each person giving his daily loose change to frontier missions (about 28ȼ), the plan would generate $100 per year per person, or roughly $100 million each year. Donors are asked to designate the first $15 for the U.S. Center, thereby eliminating the remaining $10 million or so owed on the campus. All the rest would go solely to frontier missions programs of the various agencies.

Article continues below

It sounds a bit complicated, but Winter simplifies it this way: “Our [the U.S. Center’s] problem is not fund raising. Our problem is in getting a number of organizations to join in a nationwide prayer campaign for the frontiers.

“If that campaign succeeds, our financial problems will go away. If it doesn’t, our financial problems might as well not be solved. In other words, the prayer campaign is a much more important goal than the center itself.”

The idea for the Frontier Fellowship came from Burmese pastor Kawl Vuta, who told Winter how families in his Presbyterian denomination support missions by setting aside a handful of rice at every meal.

This reminds them to pray for their missionaries, and the pooled handfuls of rice are sold for missions. Vuta said Burmese Presbyterians raised more than $5,600 by this method last year.

When Winter heard Vuta’s story, “the thing that just hit me right between the eyes was, ‘You cannot do less—this is the way for the frontier vision to be kept alive.’ ”

A staff member quipped, “Well, what are we going to do? Ask people to save french fries?” Someone else suggested saving loose change, and the idea stuck. Later, Winter and others decided a devotional booklet was needed to give the biblical and historical basis for frontier missions.

So far, the campaign has attracted 20,000 subscribers to the Frontier Fellowship’s Daily Prayer Guide. Fifteen organizations are members of the fellowship—including the Africa Inland Mission, the World Evangelical Fellowship, and a United Presbyterian group.

Winter’s focus on frontier missions dates back to 1974, when he and wife Roberta prepared a plenary paper for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. They were astonished to find that roughly 2.4 billion people, or 84 percent of the world’s non-Christians, were beyond the reach of existing missions and national churches.

Despite that, less than 10 percent of the world’s missionary force was working to evangelize these unreached people.

With charts, graphs, and statistics, the Winters described this imbalance. However, they left feeling “we probably hadn’t clearly convinced anybody; it was so technical,” Winter said.

But he had convinced himself—enough so that in 1976 he left the faculty of the Fuller School of World Mission and established the U.S. Center. Its two major activities continue to be locating and determining how to reach the world’s hidden peoples, and mobilizing the Christian community through information about them.

Article continues below

(The terms, hidden, unreached, and frontier have synonomously come to mean those 16,750 people groups in the world that still do not have a strong indigenous evangelical church.)

The U.S. Center is a cooperative missions base, where 42 agencies are involved. Among the staff are 67 missionaries, representing experience in 64 agencies and 40 different countries. While the center itself is a mission agency, its role is as a catalyst and in assisting other agencies toward work in frontier missions.

One can’t chalk up the center’s late bill payments on extravagance. It relies heavily on volunteer workers (even Ralph Winter’s father, a retired engineer, volunteers his Thursdays). Staff receive missionary salaries based on need, so that Winter receives no more than the newest staff member. He’s usually seen wearing the same blue sport coat and driving to work in a 1965 station wagon on its third 100,000-mile cycle.

Should Winter have the opportunity again, he would probably still buy the 35-acre, 100-building Pasadena campus of a former Nazarene college on which his center is located. Property and buildings cost roughly $15 million, but the property now is worth about $20 million, he says.

Once the center is paid off, it will be self-sustaining, largely because most of the personnel are on loan from various mission agencies.

His original plan was paying the $15 million through one million, one-time, gifts of $15. This way, no money would be diverted away from churches or missions agencies, and a large number of people would be involved in frontier missions.

That vision remains, but Winter admitted that if it had not been for large money gifts from individuals and organizations, the center would have folded. Still, Winter said, the center intends to reassign to other agencies any individual gift over $15. Gifts from churches and organizations are considered as loans, and will be paid back as soon as enough $15 gifts come in through the Frontier Fellowship plan.

Would the center accept if someone, say a Bunker Hunt, offered to cover remaining payments with one check?

“In our weaker moments, we’d thought of the possibility that someone would walk into the office and offer $11 million,” Winter said. “We decided we would accept it, but with the same plan of returning all but the first $15 once enough other small gifts came in.”

Former missionary to Japan, Phil Foxwell, told Winter the center’s financial status had sounded “insane.” But he was sold enough on the center’s work that he came out of retirement to work there, and he said, “It’s amazing how God has provided funds to meet the payments.”

Article continues below

Staff member and former school teacher Vernon Dueck said he, too, had been skeptical about the U.S. Center. But after talking with Winter, he found that “Dr. Winter’s been saying [about missions] what I’d been thinking all these years.” Dueck’s task was convincing his own denomination, the Baptist General Conference, to join the Frontier Fellowship campaign.

Unfortunately, some observers feel, the center’s funding troubles may have obscured the center’s vital purpose and present services.

But there’s a method behind Winter’s seeming madness in having to pay off the debt in a crisis atmosphere.

Many Christians will become concerned about saving a $20 million piece of property, but not about the hidden peoples, who “are not dramatic enough, not on our consciences enough,” he said.

“We run into a lot of people who don’t have the time to listen to us, except that they know that if sufficient funds don’t come in, the center will go down.… So that I believe that God is using our plight to dramatize the urgency of the hidden peoples.”

in Pasadena, California

World Scene

Radio Station HCJB has installed a second hydroelectric plant to power its international gospel broadcasts. The 4-million-watt plant, built on a remote mountain tributary of the Amazon and inaugurated last November 30, cost $2.25 million. It will provide greater short-wave signal strength by enabling the present transmitters to perform at optimum capacity; the facility also allows for future expansion.

A tent campaign in Ireland produced solid results for that Roman Catholic stronghold. The two-week effort last fall in Dublin, led by Canadian evangelist Barry Moore, drew good attendance in spite of stormy weather throughout; more than 80 commitments were recorded.

The projected merger of two Dutch Reformed denominations in the Netherlands has an ironic twist. A century ago, theologian Abraham Kuyper led a group in seceding from the Netherlands Reformed Church (Hervormde Kerk) bcause of its liberalism. The denomination he formed, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN), last year applied to reunite with the Hervormde Kerk. The application was approved in November, with the goal of full reunion set for 1986. But the controversial action was strongly opposed by a conservative wing in the Hervormde Kerk, the Reformed Alliance—because of liberalism in the GKN!

Article continues below

Twelve members of the “Siberian Seven” Vashchenko family who traveled from Chernogorsk, Siberia, to Moscow to visit their four relatives in the American Embassy were detained for two days by the Soviet authorities in mid-December and then flown back to their home. The group had received clearance for the visit, but rejected a U.S. embassy condition that they visit two at a time rather than all together.

Baptists in Yugoslavia have targeted the 100,000 Turkish Muslims in their country for evangelism. Their publishing house in Novi Sad is producing New Testaments and other literature for this purpose. Protestants themselves number only 150,000 in a population of 22.6 million.

The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa has asked the secret society, the Broederbond (Fraternity of Brothers), to relinquish its anonymity. The all-white society, whose members are said to include many ministers, is a reputed champion of the government’s apartheid policy. It has announced that it will surrender its secret character.

The Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology has announced it will form its first class in September, NEGST is the first English-language graduate-level seminary in Africa to be sponsored by the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (a French-language seminary was launched at Bangui, Central African Republic, in 1977). It will offer the M. Div. and M. Th. degrees.

The Ethiopian government has signed a three-year contract with a Mennonite missions organization. The Mennonite Mission in Ethiopia, which represents the Mennonite Central Committee and the Eastern Mennonites, is responsible to “promote and encourage relief and development activities in Ethiopia.” The signing last month regularizes relations that had grown strained over last year’s closing of a church, detention of six church leaders, and freezing of church bank accounts.

The plot is extremely thick in the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.Act 1: Patriarch Derderian suspends Archbishop Ajamian from leadership of the Jerusalem Armenian Church. Confidants of the patriarch say Ajamian cooperated with the Israelis too openly and was involved in financial wrongdoing. Act 2: Ajamian sues the patriarch for publishing paid advertisements in the Jordanian press labeling him as a “collaborator” with the Israeli government. Act 3: The Israeli government refuses to renew the visa of the patriarchate’s number two man, Archbishop Kazanjian from Australia. The patriarch’s backers say it is because Kazanjian is too friendly with radical Armenian nationalists. But Kazanjian’s partisans say the visa is really a bargaining chip being used by the Israelis to secure reinstatement of Ajamian to the Jerusalem church.

Article continues below

A Hindu “mass awakening campaign” carried out last year in India netted contributions of $2.5 million for buttressing Hinduism’s dominant position in the country. According to the Express News Service in Hyderabad, interest from the fund will be used to field 1,000 trained, full-time workers by mid-1983. It reported that 160 are already deployed. The service quoted a Hindu official to the effect that the prime object is to stem conversions from Hinduism, reversing a recent trend. He said that eradicating untouchability is a key element to the program’s success.

India’s Union Biblical Seminary launched a Center for Mission Studies this school year. The seminary, in transition from its present location at Yeotmal to a new campus in Pune, is offering both an M.A. in missions and a diploma course for missionaries. Principal Saphir Athyal is directing the center pending appointment of a full-time director.

Fifty Protestant pastors, 400 Roman Catholic priests, and unnumbered Buddhist monks remain in prision in Vietnam, according to a recent report.

New Zealand’s National Council of Churches has agreed to an ecumenical structure that would include the Roman Catholic church. The 12 current member denominations approved a draft constitution last fall for the envisioned New Zealand Council of Churches. The action awaits approval by the country’s Catholic bishops.

North American Scene

New Jersey Attorney General Irwin I. Kimmelman has said he will not defend a law requiring a daily one-minute period of silence in New Jersey public schools if challenges are brought against it. A measure requiring the moment of silence recently became law over the veto of New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean. Kimmelman said, “It it my duty not to defend a law that I believe to be unconstitutional.”

In Massachusetts bartenders no longer have to locate at least 500 feet from church property. The U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Massachusetts law that gave churches and schools the power to veto the issuing of liquor licenses within 500 feet of their property. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the 8-to-1 opinion and claimed that the law violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state. The ruling does not overturn similar laws in 27 other states. Burger said the critical difference is that in Massachusetts, churches had the right to block bars and taverns simply by objecting in writing.

Article continues below

On January 1, the legal drinking age in New Jersey went from 18 to 21. State Assemblyman Martin Herman argued that drunk driving among the 18-to-21-year-old age group “rose astronomically” after the age was lowered to 18 in 1973. Herman said he was convinced that raising the drinking age would save 40 lives annually and reduce juvenile crime in the state. In 1982 New York and Connecticut raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 19.

Liberty Baptist College won a provisional one-year certification from the Virginia State Board of Education for its biology teacher training program. Foes of certification argued that a required course at the college called “The History of Life” taught the theory of creation while implanting doubt about the validity of the theory of evolution.

A U.S. Court of Appeals banned a nativity scene in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where it had been a Christmas tradition for 40 years. In 1981, a federal judge upheld the use of a small nativity scene on the steps of the City-County Building in Denver. Many legal experts predict the issue will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Total Lutheran membership in the United States and Canada fell by 23,950 from 1980 to 1981. The 1981 membership stood at 8.8 million, compared with 9.2 million in 1970, when the downward swing began. The figures were reported by the Lutheran Council in New York. They show that some Lutheran branches gained membership from 1980 to 1981, but not enough to offset losses by two of the three largest Lutheran assemblies. The largest, the Lutheran Church in America, with 3 million members, lost 1,900, and the American Lutheran Church, with 2.3 million members, lost 6,000. The 2.7-million-member Missouri Synod (including its Canadian affiliate) gained 2,500 members; the 410,300-member Wisconsin Synod gained 3,200; and the 109,400-member Association of Evangelical Lutheran churches gained 1,600.

Sixty-six persons who were forcibly removed from Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, Nebraska, in October have filed a $66 million lawsuit against Nebraska state and local officials. The plaintiffs, 30 pastors and 36 laymen, allege that their constitutional rights of free religion, assembly, speech, and association were abridged in the incident. Twenty-one of the plaintiffs are from Nebraska. The rest are among several hundred persons who had come to Louisville to support Everett Sileven, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, where the incident occurred (CT, Nov. 12, 1982, p. 54). The church housed a religious school, which operated in violation of Nebraska law because its teachers were uncertified.

Chicago Archbishop Joseph Bernardin plans to release a detailed report on diocesan finances that is designed to answer the questions of all critics. The move is seen as an attempt by Bernardin to end criticism that grew from the practices of the late John Cardinal Cody.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.