What is the Remaining Mission Task?

What is the remaining mission task? Rebecca Lewis, daughter of Ralph Winter, released an amazing video that describes the remaining mission task in just six minutes. Click here to see this amazing video.
One of my team mates worked for nearly a year to compile the data supporting the graphs in this video. An article in the International Journal of Foreign Mission, “Clarifying the Remaining Task,” explains the new pie chart in detail and provides all the data. Click here to read the IJFM article.
Lewis’ statement, “Out of 30 missionaries sent, roughly ONE goes to the unreached and frontier people groups,” challenges us to consider our deployment of mission workers and to pray fervently that “the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into His harvest field” (Luke 10:2).

How to Develop a National Challenge from Research Information

Like wind in the sails of a boat, I have seen how mission information has the power to move the Body of Christ to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple all nations. Leaders desperately need this kind of information, but often they are too busy to gather the data and analyze it. You can provide a vital service by placing this strategic mission information in their hands.  As Bob Waymire, a highly respected leader in mission research, says:

The right information the right hands at the right time has a powerful effect.

This “right information,” because of its powerful effect, has been likened to a “prophetic message.” Here I explain how to develop a “prophetic message” or national challenge  from research information. I also created a short video that outlines this process.

The Prophetic Message in Mission Research

As far as I can tell, the term “prophetic message” was first applied to mission research by Jim Montgomery, who began his missionary career in the Philippines. In 1989 Montgomery published a significant book entitled DAWN 2000, which includes an entire chapter on “the prophetic message.” Although Montgomery was likely the first to apply the term “prophetic message” to church planting, he was standing on the shoulders of biblical prophets, other mission pioneers, and Jesus himself.

Jesus shows the way

The best example I’ve found of how to use research information to develop a prophetic message is found in Matthew 9:35-38. This passage significantly shaped Montgomery’s understanding of how to use research information to develop a prophetic message. Let’s familiarize ourselves with this passage.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

In this passage we see Jesus taking three distinct “actions” regarding mission information:

First, we see Jesus gathering data about his ministry area. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages…. He saw the crowds.” Following Jesus’ example, while doing ministry, you can gather data that will be used to mobilize others in the Body of Christ. Gathering data is sometimes called Field Research.

Second, we see Jesus analyzing the data and drawing conclusions. I will say much more about this.

And third, we see Jesus communicating the “prophetic message” to his disciples, calling them to action.

Analyzing Mission Information

We will mainly focus on analyzing mission information as this helps us hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2:7). Montgomery identified two categories of mission information, drawn from this very passage, that are building blocks for the prophetic message.

The Harvest Field: The Community or Country

We will call the first building block of information the Harvest Field. Note that is this comes from the last two words of the passage.

The Harvest Field represents the context for making disciples. I like to think of Harvest Field as a Community or Country – although I have some colleagues who have multi-national regions or entire Continents as their “Harvest Field.”

This Matthew 9 passage guides us in analyzing the Harvest Field. First, Jesus noted that the harvest was plentiful. How did he know this?  Well the previous verse mentions that “he saw the crowds”– multitudes of people were coming to Jesus. This indicates that they were receptive. It is important to determine how receptive people are to the Gospel. Realize that “receptiveness” can change over time and should be reassessed.

Jesus also identified the needs of the people in his “Harvest Field.” A colleague pointed out to me that Jesus met the people’s spiritual needs, as he taught in their synagogues and preached to them the gospel of the kingdom. He also addressed their physical needs (healing every sickness and disease), he was moved with compassion by their psychological needs (as they were harassed and helpless), and he saw their need for servant leaders (for they were like sheep without a shepherd).

So then, a second part of our analysis seeks to identify needs in the community we are seeking to impact with the Gospel. This reminds me of what Paul wrote to Titus: “Our people must learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14 NASB). Fruitful ministry meets people’s needs in a wholistic way – the same way that Jesus did.

In further analyzing the Harvest Field, we want to find out the population of a region, identify people groups that live there and their religious affiliation. We will also want to know about the cities, towns and villages in an area and their respective populations. This requires us to have up to date demographic information. Fortunately, this kind of information is widely available today.

The Harvest Force: The Church or Institutional Research

Jesus points to a second building block that we need to develop a prophetic message when he says, “The workers are few….” Montgomery also refers to “the workers” as the Harvest Force. We can also think of the Harvest Force as the Church – with a Big “C”. Our research about the Harvest Force begins with gathering information about local churches but goes deeper to include missionaries, Christian organizations, theological training institutions – all the human, material and organizational resources that potentially can be mobilized to make disciples.

When I assisted with the nationwide church census in Romania, we gathered information about the number of believers, average attendance, the church’s location, its denomination, the year the church started and contact information for the church’s leader. From this information we determined growth rates.  And we identified communities without a single church – over 10,000 in the whole nation. Alongside this information we also compiled a Directory of Christian Organizations and Christian workers. This information was very helpful in determining what resources were available in various parts of the county to make disciples.

Facts, Factors and Future Trends

Once we have the FACTS for the Harvest Force and the Harvest Field, we can compare information for different regions or denominations and begin to see where there is greater fruitfulness. Sometimes as I’m doing analysis, I exclaim, “Wow! I wonder what is happening here to produce so much fruit?”

Unfortunately, the FACTS alone are not sufficient to answer these deeper questions. We need to discover the FACTORS that help or hinder growth. To discover these GROWTH FACTORS, it is necessary to talk to the people closest to the situation and find out what they are doing – or better put, what God is doing. How exciting this is to hear their stories and discover how God is at work!  We also discover what fruitful practices or methods workers are using.  What we are doing here is known as a case study.

Sometimes people have effectively used FUTURE TRENDS to clarify what to do. For example, in the Philippines, church leaders projected that there would be 50,000 barangays in the country by the year 2000. (A barangay is the smallest administrative area in the Philippines).  Establishing a church in every barangay became their national challenge.

What Does God Want?

Once we have identified facts and factors for the Harvest Field and the Harvest Force, we want to seek God’s Perspective. Lay the information for the Harvest Force and the Harvest Field side by side with the Bible and ask: what does God want? Meditate on the data. Pray over it. Call out for insight. The goal is to see the Harvest Field and the Harvest Force the way God sees them. This is powerful. Doing so brings new insights. Needs emerge. Compassion is stirred. People are motivated to act. Which leads to…

The Call to Action

Note that Matthew 9 concludes with a specific call to action. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his Harvest Field.” In this context, strategic prayer represents the next step Jesus’ disciples needed to take. Prayer is always a good place to start. But it is not the only thing we must do.

The “call to action” has also been called the “prophetic message” or the “national challenge.”

The Call to Action emerges as leaders of the Body of Christ wrestle with “what is it going to take” to accomplish what God wants. Oftentimes the call to action involves setting goals for a specific number of churches planted – or better yet, the number of localities or people groups to impact – training workers or sending out cross-cultural workers.  If you have not done so already, bring together leaders of the body of Christ, to learn what insights the research uncovered, then to pray and to wrestle with what it is going to take to do what God wants.

As leaders come to a consensus of what to do, it is time to share this call to action with the Body of Christ. Many have found it that articles, reports, booklets, prayer guides or short videos have a big impact. Publishing lists of locations without any church or maps are powerful ways to share needs with the Body of Christ and her leaders.

A Deeply Spiritual Process

Discovering the “national challenge” or “prophetic message” is a deeply spiritual process which drives you to God. Recently I was impressed by this verse in 1 Kings: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29 NIV)

When you know the facts, you have understanding.

When you identify factors, then you have insight.

When you know what to do, then you have wisdom.

In Solomon’s case, God gave all this to him because he asked. And God can give all of this to us if we ask. As James 1:5 reminds us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV)

So, ask God to show you the great things he wants to do in the Harvest Field (Jer. 33:3). “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7).

Helpful Resources

I have briefly shared how to use research information to develop a prophetic message or national challenge. As you start to implement what you have learned, I believe you will find it helpful to have other resources to guide you.

First, the Global Research Team of One Challenge, on which I serve, is available to help you understand the times and know what to do. It is our dream that God would raise up a team of mission information workers in every nation of the world to provide the Body of Christ with accurate, up-to-date information to guide Kingdom Impact on a permanent basis. Perhaps you will be a part of one of these teams. Toward this end, we offer training, consulting, coaching and mentoring. Write us at research@oci.org to explore how we can work together.

Second, our website, www.OCresearch.info provides additional tips and tools to gather and analyze information to develop effective ministry strategies. This article links to resources that I have found most helpful in using research information to develop a prophetic message.

May God give you wisdom, insight and vast understanding as you provide Body of Christ and her leaders with the strategic information needed to make disciples in His harvest field.

Key Insights from the 2017 National Church Planting Process Survey

Not all saturation church planting or disciple making processes produce equal fruit. What makes the difference? If we have limited resources, which emphases are most fruitful?

These are some of the questions posed at the beginning of the 2017 National Church Planting Processes Survey. This first-of-its-kind study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of whole-nation disciple making process, sometimes referred to as Saturation Church Planting (SCP) or DAWN Initiatives.

The results of this research exceeded expectations, yielding more significant findings than anticipated.

Here are seven key Insights found to advance nationwide disciple making processes:

  1. The “ideal” DAWN strategy is effective. 
  2. National Church Leadership is the most significant factor for developing a whole nation church planting process.
  3. “Seminars and Consultations” is the second most significant factor contributing to an effective national-wide disciple making process.
  4. Relationships are foundational to a fruitful national process.
  5. Refine the process.
  6. Think critically about it is going to take to disciple the whole nation.
  7. Success requires a long obedience in the same direction.

These insights, which when acted upon, can guide the development of effective nationwide disciple making processes.

A more thorough explanation of these seven insights is available here, including practical applications of how this research guides the development whole-nation disciple making processes as we move toward AD 2050.

See my earlier posts for other perspectives on this study.


The Vital Role of National Leadership in Advancing National Church Planting Processes

Earlier this month I was in Nairobi Kenya for the 8th Lausanne International Researchers’ Conference. It certainly was highlight for me to arrive in Nairobi on my birthday — my first time in Africa — and to present a paper on “The Vital Role of National Leadership in Advancing National Church Planting Processes. You can view the paper here.

This paper is based on the 2017 National Church Planting Process survey that I conducted. I was very surprised to discover that “National Leadership” was the most significant variable related to an effective National Church Planting Process and that leadership was the most frequently mentioned  theme in response to the question,“What would you consider to be one or two of the most significant lessons (positive or negative) that you have discovered about facilitating a national church planting process?”

My research provides an empirical basis for what evangelical leaders have been saying for some time. For example Bill Hybles asserts, “The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” And John Maxwell points out, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” So when it comes to advancing a national church planting process, indeed “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

What we are learning about effective National Church Planting Processes

Not all national saturation church planting  processes produce equal fruit. What makes the difference? If we have limited resources, which emphases are most fruitful?

For the last nine months I have been studying questions like these by surveying over 100 high level church leaders from every continent.  Several of our presuppositions were confirmed, but there were also significant surprises! This first-of-its-kind report is available here.

If you have been significantly involved in a national church planting process would like to share your insights, you can participate in the 2018 survey through this link.”

Earlier I provided an overview of the research project here.

Exciting Study on National Church Planting Processes Forthcoming

61NCPPcountriesIn 2017, a key ministry partner requested my help to evaluate the effectiveness of National Church Planting Processes on a global scale.  With the help of my co-workers on the Global Research Team, I created an online survey, and over 110 workers with significant experience participated.  In February I will travel to Berlin to interact with a group of global church planting catalysis to share the major findings of this study and new insights pertinent to advancing national church planting processes around the world.  In addition, I’ve planning a series of additional reports focused on related topics. Reports and updates will be posted at www.OCresearch.info.

I consider this the most significant research project I’ve been involved with to date. It has been a super opportunity to collaborate with experts in the field of mission research as well as those with significant experience in advancing national church planting processes. If each person who completed the survey has just of ten years experience (highly likely), this totals over a millennium of experience!

A National Church Planting Process is based on the DAWN vision, which became a major strategy for world evangelization in the 1990s. DAWN, an acronym that stands for “Disciple A Whole Nation,” has biblical roots in Matthew 28:19-20.  The DAWN vision, akin to “Saturation Church Planting”, grew out of Jim Montgomery’s experience in the Philippines as an OC missionary.  In the 1970s Montgomery, along with Donald McGavran, played a key role in motivating and mobilizing Philippine church leaders to set a goal of establishing an evangelizing congregation in every small community of the country by the year 2000.  Projections estimated that this would require 50,000 churches, quite an audacious goal when there were roughly 5,000 evangelical churches in the country! But by 2000, the Philippines had more than 50,000 evangelical churches – though not every small community had an evangelizing church.

DAWN became a highly significant world evangelism strategy during the final decade of the 20st century. In 1985 Montgomery founded Dawn Ministries to promote national church planting processes in other nations. Montgomery’s book, DAWN 2000: 7 Million Churches to Go, published in 1989, was key in spreading the vision globally. In the 1990s the DAWN strategy was championed by the Lausanne Movement, the World Evangelical Alliance as well as the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement.  DAWN Report #21, a special AD 2000/GCOWE edition, lists 68 countries with active projects and mentions 68 additional nations seriously considering a DAWN-type project. A 1998 report disseminated by the World Evangelical Alliance for the Ibero American DAWN Congress ’98 provided information about DAWN projects for more than 60 countries.  In 2002, Dr. Steve Steele, then Dawn Ministry’s CEO, presented a paper at The Billy Graham Center Evangelism Roundtable. Steele mentions “150 or so DAWN national Projects.” Roughly a million new churches were planted in the 1990s as a result of these projects. Thus DAWN had a significant impact on world evangelization in the 1990s, which continues into the third millennium, even though Dawn Ministries has essentially ceased to function.

Although numerous studies of particular DAWN country projects have been undertaken, we were not familiar with meta-evaluation of DAWN initiatives. Thus we undertook the challenge of a multi-national evaluation of DAWN initiatives.

In 2018 we continue to gather insights from those involved in national church planting processes.  If you have been or are currently involved in advancing a national church planting process, you are invited to participate in this online survey.  We value your input. The survey should take 10 to 20 minutes to complete and your responses are confidential. Click here to participate in the 2018 National Church Planting Process survey.

A Tribute to one of My Heroes: Chuck Holsinger

Chuck HolsingerOn September 13th, Cathy and I attended the memorial service for Chuck Holsinger, one of the early workers with our mission, OC International.  I don’t believe I’ve been at a memorial service where there has been more laughter as numerous people shared humorous anecdotes about Chuck. He had a great sense of humor; he also had great love for God and his country.

We first met Chuck in 1991 in California when we were checking out OC. I remember what he shared in the seminar about support raising “I don’t raise support. God lowers it.” This piece of wisdom has stuck with me ever since and on several occasions I have passed it on to others.

Chuck was the Europe Area Director who opened Romania as an OC field. The first time he visited Romania Chuck remarked, “Romania reminds me of Taiwan in the 1950s. We should have purchased an office then when property was inexpensive. But we didn’t. Then the economy took off, and we were never able to purchase an office. We aren’t going to make that same mistake again.”

Chuck shared this need with two of his friends in business and received gifts to purchase an apartment for our team to use as an office, which was a tremendous blessing not only to our team but to the many other Christian groups, including a church plant, which used the office for meetings and office space. And Chuck was right! The economy did take off in Romania, and if we had not purchased an office when we did, we would not have been able to so so latter on.  It was an especially lovely moment for us when we hosted a group from Taiwan at our office during a vision trip to Romania.  It was like the Taiwan-Romania connection had come full circle.

Chuck and his wife Betty visited Romania about a week after we first arrived in country. He had connections with a Pastor in a city on the Black Sea. So we all went to visit this Pastor in Braila. This was our first ministry trip, which involved a three hour train trip – cultural experience in itself. I was Chuck’s roommate. As we were getting to know each other, I mentioned that I began my education at Penn State. Chuck mentioned that he had a friend who was on the Board of Trustees at PSU back in the 1970s, who was praying for revival on the campus. Upon hearing this, I became excited to share with Chuck how God had answered his friend’s prayers.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, one of the largest Campus Crusade chapters was at Penn State with about a thousand students involved. Other Christian groups such as InterVarsity and Navigators were also strong on campus. Little known to me when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1979, there was a “revival” going on among the students with strong foreign missions spirit.  In the spring of 1980 Ralph Winter came to Penn State and held one of the early Perspectives Courses. The vision he cast took root among the students. I too caught the mission vision and left Penn State the following year to prepare for missionary service. Those who have closely followed the movement at PSU say that well over 100 students served overseas. One group of students went on to start Caleb Project, which mobilized a generation for missions. I am in touch with several who are still serving today, and I know many more that have a great heart for missions and are serving as senders. So it was a pleasure for me to share “the other half of the story” with Chuck.

In retirement Chuck and his wife Betty settled in Upland, Indiana. That town might sound familiar, because this is where our family also landed five years ago.  Chuck had quite a ministry in our little town. He regularly went to the Circle K gas station in the mornings to get a coffee and a donut – but his real motive was share a word of encouragement and the love of Christ with the people who came into the store. Chuck had a knack of turning fact conversations into faith conversations.

Chuck was also a decorated WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. He wrote a book about his experiences, Above the Cry of Battle. The book is really his testimony of how God protected him in battle and enabled him to forgive the Japanese for the atrocities which he witnessed. When he was at the Circle K, Chuck was known to go to his car, pull out his book from the box he kept in the trunk and give it to a veteran or any other person who needed encouragement.  I’ve heard many other stories of how Chuck was a light in our community.

The Pastor officiating Chuck’s memorial service shared Hebrews 13:7 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” This is so true in Chuck’s case. He left us a wonderful Christ-like example of generosity, faith and service that we would do well to emulate.