by David S. Lim, Ph.D.
(This paper was given as the keynote address at a mission conference) Since Evangelical churches were made aware of the unreached people groups (UPGs) within nations by Dr. Ralph Winter in Lausanne ’74 (that’s more than 30 years ago), why have we hardly decreased the number of the unevangelized in the world today?  Can’t we reach them more speedily and more effectively? This message answers three questions:
(1) Can the UPGs be reached? Yes. In fact they can be discipled and transformed!
(2) Can they be reached rapidly? Another yes! Through church planting movements (CPMs)! And
(3) Can they be reached effectively? A third yes! Through community development (CD) approach!
1. Objective: Societal/People Transformation
In recent years, Evangelicals have come to recognize a common objective for our mission: to “make disciples of nations” includes “teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded us” (Mt. 28:18-20). “Transformation” is the favorite term that has surfaced to denote this goal in proclaiming this “whole gospel” of the kingdom of God. It means the restoration of “shalom” in the world through the establishment of Christ-centered communities of love, righteousness, justice and peace (Isa. 65:19-25; Rom. 12:1-15; cf. Rev. 21:24-26). It brings about harmony and reconciliation, whereby people are invited to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and then incorporated into faith-communities that seek to build right relationships with God, their neighbors, creation and their own selves (Mt. 22:37-39; 2 Cor. 10:5). Every person and community/people group will have been enabled to become what God intended each of them to be (Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-17). The two concrete goals of “transformational mission” (TM) are saturation evangelism and community transformation. Whether the whole people group turns to Christ or not, we hope that the populace will have been empowered to become mature and responsible (not dependent) adults who can make dignified and wise decisions for their individual and communal life (including to be for or against Christ). They would be active participants (not passive spectators) in tackling issues that affect their lives and destinies in the light of God’s Word. Such lofty goals seem impossible, and indeed they are, humanly speaking. Yet the Bible reveals that our God is more than eager to have all peoples redeemed and transformed (1Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Lk.15:3-7), and His Spirit is at work to make the “fields ripe unto harvest” (Jn. 16:7-11; cf.4:34-38). In fact God will not end world history until this harvest is reaped (Mt. 24:14). God must have intended his mission to be achieved (and soon) in simple ways, though not without cost. Christ did not intend His Great Commission to take this long to only be a third-fulfilled after almost 2,000 years since His salvific death on the cross! It seems clear to me that it is His Church that has failed to follow the Spirit’s movement to send more laborers into the harvest (mainly due to inertia effected by its burdensome heavy church structures), and the few laborers have mainly failed to use the right strategies to hit this objective. Let me show what I think the right methodology and strategy should be.
2. Methodology: Church Planting Movements
In recent years, especially since 1999, the missionary community has (re) discovered the “master plan of world evangelization.” The “secret formula” is CPM through “disciple-making” in small groups – often called “house-churches,” now popularly called “rabbit churches” (in contrast to “elephant churches”). The goal is to do “rapid church multiplication,” so that as many converts as possible are made to become quality witnesses and disciple-makers as soon as possible! Saturation evangelism even in hostile UPGs is possible, perhaps only through CPMs. And thank God, this has been done in China and many places, mostly in recent years! The best CPM model seems to be the planting of “reproducible churches” with 5 characteristics marked by the acronym “P.O.U.C.H.” Each church that was planted sought to plant another church within a year. The result? Within 3 years of implementing this type of “church multiplication” method, they had 55,000 believers (from an original group of about 60) meeting in more than 3,000 cells or house churches, since many were able to reproduce within a few months! “P.O.U.C.H.” include: (1) Participative meetings – the leader is a facilitator of discussion around God’s Word, instead of being a lecturer or preacher; (2) Obedience – the goal of meetings is to make disciples, to teach one another to obey God’s Word; (3) Unpaid lay leaders – they found that the most effective leaders were housewives who hardly finished Grade 3! (4) Cells or house churches – multiplying small groups (of 10-20 adults) help keep personal relationships informal and intimate; and (5) Houses or venues that do not require rent or lot purchase (Garrison 2004: 60-64). With almost no overhead costs, believers can start new churches among their friends and contacts through “natural relationships” and simple witnessing for Christ in their kin or friends’ facilities! Yet the fastest so far is “Training for Trainers” (T4T) where a Chinese-American was able to disciple thirty believers in China to become witnesses and disciple-makers for Christ – in an amazing way! Within six months, they had more than 4,000 baptized members in 327 house-churches; in 12 months, more than 12,000 baptized members in 908 house-churches; in 18 months, about 53,420 in 3,535 house churches; and in 24 months, 104,542 in 9,320 house-churches! He began by just training them to compose and memorize their three-minute testimonies, and then each shares their testimony with five family members, friends, work-mates or neighbors! Those who respond positively were invited to a cell meeting which had a six-session curriculum: (1) Assurance of salvation, (2) prayer, (3) daily devotions, (4) body-life in a house-church, (5) understanding God and His will, and (6) witnessing, which means learning to share their (memorized) testimonies to at least five people close to them and start a new house-church with them also! (Garrison 2004: 286-291 & 307-314). These two CPM models approximate our Lord Jesus’ strategy: To start his world transformation movement, he called 12 ordinary people (almost all rural folks!) and discipled them for a while (Mk. 3:13-15). Then he sent them out two by two (that’s six pairs) to make 12 disciples each (Mt. 9:35-10:16). When he sent out disciples the second time, he did not commission the 12, but the “72 others” (Lk. 10:1, 17). These were sent out two by two also (that’s 36 pairs) to make 12 disciples each, thereby making 432 new disciples in all. 1 Cor. 15:6 mentions that after the resurrection, our Lord appeared to more than 500 (432 + 72 + 11) brethren! If these 500 paired up, that’s 250 making 12 new disciples each, they would be able to disciple exactly 3,000 new converts, which actually happened on the day of Pentecost. All converts were baptized immediately, since the apostles knew they would all be followed up and disciples in at least 250 house-churches in Jerusalem (“from house to house”, cf. Ac. 2:41-47). No wonder their numbers increased daily! The most successful “rapid (house-)church multiplication” in church history may be the Wesleyan revival: John Wesley grouped his converts into “groups of 10” (of the same gender) to check on each other’s spiritual life weekly. It resulted in the Great Awakening (or “Transformation” of large sections of England and U.S.A.! To become a CPM expert, one just has to be a “disciple-maker” who has to learn only two basic skills: friendship evangelism and leading disciple–making groups. (1) S/he learns how to share the Gospel and their personal testimony after establishing friendship with each of a few non-Christian relatives, friends, colleagues and even strangers. Converts and potentials converts are then brought to her/his cell, or better, encouraged to start an evangelical cell at their convenient place and time. And then (2) it becomes necessary to also learn how to lead small group discussions where one facilitate a meeting in which all attendees can participate in setting their agenda and seeking the proper interpretation and application of God’s word for the issues relevant to their personal lives and social contexts (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26). Thus, the goal of transformation through saturation evangelism is made possible through a CPM! Reason and experience seem to indicate that such multiplication can happen only if the first converts are not brought in close contact with the traditional local churches – for obvious reasons: they will not only be exposing themselves to danger (being known as converts prematurely), but they will also become ineffective witnesses very soon, since they will be de-contextualized from their culture (into a Christian sub-culture) rapidly! (cf. Garrison 2004: 194-196 & 245-249). It seems best for new converts to form new churches.
3. Strategy: Community Development
Yet to be really effective, especially to disciple and transform an entire UPG or community, CPM should be combined with the community development (CD) strategy. The process involves not only approaching the people group holistically, but also doing so in as contextual and empowering way as possible, so as not to create dependency but rather to help the whole community grow together to its fullest potential! By holistic, we mean that the point of entry and eventual development should cover the entire range of cultural and social life of the people group. Hence missionaries can enter through any entry platform (read: area of expertise) that serves the community, either as professionals (like medical personnel, English or any teachers, managers, engineers, etc.), as businessmen (like setting up computer or language schools, travel agencies, beach resorts, etc.) or even as skilled workers (caregivers, drivers, seamen, domestic helpers, etc.)! The harvest can indeed be joined through any role, as long as the worker has CD perspective and skills! By contextual, we mean that the needs or issues to be tackled are derived from the local situation of the target group itself. Every people and community has their own unique sets of problems and aspirations, thus rather than going among them with a pre-conceived message and a pre-packaged strategy, the missionary must be willing to learn from the populace, be appreciative of their culture (except perhaps the 5% that’s sinful, which has to be transformed!) and be flexible in his/her ways (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). And by empowering, we mean that the missionary should identify her/himself as a servant-leader and work with (not for) the people. The key is for one’s ministry to have a clear commitment to encourage the local people themselves to be responsible for the welfare of their own people and community life. In the end, the people should be able to say, “We did it ourselves”! In order to achieve all these, CD consists of only two very important community organizing skills: (1) immersion, which is to spend time with the people to learn about their culture, including their language, social structure, values, beliefs, leaders, etc.; it is best to learn basic field research techniques for this. And then (2) core group formation – upon working with the people to discern a local need or issue to tackle, the worker facilitates a process by which a leadership core is formed to tackle the problem or attain their aspiration. Local resources are tapped and maximized before any foreign help or funds are considered. Even before the successful completion of the program or project, the missionary may be able to leave when s/he sees that the people can already finish it on their own. Through CPM, the ideal of an indigenous movement that is self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating is already easily achieved. Even from the beginning, local leadership is developed and empowered to continue the multiplication of simple churches. Yet when CPM is combined with CD, the latter provides at least four more major advantages: (1) it becomes possible to befriend and reach community leaders (the influencers!) from the start, thereby hastening the process of community transformation! (2) it shows Christianity’s relevance to any local need or issue; (3) it avoids creating dependency, since local leadership and resources are considered first and foremost! And (4) the programs and activities are contextualized and sustainable; thus the worker can leave as soon as the momentum is discernible! Such is the wonder of what is now called “integral mission” or “mission as transformation”! My opinion is that even if saturation evangelism and CD have already occurred in a people group, the church will still need to be constantly at its frontiers: each person and family has to be reached (can 100% conversion rate ever be reached?) and every child (new generation) has to be discipled. In the Old Testament, even if whole Israel was nominally “reached,” God institutionalized “house-churches” (Dt. 6); celebrative worship in the temple was not weekly, but only three times a year (16:16). (cf. Lim 2001 and Simson 2001). Churches among nominally “reached” peoples should continue to use this “mission as transformation” paradigm lest they retrogress to become an UPG again, as is happening in many nominally Christian nations today!
4. Personnel: Tentmakers
What kind of missionaries are then best fit to reach the frontiers with the above strategy? I believe they should be “tentmakers” or “lay missionaries” like the Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla. They may just be simple believers who use their professions, businesses and/or skilled labor to reach a target UPG. They will not only increase the human resource poor of the church and enhance financial cost effectiveness (for the sending churches), but more importantly, they will also multiply the long-term strategic effectivity of missions (for the new UPG churches). Tentmakers have a natural (and honest) platform to enter UPG areas, and are usually welcomed because they bring along skills that are perceived to be beneficial for the people who are eager to give them their entry visas. Like Paul, they provide good models of biblical Christianity, esp. on the work ethic and self-support (cf. 2 Th. 3:6-12; Eph. 4:28). Perhaps most important of all is their possession of credentials to relate to community leaders, thus gaining clear access to influence and disciple the influencers! Both saturation evangelism and community development are therefore effectively enhanced! In this paradigm, we just have to encourage and challenge the disciple-makers (read: cell leaders) in our churches to relocate themselves (and if married, with their families) to live and work (or study) in or nearby an UPG. They should try to directly evangelize individuals among the UPG and/or indirectly through training Christians in or near the UPG, who happen to be bi–culturals or bi–linguals. They (preferably in pairs for beginners) only have to aim to disciple just a few (perhaps a dozen, like what our Lord Jesus and his apostles did) “faithful people who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). These disciples should be able, usually within a few month’s time, to make new disciples among their compatriots through their natural web relationships (esp. relatives and friends) – almost always with greater effectivity, more cultural sensitivity and faster “multiplier effect”!
Now that we have the strategy for rapid and effective evangelization of UPGs, the problem remaining is its implementation. It may seem too radical for most of our churches and even many missions today. It requires a major paradigm shift: not just in our vision and objective (to multiply rabbit churches rather than elephant churches), but also in our methodology (to simply do disciple-making for CPM, not just plant a church) and strategy (to reach entire communities holistically and not just a few individuals at a time). Here’s a persecution–proof and poverty–proof strategy to finish the Great Commission especially among UPGs in our generation! The call is to just go back to biblical basics and strategic simplicity! China’s house-churches are already trying to send 100,000 such missionaries with this mission paradigm in their Back to Jerusalem movement. The Filipino tentmaker movement hopes to mobilize another 200,000 to do this type of mission by 2010, too. I hope each of us will find the faith and courage to just “go and do likewise”! Maranatha! References Allen, Roland. 1962. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. _______. 1962a. The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Andres, Tomas. 1988. Community Development: A Manual. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. Barrett, David & Todd Johnson. 2004. “Status of Global Mission, 2004, in Context of 20th and 21st Centuries,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28.1 (January 2004): 25. Bobo, Kimberly. 1986. Lives Matter: A Handbook for Christian Organizing. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward. Boff, Leonardo. 1986. Ecclesiogenesis. London: Collins; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis. Coleman, Robert. 1964. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell. Comiskey, Joel. 1999. Groups of 12. Houston: Touch Publications. Donovan, Vincent. 1978. Christianity Rediscovered. London: SCM. Eims, Leroy. 1981. The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Colorado Springs: NavPress. Elliston, Edgar (ed.). 1989. Christian Relief and Development. Waco: Word. Escobar, Samuel. 2000. “Evangelical Missiology: Peering into the Future at the 21st Century,” ed. W. Taylor. Global Missiology for the 21st Century: The Iguassu Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker. Pp. 101-122. Garrison, David. 1999. Church Planting Movements. International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. ______. 2004. Church Planting Movements. Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources. Gauran, Johani. 1991. The Witnessing Kit. Makati City: Church Strengthening Ministry. Hattaway, Paul, et al. 2003. Back to Jerusalem. Carlisle: Piquant Hunter, George III. 2000. The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Nashville: Abingdon Lim, David. 1987. The Servant Nature of the Church in the Pauline Corpus. Ph.D. Diss., Fuller Theological Seminary. (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International). _______. 1992. Transforming Communities. Manila: OMF Literature. _______. 2001. “Why Local Churches Hinder Real Church Growth.” Quezon City: CMI-Phil. _______. 2002. “The Only Way to Disciple Whole Nations: Church Multiplication by Tentmakers.” Quezon City: CMI-Phil. _______. 2003. “Towards a Radical Contextualization Paradigm in Evangelizing Buddhists,” Sharing Jesus in the Buddhist World, ed. David Lim & Steve Spaulding (Pasadena: William Carey Library): 71-94. _______. 2004. “Mobilizing Churches for Evangelism and Missions,” Paper presented to Focus Group #10 of Lausanne Congress 2004; Journal of Asian Mission 6:1 (March 2004): 43- Linthicum, Robert. 1991. Empowering the Poor. Monrovia: MARC. Montgomery, Jim. 2001. I’m Gonna Let It Shine! Pasadena: William Carey Library. Myers, Bryant. 1999. Walking with the Poor. Maryknoll: Orbis. Neighbor, Ralph, Jr. 1990. Where Do We Go from Here? Houston: Touch Publications. Petersen, Jim. 1992. Church Without Walls. Colorado Springs: NavPress. Ringma, Charles. 1992. Catch the Wind. Manila: OMF Lit. Samuel, V. & C. Sugden. 1999. Mission as Transformation. Oxford: Regnum. Schumacher, E.F. 1984. Small is Beautiful. London: Abacus. Simson, Wolfgang. 2001. Houses That Change the World. Carlisle: Paternoster. Snyder, Howard. 1975. The Problem of Wineskins. Downers Grove: IVP. Suderman, Robert. 1999. Calloused Hands, Courageous Souls: Holistic Spirituality of Development and Mission. Monrovia: MARC. Yamamori, T., B. Myers & D. Conner (eds). 1995. Serving with the Poor in Asia. Monrovia: _______, ________, & K. Luscombe (eds,). 1998. Serving with the Urban Poor. Monrovia: Zdero, Rad. 2004. The Global House Church Movement. Pasadena: William Carey Library.  Barrett & Johnson 2004:25 shows that global Christianity (including 60% Roman Catholics) is losing by –.12% annually. 1.64 billion were unevangelized in 1970; still 1.74 billion (27.5% of world population) are unevangelized in mid-2004. And if present trends continue, 1.95 billion (24.5%) will still be unreached by 2025. Perhaps worse is the statistics that Christianity was 34.5% of the world’s population in 1900, and it was less at 33% as of 2000 – a net decrease in our latest century!  For a full exposition of this missiology, see Lim 2003.  With thanks to the Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board that had David Garrison research and publish a book (1999), which was reproduced entirely in USCWM’s Mission Frontiers in April 2000. This has been updated in his book (Garrison 2004).  Cf. Coleman 1964; Eims 1981. Also cf. Allen 1962, 1962a; Donovan 1978; Hunter 2000 and Lim 2002.  Rabbits reach reproductive maturity in 4 months, have 1 month gestation period, average 7-10 babies per pregnancy and a pair can reach 476 million in 3 years! In contrast, elephants become mature in 18 years, have 22 month gestation, average only 1 baby per pregnancy and so a pair may grow by only one in 3 years! This analogy contrasts “church multiplication” (hence, multi-church) from “church growth” of mega-churches, cell-churches and even G-12; cf. Simson 2001; Petersen 1992; Neighbor 1990; Comiskey 1999 and Zdero 2004. Also cf. Snyder 1975; Boff 1986; Ringma 1992; Lim 2001 and 2004.  Those who work among oral cultures should learn to do “chronological Bible storying,” cf. Gauran 1991. If there is no Bible in their native tongue, the native converts should be encouraged to lead the translation efforts, in close consultation with trained linguists and translators. Those who believe in “spiritual warfare” can also develop “prayer walking,” healing and deliverance ministry skills to deal with the “spirit world” as they evangelize.  For secular models, cf. Andres 1988; Schumacher 1984. For Christian models, cf. Bobo 1986; Lim 1992; Linthicum 1991; Myers 1999; Samuel & Sugden 1999; Suderman 1999; Yamamori et al 1995 and 1998.  The major sins to be repented of for transformation are idolatry, individualism (pride), (personal) immorality and (social) injustice.  Cf. Lim 2001 and Simson 2001.  Escobar 2000 observes that the question should be “not how much missionary action is required today but what kind of missionary action is necessary” (112); and “The idea that an accumulation of material resources is bound to produce certain effects has reflected itself in the constant preoccupation with augmenting the missionary force quantitatively, with out much debate about the quality of that missionary action. The suspicion of some Third World Christians is that they are being used as objects of a missionary action that seems to be directed to the main objective of enhancing the financial, informational and decision-making power of some centers of mission in the First World” (ibid.).  Cf. Hattaway 2003.