Over the roar of the airplane engine, the jump instructor hands a first-time parachutist his helmet, saying, “You’re going to jump when I count to three.”
The parachutist swallows hard as he looks out the airplane door 12,000 feet down and asks, “Where do I land?”
The instructor smirks, “Most people figure that out on the way down.”
Unfortunately, too much of missions is a plan made in the moment reacting to things rushing quickly at us. With 6,545 unreached people groups globally amounting to well over 2 billion people without a single gospel witness in their language or vicinity, we need to do better than pick our landings while falling face-first.
Dr. Marty Shaw, vice president of International Ministries, is leading a new research initiative to help WorldVenture better target our next areas of focus as a mission.
Ebb and Flow
In the 1940s and 1950s, WorldVenture began by sending missionaries to fields where no other missionaries worked. However, as those works matured and the church grew, we naturally found ourselves in reached locations and less in unreached.
In many ways, this is inevitable. As God blesses our efforts, we will see the church grow, national leaders develop, and people groups leave their unreached classification as they become reached. Actually, we hope for this. It’s the plan.
At the same time, it should not shock us that we, as a mission, need time to redeploy to people groups and locations on the edge. Just as we faithfully expect God will honor His Word and build His church, we should expect that as missionaries, like Paul, we will need to press further into those places where the gospel has not yet been heard.
It’s time to refocus. Many of you have heard the terms “Unreached, Unengaged, Unchurched and Unwanted.” The “Uns” are new terms for an old passion, or (you even might say) an ancient passion. “Make disciples of every nation” has been the core vision of every true gospel movement since Christ.
“It’s foundational to everything we do,” says Marty. “As we’re moving into the ‘Uns,’ we want to be more strategic, even tactical about what we’re doing.”
Need For Research
“It’s very possible to go into a country and plant churches and do it well, but miss whole sectors because we didn’t reach out to those specific people,” said Marty. “You can’t just say that because we have 100 churches in an area, we’ve really reached a place.”
We’re not starting from a blank slate. The great strength of WorldVenture is our established global networks. In many ways, the first question for us is “Where are we and what unreached people groups are right next to us? What groups are just one step away from our current locations?” To find these answers, we need research.
Diaspora, meaning the migration of a people group from their established homeland, has become another phenomenon needing additional research. Shifting from a country-based view to a people group view of outreach widens WorldVenture’s strategy to include previously inaccessible places. With the realities of diaspora today, missionaries could find a pocket of a people group in a country that is open to Christian missions.
“In diaspora movements, even though people move they tend to stay networked. That’s part of the research,” said Marty. Discovering where these people live around the globe makes missions more effective.
We need WorldVenture research specifically, in addition to research done by other groups. Many evangelical groups are devoted to collecting information on ethnic groups, as are secular institutions. Some of these are Global Mapping International, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Global Research, and the Joshua Project.
We need to understand the relevance and application of people group research to our specific locations and ministries. In addition, we need to publish our own unique research for the benefit of the broader missions community.
WorldVenture’s board has tasked the mission and its leadership with providing concrete steps in approaching the “Uns.” Marty hopes to find experienced researchers, professors and grad students to commit to a certain number of hours per month to complete this project. The increase of tools and capacity for globally crowd-sourced research, in just the last 10 years, has no equal in the history of the world. While using the existing databases from missiological research already available, Marty also plans to crowd-source for additional WorldVenture-specific research.
“Talented researchers abound in WorldVenture’s network,” claims Marty. “We can do this.”
Join the Research Team
International Ministries is spearheading the research effort. Training on missiological research will be available for interested people. Researchers and their findings will help steer the strategy of the mission, which will influence many other aspects of the mission, like recruitment and appointment of new workers.
If you are interested in partnering with WorldVenture to research people groups, please contact the vice president of International Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, learn about why WorldVenture’s passion is to reach the “Uns.”