2018… and 21st CENTURY MISSIONS

(January 23, 2017) George Forbes, missionary spokesperson, shares some missions-centred truths…

We’re definitely into 2018!

But more importantly we are well into the twenty-first century and it’s important to review where we are heading in our mission to the ends of the earth!

  • There have been major eras in the history of Christian mission in the world. Each has had its distinctives and its time… in 2018 and beyond.
  • I join with many who thank God as we remember the fruitfulness of past eras in this great task.
  • However… at the same time I and others are looking to God for his plan and will for our time.
  • A mistake that has been made more than once is to perpetuate a strategy that worked well in the past, without fully considering God’s time and his plan for now… in this 21st century!

Great mission’s thinkers such as Ralph D Winter, founder of the Centre for World Mission in
Pasadena California, raised his voice before he graduated to glory, about vital issues in mission that could make or break what is done and how.

The famous evangelist, Dr Billy Graham said, ‘Ralph Winter was a man of God who gave a vision to many Christians of a world in need of the gospel. I used to meet with him on many occasions, often in small group prayer. Some of my vision for world evangelisation came from my interaction with him, and I am grateful.’

The subtlety of projects before progress
Ralph Winters’ paper Project versus Process was and still is a major question in this momentous time. He pointed up the battle between focusing attention and funds on projects that could be photographed and promoted back home, versus the longer term ‘process’ of building friendships, learning a new language and presenting the gospel by life and word over years of time.

Dr Winter (left) recognised that projects have a place; however they frequently create a dependency mentality and switch attention to things instead of Christ.

This is only one of the vital issues that we now face in 2018 and this century in completing the Great Commission of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

An emerging issue is achieving a transition from dependency on foreign funding to self-support within the national church. Many now speak of this as ‘Business in Mission,’ or ‘Sustainability in Mission.’

Rethinking ‘Missions’
Some Christians may hesitate here, but I encourage readers to think about this old, yet relatively new idea and practice. I believe it has thrilling, God glorifying possibilities.  There is the need to think this through well and to consider the excellent material on this subject available through both the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelisation and the World Missions Centre in Pasadena California, founded by Dr Ralph Winter.

The era of missions supporting emerging national church movements economically must change!  It is urgent that to realise that every missionary organisation and every active mission’s minded and committed local church, must rethink missions.

We must reconsider the issues of:

  • National church dependency on foreign funding
  • Defining the task
  • The unreached peoples of the world
  • Distraction caused by lack of self-support
  • The risk of missed opportunities.

New creative ways and means of helping national church movements to develop and function effectively with their own leadership and resources is urgent.

For too long national churches have depended on foreign funding for their buildings, including church and Bible school facilities. Also for schools, hospitals, clinics and transport, even for the support of their pastors.

Western mission agencies and western churches have helped create a situation of financial dependency without realising it, as Dr Ralph Winter pointed out not long before he died and graduated to heaven.

The history of missions is full of such examples…

  • The Moravians went out to establish new villages with all the trade skills necessary to a small town. In Surinam, South America, they planted what is today the largest retail company (a kind of Sears Roebuck).
  • Swiss missionaries planted a chain of hardware stores in Nigeria.
  • Those stores not only fulfilled a much-needed function but also displayed an attitude toward customers that was a marvelous Christian testimony.

Of course, every church or school that is planted on the mission field and is self-supporting is like a business in the sense that it renders a service and is provided for by those whom it serves. If you add up all such ‘small businesses’ on the mission field (churches and schools), it would run into millions of businesses.

The Christian movement itself is ‘Big Business’ no matter how you look at it! In fact, there are ‘over 500,000 pastors’ in Nigeria alone, who are essentially – even if only part-time – in that kind of ‘business.’

But the Great Commission of seeking souls (Matthew 28:18-20), the extension of the kingdom highlighted in Matthew 6:33, is what we must be concentrating on! Let me, as I conclude the Reachout, particularly draw attention to number three of the major issues above, one that needs rethinking to be reached in 2018, in this century…

The issue of the unreached peoples of the world

The fact of the multiplied hundreds of totally unreached people groups in the world is a reality that is not being seriously addressed by much of the church or even most of the mission agencies.

It is stated by some, who speak sincerely, but without understanding, when they say, ‘Everyone who is not a Christian, is unreached.’ 

We urgently need to think about the unreached people groups or we will be disobedient to the will of God.

Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary spokesperson with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: georgeforbes2@gmail.com



  1. As a missionary for the past18 years in China, I am aware that it is difficult to get invitations to churches as they seem to be fearful of missionaries. We certainly need a reactivation of the desire to send and support missionaries.

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