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1
Te long-standing and indeed illustrious campaign
to take Western Christianity to the worlds minority
groups is slowing down because fewer and fewer such
groups remain untouched.
nc ol thc miraclcs ol thc 20
th
ccnturywhich lorcvcr
changcs thc locus ol missions lor thc 21
st
is thc lact that
thc Vcstcrn missions havc bccn so succcsslul in translorm
ing dark mission clds into bright mission scnding lorccs.
!t is truc that wc must givc crcdit to thc A2000
Movcmcnt and othcrs in thc last tcn ycars lor high
lighting thc lact that thcrc arc still dark pockcts nccd
ing thc light ol thc Gospcl. 8ut, ncvcrthclcss, prcciscly
bccausc ol thc corts ol Vcstcrn missions and, morc
rcccntly, thc activc missionary outrcach lrom many
Tird Vorld countrics, thc lact is wc arc running out
ol traditional pionccr mission clds. Tcrc arcnt
many lclt. Arc wc going to bc without a job: Ycs, in
thc traditional scnsc, morc and morc.
8ccausc pionccr missions havc plantcd wcllcstab
lishcd churchcs in so many parts ol thc world, thc 21
st

ccntury looks radically dicrcnt lrom that thc 19
th
or
20
th
whcn Vcstcrn Protcstant missions bcgan thcir
work in carncst. Pionccr missions ol thc kind wc havc
undcrtakcn in thc past arc usclul and csscntial in lar
lcwcr placcs around thc world comparcd to thc situa
tion in thc days ol Villiam Carcy.
Tus, on thc world lcvcl wc now havc thc miraclc ol
what is vcry ncarly a singlc Christian lamily. For cx
amplc, nglish is bccoming morc and morc thc lingua
lranca ol intcrnational vangclicalism. Tis rclativcly
unicd global cultural tradition ol Christianity is a
good and joyous thing, but it is probably not nal.
!t is actually wrong to think that rcaching thc nal
unrcachcd pcoplc with Vcstcrn cultural Christianity
will bc thc lulllmcnt ol thc Grcat Commission. !t is a
marvclous bcginning, it is not a mistakc, ncvcrthclcss,
it is not thc wholc picturc.
2
Both Western and non-Western missions are now
assisting more and more Christians in other parts of
the world to build their churches and schools and to
reach out to their own people, rather than tangling with
heretofore non-Christian peoples.
Tis continuing postpionccr part ol thc picturc is a
blcsscd rcality. 8ut it is a vcry dicrcnt proccss lrom
thc continuing activity ol pionccr mission to thc small
rcmaining unrcachcd groups in thc world. !ronically,
thc vcry succcss ol missions in producing vital ovcrscas
churchcs has mcant, lor onc thing, that donors arc bc
coming lcss and lcss intcrcstcd in supporting mission
work. Missionarics havc sought to work thcmsclvcs
out ol a job, and thcy havc succccdcd in many placcs
bcyond thcir drcams. 8ut thcir drcams havc turncd
into nightmarcs as thcir laithlul supportcrs havc lost
intcrcst in thcir work. onors havc by now long bccn
complaining that thc Grcat Commission must not bc
rcdcncd to rcad, Go yc into all thc world and mcddlc
in thc national churchcs. Many mission supportcrs
havc turncd to assist thc continuing growth and impact
ol thc Vyclic 8iblc Translators, sincc this organiza
tion is known to bc working whcrc thcrc is not yct a
church that can stand on its own two lcct.
3
Meanwhile, as missions have often had great success
among oppressed and minority groups, the Gospel
of Christ and the Bible has also gone beyond the
physical extension of the Western institutional church
Te Role of Western Missions
in the 21st Century
Ralph D. Winter
Rcprintcd with pcrmission lrom: Ralph . Vintcr, Frontiers in Mission: Discovering and Surmounting Barriers to the Missio Dei. Tird dition. Pasadcna, CA:
Villiam Carcy !ntcrnational Univcrsity Prcss, 2005, pp. 114117.
oo Tnv Roiv ov Vvs:vvx Missioxs ix :nv :+s: Cvx:ivv
structure. It has entered into the large Resistant blocs of
non-Christians producing seemingly syncretistic forms of
semi-Christian faith. Millions of Africans and Asians are
in this second category.
Tc socallcd Rcsistant blocs ol Chincsc, Hindus,
Muslims and 8uddhists rcsist thc Vcstcrn cultural stylc
ol our laith whilc bcing vcry acccptivc ol Christ. So.
whilc thc Gospcl has crcatcd a substantial movcmcnt
ol Christianity within most ol thc small groups, it has
only cxtractcd a tokcn lcw individuals out lrom within
thcsc largc groups. At thc samc timc, somc pcoplc
within thcsc largc blocs arc acccpting thc Gospcl and
thc 8iblc in strangc and uncxpcctcd ways. Vc may wish
to ignorc thcm, but wc cannot dcny that thcy cxist.
4
It becomes suddenly clear that history may be repeating
itself and that the experiences of the New Testament
and early church throw remarkable light on the present.
!t is ncccssary to spcak ol a global stalling ol thc
Vcstcrnizcd lorm ol thc Gospcl.
Vc rcjoicc that millions havc turncd lrom thcir own
culturc and cmbraccd thc culturc ol Vcstcrnizcd
Christianity, at lcast in part. Tcy havc thc lrccdom
in Christ to do so. Tis is just likc thc 100,000 Gcn
tilcs in Pauls day who turncd lrom thcir own pcoplc
and cmbraccd thc Jcwish vchiclc ol laith, bccoming
circumciscd prosclytcs. Tcsc pcoplc wcrc mostly
gcnuinc bclicvcrs, but had shiltcd culturally in a way
Paul considcrcd a lcgitimatc option but an illcgitimatc
rcquircmcnt noncsscntial to laith. Tis is thc kind ol
prosclytism that has cvolvcd around thc world among
minority pcoplcs but which is mostly lcarcd and
lought by thosc in thc majority culturcs.
8ut in Pauls day, thcrc wcrc many morc pcoplc
maybc tcn timcs morcwho wcrc not prosclytcs, but
Godlcarcrs. Tcsc wcrc pcoplc likc Cornclius, who
wcrc attractcd to thc Vord ol God in thc synagogucs,
but who had not madc thc shilt ovcr to thc Jcwish
cultural tradition.
Pauls mission stratcgy madc both Jcws and Pros
clytcswho had scttlcd on thc Jcwish cultural tradi
tionlurious. Vhat did hc do: Hc acknowlcdgcd thc
rcality (dcspitc thc rcmaining wcakncsscs) ol a ncw,
unplanncd, Grcck vcrsion ol thc 8iblical laith. Tis
ncw vcrsion was bascd on Jcsus Christ and thc basic
principlcs ol thc Jcwish 8iblc, rathcr than litcrally
upon all thc Jcwish customs dcscribcd in thc 8iblc.
Pauls corts hclpcd to gcncratc a vast movcmcnt
which soon cncompasscd most ol thc million God
lcarcrs and cvcntually bccamc at homc in thc Grcck,
Latin and Syrian Christian traditions. Naturally, as
soon as thcsc major Mcditcrrancan traditions cast an
inucncc bcyond thcir homc culturcs, hundrcds ol dil
lcrcnt varictics ol scmi8iblical laith rcsultcd.
For cxamplc, thc Grcck tradition ol laith inucnccd
thc Slavs and thc Cclts, whilc thc Latin inucnccd
both Ccltic and Tcutonic culturcs, and thc Syrian
tradition inucnccd thc Arabic culturc. Gcrmanic
Luthcranism, Slavic rthodoxy and Scmitic !slam
rcsultcd, cmploying dicrcnt languagcs, litcraturcs
and culturcs, thc most signicant common dcnomina
tor bcing thc 8iblc. All ol thcsc, to somc signicant
cxtcnt, wcrc pcoplc ol thc book, thc 8iblc ol thc carly
church. All ol thcm, in addition, wcrc inucnccd by
thc Ncw Tcstamcnt and gcncratcd thcir own addition
al scmiscripturcs as wcll.
Grcck rthodoxy naturally considcrcd thc Grcck
scripturcs most authoritativc. Latin Catholicism
cnshrincd its Latin translation, and thc Luthcrans,
to bc dicrcnt, chosc thc Hcbrcw. Howcvcr, bccausc
thc Arabic translation ol thc 8iblc did not comc soon
cnough, thc !slamic tradition cmcrgcd with lar lcss di
rcct acccss to thc 8ook. Tcrc wcrc many argumcnts
about what lorm ol thc laith was thc onc, right lorm.
Vhcn !slam cngullcd gypt, two dicrcnt 8iblical
traditions wcrc at that timc at cach othcrs throats. All
ol thcsc various cultural traditions tcndcd to considcr
thcir own cultural dcrivation ol thc laith corrcct, and
any lingcring prcscncc ol thc lollowcrs ol a lorcign
laith was rcscntcd, rcjcctcd or marginalizcd.
Actually, nonc ol thcsc cultural traditions ol laith wcrc
pcrlcct, cvcn though most ol thcm wcrc barcly salvic.
5
Tus, it seems possible that the 21
st
century will see fur-
ther unication around a generalized form of Western
Christianity but at the same time see the looming up
of radically dierent forms of our faith which may be barely
recognizable and may be alienated or even antagonistic.
Vc nccd only to rccxaminc our own past to scc how
drastically unity was shattcrcd by thc various dcvia
tions in Vcstcrn history. Tc Quakcrs wcrc considcrcd
a radical dcparturcand thcy wcrc. vangclicalism
itscll was, but so wcrc Christian Scicncc, Scvcnthay
Advcntism, Jchovahs Vitncsscs, Mormons, Pcntc
Ralph. D . Winter o+
costalsall with varying dcgrccs ol similarity to thc
Rclormation traditions and with varying dcgrccs ol rc
lationship to thc 8iblc. All thcsc bccamcand pcrhaps
still arc lor manyshocking dcparturcs lrom thc laith
oncc dclivcrcd.
Howcvcr, gurcs likc 8illy Graham havc succccdcd in
gaining a hcaring to somc cxtcnt lrom within almost
all ol thcsc divcrgcnt traditions, just as 8rahmins in
!ndia havc bccn attractcd to Grahams mcssagc and his
8iblc without aliating thcmsclvcs with thc lormal
movcmcnt ol Christianity.
Tc phrasc churchlcss Christianity has thus bccn cm
ploycd to dcscribc somc phcnomcna in South !ndia. !t is
possiblc that a morc accuratc phrasc might bc to spcak
ol Christianitylcss churchcs, sincc wc scc pcoplc still
rcgardcd as Hindus involvcd in homc mcctings much
likc thc ccclcsia ol thc Ncw Tcstamcnt but wc do
not scc any closc aliation ol thcsc bclicvcrs with thc
cultural tradition ol Christianity. Tis raiscs thc qucstion
whcthcr wc arc to prcach Christ and not Christianity.
A rcccnt sccular cditorial in !ndia rccountcd thc gruc
somc torturcs carly missionarics ol Portugucsc Christian
tradition inictcd on thc pcoplc ol Goa whcrcvcr dc
parturcs lrom laith wcrc suspcctcd. Vc can protcst that
that was Catholic Christianity. 8ut our own Protcstant
Christian cultural tradition includcs similar cvcnts,
such as whcn John Calvin conscntcd to thc dcath by
rc ol Michacl Scrvctus as wcll as thirtysomc womcn
accuscd ol witchcralt, whosc dcparturcs lrom thc laith
sccmcd thrcatcning to thc unity ol thc Gospcl. How can
wc not thcrclorc try to undcrstand thc disinclination
ol high castc Hindus today to scc thcir cultural unity
thrcatcncd by invading missionary lorccs which may
nd it dicult to conccivc ol a Hindu cultural tradition
that validly undcrstands thc Gospcl.
6
Te willingness and the ability to give away our
faith is the great challenge of the 21
st
century. Can
we accept the fact that Christianity by that name
will never conquer the world even though our Bible and
our Savior may become a spiritual reality within even the
major so-called resistant blocs? Tis is, of course, a com-
plex and delicate area of thought as well as a human phe-
nomenon, which now includes perhaps more sincere people
in the non-Western world than does the formal extension of
Western Christianity into Africa and Asia.
Vc havc always thought that onc ol thc blcssings ol
thc achicvcmcnt ol a worldwidc Church movcmcnt is
thc possibility that this miraculous global lcllowship
would cnablc thosc ol us in thc Vcst to rccxaminc
our laith, our thcology, our vcry study ol thc 8iblc.
Vhat ncithcr thc Vcstcrn church nor its convcrts in
thc Tird Vorld arc lully prcparcd lor is thc radical
dcVcstcrnization ol thc Gospcl. 8ut thc 21
st
ccntury
may bc thc timc whcn this will happcn without our
powcr to stop it.
Pauls ministry bcgs lor a parallcl today. ur impact
on thc nonVcstcrn world has bccn primarily on thc
rclativcly lcw who lor various rcasons want somcthing
ol our Vcstcrn cultural tradition. Vc suddcnly rcal
izc that both Vcstcrn and nonVcstcrn missions arc
promoting our Vcstcrnizcd lorms ol rcligion. Somc ol
thc nonVcstcrn missions arc just as much involvcd in
this as arc thc Vcstcrn missions. Tis is undcrstand
ablc and it is not cvil, unlcss wc bclicvc and prcach that
thc Gospcl can only cxist in its Vcstcrn vcsscl.
Paul said circumcision did not nccd to carry ovcr. For
many in his day this was as outragcous as lor anyonc
today to say that baptism by this or that mcthod is not
csscntial. !l thc parallcl is at all valid that our mission
ary movcmcnt is similar to thc Jcwish diaspora and its
Gospcl, thcn wc arc not likcly to scc thc missions,
whcthcr Vcstcrn or not, capablc in gcncral ol doing so
radical a thing as Paul did.
7
It is possible that some of the non-Western peoples
are more interested in the God and Father of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christas they see His glory
in the face of Jesus Christthan they are interested in our
procedures for gaining salvation. It may be that we ought
to more deliberately Declare His glory among the nations
than we are to sell our formulas for getting people into
heaven, even though we ourselves may nd it dicult to
distinguish between these two related things.
Jcsus dcmonstratcd thc charactcr ol God in His
prcaching and hcaling ministry, and, on that basis,
askcd pcoplc to rcpcnt and bclicvc. And hc talkcd to
pcoplc who had a grcat hcadstart in undcrstanding His
Fathcr in hcavcn. Today wc arc trying to build on a lar
thinncr loundation. ncc pcoplc know God through
our scicncc, mcdicinc, through scripturcs likc Provcrbs,
and, cvcn bcttcr, by knowing thc Christ ol thc Gospcls,
thcn our missionary corts to thc major blocs will bc
morc ccctivc. Tcrc will still bc thosc, howcvcr, who
simply want to bccomc Vcstcrnizcd, lcarn nglish and
so lorth.
o: Tnv Roiv ov Vvs:vvx Missioxs ix :nv :+s: Cvx:ivv
Can Vcstcrn and nonVcstcrn missions in thc 21
st

ccntury changc cnough to cncouragc and nourish somc ol
thcsc highly indigcnous movcmcnts: ur ovcrscas church
constitucncics may bc as opposcd to such an approach as
thc Jcwish bclicvcrs wcrc opposcd to Pauls approach.
Tus, our task in thc 21
st
ccntury is not so much to
promotc a Vcstcrnizcd Christianity as to dclcnd thc
namc ol God, to rcprcscnt Him morc laithlully, to
point out thc rolc ol Satan and bc on Gods sidc in
striving to dcstroy thc works ol Satan. Vc arc, as Paul
put it, to opcn pcoplcs cycs, turning thcm lrom dark
ncss to light and lrom thc powcr ol Satan to God.
Howcvcr, thc outward rcsults ol this proccss may both
surprisc us and also not bc immcdiatcly rccognizablc
to our supportcrs.
!n summary, thc dicrcncc bctwccn thc activity ol
Vcstcrn and nonVcstcrn missions is not vcry grcat.
Tcy arc both highly Vcstcrn comparcd to thc ncw
indigcnous movcmcnts which dcrivc thcir laith morc
dircctly lrom thc 8iblc than lrom Christianity. Vc
havc long gloatcd ovcr thc lact that Christianity is now
gcographically global. ur laith and our 8iblc, just as
in thc past, quickly gocs bcyond any particular codi
cation ol it.
Tird Vorld missions may bc ablc to lcavc thcir own
inhcritcd Christianitics and choosc to lollow thc
growth ol 8iblical laith and worship whcrc this ows
bcyond thc bounds ol traditional Christianity. !t is
possiblc that somc ol thcsc nonVcstcrn missions will
bc morc ablc to do this than thc traditional missions
in thc Vcst. Tc culturc ol thc Vcst is itscll changing
so rapidly that traditional dcnominations arc all on thc
dcclinc whilc ncwcr and unusual movcmcnts arc thosc
which arc growing. Tc Vcst today nccds thc hclp ol
thc Tird Vorld churchcs and missions, cspccially il
thcy arc willing to lollow laith and not lorm.