How “Baseball-Minded” Are You?

Dave: The title may throw you for a moment. No, you did not stray to an ESPN website. Stick with us and you will see the logic of it…This post is addressing a second question: Am I, or is my church, missions-minded if we do not stay current on what is going on in the world and in missions?

Joe: Talking about missions philosophy and practice can sometimes seem a little clinical… as though we are somehow replacing the leading of the Holy Spirit by focusing on methodology. But let’s be honest about the fact that we all have methodological biases and misunderstandings.

Dave: Let me ask you a seemingly dumb question – Are you “baseball-rules-minded”? By that, I mean, do you consider yourself to be fairly knowledgeable about the rules of baseball? If I had been asked that question on Monday, I would have said, “Of course!” Then I took a quiz on the ESPN website on Tuesday. The quiz involved 10 situational questions on the rules of baseball. None of the questions appeared very tricky, but after I answered only 2 of the 10 correctly, I realized that I was not nearly as “baseball-rules-minded” as I thought I was.

So our blogs these days revolve around challenging our individual and church basic assumptions concerning “missions-mindedness.” It’s easy to assume the “I’m missions-minded” mantra – all you have to do is say so. It’s more difficult to sustain the myth of mission-mindedness if someone quizzes you on the state of the world and missions in the 21st century.

Joe: We like to think that methodology is the product of Bible reading and prayer only. But examine the world missions movement and you will see that much of what is done is extra-biblical. That doesn’t automatically make it wrong, but it does invite us to re-examine our assumptions and see how God has been using them.

Dave: To get us started, here is a 5-question quiz to get you thinking about how missions and the world have changed. Answers to the questions will follow. See how you do…

Question #1: In 1900, what were the top 5 countries with the largest population of evangelicals? By 2050, what will be the top 5 countries with the largest population of evangelicals?

Question #2: List the top 5 countries to receive missionaries in 1900. In 2000, what were the top five missionary-receiving countries?

Question #3: What were the top five missionary-sending countries (in order) in 1900? And what were the top 5 in 2010?

Question #4: In 1900, 95% of all evangelicals lived in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Islands. In 2011, what percentage of all evangelicals resided in those same regions?

Question #5: 50% of all unevangelized people live in a region called “the 10/40 window.” Can you explain what “the 10/40 window” is?

Joe and Dave: We hope those 5 questions stimulated your thinking on how the world has changed. How do you think you did? How “missions-minded” would you judge yourself? Here are the answers…

Answer #1: In 1900, the largest population of evangelicals was in (in this order) USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, and Australia. In 2050, the top five are projected to be (in order) China, USA, India, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Note the shift from “white, western, northern” to “brown, eastern, southern.”

Answer #2: In 1900, the top five countries to receive missionaries were (in order) India, China, S. Africa, Japan, and the USA. In 2000, the top five receiving countries were India, USA, Brazil, Philippines, and USA.

Answer #3: In 1900, the top five missionary-sending countries were (in order) UK, USA, Germany, India, and S. Africa. In 2010, the top five were USA, India, S. Korea, China, and Nigeria.

Answer #4: In 150 years, the ratio between where Christians and non-Christians live will have been almost completely inverted. In 1900, 95% of all evangelicals lived in Europe, North America, and the Pacific. But by 2011, 75% of all evangelicals resided in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And by 2051, only 15% of all evangelicals will be found in Europe, North America, and the Pacific. The global church is no longer white, western, and northern, but brown, southern, and eastern.

Answer #5: The 10/40 window is a geographical region. In latitude terminology, it begins at 10 degrees above the Equator and extends to 40 degrees above the Equator). It also covers the region from the east coast of Asia to the west coast of Africa.

Joe: Let me give a recent example of what is happening in missions in the Muslim world. One of the great motivators for change is failure, right? So, if we have a particular goal and are not seeing progress, maybe it’s time to re-examine methodology. Historically, field workers have been frustrated by the lack of progress in the Muslim world. In the 19th century there was only one significant movement to Christ among Muslims. In the 20th century there were nine movements to Christ. In the first twelve years of the 21st century there have been 64 movements to Christ (data from interview with David Garrison). Let that sink in for a moment… 64 significant movements to Christ just in the last twelve years!

So the big question is: “What changed?” Why did the dam suddenly burst? Well, it clearly was God’s plan that this is the time for the Muslim world to awaken, at least among these 64 unreached people groups. But, there has been new thinking about methodology which has led to new terms being added to our missions lexicon – terms like “church planting movements, people of peace, discovery Bible studies.” Mission agencies have been rushing to have their people trained in these new methodologies.

So, if you find yourself in any sort of missions leadership role, you need to be aware of these new trends and see how God has been using them.

Dave: The world of the 21st century is very different than the one known by our parents and grandparents. How should our missions philosophy adapt to these realities? What should our prayer efforts look like in light of current trends? How can the missions committees of evangelical congregations in the west adapt to the tsunami of change?

(Statistics and figures in the quiz are taken from “The Future of the Global Church” by Patrick Johnstone, 2011, Biblica, Inc.)

Dave Shive and Joe Steinitz