by Lawrence E. Keyes
It has long been the conviction of some missiologists that the recruitment and deployment of missionaries is growing at least as fast in the Third World as it is in North America.
It has long been the conviction of some missiologists that the recruitment and deployment of missionaries is growing at least as fast in the Third World as it is in North America. But there never has been adequate statistical proof to substantiate this supposition. Missionaries returning to the States have shared their information about local missionary activity. The needed data, however, which would compare several years of non-Western missionary growth with the known growth rates of North American sending agencies, has not existed. Thus, missiologists had to estimate the indigenous missionary increase in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, believing it to be significant.
However, with two research studies now completed, both focusing upon increases in the Third World missionary movements, statistical proof demonstrates that non-Western mission agencies, in fact, are growing even faster than their North American counterparts.
The first research project was finished in 1972. By using the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary as their base, and with C. Peter Wagner as coordinator, James Wong (Singapore), Peter Larson (Argentina), and Edward Pentecost (United States) set out "to gather basic data relating to the Protestant Missionary sending agencies in the Third World. (We mean by this those areas of Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America.), They mailed 697 questionnaires worldwide, after receiving names from World Vision’s Missions Advanced Research and Communication Center (MARC), The World Christian Handbook, 1968 edition, The Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Missions, and students at the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary. "By April 30, 1972, 233 had responded which means a percentage response of 33.4 percent."2
Due to this significant but not complete satisfactory response rate, the research team adjusted the totals with additional study. Their final count was 210 non-Western mission societies sending out a minimum of 3,404 crosscultural workers. They stated that approximately onethird of these missionaries were Asian, another approximate one-third African, while the last one-third represented both Latin America and Oceania (the latter being only percent of the total count). The team also indicated that the three top missionary sending countries were Nigeria, 820; India, 598; and Brazil, 595.
The significance of this 1972 study is that there finally existed proof that a formidable force of non-Western missionary personnel was working primarily in "cross-cultural and cross-geographical evangelism and church planting."3 Although a few missiologists (i.e., Dennis Clark, T. Grady Mangham, Jr., Ralph Winter) had suggested the existence of a strong Third World missionary force, such statements sounded dubious. Although case studies of particular groups were available (i.e., The Melanesian Brotherhood of Oceania, or Ini Kopuri of Burma) the 1972 study was the first systematic survey of its kind. It demonstrated that such histories were not rare but rather an emerging pattern.
Before comparing the second international survey of non-Western missions with the first study of 1972, brief mention must be made of the Asian regional research of 1976. Marlin Nelson, associate director of the Asian Church Growth Institute in Seoul, Korea, researched eight Asian countries and confirmed 53 societies with 1,293 Asian field missionaries at that time. His results indicated that of these workers, "631 or 49 percent are foreign missionaries working in another country.4 Furthermore, regarding the other 51 percent, Nelson writes that "we must not neglect the urgency of cross-cultural home missions. This must be recognized as a valid mission work, and a type that can be done with a minimum of logistical problems."5
Since Nelson focused on eight Asian countries, his results cannot be compared to the fourteen-country totals of Wong, Pentecost and Larson’s 1972 study. Yet if measured country-by-country, Nelson’s totals do represent growth within Asian indigenous missions, especially in the number of cross-cultural workers. Korea, for example, listed seven agencies with 33 cross-cultural missionaries in 1972; in 1976 Nelson listed 18 agencies with 259 workers. The Philippines grew from 155 reported missionaries in 1972 to 249 workers in 1976, even though the number of agencies diminished from 13 to six during those four years. By comparing the 1972 data with Nelson’s results, the number of listed agencies dropped 42 percent (from 91 to 53 societies), but the number of missionaries sent out increased 45 percent (from 895 to 1,293). Marlin Nelson was the first since the Second World War to facilitate regional comparative data of missionary growth within Third World mission agencies.
The second worldwide survey of non-Western missions was undertaken in 1980. With C. Peter Wagner and Dean Gilliland of Fuller’s School of World Mission, and Samuel Wilson of MARC, as an advisory committee, I was able to take a furlough from my leadership training ministry in Brazil to update previous information on Third World mission -bodies. Funding was secured from three sources: the Lausanne Strategy Working Group, MARC and Mission to the World, the missionary arm of the Presbyterian Church of America. Special mention must be given to O.C. Ministries, Inc. (formerly Overseas Crusades, Inc.) for helping me with secretarial assistance and for permitting an extended furlough in order to complete the research. After nearly twelve months of in-depth research, the results indicate that Third World missionaries represent at least one-third of the North American full-time missionary force (excluding tentmakers and short-termers, in order to compare equals). The losses incurred in Asia from 1972 to 1976 have been significantly replaced with even greater gains. NonWestern missionary recruitment for full-time cross-cultural endeavor appears to be growing at least five times as fast as reported North American recruitment. This brief report of the second mission study will compare data of 1972 and 1980 and be divided into two parts: quantitative growth and qualitative development.
Using a method similar to the 1972 study, 462 questionnaires were sent out early in 1980 in an attempt to update the active agency list and gather information concerning missionary outreach. Of these 462 names, 45 percent were returned; by additional letters and personal visits to the field, eventually 368 agencies were confirmed as societies actively engaged in cross-cultural evangelism. This figure represents an 81 percent increase in the number of Third World agencies listed in 1972. Both denominational and interdenominational (and/or nondenominational) structures are included in these totals.
Regionally, the number of Asian cross-cultural agencies has grown 93 percent since 1972 (from 108 to 208). This figure includes the region of Oceania because of the pattern established by the 1972 study (Oceania and Asia were reported as one unit). The number of African cross-cultural missionary sending agencies increased 285 percent (from 27 to 104) and doubled the number of involved countries. Latin America was disappointing. Although the 1972 research team suggested that "with the acquired data for newer agencies, the growth of missionary activity in Latin America seems to be increasing,"6 the number of agencies declined 8 percent (from 61 to 56). Yet, Latin America (including the Caribbean) did demonstrate and increase in the number of missionaries, the majority being Brazilian who work cross-culturally both within and without Brazil. (These figures may reflect a greater ease in collecting data, since I live in Brazil.)
Concerning the percentage of agencies within each region, Asia (with Oceania) represented in 1972 52.8 percent of all non-Western societies; in 1980 Asia itself (without Oceania) represented 52.1 percent. Oceania accounts for 4.3 percent of the total. Africa’s position was 13.4 percent in 1972 and is now 28.26 percent. Latin America’s share was 30.4 percent in 1972 and is now 15.2 percent. The last .14 percent are non-Western agencies resident within the Western world, in countries like New Zealand and the United States. In terms of agency growth, the region that increased the most was Africa.
When the focus changes from the number of organizations to the number of missionaries sent out, the rate of growth increases. In 1972, the estimate was 3,404 cross-cultural workers. In 1980, based upon information received from 282 informants, I conservatively estimated 13,000 Third World missionaries. This was an increase of 282 percent over eight years. Fifty-six percent of these 368 agencies predicted an additional 2,249 full-time recruits by the end of 1981. This means that the total number of Third World missionaries who work crossculturally is now over 15,000.
These missionaries come from at least 57 different countries. Thirty-eight percent of them are Asian, 5 percent are Oceanian, 45 percent are African, 7 percent come from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 4 percent from Third World peoples living in the West. A vast majority of these are conservative theologically and say that missionary interest is increasing among the lay people of their home churches.
One of their greatest problems is financial. According to the returned questionnaires (56 percent of the total), approximately 35 percent of all Third World missionaries do not receive on the field their full promised salary. It does not seem to matter whether these funds are promised on a monthly, weekly, semi-annual, or yearly basis. Neither does the source of income seem to make any difference. For example, Africa with its high 49 percent of poorly paid workers receives 95 percent of all income from Third World sources. In comparison, Asia with its low 24 percent of insufficiently paid workers likewise receives a high 92 percent of all funds from Third World sources. The problem seems to stem from other factors, such as a lack of adequate infrastructure to maintain proper contact between supporters and missionaries, or a continuation of the old pioneer philosophy which maintains that those going out must take care of themselves in the best possible way with little additional assistance from the homeland. Whatever the cause, it is a real problem, one that significantly contributes towards the high one-term fall out rate among Third World missionaries.
As I analyze all the data of this second non-Western mission study, and as additional information is collected for constant update, several characteristics emerge indicating that the Third World missionary movement is not only growing quantitatively, but also maturing qualitatively. Many characteristics could be cited, such as the quality of leadership; the frequent mention of both evangelistic and social activities; the increasing capacity to contextualize the gospel and to develop conservative Third World theologies; the rapid development of new nonWestern missionary literature and specialty organizations; and the growing tendency to promote indigenous missionary conferences and cross-cultural congresses.
However, three characteristics most prominently prove the maturity. The first is education, a diverse pattern of indigenous missionary candidate training programs; the second is organization, a striking balance between denominational and interdenominational mission sending structures; and the third is strategic, a manifest desire to participate together with other agencies of similar theological persuasion.
Indigenous missionary candidate training programs have become one of the most important developments. Virtually every mission agency indicates that they actively support some program of candidate preparation. The questionnaire listed six possible types of candidate training, including: study in a Bible institute, seminary and/or university; special preparation in language learning; a specific area of practical experience (with explanation) and a particular program of mission related orientation (also described). Each candidate should be involved in two to three areas of special study before being sent to the field. Among those that rated the highest in preference were Bible institute, practical experience, and special mission-related orientation.
Illustrations of non-Western candidate training programs are many and varied. The Independent Lutheran Church of Kenya trains missionary candidates in 11 missiology, arts and crafts, music and literature" before sending any workers to the field. The Antioch Mission of Brazil sponsors a nine-month course, including church growth, anthropology, mission history, biblical theology, and field orientation. Presently over 25 candidates are training to reach new people groupings in over seven different countries. Also Brazil’s AMEN Mission and Wycliffe Bible Translators provide additional preservice orientation on a year round basis to dozens of interested individuals. In Asia, the Friends Missionary Prayer Band and the Indian Evangelical Mission at Nasik sponsor their own programs of candidate training.
Some agencies prefer to use existing theological schools as part of their required training. From Brazil’s Bible Institute of Evangelization to ECWA’s Bible Schools in Nigeria, the Hindustan Bible Institute and the Union Biblical Seminary of India and Korea’s East West Center, theological institutions contribute towards the desired requirements for missionary service. Some institutes have even undertaken to send out missionaries themselves. Similar to the International Missionary Fellowship, Ltd. of Jamaica, the ACTS Institute of Bangalore graduated eleven students last October. These premissionary candidates received biblical teaching, vocational training (carpentry, electronics, tailoring, welding, etc.), and evangelistic experience. The purpose of this school is to send out selfsupporting workers all over India.
No longer do non-Western missionaries need to be sent out without some preservice training. Third World candidate instruction has rapidly developed in the last ten years and is an indication of the increased maturity within the movement.
A second qualitative strength emerging from nonWestern mission boards involves the balance between the number of denominational and interdenominational agencies. Throughout the history of evangelical missions the strengths from both kinds of structures have significantly enhanced outreach. Denominational boards contribute church planting and doctrinal strengths. Interdenominational (and sometimes non-denominational) agencies often contribute new evangelistic methods, while demonstrating a greater manifestation of Christ’s one body. Both give balance to the whole and are continually needed. This difference is not the traditional dissimilarity between modality and sodality (to use Ralph Winter’s terminology), or between church structures and mission board structures. All considerations here are sodalities or departments of mission within the established church. All are involved in crosscultural witness. Within this context a balance is observed between denominational and interdenominational structures.
Among the 368 non-Western agencies, approximately 45 percent are mission departments or special emphasis of indigenous denominations. Approximately 45 percent are interdenominational at the home base, while another 11 percent have verified their nondenominational or independent stance. Although this equality is fairly represented throughout each region, Asia and Oceania have produced slightly more interdenominational agencies than denominational, whereas Africa and Latin America represent a few more agencies that are affiliated denominationally.
It is also interesting to note that 75 percent of these groups were originally founded with their respective affiliations with virtually no help from the West. Of course, all agencies listed in these data are now indigenous and continue their respective structures without Western support and directives. The denominational departments of mission seem older than either the interdenominational or nondenominational groups. In the last 10 years, the Third World has formed many new "faith missions." This recent development balances the ratio and represents a new dynamic in outreach. Certainly, non-Western mission boards are much more stable and mature than ever before.
A third characteristic of quality development is the general desire to work together with other agencies of similar theological persuasion. The second nonWestern mission study rated partnership desire in three areas: general desire to cooperate with other existing churches or groups while serving on the field; desire to cooperate specifically with Western agencies and/or personnel; and, desire to cooperate specifically with nonWestern agencies and/or personnel.
By placing numerical value upon questionnaire responses, Asia rated very high on willingness to participate with other agencies and/or personnel, yet presented the highest number of requirements specifying the kind of relationship that would be acceptable. Oceania represents the lowest desire (but still willing) and presented the least number of qualifications or requirements specifying what kind of relationship would be acceptable. Africa and Latin America are very similar in response concerning their willingness to participate. However, African organizations raised several additional requirements.
In general, all agencies are willing to participate with other groups for assistance in technological, educational, or financial areas. There is a special interest in participating with other non-Westerners, with requirements being primarily theological qualifications concerning evangelistic compatibility. Yet with all these factors understood, still Third World agencies both desire and search for adequate partnership agreements.
Won Sul Lee, Dean of the Graduate School., Kvung Hee University in Korea, states that of the four billion people living on earth, about 75.4 percent live in the non-Western world.7 Concerning his people, he writes, "It is high time for us Asian Christians to be missionary conscious. The task of preaching the gospel must not be limited to our home countries but spill over our national boundaries; our efforts for evangelization must reach out to the rest of Asia. The age of Westerndominated, Western-based, Western-directed missionary work is over. We Asian Christians must be aware of our own responsibility and should find ways and means to coordinate our efforts in missionary activities."8
Missionary outreach is no longer just the white man’s burden. Nor is the Western missionary always to be in authority over younger churches. The Third World church is maturing, developing its own missiological methods and assuming its proper responsibility in world evangelization. It could be that this maturing force of missionaries might initiate the next great phase in missionary advance.
The response of Western missionaries should be one of partnership. It should be a supportive response willing to assist in any possible way. Data must be collected continually and disseminated. Conferences should be planned to discuss partnership. We must join our hands together to work as equals to proclaim the gospel to all the nations.
1. Wong, James, ed. with Peter Larson, Edward Pentecost, Mission From The Third World. Singapore: Church Growth Study Center, 1972, p. 4.
2. Ibid., p. 6
3. Ibid., p. 4
4. Nelson, Marlin, The How And Why of Third World Missions. So. Pasadena, CA.: Wm. Carey Library, 1976, p. 199.
6. Wong, p. 80
7. Won, Sul Lee, Beyond Ideology. Westchester, IL.: Cornerstone Books, 1979, p. 9-10.
8. Ibid., p. 191-192.
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