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Venturing Into the Unknown

This is Ethnos360’s 80th anniversary, having started as New Tribes Mission back in 1942. Those first years were years of learning how to get into countries to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those people groups who had never heard. Some of those things learned are still required to enter a country these days. We must still get the visa from our host country. We must still go through all the culture and language acquisition steps in order to be listened to and understood by the citizens of said country.

But our world is changing more and more, year after year. We’ve all seen as people in different countries have begun to treat Christianity more and more negatively. And I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the way the world is heading. Jesus told us that this would happen, didn’t He?

The one thing that doesn’t change is the Great Commission. God has not decided that things are too scary or too risky for His children to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This is not the time to cease making disciples of every people group. Our tagline has not changed. We still long to see “a thriving church for every people.”

What does that mean for Ethnos360, then? What are we to do in those situations where it appears that we can’t go? Well, for one thing, I haven’t seen anyone sitting around glumly or throwing their hands in the air in despair!

I was able to chat a little with Larry Brown, the CEO of Ethnos360 and a member of the Global Ministries Agreement (GMA) board.* He said, “Among the many reasons that the unreached are still unreached is the reality that a growing number of countries are closed or are closing to missions. These realities are in our view every day, and we are very much seeking God’s entrance strategies for work to take place in these needy contexts. That could mean us, as in American missionaries going or American missionaries training others — or it could mean that there are others that can go where we as Americans cannot.

“We [speaking of the GMA board and the leadership of Ethnos360] are confident that God desires that these unreached people groups have the opportunity to understand the gospel, so we will take one step of faith at a time to learn how to engage.”

Let me remind you of how Ethnos360 and the GMA/Global Partners work together. In January 2008, a task force made up of 13 men from 10 nations as well as some from the International Ministry Team was appointed to draft the Global Ministries Agreement (GMA). This document would provide the framework outlining the purpose, doctrine, core values, ministry values and policies for the new network of Global Partners. To be a Global Partner, the leadership of the entity must agree to abide by the framework outlined in the Global Ministries Agreement. Each entity that signs the Global Ministry Agreement maintains its own identity (e.g., Ethnos360 is still Ethnos360) but becomes one of the Global Partners.

In April 2008, a GMA Board was proposed that would consist of nine members whose main responsibility would be to ensure that all Global Partners followed the Global Ministries Agreement. The GMA Board today has members coming from seven different nations, and Larry Brown is one of the members.

What had started in 1942 as a small missionary-sending organization known as New Tribes Mission has evolved into a fellowship of member entities that are closely bound together by their purpose and core values, their ministry distinctives (heart language ministries and clear translations of Scripture, for example) and their deep commitment to see the gospel taken to the unreached ethnic groups of the world. This fellowship is called Global Partners.

As you can see, this step of faith involves more than just Ethnos360. It will involve all the Global Partners.

Due to the sensitive nature of where this step of faith will take us, I will have to limit what I can explain for security’s sake. But let me help you understand what this step will entail.

In every country there are followers of Christ already living there, citizens of those countries. The purpose of this step of faith is to connect with them and assist them in reaching the unreached of their own nation. Obviously, this entails traveling to different places to do research to find out where the Christians are, how accessible they are and how willing they are to partner with the missionaries.

Other research will include finding out how many people groups are in that country and which ones are considered unreached. To determine a group’s “unreachedness,” there is a very specific list of criteria that must be determined. That list of criteria is called a people group assessment and is a time-consuming task. This is the process of gathering information about ethnic people groups in order to help leadership teams know how best to serve the Church in deciding where to place missionaries and in what capacities.

There will still be the need to get visas to enter those countries — and whatever else is required to allow entrance, be it vaccinations or invitations or whatever. In some places the red tape seems to be the order of the day and requires an outpouring of patience on the lives of those doing the waiting.

One of the lynchpins of this process is being able to network with other organizations and churches that are already within the country. This is shown so evidently in the plexus of our logo, evidencing the need to connect the dots from one place to another to form that bond. And, yes, that takes time and money and manpower to begin forming those bonds.

An effective way to meet representatives of those other like-minded organizations and churches to be able to network with them is to meet at neutral locations. It is here that planning can go forward as the next steps are discussed and friendships are made and strengthened.

Many countries around the world are much more open to people entering their borders if they bring some kind of project or business that will benefit their people. This is another of the issues that can be discussed and planned at the meetings described above. What kind of projects are needed here: well digging, husbandry, hydroponic gardening, coffee production? What kind of investment is needed to get the project or projects started?

Even if missionaries from other countries are limited in their ability to work in these countries, leadership and consultant teams will need to be formed. When possible, these teams will travel in and out of the “limited access” countries so that they can work with the believers already there.

We look back over the past 80 years, marveling at how God has led the mission through changes and new initiatives, through valleys of dark times and to mountaintop joys. We look forward to the years ahead, knowing that the same God Who led in the past will continue to lead us, opening (or closing) doors so that the unreached people groups will be reached — for His glory.

Friends, this is indeed a step of faith. This is accomplishing the task in ways we haven’t used before. There will be unknowns, surprises, blockades and breakthroughs. Through it all, we know God will be walking with us.

*For more information about the GMA, the International Ministries Team and Global Partners, see our September 2021 article What Makes Us Who We Are

Tags: Partner to Partner
POSTED ON May 30, 2022