In August I visited Pasadena in sunny southern California. On the same day, I visited the campuses of Fuller Theological Seminary and the US Center for World Mission. PFF’s founder, Dr. Ralph Winter, was prominent in his service to the cause of world mission at both institutions.
At the US Center, a group of us visited with an archivist who was busily sorting through the papers and correspondence of Ralph Winter. The US Center also holds the papers of Dr. Winter’s Fuller Seminary colleague, Dr. Donald McGavran. McGavran died in 1990 and Winter passed in 2009. These papers and letters are sure to be a treasure trove of missiological reflections and conversations. PFF is especially interested in the correspondence between PFF founder, Dr. Winter, and veteran missionary Rev. Harold Kurtz, PFF’s first leader.
McGavran and Winter collaborated in missiological reflection that has bequeathed to the Church the articulated concepts of frontier mission and unreached peoples. McGavran saw how the caste system in India produced “vertical segmentation;” i.e. people could live virtually on top of one another but be separated by one’s caste. Winter extended this idea to “horizontal segmentation” where language and culture separate persons who also may be near neighbors. The Dinka and the Nuer peoples of South Sudan represent a contemporary example of separated neighbors. Winter and McGavran (and Kurtz) saw that it was “cultural distance” that was proving to be the big barrier in world evangelization.
Of course the barriers alone do not make for unreached peoples. If no Christians will cross the barriers, then the Gospel may suffer from being “a light hid under a bushel.” The Church can overcome those barriers with prayer, the deployment of resources and the help of the Holy Spirit. Frontier mission takes seriously the fact that more than 2 billion people on planet earth have no access to the Jesus gospel, the Christian scriptures or to a living congregation. PFF seeks to mobilize Presbyterian churches to become involved in efforts to provide access to the Good News.
In 2016, PFF will celebrate the 35th anniversary of our ministry of mobilization. The ideas of Ralph Winter and the actions of Harold Kurtz will be celebrated--these missionary pioneers charted the way. Of course, there have been other staff, partners, Board members and friends on our journey. We will be gathering together and thanking God for the entire frontier mission family. And we will be re-committing ourselves to the vision expressed in our motto:
For every people, an indigenous church.For every church, a mission vision.
To God be the Glory,
Richard L. HaneyExecutive Director