Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 138:552 (Oct 1981)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“The Concept of a Third Era in Missions,” Ralph D. Winter, Evangelical Missions Quarterly 17 (April 1981): 69-82.

This is an interesting and helpful survey of both modern missions history and missions strategy. The significant point is made that modern missions from its beginning has been largely an interdenominational movement that originated and developed independently of (and at times was opposed by) organized church leaders. Winter writes, “Indeed, we may suppose that had the far corners of the earth awaited a majority vote of church leaders (even evangelical leaders), they, for the most part, would have been waiting still” (p. 74).

In all three eras in missions the strategy involves several stages of mission activity which are variously identified. Winter lists an enumeration presented at the November 1979 meeting of the Evangelical Missionary Alliance in London: “Stage 1: A Pioneer stage—first contact with a people group. Stage 2: A Paternal stage—expatriates train national leadership. Stage 3: A Partnership stage—national leaders work as equals with expatriates. Stage 4: A Participation stage—expatriates are no longer equal partners, but only participate by invitation” (pp. 70-71).

According to Winter the first era of modern missions was the effort to reach the coastal regions of unevangelized areas. This began, of course, with William Carey in 1792 and continued until the Edinburgh Conference in 1910. The second era was the effort to reach the interior regions of the continents and countries. This era began with the work of Hudson Taylor in 1865 and has continued almost to the present to the conferences at Pattaya and Edinburgh in 1980. This second era overlapped the first era by forty-five years. English and European missionaries were dominant in the first era and American missionaries in the second era.

Winter identifies the third era of modern missions as the effort to reach the bypassed peoples of the world, the “hidden people” who were ignored for one reason or another. Estimates indicate that close to six thousand such groups of people exist in the world who remain unreached with the gospel and represent the target for world evangelization. Winter believes this third era began with the work of Cameron Townsend in 1934 and is the primary emphasis of the present and the future. This third period overlaps with the second era by forty-six years. Winter raises the possibility that missionaries from the Third World may be dominant in this era, although that has not been true so far. An excellent graph outlining the three eras and the two transition periods appears on page 72.

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