Surveying China’s newly enacted NGO law

Pittman, Joann. “Foreign NGO management law: how might it affect you?” ChinaSource, 25 April 2016.

Fulton, Brent. “The new normal for faith-based, foreign NGOs in China: key provisions of the new law.” China Source, 4 May 2016.

English translation of the law here.

Overseas NGO law FAQs. “This law will potentially have a very significant negative impact on grassroots organizations.”

Newly adopted foreign NGO law should be repealed, UN [human rights] experts urge: “We fear that the excessively broad and vague provisions, and administrative discretion given to the authorities in regulating the work of foreign NGOs can be wielded as tools to intimidate, and even suppress, dissenting views and opinions in the country.”

Chin, Josh. “China poised to approve crackdown on foreign NGOs.” Wall Street Journal (26 April 2016).

Sidel, Mark. “It just got harder to make a difference in China.” Foreign Policy (29 April 2016). “…the result of significant political tightening in China… in most respects it retains the dragonian nature of the [earliest] draft, with some minor revisions…”

Wong, Edward. “Clampdown in China restricts 7,000 foreign organizations.” New York Times (28 April 2016). “…took a major step… to impose greater control and limit Wester influences on Chinese societies… restricting the work of foreign organizations and their local partners, mainly through police supervision… organizations that do not receive official approval will be forced to stop operating in the country.”

Wong, Edward. “US denounces Chinese law restricting foreign organizations.” New York Times (29 April 2016). “American leaders and interest groups have sharply criticized…”

Ford, Peter. “Behind global crackdown on NGOs, recognition of their power.” Christian Science Monitor (25 April 2016). “Beijing is not leading the international pack in political repression. Instead, it is playing catch-up.”

Activists criticize China’s new NGO law.” CNN Video.

China Voice: no need to overreact to China’s overseas NGO law.” Xinhuanet (4 May 2016).


22 Apr 2016. Sidel, Mark. “China: the overseas NGO management law returns, with a new strategy.” Alliance Magazine.

Belkin, Ira and Jerome Cohen. “Will China close its doors?” New York Times Op-Ed (1 June 2015). Looks at the original draft of the law.

“How do I find People of Peace?”

Q. I would be really interested on any research or any more details on the PoP particularly in Urban vs Rural contexts. We are in _______ now, although we are preparing for __________ to be in a more rural context (actually a bigger town in the region, but it is probably like 5,000-10,000 people). I have found it difficult to talk to anyone on the street for any length of time, but there is a carpooling service that immediately guarantees a more drawn out conversation. I would DEFINITELY see as the easiest way to get to know locals who you would otherwise never have the occasion of meeting and talking with.

Every time I talk to anyone about how they find People of Peace (PoPs), or any kind of seekers, the “pool” they fish in is almost always different, and the tactics used to discover them are almost always different.

I don’t always agree with the folks at The Upstream Collective, but I have to say their book Tradecraft is excellent when it comes to some of these basic skills. I’m not saying I agree 100% with everything in it, but there’s a lot to learn from it. Tradecraft’s chapter on People of Peace says there are three basic marks: receptivity, reputation, and the ability/willingness to pass the Gospel into their social networks via referral. These seem to be three good things to keep in mind and “search for.” Where might you find people that exhibit these three features (and the reputation doesn’t necessarily have to be “good”–it could be a “bad” person who has been markedly turned around, as in the case of the demoniac Jesus healed).

Keeping in mind what a Person of Peace is can inform the tactics we use for search. But just as searching for something on the Internet can take lots of tries and lots of keywords and lots of failures, so searching for a Person of Peace can be different in different contexts. In terms of figuring out tactics for search, I highly recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Yes, this is a book about technology startups–but there are many parallels between startups and pioneer church planting. The idea of the “Minimum Viable Product” (in your case, an MVP would be a “pool” to “fish” in and a method for “fishing”) and the Build-Measure-Learn loop would be very useful to anyone who’s trying to rapidly test ways to find People of Peace.

With regards to organizing and tracking “search experiments,” I suggest both the Mini Guide to the Experiment Loop (PDF, downloadable) and The Lean Experiments Dashboard at the Lean Brand book website (and the Lean Brand book as well). I have found this approach very useful in rapidly designing testable experiments.

The point I’m making: unfortunately, there’s no “silver bullet”–a method for finding People of Peace that always works. It’s an area where you must try to “fail fast” – try out lots of different things to figure out what doesn’t work, and by process of elimination figure out what does. In order to “fail your way to success,” you must avoid the error of repeating failed experiments. This requires experiment design, testing, and tracking. These tools I’ve linked are very easy ways to do that (I use them myself with other related experiments in communication, for example).

If you’re interested in being part of a CPM/DMM-focused training community that swaps resources, stories, case studies, tactics that have worked in some settings (and may in yours with some adaptation), and encouragement between various movements, email (and also see

Should ActBeyond exist?

Eddie Arthur has engendered a conversation that I hope others take part of. The posts in question:

Lynn argues that YWAM should exist partly because there have always been two strands of the church – settled and missional – and since there is a place for missional structures, there is a place for YWAM. Eddie argues Wycliffe should exist because it supports the church in the trask of translation, and should only exist so long as it does that well.

So, what’s my reasoning for why Beyond should exist?

I reasonate somewhat with Lynn, but I go in a slightly different direction.

I think that the dichotomy between “settled” and “missional” is a little arbitrary, just as the dichotomy between “sodality” and “modality” is. And if we see that line as very “black and white,” we will rapidly fall into the trap of thinking one organization form is “the church” and the other is “the servant of the church.

Church, of course, is simply ekklesia. This is the word used throughout Scripture. It means assembly, congregation, the body of believers. We make a pretty big mental error when we equate “church” with something other than a group of believers (see “Church” for some of the ways we do this without even thinking).

Jesus seems to make clear any gathering of believers is a body, an ekklesia (Matthew 18:20). Is a parachurch agency, then, a church? Is a business, a church? Is a government, a church? We flinch at that, I know. But how about this: is a parachurch agency, an ekklesia? Is it a gathering of believers?

We might ask the question, what does a particular parachurch agency do? Or, more specifically, what does a particular strategy team do? The strategy teams with Beyond regularly meet together for fellowship. We bring words of encouragement for each other, and sing songs. We teach and reprove and confess and hold each other accountable. Often (especially at Worldwide Conference, but also in smaller meetings) we have communion. Strategy teams baptize new believers (we’ve never had a baptism at a major conference, but that’s not to say it can’t happen). I’m not sure about the whole marry-and-bury thing – there are civil, legal issues there too – but you get where I’m going.

Christian-run businesses can do these things, too, and some do. Do governments? Ehh.

So, my thinking about whether Beyond or Wycliffe or etc. should exist is trending this way: it may be incorrect to argue that an agency should exist to serve the church if we think that an agency is a church. It is literally a gathering of believers – how is this not an ekklesia?

Now, there are tensions: because different kinds of churches (different churches, different traditions, and yes, agencies vs “churches” in the modern traditional sense) “compete” for members, dollars, etc. But this competition is something to be addressed in how believers ought to interact with each other, not on the basis of the right of one ekklesia to exist and not another.

An agency is just an ekklesia with a bit of a different organizational style, focus of ministry, and mobility. There aren’t two separate strands, but simply two functional ways of operating (just as different churches have different ways of operating – some in buildings, some in houses, some in coffee shops, some in tents, etc). An agency deserves to exist because ekklesias deserve to exist, because Christ has called us to join together as a body, to obey him in the purpose he has called us to.

Standard disclaimer: As always, this blog represents “rough draft thoughts.” I welcome comments and further discussion. Eddie & others sharpen my thinking on this and many other topics. I am a member of Beyond, but my thoughts in this matter do not represent the views of that community or the others in it, nor any kind of formal policy or statement.

Q. Why are missionary numbers going down?

This request has come to me more than a few times this month. I have checked with my good friends in missionary research, Michael Jaffarian and Bert Hickman (researchers associated with Operation World and the World Christian Encyclopedia) to double-check my own understanding. Here’s the consensus:

1. Missionary deployment from the United States is not precisely declining. They’ve been in the vicinity of 40,000 (on the Protestant side) from the USA (I don’t have Catholic sending readily to hand). They peaked around 44,500 in 1988, then declined to about 38,000 around 1992, and after that have shown a slight-but-steady increase since then. One source for analyzing this is the North American Mission Handbook, which is published about every three years (and another edition is in the works).

Update: in this Tweet from Gina Zurlo at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, she says 127,000 missionaries are sent from the USA. This includes Catholics. I wouldn’t do a direct subtract from the 40,000 above, as the two numbers come from two different methodologies and different times, but at least it gives you some idea. Also, the link goes to their report which has sending by continent.

2. Some components of missionary deployment have been declining steadily for years, mainly the number of missionaries sent out by the mainline churches.

3. Many more evangelical missionaries are now being sent out directly through smaller agencies and from individual churches, and these are not showing up in many of the existing statistical measuring systems. I’m not sure how the Mission Handbook will deal with this in the next edition. For some time, however, it’s been known that a minority percentage of missionaries do this (for example, I know one missionary family that was rejected from many agencies and so formed their own agency and went–and were quite effective on the field).

4. The statistics I’ve cited above include people deployed for 4 years or longer. There appear to have been a slight decline in those deployed for 1 month to 4 years. No one measures the short-term trip takers (e.g. 2 weeks), but Michael told me about one study he saw that estimated those at 1.5 million per year.

5. Another factor impacting missionary deployment statistics is longevity on the field; I’ve written about this before. People are coming back faster than ever, for a variety of reasons. We wonder why people don’t have the “stick-to-it-ness” of those in days gone by, but one possibility is this: the ease of travel means people don’t have to make the same kinds of commitment to the field as people had to when it took a year to get to their station.

The bottom line is this: I don’t see that the number of missionaries sent from the USA is dramatically declining; in fact, it may very well be growing amongst certain groups. However, neither is it growing dramatically – certainly not to the levels “needed.” The West will never field all the missionary workers needed, so we need to think about how to use our existing force strategically to stimulate more workers and more works from other places closer to the harvest.

Q. What is the number of unreached people (population) and people groups in India?

Q. What is the population of unreached people and the number of people groups in India?

This is probably one of the most challenging (and even contentious) issues to answer from a missionary research standpoint. In fact, when I’m teaching Perspectives or talking with various people, I often point out that the various global lists (World Christian Database, JP, IMB, Wycliffe) are very similar, with just a few differences here and there–the massive exception is how they handle India’s peoples and castes.

Ethnologue lists 461 languages for India, of which 447 are living. Joshua Project lists 2,157 people groups, of which 1,948 are “unreached.” IMB lists 1,154 people groups. The World Christian Database lists 482 people groups.

The WCD uses a mostly linguistic viewpoint (e.g. Eastern Hindi, Bangri, Bagri, Central Bhil, Eastern Bhil, Northern Bhil, etc): their 482 peoples represent 465 languages, matching almost one-for-one with those listed in the Ethnologue (Bangri matches to code ‘bgc’, for example, but the three Bhil groups listed above all correspond to one language code ‘bhb’ in the Ethnologue).

Joshua Project relies on the OMID data set for India, and breaks the peoples down further into castes. The population of the groups they mark as unreached is 1.21 billion (out of 1.28 billion, or pretty much all of India).

The IMB takes a midpoint. Jim Haney, Director of Research for IMB, told me in an email:

A couple of years ago Luis Bush and I wrote an article about segmenting people groups in South Asia. We based that article on Matthew 28:19 and a biblical understanding of ethne as a descriptor of people groups in the New Testament. We agreed the primary paradigm for people groups in South Asia is to look at them through castes and communities. However, many Muslim people groups continue to be viewed best ethnolinguisticly. With that said, IMB depends on our observations of the way people actually gather when the gospel is communicated on the ground. In other words, segmentation cannot be pre-determined. First, the church planter shares the gospel. Then, we observe who will come to the church. When we find certain people do not come, we see that people as a candidate people group. This is very similar to the way SIL treats a new speech variety. At the point of discovery, it’s not clear if the speech variety is a language or dialect. In the same way, when we find a people group that faces a barrier to understanding or accepting the gospel, we’re likely to create a people group identity so the gospel can be communicated through a separate effort to that people group…

So the result is that the number of unreached people groups varies according to the methodology. But the result is pretty much the same: no matter which of the three primary people group ways of measuring, India is pretty heavily unevangelized.

How to protect a mobile VPN from WiFi pirates

Q. “Utility of and best software and recommendation for mobile vpn to protect from WiFi pirates?”

This is a rather unusual question. I got it through the survey I’m presently running. I put it to my Facebook community and had several suggestions. If you have others, add them in the comments here, or the Facebook post there (or both!).

  • Kaspersky Personal & Family Security Software
  • Via Brad Stoops: I use StrongVPN from There are free & cheaper options (I think this runs around $50/year, though once signed up you can get discounts), but it came recommended a couple of years ago when I was looking at VPN options, and it has worked out well for me. If interested, shoot me a message and I’ll send you an invite – I get a $15 account credit and you might get a discount as well. I know there is a like-minded guy in CO that was offering a discounted VPN service, but I’m blanking out on his name. David Hackett, do you remember this guy from a few years back in Finland?
  • David Hackett:  Yes. My recommended VPN is which I use in MENA. Run by Jon Gardner a mission-minded friend. If interested write me or contact him from his website.

Q. Worldview differences between first generation immigrants and children

Q. Harun Myers asks, “Hey Justin. Quick question for you. I’ve begun trying to research worldview differences in regards to gospel presentation between first generation immigrants and their children who’ve been raised in the new nation. Have you heard any one talk about this and the difference between these two audiences that look a lot a like, but who think quite differently (that is my intuition anyway) Any leads would be great. Thanks.”

I posted this question on Facebook, which generated several responses. Outside of Facebook, reader Timothy Paul sent in this, which I share here with his permission:

There: Family members who belong there not here. Unassimilated. There+Here: Family members who belong there, but still live here. Beginning to choose assimilation. Here+There: Family members who belong here, but still love there. Becoming comfortably assimilated. Here: Family Members who belong here not there. Assimilated.

This is a simple, fairly obvious, spectrum of cultural assimilation of people who emigrate from one country, like India or Morocco, with the intention of living somewhere else, like Australia or Canada. There are individuals around us in any American city for example, who are experiencing life according to the dynamics of one of these categories. They are very broad and sweeping, so there will be unique details of transition for everybody we may encounter.

Most important, this assimilation/culture spectrum represents many, probably most, immigrating families. There will be individuals from each category in many families, or if a family is fairly new, or fairly settled, one of the categories may accurately describe the family. Usually, there is a mix of individuals in the categories within a family.

As far as relationship/gospel sharing is concerned, I have found it best to go from left to right rather than right to left. Start with family members who are furthest to the left, especially if they are family elders. Win them over, and everybody to the right, who are more easily “reached” by us will be open to our ministry. Think family not individual. Bless the entire family so you can evangelize thos interested individuals more easily and for the long term.

If you have pointers to additional research you’d like to add in the comments, it would be welcomed.

Why should missionaries be sent to Europe?

Q. I wonder why missionaries should be sent to Europe.

First, let’s ask – should we send no workers to Europe, at all?

A lot of people who advocate work among the unreached say we should preference sending workers to the 10/40 Window over sending workers to Europe. What gets lost in the soundbite is the reason: there is an enormous imbalance between missionaries sent to the 10/40 Window and those sent to “Christianized” places (like Europe and Latin America).

Divide the world up into Worlds A (unevangelized), B (evangelized non-Christian) and C (professedly Christian), and look at the missionary resources spent on each: roughly 90% is given to World C, 9% for World B, and a smidge for World A. This is an enormous imbalance.

Why does this imbalance exist? A few reasons:

  • World C (the Christianized world, North America, Latin America, Europe, Australia, etc) is generally easier to get to.
  • World C is generally easier to understand: there are language and cultural similarities.
  • There’s a long history of work in World C, so people know how to ‘do missions’ there.
  • World C is generally safer, which makes it easier to send short term teams – and where people go on short-term trips, they are often inclined to go for long-term work.

These aren’t bad reasons. They are simply reasons why it’s easier to send workers one place, and harder to send them to another. It’s very difficult to send workers to Afghanistan at all, for example–so the church can hardly be blamed for not sending many workers there.

Should we send no workers to Europe? No. But we should, insofar as it is possible, work very hard to correct the imbalance.

Can we not send as many workers/resources to Africa and Asia as we do to Latin America and Europe? Could we not send as many per capita (e.g. if we send 1 missionary per million to Europe, can we send 1 per million to Africa and 1 per million to Asia – knowing this means more workers for Africa & Asia)?

Now, let’s consider the inverse question: why should we send workers to Europe?

I define a “missionary” as one who is sent on a mission; specifically, to plant the church where it is not.

Some note, rightly, we are not commissioned to “plant churches” but rather to witness, evangelize and make disciples. The church is built when disciples are made. While true, the soundbite can conflate the individual congregation with the larger Church. When we make disciples, those disciples gather together, and their gathering is a church, which is a local expression of the Church.

For witness to be offered, the Gospel to be shared, and disciples to be made, the Church (in some form, whether local believers or foreign workers) must be present. The missionary task is to plant the Church (which is a far different matter from starting individual local churches). While missionaries may witness, evangelize and make disciples, local believers can do this far better. So the missionary really should only do this to the extent required to get to the point where local believers are doing it. At that point, the missionary task for that place/people is finished, and the local responsibility begins.

Europe is controversial. The “Church” is arguably present. Depending on whether you count Anglicans, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants or not, it’s either present in large numbers or small. Whether the evangelization of nominal, cultural Christians is a missionary task or not is a matter of no small argument. For me, I say “no.” But, if you argue the growth functions of the church (witnessing, evangelism, disciple-making) are not being done, then this would (to my mind) justify the deployment of missionaries.

However, there is another reason to send missionaries to Europe: to work among the many thousands of non-Christians (e.g. atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists), whether local or immigrant (and there are obviously many thousands of immigrants coming in to Europe). London, Birmingham, Paris, certain sections of Germany, parts of Eastern Europe, and Turkey (if you count Turkey as part of Europe) are obvious locations for this kind of work (as are other places I’m sure many could name).

Europe is also often a good proximity base to support work being done in other places (e.g. broadcasting into the Middle East, or translation support, or follow-up for Internet or broadcasting-based programs, etc).

The most important reason one could have for sending workers to Europe is that God called that particular person/agency to go. If God says ‘go,’ don’t listen to me say ‘stay.’ (Just make sure that God really called you.)


Practically and technically getting stories from the field

In response to our recent survey, one reader shared with us their challenge: “Obtaining the information and photos we need from the field to present needs in a timely and security-friendly way; presenting specific needs to donors and prayer partners in a way that’s engaging and keeps workers safe.”

I wrote to ask them to clarify a bit, and their challenge is one that we have faced ourselves in ActBeyond (and I’m sure others have faced as well). Here are some additional points they made:

  1. Workers often don’t respond to our requests for information and photos. Sometimes this is due to busyness; other times it may be due to a lack of understanding about why this information is so important, or due to security concerns. This is probably our biggest challenge: how do we convince workers that sending us what we ask for is worth their time and energy?
  2. Workers respond, but send things we can’t use. This is particularly true of pictures as many times the pictures we do receive are of poor quality or pose a security risk. (Due to the fact that many [of our] workers serve in areas in which their connection with [our agency] could pose a risk to their safety—and the safety of local believers with whom they work—it’s our policy to refrain from showing the face of any worker in our publications and online. The same goes for faces of national believers.)
  3. Due to our security concerns, taking appropriate photos often requires creativity—and more energy and effort on the part of workers.
  4. Our need for photos and information is growing (due to our increased social media engagement and developing a new website—scheduled to go live by the fall), so the level of response we once received from workers is no longer sufficient.

Have you and your agency faced these issues? What wisdom would you share in response?

In particular: do you have a sample brand guide you’d be willing to share with me (and them–I would forward)? Email

How do you practically receive and store and share photos? What technological solutions have you adopted?

Any other thoughts? Feel free to comment below or send an email to

How I collect data and build community on social media

Dear Justin,
How do you get all the great links and items that you post on social media? Are your lists open, where I can see who you follow?

This was asked via Facebook, and I answered directly, then thought I’d post my social media strategy. It’s an evolving thing, and what I do a year from now may vary. For me, the key to social media has been to constantly test different approaches, as the media changes over time based on participation.

For data aggregation, I primarily use Twitter, so that’s what this post will be about. I use Facebook more for connecting with friends and patrons, and sharing news than for collecting it.

Social media can be a huge time sink. Used correctly, however, it can be a great tool for finding information, and for serendipitous discovery of things you didn’t know about.

I have several public lists on Twitter through which I aggregate news sources. For example, news-top5 are the news sources I use the most frequently. My news-intl list are the most highly rated or respected international news outlets in each country (this gives me a diversity of opinion). My news-breaking list is all of the major “breaking news” outlets (CNN, AP, Reuters, etc–each usually has its “Breaking News” specialist feed). My “agencies” list is all the mission agencies on Twitter. Anyone can subscribe to my public lists.

In addition, I have some private curated lists of people who are specialists in a particular area (“who-future”, “who-startup”, etc). I’ve built these by watching my main timeline and adding people to these lists who generally post about these topics, and removing them if they get too off-topic too frequently.

However, the key part of my social media strategy are my “a-” lists. These are private, but you can build your own using the exact same strategy I use.

“a-reshare” is a list of everyone on Twitter who regularly reshares the content I share – people who favorite, RT, Quote, etc. Resharing is a pretty strong signal they have common interests with me. (I don’t add accounts that are obviously spammers, who reshare “everything.”) Someone who reshares me also typically reshares others; and most of what they reshare from others is interesting to me. So, by following them, I discover content that I will be interested in as well, and I reshare it. You might call this a “reshare-fest” or more snidely an echo chamber, but in reality not everyone who follows me also follows these folks. Resharing amplifies content, builds community and spreads wisdom. You can build a similar list by watching Twitter Notifications for people who reshare your content, right click their names, and click to add them to your own internal list.

“A-patrons” is a list of everyone on Twitter who is a Patron of our work; this is another strong signal of shared interests. Not eveyone who gives to us is on Twitter, but those who are go on this list. I just cross-reference my donors with Twitter.

“A-charts” is my list of people I’ve discovered who share graphical charts. I’m always keen on charts of data. This is a pretty small list. When I see someone I follow consistently sharing charts, I add them to this list.

“A-longreads” is a list of people who regularly share longer analytical posts. I prefer “longreads” (e.g. articles of several thousand words that are deep dives on a subject); I don’t read them all, obviously, but with news items I’m far more likely to simply skim content.

“A-photos” is a list of people who regularly share photographs, especially of areas where the unreached are typically found. (This may be news photography feeds, or people who specialize in photos).

“A-convos” is my list of people who annotate, reply to, or talk with me on Twitter. This is an even stronger signal than resharing content, but people who are on a-reshare are also likely on a-convos. Again, this is a simple matter of watching notifications, replying to people, and then adding them to the list.

The point of these lists is to segment out “pools” of data that I can “fish in.” My “a-reshare” and “a-convos” lists are my two most frequently watched feeds, because these are kind of my “tribe” of people. They are far smaller: I follow 1,640 in my timeline, but just 85 in my reshare list. I can “dip my toe” into the firehose that is Twitter, while spending a far smaller amount of time with my tribe (because they don’t post as often). This allows me to manage my time and focus on people who are most passionate about the things I am passionate about. By creating these lists, you can follow a lot of people in your normal timeline (and analyze that with tools like Nuzzel or Flipboard) while still having a smaller list of people that you interact with.

How some other people do it
How Dave Verwer curates for iOS Dev Weekly
Robert Scoble’s excellent tips for using Facebook