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  • Justin Long 11:53 am on October 11, 2018 Permalink |  

    Every place and people group needs a worker, and a thought about monitoring 

    Romans 10 puts it succinctly:’

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

    Romans 10:13-14

    Every place and people group needs a proclamation of the Good News:

    • Places need distinct voices engaging with their distinct populations. Life-on-life can best (mostly, only) happen when lives are near each other. We cannot easily “one another” each other remotely. Marriages cannot be marriages if people are never near each other; long-distance relationships are difficult because of separations. In the same way, true ekklesia community is personal: it requires regular, in-person relationships.
    • Peoples need distinct voices in languages they understand because (a) the Gospel needs to be understood (I wouldn’t understand the Good News in Russian), and (b) because hearing the Good News in my heart language makes it easier for me to understand and relate to.

    Places that lack an in-place, in-language proclamation need a proclaimer.

    It is best if the proclaimer is a person who shares their language and culture. It is good if at minimum it is a near-culture person who understands the situation. But if no same-culture or near-culture proclaimer is available, then a cross-cultural worker must be sent.

    I believe we should do the hard work of finding the “nearest person” who can be sent, but if no one can be found or it’s going to take years, then we ought not shrink from sending a cross-cultural worker.

    In terms of monitoring, we can over-complicate our databases. Really, the first and most important question is: does every place have a Gospel proclamation that can reasonably be expected to get into every language and to every person within a reasonable period of time (e.g. 10 to 20 years for every individual)?

    Until we can know that about nearly every place, we don’t really need to drill into further detail about any single place.

    • Mark Kordic 1:51 pm on October 11, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Reaching the Unreached: First Step is to Speak their LANGUAGE.
      Thanks for summarizing the importance succinctly: “Places that lack an in-place, in-language proclamation need a proclaimer.” “Peoples need distinct voices in languages they understand because (a) the Gospel needs to be understood (I wouldn’t understand the Good News in Russian), and (b) because hearing the Good News in my heart language makes it easier for me to understand and relate to.”

      So, I’m thrilled with the historic illumiNations Bible 2018 conference in Colorado Springs this past weekend featuring 10 of the largest #BibleTranslation agencies (94% of all translation work) where UNITY & GENEROSITY collided. As YouVersion Founder Bobby Gruenewald summarized the impact as “a unified group of Bible agency leaders and an incredible group of resource partners (gathered) with the goal of taking a BIG step forward in ending Bible poverty. More specifically, we are working to see the Bible translated into EVERYone’s heart language by 2033. Think about it…after hundreds of years of people giving their lives toward this goal, we will be the generation that sees it happen…

      There is unprecedented cooperation and coordination among Bible translation agencies as well as technological advancements that make achieving this goal by 2033 possible. The people in this room are ALL IN too and made commitments THIS weekend to give over $37 MILLION to help this 2033 vision become a reality!!! I’m blown away by what God did! 🙌🏼🙌🏼 Can you believe it? This is going to happen! I’ll share more as we go so you can be a part too. #endbiblepoverty

      #bible #bibletranslation #heartlanguage #youversion #inawe”

      WOW…Do YOU see what I see…massive acceleration in bringing GOOD NEWS of the GOSPEL to multiplied MILLIONS more people very SOON? I’ve spoken with many who were part of this event and they anticipate significant acceleration in their projects in the most difficult areas of the world.

      ILLUMINATION includes: The Seed Company, American Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Pioneer Bible Translators, Every Tribe Every Nation, Deaf Bible Society, SIL International, United Bible Societies, Lutheran Bible Translators in association with Museum of the Bible.

    • David Pope 6:54 am on October 12, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Spot on, JL. As much as people need an in-place, in-language proclamation, they also need to be given the ability to develop their translation as their church emerges. The focus should be church formation and multiplication, not bible product. Bible translation should pace church development (proclamation, disciple-making, and leadership development). In the end, do we want to give the emerging church a bible or do we want to give them the power to translate their own Scriptures (quality-assured) so that they also have the ability to steward those Scriptures for decades to come? There should be a full integration of of tool development with church formation.

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on September 4, 2018 Permalink |  

    Categories of Progress 

    I’ve recently finished reading Hans Rosling’s (posthumously published book) Factfulness. This book is a valuable examination of good analytical mental habits, especially for lay people, and I highly recommend it for your Kindle app.

    What was particularly interesting to me was how they broke the world down into four categories based on consumable income. They call this “Dollar Street,” and showed how all over the world, people in roughly the same category of spending would do things in roughly the same way.

    I thought we could similarly analyze places and peoples by percent Christian (in the broadest sense). While it can be challenging to know the precise % Christian of a place or a people group, we could reasonably accurately identify a general level.

    Dollar Street’s categories are based on doublings. They go roughly like this:

    Stage 1
    Stage 2
    Stage 3
    Stage 4
    32% and above

    The total count of countries or provinces by level was fairly unsurprising:

    Of greater interest to me was the populations at each of the levels. (In the province graph below, I’ve included a “Level 0”: these are provinces for which I have absolutely no indicator of any Christian believers at all.)

    The Dollar Street-style implications of this analysis can be taken further in the future; in this post, I just want to highlight something that comes out of greater granularity of data: the “hidden” nature of less-reached places.A country like India can have enough Christians in some spots to push it “a little higher” on the “level” scale (and in many other lists, too)–and yet these Christians are “localized” in a few places. So while some countries can show up on some lists as being “more reached,” the reality is inside the countries there are pockets of more and less reached places.

    The reality is, something like a quarter of the world’s population lives in locations that are less than 2% Christian–places that are heavily unevangelized, where many can live never meeting a believer. And, another quarter of the world lives in places that are between 2% and 8% Christian–perhaps not “unreached” by some definitions, but areas where a lot of work is left to be done.

    This kind of reality holds just as true for people groups and provinces as it does for countries. Inside any large population there will be more-reached and less-reached subsets. Look at Turkey: the west is more engaged than the east. Look inside Istanbul, and you’ll find the same thing.

    Before anyone asks: no, my list is not publicly available; it’s internal to Beyond and some of our partners. But really, the point of this post is: this kind of analysis is not rocket science. You could do it yourself for any place where you work. Just grab a list of the provinces or districts for the country you’re working in, and for each place, ask yourself which level each of the component segments is obviously at. For most places, with a little bit of Googling, you’ll find Census data or other survey data that will help you figure it out.

    I leave the exercise to you because I think it’s a needed one: it teaches us to look inside the segments, find the nuance and look for the gaps, the people who have less access. That’s a skill that all of us in mission strategy need to develop.

  • Justin Long 1:30 pm on August 23, 2018 Permalink |  

    Women in Missions 

    I ran across this quote today:

    For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.

    Virginia Wolf

    Whether this is quote is correctly attributed or not (or even whether it is true), it did set me to reflecting on how at least in modern history – and probably in a great deal of history – much of Christian mission’s activities were accomplished by women, even if their history has not been written.

    Today, if we exclude the percentage of missionaries who are couples (equal share, 50/50, male/female), and look at the singles, single women in mission (and in the church generally) are known to largely (and in some agencies, vastly) outnumber single men.

    This means that the majority of Protestant missionaries are women.

    Further, if we contemplate Roman Catholic missionaries, we often think of well known missionary orders like Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, etc. – and so we think of the stereotypical monk under vows of celibacy. But the reality is, nuns outnumber monks by about 7-to-1: in 2017, worldwide, there were 753,400 women and 191,800 men in ‘the consecrated life.’

    I think any mission needs to contemplate what it means to mostly consist of women. Do we write their histories and their stories? Do we consider their needs and their safety? Do we give them authority and let them lead?

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on August 20, 2018 Permalink |  

    Urbanization probably higher than 55% 

    The United Nations estimates that the world’s population is over 55% urbanized (Link). When you dive deep into the statistics, you find they are messy: countries self report on urbanization, and different countries have different methods for calculating it.

    Researchers using high-resolution satellite imagery estimate and a standard algorithm challenge this and instead estimate the world is over 84% urban already.

    Out of curiosity, I checked my own district survey, which has the world’s population broken out by provinces and districts. For each province I have the population and area in square kilometers. According to Google, 1 square kilometer = 0.3 square miles, or ~240 acres.

    All of the provinces together equate to about 6.9 billion people. (This is not the 2018 population, I know, but the important thing is the relative ratios.)

    Provinces with population densities (population / total area) of more than 100 people per square kilometers (or 100 per 250 acres, or 1 per ~2 acres) have a total population of 4.8 billion, or 72% of the world’s population.

    Provinces with population densities of more than 1,000 per square kilometer have a total population of 866 million. There are 330 such provinces. These are mostly cities. The most densely populated province in my database, right now, is Macau, with a density of over 57,000 per square kilometer.

    Focusing on high-density populations can be a strategic way of penetrating a population, because people will naturally move to more-densely populated places (urbanized areas) for work, etc. And these figures seem to confirm that the world is generally even more urbanized, already, than the “floor” figure of 55%.

  • Justin Long 9:00 am on August 9, 2018 Permalink |  

    How fast movements need to grow 

    I have been frequently asked, “what size counts as a movement” and “how fast does a movement grow”? The common definition I use for a movement is: “consistently reaching four generations of church planting in short periods of time.” Obviously, this leaves a little ambiguity: movements are not machines, made up of precisely engineered pieces of metal, but rather structures like forests, made up of organically growing groups of people.

    This week, however, I heard a suggestion of size from a global movement coach that seemed to fit. He noted that it takes some time to get to four generations: often years. Once four generations is reached, “most movements” typically add another generation each year.

    At first, this might sound as though it would take a long time to double: four generations, adding one generation per year, would take four years to double. However, we are not interested in the number of generations, but rather in the number of believers, groups, and churches. Disciples who make disciples leads to exponential growth; groups that multiply groups enhance this further. If each generation is larger than the last (and they will be, if church planting is done in multiple streams) equates to multiplying growth that takes up a larger percentage of a given population.

    Let’s use some numbers to illustrate this. Assume a movement that is a precisely engineered machine (just for the sake of the illustration). Each group averages 14 people, and each group plants three new groups in a period of one year.

    Growth is very slow at first: months can go by with no groups and perhaps no believers. The leap between year 3 and year 4 will be easily remarked upon; the leap between year 4 and 5 even more so. Between year 7 and year 8, the movement would become very difficult to track.

    How fast things can change (and how difficult it can be to track) is readily obvious from just trying to chart such growth:

    … only two strands instead of 3 off the original host, and only goes down 5 generations…

    This is not just an abstract exercise. The original spreadsheet above has the appearance of an arm-chair theoretical exercise, but we now have dozens of case studies of movements, many of which are either somewhat faster or slightly slower than this growth curve.

    Let’s do something different. What if the movement is a little messier? Let’s say that only 60% of the churches make another church. Those numbers would be:

    This is a much slower growth pattern, obviously, but it would still significantly impact any single district of ~100,000 population, and be closing in on 1% of a million-population province. In some unreached areas, that would be a game changer.

    The point: a movement doesn’t have to add another four generations in a single span of time (e.g. a year to two years); it needs only to add one. That is a huge triumph: adding another generation (e.g. each church in the furthest out generation plants 2 to 3 new house groups) each year would lead to massive doubling, and in one generation of people (~20 years) could change the course of a nation.

  • Justin Long 8:04 am on May 29, 2018 Permalink |  

    Christian distribution: Global South vs Global North 

    Over the weekend, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity shared this graph:

    A few interesting things about this charge:

    • It’s 0 to 100%, so it shows the share of all Christians in each of the regions.
    • Note how the “heyday” of Christianity as a Western/”Global North” religion peaked in 1500; by 1970 the shift to the Global South had been almost complete, and by 2050 it will be nearly complete.
    • While this chart shows %s, it’s being driven by population. The population center for the world is in the Global South, and this won’t change any time in the balance of this century at least. Christianity already claims a substantial portion of the population of the North; additional significant gains (of the kind that could alter this chart) just aren’t possible. The population of the South is several times larger than the North, and Christianity has only made a small dent there: there is a much “bigger ocean” of potential Christians. The North can’t get ahead.
    • That said, what this chart doesn’t show is the cultural influence of Northern Christianity. So far, what cross-cultural influence there is of one form of Christianity on another seems to me to be largely Northern/Western Christianity influencing the rest of the world. We have yet to see significant broad cultural influence from non-Western forms of Christianity in the West. That said, there are already some indicators of this influence: there are outlier points where Africans or Asians have significant evangelistic impact in Europe or America, for example.
    • While the South isn’t yet having an impact on the North, it seems to me from this chart that eventually, the balance of probability is that it will. It will be interesting to see what form this takes. For example, China’s government has a push to “Sinify” Chinese Christianity. If it sees a form develop that the government is happy with, what might it do to push that form of Christianity into the world? (Admittedly, that’s a long stretch, but it demonstrates some extreme possibilities over a century’s time.)
    • Chris Maynard 12:00 pm on June 1, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I find the chart interesting and your comments are all helpful – especially the third one. I might add that the recent shift is even more dramatic in historical terms than it appears on the chart because there is an effective change to the x axis scale. 1900s and 2000s have two bars in each century instead of just one. I can see why they might not want to project to 2100, and so chose 2050, but I don’t see what is so special about 1970. It doesn’t look like an inflection point.

      • Justin Long 1:48 pm on June 1, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        The reason they use 1970 is that is the data point collected by the first World Christian Encyclopedia since that’s when it was compiled and published.

    • Jim Lilly 11:32 am on August 25, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Just a comment: It seems to me the term global North really means European culture. China, Iran, Iraq, etc. are not south of Italy.

  • Justin Long 10:46 am on May 25, 2018 Permalink |  

    Several people have asked about comments. The theme I use on this blog, typically, is P2, and its commenting system is really not the easiest to integrate with Twitter, Facebook, etc.

    I’m working on getting this ironed out this morning. I may end up having to permanently switch themes (I’ve explored other themes, but often come back to P2) in order to have a better commenting system.

    Thanks for bearing with me.

  • Justin Long 2:50 pm on May 24, 2018 Permalink |  

    Evangelization throughout the centuries 

    % of the world that was evangelized, AD 100 to AD 2000. Unfortunately due to massive population increase, 1900 and 2000 are both “off the scale”; AD 2000 saw the world with over 6 billion people, 73% evangelized.

    “% Evangelized” includes both Christians and evangelized non-Christians, and is based on data from the World Christian Encyclopedia / World Christian Trends.

  • Justin Long 8:21 am on May 23, 2018 Permalink |  

    The Time it Takes 

    “You’re not called and commissioned to attend a service once a week. You’re called to make disciples.” ~@ToddAdkins

    Yesterday on social media I ran across a podcast that decried what I think is a “straw man” argument: that missionaries were being pulled from “more reached” areas and sent to “less reached” areas – before the more-reached areas were adequately reached/evangelized/finished/trained. Worse, in the “less reached” areas, these missionaries/agencies were practicing a kind of “lift-your-hand” evangelism, seeking rapid converts and then leaving them without adequate training or preparation.

    While I appreciate the passion of the speaker, whose primary concern was that people have adequate training and that theological error be corrected, in my experience this “problem” is just not the case. I don’t pretend to speak for every agency out there, but I know numerous agencies and hundreds of leaders representing thousands of workers seeking to start movements amongst the unreached. None of those would go for a “lift your hand” kind of “come to Jesus” moment. They are all intent on the intense ongoing discipleship of workers.

    The primary nuance of “movement” thinking is that believers aren’t asked to wait to share their faith or make other disciples until they are somehow “fully trained.” Instead, they are simply asked to share what they know with others in their circle: to be a witness now. “Disciple-making,” in this context, can be as simple as sharing the Bible story I read this morning with someone else over lunch time, and the two of us thinking through how we’re going to obey the story today, tomorrow, and this week, and who we are further going to share it with. It is the living, breathing, “walking together” of people in the faith, “one-anothering,” holding ourselves accountable to each other, praying for each other, etc. It is 2 Timothy 2:2 in action: what we receive, we pass on to others.

    Missionaries can’t teach everyone, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t teach anyone. (Or evangelize, or disciple, or…). The missionary task among the unreached is about setting in motion the processes that lead to all hearing, sharing, discipling, training, pastoring, teaching, etc.

    That task takes a long time. Recently, for one of Beyond’s discipleship nuggets, I shared what I called the “13 stages of a missionary career.” I’m including the Powerpoint below, because I think it’s helpful to highlight just how long, involved, and committed the process of reaching an unreached people group actually is.

    Journey Stages: 13 phases (PDF)

  • Justin Long 9:39 am on May 22, 2018 Permalink |  

    Throwing back starfish 

    Stop me if you’ve heard this story:

    A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

    She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

    The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

    This story – or rather, this particular version of the story – is fairly well known. I think we like it – especially in this version – because it contrasts “cynical old” with “innocent young” and claims that every little thing we do (no matter how seemingly hopeless) matters. But there are actually two debates in the story:

    • whether acting actually matters
    • whether what we are doing is enough.

    The second insidiously slips in.

    The most obvious question of the story is whether it’s worth it to act at all. The cynical old man thinks not: if you can’t save them all, why bother to save one? The innocence of the child says the value of the one is enough to act. But the question we must then ask is: is it enough to save one by one? Shouldn’t we get better at saving starfish?

    Is it better to spend one’s time doing “the simple, innocent things of life” – the “most that we can” – (e.g. throwing starfish back out to sea), or is it better to grow our skills, increase our network of laborers, and get better at saving starfish? Is it better to be the innocent, simple child (“become as a child”?) or to “professionalize”?

    This is not a “should we act or not” question, but rather a “good to great” question.

    Another version of the story adds this to the end:

    The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

    This adaptation speaks to the idea of inspiration leading to exponential growth. But again, note how in the story it is the “innocence” and “simplicity” of the child which inspires the old man, and in some nameless way leads to a sudden party on the beach.

    I appreciate innocence and simplicity. However, big, complicated problems don’t really work this way. You can’t share the Gospel with millions, or clothe the hungry, feed the poor, care for the orphans, eradicate diseases, etc., “one by one.” Scalable strategies that reach millions require strategies that are–yes!–simple in execution yet infinitely scalable. The reality is, you can teach someone to share the Gospel or hold a Discovery Bible Study or make disciples in fairly simple ways. But getting tens of thousands of people do it is far more complex than the simple individual action itself. The higher you scale, the more complex the interplay of “simple actions.”

    Throwing Starfish one by one is all well and perhaps good, and makes a difference for the one – but we must admit that in the context of all the starfish, “it’s not great.”

    This is the insidious bit. “It’s not great, but it makes a difference to one,” says the innocent child.

    We equate I can’t reach all the starfish in the world (physical impossibility) with I can’t reach all the starfish on this beach (logistical challenge).

    We equate what is a difficult task with the larger impossibility, and we fall back to one-by-one: “what I perceive that I can do makes a difference.”

    There is a middle ground between “one by one” and “you can’t save them all.” Unfortunately we can use this story as an excuse to avoid getting better and doing bigger things.

    But this story gets stranger yet. The version we know is a stripped down and simplified retelling of a larger essay by Loren Eiseley, in a book published in 1979. I don’t have the original book, but I’ve found a large part of the story online. It’s an odd, tortured, near hopeless meditation on issues of death and the part we play. At the end of it, the poet becomes a “star thrower” himself–but more out of a desire for his own salvation rather than out of love for starfish:

    I flung and flung again while all about us roared the insatiable waters of death, the burning sun, for it was men as well as starfish that we sought to save, a thrower who loved not man, but life.

    In this story, throwing the starfish is a metaphor similar to “raging against the night.”

    I wish we would stop using (or at least hesitate to use) stories like these, which have their roots in hopelessness. The best moral of the story seems to be, “What I’m doing makes a difference to at least one person, and that’s enough.” The worst lesson of the story is, “Your efforts will make no visible difference against the onrushing darkness, but are an action of some kind of mystical faith, without much certainty, thrown in a protest against death.”

    Jesus calls us to follow him in obedience, and promises the whole world can hear the Good News if we do so. He tells us to “lift up our eyes to the harvest” and to “pray for more workers.” We don’t have to be alone on the beach, moving from starfish to starfish, from man to man and woman to woman and child to child in some hopeless beating of our heads against the wind. We have a promise of eternal life and Jesus’ call to make disciples of others – to make fishers of mankind, who will make fishers of mankind, who will make fishers of mankind – an exponentially exploding Kingdom-party spreading throughout the world. There is no shame or loss of innocence in thinking bigger than a single starfish saved.

    • tonytsheng 8:51 am on May 27, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In 2016, our family went to the Hillsong Conference in Sydney – Hillsong is certainly known for their impact on worship music. Most people don’t know that they are a vibrant local church with a significant church planting effort. They also have a significant global missions/development arm too and at the conference, I went to a session about their global development efforts. One of their best practices was to not use the phrase, ‘Something is better than nothing.’ I totally agree with that notion – we can easily default to that, doing the opposite requires a lot more investment and hard work. Your post reminded me of this idea.

      • Justin Long 8:52 am on May 27, 2018 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Key to note you said “NOT to use”! We have to be careful of our defaults. Defaults often end up ruling our lives.

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