16 Ways Ralph Winter Impacted Frontier Missions

16 Ways Ralph Winter Impacted Frontier Missions
CC image courtesy of Wheaton College available here.

Ralph D. Winter was 49 years old when he walked onto the platform and gave a plenary talk at Billy Graham's Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. It was July 1974, when 2,430 participants with 570 observers from 150 countries descended on Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Congress theme was "Let the Earth Hear His Voice." It was not until the fifth day into the conference, on Saturday morning, July 21st that Ralph Winter presented his paper. Many leaders have said that this event kicked off a new era in the frontier mission movement.

Greg Parsons, Director of Global Connections for Frontier Ventures, writes

What drove Winter's life and calling was the solving of the problems that drive people away from Christ or removing barriers that prevented them from drawing closer. Like a good engineer, he was compelled to work slavishly to solve problems and remove barriers.
Greg Parsons

Parsons, who did his PhD dissertation on Ralph Winter's Early Life and Core Missiology recently shared 16 distinct ways Ralph Winter impacted the frontier mission movement in a paper he wrote for the ISFM 2014 conference.

I have summarized his points briefly so that you can get a quick overview of the work of Ralph D. Winter from a man who has not only studied his life, but also served the vision for past three decades.

Parsons notes that though not all of these concepts are original with Winter, he combined them into a uniquely coherent and compelling framework for understanding the overall unfinished mission task.

Foreign Missionaries Still Needed

Winter helped to correct the "missionary go home" mentality by showing that cross cultural missionaries were still needed. Winter did not limit the call to Western missionaries, but also challenged former receiving nations to send as well.

People Groups Sealed Off

Winter highlighted large swaths of humanity who were being overlooked by the global church. We know them now as "unreached people groups."

New Structures Needed

Winter hinted at the idea that new mission structures could be created that went beyond existing agencies and this idea challenged certain groups, especially Asians.

Careers For the Cause

Winter articulated a vision for young people who were eager to give their lives for God's global cause and many had their life choices and careers shaped by his input.

Awareness of Cultural Distance

Winter challenged people to see the unreached world from a cross cultural perspective and find new ways to effectively present the Gospel so it could easily cross cultural borders.

Freedom In Evangelistic Expression

Winter emphasized the concept of freedom in Christ within cultures new to the Gospel over unity of Christians across cultures with respect to initial evangelism strategies.

Expanded Mission Vision

Winter challenged us not to simply send more missionaries, but to consider more carefully where they were sent. He also wanted to set the vision high enough that the large needs of the unreached could be met.

Increased Understanding & Prayer

Winter help to provide new categories that became a rallying point for new computer data and information systems that increased awareness, understanding, prayer, and outreach for the unreached peoples.

New Expressions of "Church"

Winter highlighted the need for new culturally appropriate expressions of church from cultures newly reached with the Gospel.

Holy Spirit Planning & Preparation

Winter wanted others to see the needs for missionary planning and cultural learning done in conjunction with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Non Western Mission Force

Winter helped to focus the missionary community's attention on the rising mission force being sent from non-Western cultures.

Missionary Culture Syncretism

Winter recognized that syncretism was a problem both in new and established churches and therefore called Christians to look carefully at their own practices and what they expected new believers in another culture to embrace, based on Scripture.

Beyond Overseas Mission

Winter distinguished between going overseas to do church or evangelism ministry with your own culture in another country with working cross culturally, wherever an unreached people happens to be located.

Catalyzing Global Networking

Winter played a part in helping to propel the Lausanne movement and further global networking and cooperation among Christians.

Germinating New Agencies

Winter helped launch new agencies focused on the frontiers of mission including the U.S. Center for World Mission (now known as Frontier Ventures), and many other agencies or departments within existing missions. Some of these also included Frontiers, Pioneers, and Mission to Unreached Peoples (now known as Act Beyond).

Expressing Faith in Context

Winter raised the issue of how existing Christians in established churches as "stronger" brothers and sisters are to treat "weaker" brothers and sister in the Body of Christ. This raised, and continues to raise, additional issues related to how Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are viewed and approached by Christians, and how they might express faith in their context.

So, what do you think? Anything here surprise you? Have you been impacted by Winter's work? If so, let us know in the comments below.

We'll keep you up to date.