Missiologist Ralph D. Winter once said he saw three types of World Christians characterized by three kinds of animals; beavers, mallards, and eagles.
In an article in Mission Frontiers, Bruce Graham writes,
“If a local fellowship of Christians is to be effective in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, it needs three types of World Christians.”
Graham goes on to break down what Winter meant by the categories of beaver, mallard, and eagle.
Beavers are energetic builders who work in a single locale.
Beavers are heavily involved in the church’s local responsibilities. They are convinced that, as in the parable of the lost sheep, the task of reaching the unreached peoples of the world is God’s highest priority. They are not ignorant of what is happening around the world. They talk about world events and theft impact on the advance of the gospel. They pray for the world; they give for world evangelization; but their primary focus is on the home front. Their energies are devoted to accomplishing the task at home, to building a base to and from which mallards can fly.
Beavers are what have been called “evangelists” and “senders.”
Mallards are migratory birds, at home in two locations.
Often, their homes consist of lakes created by beavers’ dams. They may travel great distances to get from one location to the other, but once they arrive at either destination, they settle down to activity within a narrow habitat.
Mallards are committed to migrating across cultural barriers in order to work in significantly different contexts from those into which they were born. Mallards’ focus of attention is split between “home” and “field,” Mallards do not necessarily travel great distances geographically. The primary distinctive of their migration is the crossing of cultural boundaries. There are so many cultures within individual countries that mallards may remain “at home” geographically, yet be far removed from their cultural roots.
Mallards are what have been traditionally called “missionaries.”
Eagles have sharp eyes. They fly high above theft domain and have a knowledge of their habitat commensurate with that high flying perspective.
Eagles have a broader view of things than do either mallards or beavers. Eagles are restless within their own culture. Their attention and activity are not so narrowly focused or defined as are the attention and activity of their friends the beavers. Yet they do not migrate to work in other cultures as do the mallards.
Instead, they help both beavers and mallards by acquiring the broadest perspective possible on what is happening around the world, and then passing on their finding to both beavers and mallards.
Eagles are the information gatherers and disseminators of the mission world. They are, often, the communication links between beavers and mallards. They help the mallards know what the beavers are thinking and doing, and they help the beavers know what the mallards are involved in.
Eagles are mission educators, mission leaders, mission recruiters, mobilizers, and strategizers.
It is not as if one animal is busier or more important than the other, but rather, each one has been equipped by his or her Creator to carry out his or her part in the larger task.
As a World Christian, where are you serving the mission of God?