ISFM stands for the International Society for Frontier Missiology. Founded in 1986, the society feeds into the International Journal of Frontier Missions, which is published both in print and available online for free.
Every year in connection with the North American Mission Leader’s Conference the Society holds its annual gathering of scholars, practitioners, and activists focused on the frontiers of global mission.
A topic is selected and those invited to speak give presentations around a common theme.
This year’s gathering was held outside of Atlanta, GA and the topic was: Recasting Evangelization: The Significance of Lausanne ’74 for Today and Beyond
Presenters included Doug Birdsall, Greg Parsons, Miriam Adeney, John Azumah, Steve Hawthorne, & Todd Johnson. Many others interacted and contributed to the gathering.
Highlights of ISFM 14
Below are some of the highlights that informed, intrigued, or inspired me.
Ralph Winter was “the premier missiologist of the 21st century.” – Doug Birdsall
“I never heard someone speak of the world so strategically as Ralph Winter.”- Doug Birdsall
“No matter how good our strategies and how up to date our data, if we are not about the Gospel then we might as well go home.”- Doug Birdsall
“Paul would be ashamed if the Gospel didn’t have power, didn’t change lives. But he was proud of the Gospel.”- Doug Birdsall
“The spirit of Lausanne is a spirit of humility, friendship, study, prayer, partnership, and hope.”- Billy Graham
“Humility releases power in others.”-Doug Birdsall
“What would a Lausanne look like in a new generation if it reflects the issues of its day?”- Greg Parsons
“Mission complexity must be understood and the proper structures need to be set up, different than the local church.” – Greg Parsons
“To go through the special efforts required by E-2 and E-3 evangelism is not to let down the standards and make the Gospel easy- it is to disentangle the irrelevant elements and to make the Gospel clear.”- Ralph Winter
“Christ is our cosmic convergence- the place where all of our lines come together.”- Dr. Miriam Adeney
“Every culture must be critiqued but each culture must also be valued. God loves diversity.”- Miriam Adeney
On seeing humans as humans, not projects.- “I’m so tired of being the project of missionaries.”- Uzbek believer
“Mission is no longer the work of professional ministers, but of the whole church. The whole church takes the whole Gospel to the whole world.”- John Azumah
“You cannot do missions and theology without engaging the people where the church is most vibrant: The Global South.”- John Azumah
“I suddenly feel the urgent need to cast aside all the theories and discussions, all the efforts at strategy, he bemoaned. I want to go to the Masai daily Safaris-unencumbered with the burden of selling them our school system, or begging for their children for our schools…Outside of this, I have no theory, no plan, no strategy, no gimmicks- no idea of what will come. I feel rather naked.”- Vincent Donovan (1966) quoted by John Azumah bemoaning use of the word “strategy” in missions.
“Growth is entirely in the hands of God, but missionaries have taken it upon themselves to plan the seed, water it, AND cause it to grow.”- John Azumah
“How do we respond to conversions from Christianity to Islam? They are actively evangelizing with state back finances. How do we respond to that? How do you respond to anti Christian polemics? In kind?”- John Azumah
“We need the whole church, to take the whole Gospel to the whole world and that does not leave us out of this. The U.S. church says ‘we don’t need to be involved anymore.’ That troubles me. The Global South Church cannot do it alone. They just don’t have the social capital needed to cross those barriers.”- Pat Krayer
“We need to empower the whole church, ordinary Christians, to know that they have a very important part to play.”- Pat Krayer
“Winter understood that measurement was a key to understanding Christian mission.”- Todd Johnson
“The presence of the Holy Spirit doesn’t do away for the need for careful, analytical thinking.”- Todd Johnson
“The (U.S.) Center (for World Mission) has remained a place for missiological reflection and analysis.” Todd Johnson
“87% of all Christian mission funds are spent on work among Christians.”- David Barrett, 1994 quoted by Todd Johnson
“86% of all non Christians don’t personally know a Christian. These kind of facts help churches and agencies to be more intentional.”- Todd Johnson
“You don’t make sheep any fatter by weighing them. We still have the work to do.”- Todd Johnson on the balance of metric and the work of missions.
“Gains in Global South have outpaced losses in Global North.”- Todd Johnson
“We think Christians and Muslims will be 2/3rds of the world population by 2100.”- Todd Johnson
“The people who produce numbers for the evangelical world talk on the phone every month. We do our best not to pit our numbers against one another.” Todd Johnson
“Frontier missiology is underserved by all of the talk about what missionaries DO.”- Steve Hawthorne
The most helpful missiology is when we learn how these certain people come to live under the Lordship of Jesus.”- Steve Hawthorne
“The most inspiring and motivating dimension of what Ralph Winter brought = “Were almost finished.”- Steve Hawthorne on closure.
Reflecting on progress since 1974, “There have been thousands of ventures directed to unreached people groups. There have been failures and diversions, but there has been a significant sticking with it when progress has been slow.”- Steve Hawthorne
At the 30th anniversary of Lausanne in 2004 at Pattaya, there were issue groups, but none on unreached people groups. The practitioners from the global South gathered to talk about how to come together to reach the unreached people groups. The group got its report added. Non-Western practitioners were leading the way.- Note from Steve Hawthorne’s talk
“Frontier missions has proven itself. It’s not going away. It’s nimble and flexible.”- Steve Hawthorne reflecting on 40 years of frontier mission focus.
“God has no favorites among cultures. Everyone of the people groups is God’s favorite.”- Steve Hawthorne
“India is soon to be the largest Muslim population nation in the world.”- Becky Lewis
“Within 300 Indian mission associations, over 90% are going to scheduled castes and tribals. Over 600 million people in the ‘Other Backward Castes’ remain untouched.- Becky Lewis speaking on the needs beyond the work of “native” believers.
“Lausanne ‘74 may have been the most important gathering in missions history.”- Doug Birdsall
“I do believe in urgency, but I believe in urgency with integrity.”- Doug Birdsall concerning stats.
“Jesus didn’t say go into all the world and have them raise their hand or go into all the world and fill out cards.”- Doug Birdsall