Over the past 2,000 years, there have been more than 2,000 plans to evangelize the world. None have succeeded. Many have had deadlines which they spectacularly failed to meet.
“We” (by which I mean mostly Westerners) love big global plans, and deadlines, and charts, and resources, and budgets, and things we control. We don’t need them. Not really. Not for this.
Ants don’t need a master plan, yet they can grow to fill whole areas, and span large regions. We can do it too, with three simple rules:
(1) every ekklesia to engage all of the same-culture people in their geographic area (E-1, “nearby”) in such a way that all have the opportunity to hear/follow. This will undoubtedly require both planting new ekklesias and cooperating with existing ekklesias. This can be done without regard for however many other ekklesias or churches are in the area. At the E-1 level, we aim for maximum saturation even incurring significant duplication. Duplication can be a redundancy.
(2) every ekklesia maps, understands all of the segments (places and peoples) in their “next-nearby” (E-2, crossing geographic or perhaps cultural boundaries) and ensures at least one ekklesia of some form (church, house group, believer-owned-business, something) is planted within the community, such that #1 above can be achieved in that segment. (That is, an E-2 presence is established so that an E-1 presence can eventually be established as well.) Ants send out queens to start new colonies. Ekklesias should do the same. At this level, the “planting” church supports the ”next-nearby” region, investing in it, but wants to let the local (E-1) presence take the prime role.
(3) every ekklesia to raise up and send bands-of-believers (“apostolic teams”, church planters, witnesses, proclaimers, disciple-makers) to the nearest “distant” place that lacks a Christian presence of anykind (E-3, “far”, crossing cultures), even if that place is across national or geographic borders (e.g. oceans). Two sub-rules here: (a) if for a given “distant” place there is a “next-nearby” ekklesia (E-2), then the ekklesia should strive to work with the next-nearby to reach the distant. (b) But if there is no next-nearby ekklesia willing to do that work, the place should not go untouched, even if an ekklesia must do the difficult work of sending distant.
(4) every ekklesia should develop behaviors of intentionality, rapid growth, and open cooperation with as many other ekklesias as possible. We don’t need to know everything before we grow, but we should always be learning and discovering who else the Spirit has drawn to the place we find ourselves in, and looking to charitably cooperate in the task of making disciples.
If these four actions were done on a yearly basis – e.g. the understandings of the segments were updated yearly, and new workers commenced, rather than once every 10 or 20 years – it wouldn’t take long to have presence in every place that Christians can access.
Yes, there are some places we can’t access. There are places within Afghanistan, North Korea, Yemen, Somalia, and even Pakistan and India and China that outsiders just can’t get to. That’s a reality we face.
The point of this pattern is to go everywhere we can, trusting that the nearer we get to a place we can’t get to, the more likely it is we’ll find someone who can get to the places we can’t.
I am deliberately counting both churches and agencies as ekklesias. There are more than enough churches to do this task if they actually did it. Agencies as a special form of ekklesia have arisen because churches are not rising to the challenge, and believers are passionate enough about the challenge that they will leave one form of structure for another if that’s what obedience to Christ requires.
These rules do not require a global plan, budget, or much in the way of a coordinating body! This plan could be (and probably, in some variant form, is) the basis for the IMB’s desire to have churches send limitless workers. All this plan requires is for any single individual ekklesia to have (1) a knowledge of its immediate surroundings, (2) a knowledge of it’s greater context (e.g. neighborhood vs total city), and (3) the desire to pick a near-distant place and send workers.
If we do want to coordinate, this is made possible through open-sourced crowd-shared maps and lists. The Internet is perfect for this. We do not need “one master list” to rule them all. We simply need search-and-discovery algorithms to uncover relational connections. The instant we require cooperation and coordination, we eliminate a lot of possibilities. Rather than requiring coordination, we should focus on offering cooperation.
That’s my “master plan.” It can be sustained over generations, with little or no major budgets, and can withstand persecution. The beauty is, budgets are small and localized: we spend billions (trillions?) on the Internet globally, but there is no single master budget or centrally planned body. That’s why the Internet works. It’s the way mission to the end of the task will work, too: if each of us takes responsibility for our part.