The ultimate aim of any unreached people group initiative is biblically healthy church formation and multiplication within all demographic segments of the people group. Four words—aggregation, collaboration, integration, and innovation—capture what is needed to achieve such an end.
The gathering of disparate partners from multiple ministry sectors to accomplish one unified task or goal.
In order to reach a people group with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and see the church that forms within that people group have every opportunity to grow in healthy ways, that church will need the Word of God in a language and format that it prefers. Oral tools, such as chronological Bible stories, music, drama, etc., also serve a critical role. However, none of these is possible unless the Bible is translated into the people group’s preferred language.
Of equal importance is the incarnate presence of Christians living and bearing witness to biblical truth among the unreached. Someone must proclaim the Word, teach the Word, and identify and develop new teachers of the Word, so that churches form and multiply.
Today, the following sectors exist apart from one another, effectively isolated and only rarely combined into one comprehensive and effective plan:
Bible translation & distribution
Church formation & multiplication
A healthy UPG Initiative begins by aggregating these individual, often disparate, elements and the associated ministries to determine which partners may contribute.
If the UPG Initiative were a “table,” aggregation is the act of inviting anyone who is interested to gather for a planned meal.
Agreement among disparate partners from multiple ministry sectors to work with others in a manner that is open-minded and open-handed, sharing knowledge and processes equally.
Once various partners have aggregated, the next step is to determine who is willing to do the work to reach the unreached. This is collaboration.
While many might be interested in being a part of the UPG Initiative, some would find it difficult to engage in healthy collaboration to get the job done. Collaboration requires a ministry partner to be open-minded and open-handed regarding sharing information and receiving critical suggestions for improvement, even across sectors. Regardless of the effort—translation, media, discipleship, evangelism, or church formation—all ministries can learn from one another. Further, ministries must be considerate of the aims of each effort in the achievement of its own.
The effective collaborating partner readily admits a lack of full understanding. While believing that all wisdom is from God, the effective partner is open to receiving that wisdom through any member of His church. While most will claim a collaborative spirit, the lack thereof is often revealed when adjustments are needed or information is requested. For the UPG Initiative to succeed, partners must be willing to collaborate.
Now, those invited to the UPG Initiative table are selected to sit down and partake of the meal.
Moving beyond collaboration to a merging of ministry processes that achieves true unity of effort, maximum impact, and the most efficient allocation of God’s resources.
Aggregation and collaboration, though requiring considerable effort, are the easier steps toward the successful implementation of a UPG Initiative strategy. Integration is the most difficult to attain.
Integration asks each collaborative partner to consider how its unique contribution might be adjusted and combined with others to reduce duplication of effort and maximize efficiency to accomplish four core missiological tasks:
Church formation & multiplication
Integration calls for those who work in all ministry sectors (those above as well as Orality, Bible Translation, and Media Development) to intentionally combine their processes with those who work in a different sector. It moves beyond collaboration (the sharing of information) with ministries within the same sector, and requires coordination with ministries performing very different functions—ones that may be unfamiliar. Thus, integration is the greatest test of collaboration, and many fail at this step.
At this stage, those seated at the UPG Initiative table start their meal and conversation together; they pass food and share serving implements. A harmonious social event emerges.
The deliberate creation of, or the Spirit-led discovery of, new and better ways for partners to achieve a common, kingdom purpose; the fruit of aggregation, collaboration, and integration.
God desires to pour new wine into new wineskins. When the various expressions of Christ’s body come together in one unified effort to achieve the true purpose of His church—global worship—new-wineskin approaches emerge and innovation results.
Finally, those at the UPG Initiative table plan new meals together at new places and times. The meal was so good that they want to do it again. Innovation has been valued from the outset, but this fruit of collaboration is starting to emerge at the time of publication in 2019.
We believe that by equipping the church of God with the Word of God, and training leaders in how to handle it properly, the church will form and multiply in healthy ways. We further believe that to achieve the greatest engagement with Scripture content, members of the indigenous culture and emerging church must participate at every level.
As tools are designed and created for the UPG Initiative, those who will ultimately use these tools should ideally be involved in their development. From initial contact with an unbeliever to his or her potential position in church leadership, every story, script, verse, and method of distribution should be crafted, translated, or developed by people from the emerging, indigenous church.
For example, most unreached people groups prefer oral tools and methods. Those who are trained in the crafting of oral stories should come alongside those within an unreached people group and identify persons to be involved in that process. As stories are crafted, they should be shared in order that others might hear and believe. Also, key terms especially divine familial terms, should be identified for consistent use in the development of scripts for audio and video applications such as JESUS Film or Global Recordings.
Also, those who perform script development should work with orality ministries to ensure continuity, and also include Scripture translation experts. Throughout, those from the emerging church who are working on these tools are encouraged to use them and maintain consistency. For example, the script for the JESUS Film comes from the Book of Luke. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that efforts to produce that script would accelerate and enhance the translation of this important gospel. While other stories are being developed, and other JESUS Film products are being completed, it makes sense that the Book of Acts would soon be added. This would provide the young church guidance from “Volumes 1 & 2” of church formation and multiplication. As these vital tools are translated, adding Old and New Testament books, the necessary training in church formation and biblical theology will naturally develop as well.
Integration (as a result of aggregation and collaboration) allows for gospel proclamation, disciple-making, and leadership development to occur in tandem with tool development—rather than as a subsequent, separate step. This ensures that all products are far more likely to be accepted and used by those who were involved in their production and distribution. The end of such an effort will surely be the formation and multiplication of biblically healthy churches among the unreached.
A Backbone Strategic Plan for Every Language
Following is an outline of the key steps we consider following to engage a UPG language group.
Initiate local and global prayer networks, integrating a vertical and horizontal “communication” plan.
Assess progress in tool development (Scripture, orality, video, etc.):
Review all relevant research
Consult field representatives to ensure data is current and complete
Determine current level of church formation within each UPG that uses the language, including:
Number and location of:
Depth of discipleship attained
Plot a path of tool development that matches context and church formation:
Determine which tools or products will be most effectively used and distributed by indigenous believers.
Determine an integrated tool development path that ensures increased capacity among indigenous believers.
Ensure that the most effective ministry partners, especially indigenous partners, are involved in strategy development.
Determine the need and preference for written and oral products, including Scripture.
Initiate updates or revisions of existing tools (written, oral, video).
Initiate translation projects that utilize indigenous partners and are informed by context with a critical path toward the full Bible (if necessary).
With the aim of full translation, integrate development of scripts, oral tools, and Scripture.
Work with indigenous believers and ministry partners to develop a leadership training and multiplication program that is integrated into the translation process.
Establish an informed distribution (or engagement) plan that is owned and operated by indigenous believers.
Track qualitative and quantitative progress using established KPI’s (key progress indicators).
Where internet access is good, allow for the inclusion of emerging online church formation models (proclamation—discipleship—group formation—leadership development—church).
Ensure at every stage that ownership is accepted by the emerging church along with the capacity to produce products and create services and processes needed for long-term sustainability.
Dr. David Pope is President and Founder of POPE Initiatives, a non-profit organization committed to providing executive-level management and support services for major global mission efforts.
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