The ultimate aim of any unreached people group initiative is biblically healthy church formation and multiplication within all demographic classifications of a people group. Three words give an overall picture of what is required to achieve such an end.
To gather together disparate partners for the purpose of accomplishing 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 meets their preference. Oral tools (chronological bible stories, media, technological aids) are a benefit as well, but none of these are possible unless the Bible is translated into the preferred language of the people.
Equal in importance is the incarnate presence of God’s people living and bearing witness to biblical truth among those that need the gospel. Someone must proclaim the Word, teach the Word, identify and develop teachers of the Word, in order that churches may form and multiply.
Today, all these various components or sectors (prayer, Bible translation and distribution, orality, media, proclamation, disciple-making, leader development, and church formation/multiplication) exist apart from one another … effectively cordoned off from one another and only rarely combined in one effective plan.
The successful UPG Initiative begins by “aggregating” these individual, often disparate, elements (and those ministries that house them) for the purpose of determining which potential partners might possibly work within a region for the purpose of contributing their unique part. If the UPG Initiative were a “table,” aggregation involves the act of inviting anyone who is interested to gather for a potential meal.
The role of “aggregator” is key to the overall process and, by necessity, requires a level of independence. The aggregator has one function, to endure that all elements work in tandem and are represented equally for the achievement of the ultimate goal. POPE Initiatives exists to fill this independent role.
For disparate partners to agree to work both “open-minded” and “open-handed” with others, understanding that all of us is better than one of us.
Once various partners have been aggregated, a second step must be taken to determine who is willing to achieve the task being attempted … reaching the unreached. This step requires collaboration.
While many might be interested in being a part of a UPG Initiative, some will find it difficult to engage in healthy collaboration to see it achieved. Collaboration requires a ministry partner to be open-minded and open-handed when it comes to the sharing of information and receiving criticism, even across sectors. No matter the effort (translation, media, or church formation), we can all learn from one another and must be considerate of each effort’s aims in the achievement of our own. The effective collaborating partner readily admits a lack of full understanding and, believing that all wisdom is from God, is open to receiving that wisdom through all members 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 a UPG Initiative to succeed, most (if not all) partners must be willing to collaborate and those who are unwilling must be asked to leave. Collaboration requires that only those who are willing to work together, though invited to the table, be allowed to sit.
To move beyond collaboration to a merging of processes to achieve true unity of effort, maximum impact, and the most efficient allocation of God’s resources.
Aggregation and collaboration, though requiring considerable effort, are the easiest steps toward a successful UPG Initiative implementation strategy. Integration is the most difficult to attain.
Integration asks each collaborative partner to consider how it’s unique contribution might be adjusted and combined with those of others to reduce duplication of effort and maximize efficiency for the accomplishment of the core missiological tasks (gospel proclamation, disciple-making, leader development, and church formation/multiplication). Integration is the greatest test of collaboration and most fail at this step.
Aggregate. Collaborate. Integrate.
It is my firm belief that if you equip the church of God with the Word of God and train leaders in how to handle it properly, the church will form and multiply in healthy ways. I also believe that this requires the involvement of members of the indigenous culture and emerging church at every level.
As tools are designed and created for this UPG initiative, those who will ultimately use them tools should ideally be involved in their development. From initial contact with an unbeliever, to his or her potential position in leadership of the church once formed, every story, every script, every verse, every method of distribution should be crafted, translated, or developed by these same persons (or those they disciple).
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 certain persons to be involved in that process. As stories are being crafted, they should be shared in order that others might hear and believe. Also, key terms should be identified for use in the development of scripts for audio and video applications (JESUS Film, Global Recordings). Those who perform script development should work with orality ministries to ensure continuity, but also include Scripture translation experts so that in every instance, those from the emerging church who are working on these tools are encouraged to use them and maintain consistency. The script for the JESUS Film comes from the Book of Luke and so 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, giving the early church (or churches) “Volume One and Two” of church formation and multiplication. As these vital tools are, from inception, translated (and Old and New Testament books are added), the necessary training in replicative forms of church planting and biblical theology will quite naturally develop as well.
Integration (as a result of aggregation and collaboration) allows for gospel proclamation, disciple-making, and leader development to occur “in tandem” with tool development ensuring that all products will be accepted, used, and ultimately taught 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.