by Richard Haney, Executive Director
When Dr. Ralph Winter first spoke about indigenous people overlooked by missionaries or unknown to others, he used the term “hidden peoples” (1974 Lausanne Congress). Dr. Winter viewed these people groups as so culturally and linguistically distinct that they couldn’t realistically be assimilated into existing churches and needed their own new expressions of faith.
By definition, such peoples live on the frontiers—places that are geographically, linguistically or culturally beyond ready access to the Gospel. The frontier might be a remote village, distant island or a major urban center. Frontier mission refers to efforts to send cross-cultural witnesses to these places where people are still waiting for the Good News of Jesus.
Frontier Fellowship’s ministry developed out of Dr. Winter’s passion to see the Church mobilized to seek out the unreached peoples of the earth and share the message of the Gospel in places where no one has ever heard it. There are many important causes in missions today, but the majority of ministries operate in regions where the Church is already established. While we celebrate the work of our brothers and sisters in these areas, we remain committed to our calling to see the Good News of Jesus reach places where the Church does not yet exist. Three foundational beliefs motivate us.
First, we take hold of the words of the Great Commision, in which Jesus called the Church to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). The English word “nations” is better translated as “ethnolinguistic people groups” from the Greek phrase panta ta ethne. God calls and sends His disciples to those who don’t yet know Him, empowering us with the Holy Spirit to be witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Obedience to this call is the first reason we do what we do.
Second, we’re motivated by compassion for unreached peoples to hear and receive the Good News. The Church believes life is abundant and eternal for followers of Jesus. We want everyone to taste this life. When Jesus read the scroll in the synagogue (Luke 4:16–19), he chose to speak Isaiah’s words about release for the captives and sight for the blind. Good News! We believe all peoples deserve access to know Jesus as the compassionate Savior.
Finally, as more and more people groups see and follow Jesus, they reflect understandings of Him to the rest of us. Ephesians describes this with a lovely picture of oneness and maturity: “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). What is the “full stature of Christ” but the multiplied understandings of Jesus refracted and reflected through the cultural perspectives of all peoples—once hidden, undiscovered or ignored but now drawn by Him into His family. Together we help each other know and follow Jesus with a deeper understanding of who He is.
Obedience, compassion and understanding—these and other reasons keep frontier mission before us. Frontier Fellowship embraces our calling to invite the Church to greater awareness of and love for the frontiers still waiting for Good News.