Unreal Expectations for E2E

I am excited about the emergence of E2E within our circles. I think it is the secret to how the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 will be accelerated as we come to the end of the age. (And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.)

One of the things that excites me about E2E is that it seems to promise a decline in the need for E3 outreach (across major cultural/linguistic barriers) because even people groups without a viable witness do have close neighbors who can take the gospel to them. This is what I’ve witnessed in the rapid expansion of the church in Africa – it’s been on the back of E1/E2 efforts, which demand much less time and effort.

Tom Steffen in The Facilitator Era seems to anticipate the same dynamic, and thus he envisions us as assuming a role facilitating E1/E2 church multiplication initiatives by others, rather than launching E3 initiatives ourselves.

Part of a recent blog post by Matt Whitacre (How Racism Hinders Global Missions) calls that assumption into question. He writes:

“No way. That’s crazy!”

I was shocked. I’ve studied missiology. I have an advanced degree in cross-cultural ministry. All the research I could think of said the same thing: Near cultures can reach the unreached with the gospel more effectively and efficiently than far cultures. For someone from a far culture it just makes sense. Near cultures have language, similar cultural values, and a relatively short distance to travel.

But my friends of Southeast Asian heritage were challenging one of the core tenets in my philosophy of missions.

When I asked if it would be easier for them to reach a certain people group in Southeast Asia, they said “No way. That’s crazy. It would be much easier for you to reach them than us.”

I’m a white male from Midwestern USA. I don’t speak any Asian languages and I know next to nothing about the culture. Both of their families came from a minority people group nearby the majority people group I was praying would be reached.

Here’s what I missed: Racism. Tribalism. Ethnocentrism. Classism. History of oppression. History of power struggles. History of cultural clashes. Generations of stories that passed on prejudice like hand-me-down clothes.

I thought racism was primarily an American problem. Turns out it’s a human problem. And these ingrained prejudices can be bigger barriers to the gospel than language or culture or distance.

I think Whitacre is correct. And for that reason, GP will always be a mix of pioneer multipliers and facilitators. There will always be a role for E3 pioneer work for GP M’s to shoulder, even though we are increasingly becoming facilitators of the ministries of others. If, as an organization we fail to have work going on at all five phases, then somehow we’ve lost sight of the mission.

What do you think?

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