A letter from a former full-time mobilizer who is now a church planter in an unreached people group.
We can't assume that having a missionary among the unreached equals effective ministry among the unreached. (placement does not necessarily result in engagement)
For the least evangelized peoples to be reached, the birth and growth of an indigenous self-propogating church needs to be the central goal and every ministry be evaluated in light of it's contribution toward this goal.
Valid roles among the unreached seem to fall into the following categories: a) ministry via English (usually evangelism) b) facilitative work: tentmaking for entry or Christian aid for pre-evangelism c) specialized ministries: translation, radio, literature, Bible training institutes, research d) direct church planting
Though there are many valid roles in work among the unreached, the direct role of church planting seems to be often the least pursued and least successfully fulfilled. For this reason, mobilizers need to advocate for that role, suggesting candidates consider it for themselves. And missionary sending structures need to work with their church planter candidates to maximize their effective fulfillment of that role.
In a pioneer setting that requires creative entry, language learning is especially difficult and few seem to be successful. (This is especially true for mothers, and those with immediate supervisory responsibility.)
Partnership--inter national, inter agency, and inter denominational, is increasingly the norm. Those who feel they can't work with others will be at a major disadvantage.
People who don't have church planting as their stated goal probably won't do it. Those who come to fill a facilitative role hoping to do some ministry probably won't do church planting.
Before a long-term assignment among an unreached people, today's candidates need a successful team/community experience. Ideally where they've been actively discipled in team relationships.
A pioneer setting is not normally the place to deal with serious personal/spiritual struggles. Those with a call/burden to work among the unreached who lack the personal/spiritual maturity should be directed to some type of experience and training to equip them.
Bible and missions education is very good, but ministry experience is just as valuable. Those with successful ministry experience tend to be more successful on the field, particularly if it is in the same type of ministry. Another way to say this is that people don't struggle to succeed in church planting because they don't know the concept. It is that they struggle to implement concepts in this new setting.
People who go to the field without a clear call, commitment and vision, or without solid relational/logistical support, tend to not stay long term.
Very few agencies both 1) focus on church planting among the unreached/least evangelized, as well as 2) relate well to boomers and Gen X.
People who have taken the Perspectives on The World Christian Movement course or something similar seem to come with a perspective/expectations that enable them to be successful in the first stages of work among unreached (i.e. language and culture learning, strategic thinking). They seem to understand the big picture, how their work relates to it, and aren't afraid to jump in.
It's very effective to link those who already have a general missions interest to specific unreached peoples/missionaries. Find ways to get them networked with regular sources of info and prayer requests.
Where and what kind of short-term a person does is important in the mobilization process. Anything cross-cultural is good, but those who've been exposed to church planting in an unreached setting seem to be way ahead in the beginning stages of knowing what to do and doing it well.