What is the 10/40 Window of Missions?
AThe 10/40 Window is a term coined by Christian missionary strategist Luis Bush in 1990 to refer to those regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, a general area that in 1990 was purported to have the highest level of socioeconomic challenges and least access to the Christian message and Christian resources on the planet.
Though popularized by Luis Bush, the term 10/40 window was in use by missiologists at the U.S. Center for World Missions as early as 1981, a term that was used by Doctor Ralph Winter, and subsequently, John Dawson of Youth With A Mission and Reconciliation Ministries, and many other YWAMers long before 1990. The rest of the article may be correct for it was talked about at Lausanne II.
The 10/40 Window concept highlights these three elements: an area of the world with great poverty and low quality of life, combined with lack of access to Christian resources. The Window forms a band encompassing Saharan and Northern Africa, as well as almost all of Asia (West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and much of Southeast Asia). Roughly two-thirds of the world population lives in the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is populated by people who are predominantly Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Jewish or atheist. Many governments in the 10/40 Window are formally or informally opposed to Christian work of any kind within their borders.
A Biblical Viewpoint of World Missions
From the beginning here, we see this is a brain-child of Ralph Winter’s church growth group, which has a neo-evangelical slant on their worldview. I have to begin by saying that there is nothing wrong with going to any of these countries to reach them for Christ. Absolutely we should go to all the world, and reach all peoples.
But there are some special considerations involved in this matter.
But really we can’t win. When we accept this unbiblical thinking, going overseas isn’t enough. According to some, working in the 10/40 Window or among unreached people groups is the most spiritual, while other cross-cultural missions are only second best. All of this teaching is a reflection of an unbiblical paradigm that has left individuals mere shadows of what God intends, the church largely disengaged from culture, communities mired in poverty, and nations undiscipled. There have never been more Christians or churches in the world than there are today. Over the past fifty years there has been an unprecedented push on evangelism, church planting, and church growth. In many parts of the world we have been very successful at what we have set out to do: save souls, plant churches, and develop megachurches. But to what end? Material poverty still reigns in developing countries that have been evangelized; meanwhile, moral and spiritual poverty reign in the “Christian” West. DarrowMillerandfriends.com
The reality of this matter is very simply, we have to return to Scripture to get biblical bearings on what we are doing.
First of all, spending a significant amount of our missionary personnel and resources (10/40 Window plan) on these people who have rejected Christ and are sin hardened (moreover the civil government and society in general in these countries are also very hardened against the gospel), then what should our attitude be, and what is Christ’s command concerning these people?
Matt 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
While the neo-evangelicals make great strides of “new” and “ground breaking” revelations, we have to put their ideas to the test of Scripture. The importance here is what God has said, not what we think “good” or “not good”.
The truth is that God condemns to hell those who harden their heart against his mercy. We (missionaries, and hopefully biblical churches) are in the business of winning people to Christ, and being a missionary with 30 years of going door to door and witnessing to sin hardened people, I include them in my missions and evangelistic outreach. But I also obverse that when people close their hearts to God, I can only pray for them, and even that perhaps is not correct. When people have had the chance to hear, and they don’t respond, or when they are just hard-hearted (Mat 10:14), that element justifies moving on to people who open their hearts to Christ.
The entire gist of Christ’s statement is measure your efforts on targets of the gospel that respond, and don’t waste “too much” time, energy, people, and resources on people that are excessively hard hearted.
By the way, according to church history, some of the early disciples and apostles did go exactly to these areas, all the way to India, and maybe even China. To say that they have never been reached is incorrect. In the early 1800s to 1900s, many of the British mission societies sent the bulk of their people, energies, and resources to these nations. Many famous missionaries spent themselves and their lives to reach these people, and their works (from secular standpoints) were meager. The bottom line, there was no response.
Over the years, the Jews have always been a special concern. But over the last 30 years, “Jewish missions” has gone way beyond “a part of missionary strategy” to becoming a urgent concern that should have excessive people, resources, and energy spent on it. The cry that some raise is simply that this should almost arrest our efforts among receiving peoples (that are getting saved and growing) and everything should be spent or focused on Jewish missions.
I would first of caution that there is mixed in this mess of Jewish missions the concept that somehow we need “special” workers, methods, strategies, and tactics to reach the Jews for Jesus. When I was on a church mission committee hearing missionaries every week, one young fellow about 20 years old wanted us to support him. He was going to the marinas around Charleston witnessing to the rich people on their yaughts every Sunday morning. He wanted to buy a quarter million dollar yaught with church money so that he will be accepted among that crowd.
My observation was 1) people with quarter to half million dollar boats are not going to listen to a rich 20 year old, much less a poor one. 2) If they are on their boat on Sunday morning, they are relaxing and don’t want to hear him anyway. Why not reach them at work or at their homes? The same things that they would do to stop annoying “evangelists” at work and at home they would do at the marina. 3) If these people have shut out God, then why spend your life reaching them when there are millions without Christ that would respond if some caring person tried as hard with them? I have seen missionaries to the Jews who want a high lifestyle to identify with them. So this is wrong. It is carnal, and incorrect.
A Jew is saved just the same way as a Gentile, and the idea that we must somehow do different or special things to reach the Jews is out of order. There is only one way that people get saved, and that way the same way you and I were saved, grace through faith in Jesus Christ on the cross, and his resurrection. We also admit that the person has to recognize his own sins, and repent of them (abandoning them) as a condition of salvation. This is the correct attitude, which is “the other side of the coin” of faith in Jesus. It is the same thing, giving up “whatever” to take Jesus.
If you have to change that basic scheme of the Gospel in order to “win somebody”, you have a false gospel. Your gospel is not the NT Gospel, and you are a false prophet. Tell me again how Jewish missions is totally different from witnessing to anybody else? Tell me again how we need to accommodate Muslim beliefs in order to win them? Basically it is obvious at this point, this missions thinking is not of God. Are you surprised seeing that it was cooked up by neo-evangelicals in the first place?
Jews are saved the same way as anybody else
If we turn to Scripture, we find that at a certain point in the New Testament, Paul stopped working with the hard-hearted Jews and turned to the Gentiles. The issue here is very astute on their part. Jewish rabbis are supposedly “turning to Christ”, and these are the ones clamoring for more Christian personnel and resources to be spent on Jewish missions.
But is that true? No it is not. When you ask these people if they believe in Jesus, they say yes of course. Remember Muslims believe in Jesus also, and so do Hindus. But they don’t hold him in a biblical perspective.
What comes out over time is that these are judaizers, because they believe that we must “be like the Jew to win the Jew”. They then step in to insult and isolate true Jewish missionaries from everybody else, but they keep the Jewish traditions. Then they make the jump, people are not really pleasing God (much less saved) if they do not keep the OT law! In essence they set aside the key teachings of books like Romans. They say Christianity has fallen from being biblical because they have discarded the Old Testament. Yet they themselves have discarded the New Testament. We note that Paul, Luke, John, the Apostles, all lived observing the NT teaching, while never condemning the OT teachings (they harmonize) and the point is that the OT teaching are not to be taken in a legalistic manner (think Pharisees). The principles were provisional until the fuller revelation of the Messiah was to come, at which point, the Old Testament law was to be set aside. This was predicted in the OT and fulfilled in the NT. That done, that sets out perspective of the OT law. To return to the OT law is to destroy Jesus, the Christ (of the NT AND THE OT), and to not understand salvation nor be saved.
God says turn from the hard hearted, and work those who are receptive to the Gospel
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. Acts 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. Acts 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
The point here is important. As a missionary, or as a missionary strategist (think local churches putting missions funds into some strategy), God shows us that when a people turn their hearts hard against the gospel, and in the Jewish case, they did not ignore the Christians, letting them work with those who would be cooperative, but rather the Jews forcibly attacked the work of Christ and his workers.
Does this not accurately describe attitude and situation of the 10/40 window? If so, does not this go directly against God’s teaching of Paul with the Jews?
Moreover, does not this 10/40 scheme of these church growth experts fly directly in the face of what God is teaching? I mean, basically these “experts” are telling us that Jesus Christ was mistaken, and that it is morally wrong to “abandon” people that turn their hearts from God.
I would note some points here. First of all, God is not saying not to witness to people unless they are already willing and proactive towards the Gospel. What the issue is that having had some exposure to the Gospel, they turn hard against it. This is basically not specifically individuals (Mat 10:14), but can be generalized to culture groups (e.g. Jews, Muslims, etc).
In any case, we are to pray to open the spiritual door of people’s hearts.
The issue or principle here is that we are not to direct special or extra, or extra long, extra intense efforts towards those that are simply unresponsive even after hearing the Gospel. After some reasonable time (years) a missionary should see souls saved, and a church planted. If that is not what is happening, then he should go to another field to plow the seed.
The second principle here is that aggression against the true gospel is sufficient to cut God’s work to a culture or people. The Jews had repeated perverted the true religion to the true God, mixing paganism with it. God warned the Jews, and they rejected God, although feigning obedience for a time before their heart carried them to the same conclusion.
We must understand that missions is not “the old west”, where everything goes. Missions that are valid biblical missions is always under the direction of God. God has given some people greater knowledge of God, and others lesser. We cannot explain, much less judge God on this. We must respond as obeying God, believing that He knows better than us what He is doing.
We are either part of God’s plans, or we are against them. Therefore, the way that God has ordained that missions be accomplished must be followed. Invention in not biblical ways is just sin and false doctrine, false practice.
Go ye into all the World
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
To find a biblical balance here, we must not 1) neglect any people of the world, nor 2) go to the whole world in the same way. We apply resources according to how these fields need labor, and respond. As wise stewards (smart farmers), we do not invest everything into fields that have never and probably will never yield much of anything. This is smart. Why?
Because the church must renew itself with each generation, and as “smart Pastors and churches” figure out that they can simply leave the rest of the world to other churches, and they will go to the 10/40, the rest of the world that is sending missionaries out becomes weak and depleted. This happened with England, which was so strong in sending out missionaries to the whole world, but then neglected its home base, and now is hardly even a consideration in world missions. You cannot ignore God’s instruction and it turn out good.