Learning to Speak the Language of Global Mission

My wife Sally and I went on our very first short-term mission trip in January 1990. It was a 3-week trip to Indonesia to visit missionaries who were strongly supported by the congregation I served. It was life changing, too, as the Lord used this trip to begin our journey toward serving in global missions full time!

map of Indonesia

Tom and Kathy were doing Bible translation in Central Sulawesi (middle of Indonesia map above), and also teaching linguistics at the University in Ujung Pandang. This predominantly Muslim country permitted Bible translation in the 1980s in exchange for assistance in training indigenous linguistic experts. This expertise was sorely needed, as more than 700 active languages are spoken in this vast, diverse country.

photo of Eno village

Eno vilage and surrounding terrain

We spent more than a week with them in their “home” in Eno, the remote Seko village which served as their base for learning the language and developing the alphabet. Up until the months before we arrived they traveled in by foot and motorbike. A hand-dug airstrip was ready by the time we traveled there – with MAF pilots flying us in and out. Soon after our arrival in the village, local people came to visit and welcome us. They would begin with a word of greeting in Seko Padang, the local language. We learned a couple of words of greeting quickly. But to converse, they would then switch to Indonesian – the national language – and soon discovered that we didn’t know Indonesian either!

Eno village

This taught us right away a basic tenet of global mission work, actually of life itself: if you want to communicate with someone, you need to speak their language! This had an impact on my approach to my pastoral call back in Minnesota, and is key to the work of CGM magazine, too. To celebrate global mission – the challenges and the progress – it’s essential to learn global mission words and concepts. The day-to-day language of global mission is not necessarily in the tool box of most of us. It is vocabulary far broader than benevolence – and much more exciting!

Key mission terms worth learning and understanding


God’s redemptive work building His Kingdom in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The Kingdom is:

  • Established through Jesus’ death and resurrection,
  • Empowered by the Holy Spirit, and
  • Entrusted to His Church to proclaim.


Those who have been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), and who have crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21) to preach the Gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely, if not entirely, unknown (Romans 15:20)


A group of individuals who have a common history, ethnicity, language and culture. People groups, rather than countries, are the strategic target of missions. Why? The Lausanne Committee for world evangelization put it this way:

“For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.” (https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/what_is_a_people_group)

 According to missiologists there are approximately 17,743 people groups in the world.

unreached peoples chart


A people group within which there is no viable indigenous church movement with sufficient strength, resources and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches. There are currently 7,443 unreached people groups. But there are approximately 1,000 Christian churches in the world for each unreached people group!


The concept that the mission mandate of the Church can be completed in a measurable way by establishing a viable, evangelizing, indigenous church movement in every people group.

God is still at work inviting – commanding – His church to embrace and engage in His call to the nations! Doing so in greater measure means moving from benevolence to learning and speaking this global mission language and the Biblical concepts and principles they reflect. 

It’s my privilege to serve as Editor of CGM. With our global mission partners, it’s an honor to share with you more about what the Father, by his Holy Spirit, is doing through people, agencies and churches in the world in answer to the Lord’s command to GO!

There is plenty of room to get involved! To God be the Glory!

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