Letter to Harold: Extraordinary Things Have Happened!

(Editor’s note: This “letter” is dated ten years from now. It is from Samuel Chiang to his friend, Harold Smith, president/CEO of Christianity Today International. Chiang details the wonderful things God has done since 1 December 2010.)

1 December 2020

Dear Harold,

I cannot believe ten years has passed since the last Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. That was a wonderful event! Despite unprecedented economic challenges, as I look back over the past ten years, I see many extraordinary happenings in the Church around the world and in missions. It has truly been a remarkable ten years. Seldom has so much happened in such a short span of time in the history of missions. Let me take a few moments to share eight things that are especially exciting to me.

First, the Church in the Philippines has taken on the global role to speak into the reality of human trafficking. The Philippines has long been known for sending their compatriots across Asia and the Middle East. Over the last ten years, they have stood up to respond to the issue of human trafficking as well. With their wide network of mission colleagues dispersed from Tokyo to Tunis, they have banded together not only to identify the issue, but also to stem the tide of human trafficking. By speaking into the issue and demonstratively implementing action plans, the world has come to appreciate the Church in the Philippines.

Second, we are very close to reaching the last unengaged Unreached People Groups. Hasn’t it been amazing to watch how God has orchestrated this movement? Table 71, which was formed from Amsterdam 2000, along with many tables from Cape Town 2010 and other networks, have been working to engage the 2,252 unengaged unreached people groups at the start of the last decade.

There are now only forty-one people groups left that do not have a single verse of Scripture in their own heart language. This vision for ZERO people groups left to be engaged has spurred on a collaborative effort among ministries and the donor world. Their common view that all people groups should at least have the stories from the Bible in oral form—and possibly leading to printed scripture—spun off new partnerships and collaborative networks at a breathtaking pace. We are able to celebrate today because of extraordinary collaboration and partnerships among mission agencies and donors across the world.

Third, two important reset buttons were pushed in this past decade. Theological education and creation care have made sharp course changes in this past decade, which left many of us astounded and spurred us on to re-examine the future. Wasn’t it a surprise to see highly-ensconced theological institutions join the movement of non-accredited Bible institutions so that they may properly assist the Church in the role of leadership development, discipleship, and apprenticeship? And with many cities moving towards a model for electric cars similar to that of the mobile phone utility model, Christian creation care enthusiasts finally decided to press the reset button and focus on tangible ways to integrate micro reality with reflective theology.

Fourth, the Business as Mission (BAM) movement has undergirded several missionary movements globally. The Church in China finally woke up to the fact that their Back-to-Jerusalem movement fervor needed proper and real mechanisms to work in the continually difficult areas of Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Missiologists have been saying for years that there needs to be “stopping” or “resting” points for the movement. In this last decade, due to global currency wars, trade wars, migration patterns, etc., the BAM movement has taken off as the platform of choice, with new funding mechanisms that have built-in sustainability.

In the middle of this past decade (2014), BAM was already a vehicle of choice for the African sector of the Back-to-Jerusalem movement. They have seen younger African missionaries pouring out not only into North Africa and the Middle East, but across the entire world. Somehow, this modeling was examined by the missionary movement from China and they jumped on board, using BAM as a model of choice to send their missionaries.

We applaud this effort as the “businesses” are dispersed across all sectors of society. The Chinese Church is not only sending younger missionaries across difficult parts of the world, but is speaking into societies at the various “resting” points across Central Asia.

Fifth, the persecution of the Church has dramatically increased. The Church has continually and steadfastly stood with clarity on “Truth”. We recognize with joy the growth of women in Christian leadership, but we also note with grave concern the violence done to women has not abated. We have witnessed a systematic persecution of the Church in several countries, and by certain religious sects. On a monthly basis, over this past year, we have paused to remember those who have been martyred, and tears flowed freely during these remembrances.

Little did we realize that Tom Little's martyrdom in August of 2010 was simply the start of a wave of violence upon Christians. The lives of Christian leaders and missionaries from Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, USA, Brazil, Norway, the United Kingdom, Finland, Spain, Egypt, China, South Africa, Canada, Ghana, Australia, India, and Malaysia have not been spared, and they have not died in vain.

Sixth, undergirded by prayer, the church-planting movement is happening in many countries. Orality strategies have been deployed as second nature and common sense across many church denominations and mission organizations. We have also seen the intensified rise of the prayer movement. But what we did not anticipate is how the church-planting movement is occurring in many difficult parts of the world.

We attribute this to the fervency of prayer, and a willingness to examine the use of orality strategies in church planting. Many in the orality movement of the last decade called the Church to rediscover, redeem, and renew the oral learning system in all domains of society. We thought this to be ambitious and we were dismissive. However, it would appear that from business to education, to government, arts, media, family, and religious spheres, many have taken up this challenge. Interestingly, due to the deployment of orality strategies, the Church is once again speaking into societies about corruption and transformation.

We are now seeing the church-planting movement incorporating orality strategies not only in villages and towns, but also in the massive shift into global cities and urban agglomerations. We are further surprised that this year's World Christian Encyclopedia is showing that the amount of funds invested into orality strategies has increased from one percent in 2010 to now represent thirty-seven percent of the funding for missions.

Upon closer examination, we note with surprise that many organizations are revamping how they are reaching oral learners under the age of 15. This block of over two billion children is seeing a renewed investment in the oral learning system (that is placed side by side along with the literate learning system). We celebrate this movement.

Seventh, the Brazilian Church models are breathing God’s life into the workplace. What a pleasant surprise to see the Brazilian Church, and indeed the Church in Latin America, leveraging the global platform of the 2016 Olympics into various ways to do mission and discipleship in many spheres of societies. Wasn’t it amazing to see cities and companies from around the world, in concert with the Latin American Church, signed on to model demonstratively and bring God’s life into the workplace?

Eighth, the media is having a dramatic effect on people everywhere. We note the common place in using indigenous digital media for our world today, linking our worship and fellowship in different ways. The Church has also embraced the infectious use of media in the digital age, and is once again speaking into culture. At the beginning of the last decade we pejoratively used the term “O3B”, the Other Three Billion; however, the Digital Bible Project (DBP), a consortium of Bible agencies, saw the future ten years ago, and made the “other” three billion the main audience.

Now, with a global population at 7.7 billion, over five billion people are using some facet of the DBP. Even the UN has grudgingly acknowledged that all people groups are motivated to hear, see, and use their own heart language, and has propelled the global literacy rate. We applaud the pioneers in the media movement.

As I look back over the past ten years, I can see how the Church has made some great inroads in how it did ministry to make the above things possible. It was remarkable to see leaders taking tangible steps to make these things happen. I pray we as the global Church would continue to engage in these actions. Ones I especially thought helpful were:

  • reaching out across different denominations and cultures to find areas of mutual interest;

  • reaching out across organizations to find things that could only be accomplished collectively;
  • developing meaningful relationships across cultures;
  • renewed compassion rooted in visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping oneself unstained from the world;
  • realizing that technology meetings do not replace drinking tea or coffee together;
  • fostering and acknowledging that “being” is as valuable as “doing” in missions;
  • taking risks—both calculated and “leaping-off-the-cliff” ones; and
  • rediscovering the practice of discipleship and disciple-making.

What a joy the past ten years have been. Here’s to God continuing to grow his Church both in number and in depth, even as we approach the 2000-year resurrection celebration of Jesus Christ in 2030.

Your friend,


Rev. Samuel Chiang was born in Taiwan, grew up and worked in Canada (Ernst & Young), and graduated from Dallas Seminary, where he also served on staff. He served with the Church in China and has written extensively on China, Asia, and orality. Formerly the COO for TWR, currently he serves as the executive director of the International Orality Network.