For more than two decades much of the Christian world has been turning its gaze toward the 10/40 Window. Increasingly the North American Evangelical church, the richest church in the history of the world, has been redirecting its missionaries and missions resources toward the darkness within the 10/40 Window. The goals are highly commendable, but are our methods prudent?
Argentine-born evangelist Luis Busch coined the phrase “10/40 Window” in 1989. The Joshua Project currently defines the 10/40 Window as those 69 countries that sit between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This is the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. It has been estimated that 90% of the 4.4 billion people living in the 10/40 Window are unevangelized; yet only 10% of our global missionary force serves there.
Is the answer to this missions conundrum to redirect an increasing amount of our North American missionaries and resources to the 10/40 Window?
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 2010 the U.S. sent out 127,000 of the world’s estimated 400,000 missionaries. It is wonderful to see U.S. churches accepting their role as senders. However, missionaries sent from the U.S. may not be the answer to opening the 10/40 Window.
In the current geo-political environment the United States and its citizens are not favorably viewed by a majority of the governments in the 10/40 Window. Of the 10 countries in the world that are classified as hardest for U.S. citizens to receive visas, seven of those are located in the 10/40 Window. In much of the 10/40 Window missionary visas are simply not granted to foreigners.
The U.S. Department of State has issued “Travel Warnings” for 23 of the countries located in the 10/40 Window. Due to safety concerns the State Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel in those countries. The Open Doors World Watch List ranked the top 10 most dangerous countries for Christians in the world. All 10 of those dangerous countries are located within the 10/40 Window.
Women account for a disproportionately large percentage of U.S. missionaries. Single women outnumber single men 4 to 1 on the mission field. While our culture views the involvement of women on the mission field as a blessing, much of the rest of the world disagrees with us. In fact, many of the cultures contained within the 10/40 Window are hostile to women, especially Western women.
The United States and its missionaries are simply not welcome in much of the 10/40 Window. With this knowledge, should U.S. citizens then fold up our missions tents and ignore the billions of unsaved in the 10/40 Window? Absolutely not! Jesus promised us hard times, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) John Piper echoed this same sentiment when he wrote, “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.” Nobody said missions was easy.
In recent decades we have seen an eruption of Evangelical churches in Latin America and Southern Africa. New churches and individual conversions are exploding in the Global South. Many of these newer churches now have a generation or two of spiritual maturity and are sending out their own missionaries.
As churches in the Global South have developed, many U.S. missionaries and churches have been forced to change their approach to these regions. U.S. churches are beginning to transition into supporting roles in the Global South. Churches in Latin America and Southern Africa are now seeking theological resources, biblical training and assistance in forming seminaries. In these regions U.S. missionaries are focusing more on discipleship and theological training.
Already missionaries are going out from these regions. But, why not send more? Latin passports can gain access to countries that U.S. and Western European passports can’t. Missionaries originating from the Global South can gain easier access to countries in the 10/40 Window than U.S. missionaries.
It may be time for churches in the United States to embrace the shifting landscape. The role of the sending church in the U.S. may need to change.
Embracing Evolving Dynamics
As we can still find ways, we should continue to send U.S. missionaries into the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is the heart of evil in this world and must be evangelized with ferocity. But, churches in the Global South are ready to play an increased role. This is not about danger or ease of passage. The lives of our U.S. missionaries are no more valuable in God’s eyes than their Latin and African brothers and sisters.
This is about wise use of the resources God has given us. Churches in the U.S. posses a wealth that is unmatched in Christian history. Those vast resources would be best-used sending U.S. missionaries into the Global South and providing discipleship and theological training to our brothers and sisters in Latin America and Southern Africa. Let’s give the churches in the Global South the training, resources and financing they need to reach the 10/40 Window. Churches in the United States and churches in the Global South can partner together to evangelize the billions of lost souls in the 10/40 Window.
We in the Western world may need to take a more supportive role and let our brothers in the South handle the face-to-face evangelism. But, in the end, if we are able to crawl through the 10/40 Window and share the gospel with billions of lost who are not being reached, God will receive the praise and the glory.