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A Global Mapping International Newsletter Summer 1996

Data, Maps, Controversy and Strategic Alliances

For the first time in the history of the Church, we can see graphically - and geographically - the relationship between the world's mosaic of ethno-linguistic peoples and the proclamation of the Gospel.

This spring a team of project partners from several organizations worked together to produce a full-color wall map displaying the evangelization status of the peoples of the world. It is not a perfect view, but it is a giant step forward.

Reactions to the Map

This new mission map of the world is producing interesting results.

A good bit of excitement has been expressed, as people in the pews, in the classrooms, and in the strategy rooms really see the global people group picture for the first time.

Another, much smaller, result has been controversy. Seeing a global peoples database portrayed together graphically brings some initial cognitive dissonance to strategists and researchers accustomed to seeing the world differently. The old disagreements over definitions and research methodology intensify. (We work and pray that discussions about data turn into a furthering of God's work in the world.)

A third result seems to be more and better information sharing. The researcher who has been devoted to building his own database realizes that others can benefit from his data. The missionary who has worked for decades among a remote people is shocked to find that they are colored "unevangelized" on the map, and she realizes that no one told the global researchers what was going on there.

These responses have been a strong apologetic for the mapping ministry of GMI. Turning data into maps educates, communicates, calls for response, and leads to increased data sharing and accuracy like no table of numbers can.

Peoples Data & Maps

Mission agencies, schools and churches during the past couple of decades - especially in North America - have studied and promoted a "people group" approach to world mission.

A few global computer databases of people groups, or more recently peoples, have become widely available - and widely criticized. Attempts to classify, to count, even to define peoples in the cause of world evangelization seems invariably both difficult and controversial.

Lists of peoples have been circulated, conferences to define such terms as "unreached peoples" have been held, and discussions about what makes a people reached or unreached, evangelized or unevangelized seem to continue endlessly on many fronts.

One list of peoples, however, appears recently to have gained substantial acceptance among those who track peoples data for evangelical mission. AD2000 & Beyond, Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, Campus Crusade for Christ & Jesus Film, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and others are now saluting the Registry of Peoples and Languages (ROPAL).

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Global Research Office has been coordinating landmark research on the evangelization of the world's peoples.

On a parallel track, GMI and SIL were nearing completion of a multi-year, cooperative effort to create a detailed computerized map of the over 7000 ethno-linguistic peoples of the world, using SIL's Ethnologue language list as a starting point.

Those diverse research and mapping efforts came together this spring to produce this new view of the world.

Strategic Alliances

Strategic alliances made all the difference in creating this map. Without those - from many organizations - who collected, shared and verified data; integrated and managed databases; digitized longitude and latitude locations and completed detailed computer cartography; worked with printers, distributors and donors; promoted and marketed the map; ...and so much more, this would never have moved from dream to reality.

As can be seen everywhere, strategic alliances are how mission gets done today. It does not mean we all agree on everything. It does, however, mean that we recognize we are all working for the same Lord, and that he positions and gifts the members of his body according to his wisdom and plan. It means we focus on what we are good at (rather than trying to be good at everything) and that we connect that productivity in mutually beneficial ways to the good work of others. In addition, strategic alliance means seeking to find appropriate ways to acknowledge that functional partnership.

GMI's Role

In creating this new wall map, GMI was privileged to play a few specific roles:

Nearly all of the first printing of 65,000 copies of the wall map have now been distributed, and discussions are under way about a possible second printing.

Where to from Here?

The words, "This snapshot represents a work in progress" can be seen in the fine print on the Status of Global Evangelization wall map. A revised map is expected in 1997, benefitting from the current and on-going database updating.

Plans are underway for more peoples maps showing other data themes, such as the status of scripture translation, Christian radio broadcasts, and cassette recordings for each language.

The 1996 Status of Global Evangelization wall map is available in two sizes, 24" x 36" and 36" x 64" from the Foreign Mission Board: 800-866-3621 or 804-219-1000; Fax: 804-254-8980.


  • Data, Maps, Controversy and Strategic Alliances
  • African Proverbs CD
  • From the President
  • Electronic Research Resources
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