In his awe-inspiring book The Pleasures of God, John Piper suggested that the reason there are still so many unreached people groups is that there are disproportionately few "Paul-type" missionaries as opposed to "Timothy-type" missionaries. His differentiation is that Timothy became a pastor who eventually settled down to minister in one church most of his life, whereas Paul was always on the move, planting churches in many places. Piper called for more Paul-type missionaries. I could see his point, but thought it seemed impractical--engaging a culture requires being able to communicate fluently with them, which for most unreached groups means many months of language study and training, and even longer in culture immersion before they will really hear what you have to say. Paul had the benefit of a common language used everywhere he went, many Greco-Roman cultural ties, and religious influence from the Diaspora he could rely on to make his message understood. So I dismissed Piper's plea as largely wishful thinking.
So I was surprised to be reminded of what he said when we talked with Christie a few weeks ago. She said that our ministry is very much like Paul's--he would build relationships in one location, then move on to a new one, but keep up the discipleship process with letters and occasional visits. Likewise, have built relationships in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, making disciples there and teaching them to pass on the word of Christ through education to more disciples. We are repeating this discipleship process with more educators in Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia and CAR. At the same time, we use e-mail and visits to continue teaching and consulting those we trained before.
How ironic that God given me the ministry that I had dismissed as an idealistic dream! Granted, we aren't working with unreached people groups; we are serving English-speaking Christians. But as we equip churches to take this prime opportunity to reach the next generation for Christ, I believe it will be a strong part of equipping them to send out the quarter-million missionaries the African churches want to send to the unreached peoples of the world.