I like this image. It is based on Ralph Winter’s Waves of modern Protestant Missions. I think it has a certain amount of relevance. But this particular version I found online has something I must take issue with. It is the timeframe for People Groups. The time is “1934 to Mt. 24:14”.
I have no problem with the approximate start of the “wave,” but I have to question the end. The verse says
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. -Matthew 24:14
So by putting it as the end date suggests that nothing is going to change between now and the end. There seems to be no reason to think that is true (theologically or observationally). And when one teaches and acts as if it is the “final stage” one tends to reject needed change or even research into possible changes as situations change.
I have met people who use the argument that Jesus is the same “Yesterday, Today, and Forever” as argument for not learning, changing, and growing. But behaviorally, within history, God changes a LOT. Culture changes a LOT. So missions needs to change CONTINUOUSLY.
I will leave it to others to read the future (I can barely read the now), but I would suggest the next wave will be (or is) GUCs. This stands for GREAT URBAN CENTERS. It is a geographical targeting but different from both from Coastlands focus and Inlands focus. It would also be cultural (since GUCs have certain cultural commonalities) but would be considerably different from UPG or people group focus. Great Urban Centers have their own unique sense of both identity and diversity. The methods will be (and are) greatly different from what has been utilized commonly in the first three waves. Of course, waves don’t die out. We still reach the coastlands. We still reach the inlands. We still recognize and work targeting people groups. But GUCs may be the new center of focus that must be identified and valued.
The following is proposed… but others may disagree. Something to think about.
Oh, and by the way. I know some from the geographic waves may have grabbed hold of Acts 1:8 to suggest that Christ returns when the gospel reaches the “ends of the earth.” And I still hear people thinking they can speed up God by (loosely based on Matt. 24:14) reaching “all people groups.” I hope that no one will find some verse in the Bible to suggest that reaching every GUC will result in Christ returning sooner. If by doing something, specific we could speed up Christ’s return, then we best not do it. Because we have a lot more to do. We are servants who haven’t been very faithful in keeping the house of the master clean and organized.
God’s timing is God’s timing. Our job is to be active, vigilant, and faithful.