Influential missiologist leaves a huge legacy in missions

By June 26, 2009

International (MNN) — While family, friends and colleagues remember missiologist Ralph Winter at his memorial service Sunday, June 28, they also look back on the legacy he has left.

Winter, whose vision was to share the Gospel with the thousands of "unreached" people groups in the world, died May 20 at the age of 84.

He first served as a missionary in 1956 in Guatemala, where he and his wife ministered to the native Mayan people for ten years. After this, he moved back to his hometown of Pasadena, California to work as a professor of missions at Fuller Theological Seminary.

In 1974, he gained global renown when he presented "innovative analysis and advocacy that have redirected evangelical mission energies ever since," according to the U.S. Center for World Mission, at the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In his lifetime, he helped start Theological Education by Extension (TEE), founded the William Carey Library, co-founded the American Society of Missiology, helped start Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment (ACMC), launched the Summer Institute of International Studies (now called Perspectives Study Program), founded the U.S. Center for World Mission, and started the William Carey International University.

George Verwer with Operation Mobilization and a peer of Winter said his vision to reach people groups untouched by the Gospel and to establish a church within those groups spread long before Winter died.

"He has an entire younger generation of people that he's mentored. That younger generation is already mentoring another generation under them. So the mentoring, the passing down of this vision, has already taken place," Verwer said. His death, Verwer believes, has simply propelled his vision forward and has given the people under him a great sense of responsibility.

Though many churches and missions groups might not have ever heard Winter's name, Verwer said, "Their mission policy, their mission thinking in their denomination, and their church is probably influenced somewhere, somehow by Ralph Winter."

This is also true of OM.

"He was known as a person with one arrow–the unreached peoples of the world, but what an influence he was upon us to sharpen our strategy," Verwer said.

When Verwer met Winter over 40 years ago, he said there was an immediate bond formed between them. Since then, Winter's fresh way of looking at situations has helped OM greatly with their mission.

John Piper–author, founder of Desiring God Ministries, and pastor of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church–shared similar thoughts.

"Ralph Winter was probably the most creative thinker I have ever known. On any topic you brought up, he would come at it in a way you never dreamed of. This meant that stalemates often became fresh starting points," Piper said, according to U.S. Center for World Mission.

A colleague of his at Fuller Seminary, C. Peter Wagner, said, "History will record Ralph Winter as one of the half-dozen men who did most to affect world evangelism in the twentieth century."

Please pray for OM as they look to continue Winter's vision in today's ever-changing global economic troubles. Pray that they can use some of his fresh perspective to come up with innovative ways to raise the substantial amounts of money needed in missions.

Go to OM's Web site for information on their mission and how to support them.

Winter's memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, at 3:00 p.m. at the Worship Center of Lake Avenue Church, 393 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, Calif. For details about the service, visit

Leave a Reply