Gospel & Culture blog
The model of the 10/40 Window mobilized many efforts for church planting in the 1990s and 2000s, as mission organizations began focusing their church planting strategies, personnel, and media on populations in this region. Churches began praying through the 10/40 Window (Daugherty, 1998; P. Wagner, Peters, & WIlson, 1995). The goal of these efforts was the establishment of a self-supporting, self-multiplying and self-governing church among every unreached people group.
The impetus to “finish the task” can be tied to eschatology. Hastening the evangelization of every ethnolinguistic people group, called “closure theology” by some, became a sort of “dubious attempt to trigger the second coming of Christ by fulfilling the conditions of Matthew 24:14” (Coote, 2000, p 160). The problem is, in reality, humans cannot be divided into bounded, distinct and static ethnic groups. The lines between ethnolinguistic groups are fuzzy and dynamic (Nehrbass, 2016, p. 70-72). If the lines between ethne are contested and changing, it would be impossible to delineate a time (in the future) when people of all ethne have an established church.
The rhetoric of finishing the task is also dangerous as it conflates the Great Commission “make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” (Mat. 28:19, NIV) to planting self-supporting churches.
The 10/40 Window suffers from other flaws. The model is neater as a theory than human geography is in reality; so it suffers from imprecision: Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, does not fall within the parameters of the 10-40 window (see also Coote 2000). Later attempts to redraw the Window but keep the language still left people struggling with such anomalies as the fact that Kazakistan [sic] and Malaysia fall outside the boundaries, and yet the Philippines are inside. In fact, the northern two-thirds of the Philippines falls inside, while the southern third is outside, just the opposite of what the Window proposes. (Rynkiewich, 2007, p. 219)
The imprecision of the 10-40 Window raises issues about other attempts to generalize large population groups. For example, we are aware that the countries in the southern hemisphere are significantly poorer than those in the northern; so using the term “global south” to refer to people living in poverty can be highly misleading. In fact, the majority of people who live on less than a dollar a day actually live in the northern hemisphere, in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Laos, Liberia, Cambodia, China, Haiti, India, Mali, Niger, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Papua New Guinea. Terms like the “majority world,” “third world” and “two-thirds” world may be attempts to correct the North-South imprecision; but these terms are also ambiguous and contested. Additionally, scholars in cross-cultural studies often use the East-West dyad to refer to cultural differences (in terms of hospitality or honor, for instance); yet such generalizations are imprecise, contested, reductive, and changing (Nehrbass, 2016, p. 100-101).
But the 10-40 can be useful even without a tie to faulty eschatology, outdated ideas about ethnicity, and geographic imprecision. The tremendous value is that it causes mission mobilizers to think about issues like priority. Is India or China more deserving of missionary efforts than Germany or Canada (which have both become quite secular)? Does focusing on the resistant peoples of Asia diminish or compete with our efforts in Africa, the Pacific, South America or other pockets of the world where it is not currently in vogue to send missionaries?
© 2015 Kenneth Nehrbass. All Rights Reserved.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor