Posts Tagged ‘Volume 34 No. 2’

Evangelical overreach in missionizing the “unreached”?

It has been over 40 years since evangelical missionary strategists set out to evangelize what are called “unreached people groups” (UPGs) having no exposure to Christianity, but no discernable progress has been made among more than half of the current UPG population, according to an analysis in the International Journal of Frontier Missiology (35:4). UPGs were first estimated to have comprised some 17,000 population groups having no exposure to mission efforts in their own mother-tongue languages, no Bible translations, and no indigenous worshipping communities. Reaching these UPGs became a common goal among most evangelical bodies over the next four decades, an effort led and strategized by Ralph Winter of Fuller Seminary. R. W. Lewis writes that significant progress was made, with Christian movements being started among a number of these people groups, even some that are still counted as UPGs today, following the definition of having a population that is less than two percent evangelical. But she argues that much of the difficulty in reaching the rest lies in the way these groups have been defined and counted, ignoring the difference “between the UPGs which now have movements established among them and those that still have no movements at all.”

A re-estimation of these populations by a missiology research group known as the Joshua Project distinguished “frontier people groups” (FPGs) as a subset of UPGs showing no sign of movements, on the basis of whether their populations were less than or equal to 0.1 percent Christian. They found that close to 85 percent of all such FPGs were either Muslim or Hindu, while Buddhist groups made up under five percent of the total and all other religions comprised only 11 percent. Even as FPGs account for more than 55 percent of the total population living in UPGs, Lewis notes that about 30 times as many global missionaries currently go to “reached” people groups “to work with existing churches in training and outreach, as go to the unreached people groups (including the FPGs).” She writes that, besides the lack of demographic clarity regarding which groups have and have not been reached by missionaries, the failure to carry out much of the original goal has been due to a move from pioneering to partnering missions and a shift from career missionaries to short-term teams who usually don’t learn the languages to reach UPGs and also tend to partner with already existing churches.

Exorcism’s growth in U.S. fed by occult interest?

The practice of exorcism in the Catholic Church has been growing worldwide, with the U.S. being no exception, according to a report in The Atlantic (December). Both belief in demonic possession and the use of exorcism by the Catholic Church has been growing in the U.S, as it has in Italy and other Catholic countries […]

Tibetan Buddhist movement takes on exclusivist, authoritarian face amidst expansion

A branch of Tibetan Buddhism known as the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) is growing globally as it adapts the Tibetan tradition to a Western audience, but is also attracting mounting criticism for its authoritarian practices, according to an article in the Buddhist magazine Tricycle (Winter). The NKT is one of the largest Buddhist traditions in […]

Hare Krishna—Western style?

Faced with demographic realities within the movement and looking for new ways to reach Westerners and other people of non-Indian heritage, some members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) are promoting a project for communicating their spiritual message in a way more compatible with Western culture, explained Nicole Karapanagiotis (Rutgers University) at a […]


Whether “intense religion” has decreased or is holding steady in the U.S. has come under debate by sociologists, touching on the wider question of just how exceptional America is on religion. RW cited an initial article by Landon Schnabel and Sean Bock in Sociological Science [see January 2018 RW] where the researchers argued that intense […]

Islam, states, courts, and the acceleration of secularization in Europe

In a European environment in which Christianity is still present, but where the historical churches have lost their former strength as well as a growing share of young people, decisions by courts and states are contributing to the speed of secularization, writes Olivier Roy in a recent issue of the French monthly Esprit (November) devoted […]

New wave of Iranian protests fueled by moral, religious concerns and abuses

A new wave of protests and dissent in Iran is different from that of the Green Movement of 2009 in that it is animated more by cultural and religious concerns than strictly political and economic ones, writes Isa Karasioglu in Anthropology News (November 1). The latest protests arrived sporadically starting last spring, with tens of […]

Western Witchcraft changing in transition to Japan

While definitely not a large movement, Western Witchcraft has attracted Japanese practitioners, reported Eriko Kawanishi (Kyoto University) at a session of the American Academy of Religion meeting in Denver (Nov. 17–20), which RW attended. Kawanishi’s research was based on participant observation at several meetings and interviews of 16 practitioners. Western Witchcraft was first imported to […]

Findings & Footnotes – December 2018

The report Islam as Statecraft from the Brookings Institution looks closer at the “geopolitics of religious soft power” used by Islamic countries in their foreign policy. Authors Peter Mandaville and Shadi Hamid write that “soft power,” which means the use of cultural outreach, including religion, in foreign relations and policy, is not confined to Islamic […]