Missionary Leader Ralph Winter Passes Away

May 23rd, 2009 by

Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions and described as “one of the three or four most significant individuals of the 20th century in terms of global missions,” died Wednesday, May 20th, 2009. According to the Christian News Wire:

“The death of Dr. Ralph Winter marks the passing of a giant from the scene of missions,” said Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia, “and GFA owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his influence on our ministry.”

Dr. Winter, 84, who died Wednesday night of cancer, was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions and, later, William Carey International University.

“Most of all, he caused a paradigm shift in the focus of global missions,” Dr. Yohannan said.

“I don’t think there was anyone more significant in the 20th century world of missions or anyone who brought as much change to how missions were strategized than Ralph Winter.”

Dr. Yohannan explained that before Dr. Winter, the focus of missions was on reaching countries–“coloring in the map of individual political entities.”

“But Dr. Winter pointed out that when Matthew 24:14 says the Gospel will be preached ‘as a testimony to all nations,’ the Greek word for ‘nations’ is ‘ethnos,’ which means a distinct people group,” the GFA leader said. “It was a whole new paradigm of missions thinking! We all began to understand that missions needed to be specific and targeted to reach people groups who had never before heard the Gospel, regardless of what country they lived in. He created a whole world of fresh missions thinking.”

Greg Burnett, of the Zadok House of Prayer, described Dr. Winter as “… a hero in the faith [whose] impact on our understanding of biblical missions was profound. Ralph and Roberta (his wife) were ordinary people who sacrificed and loved in amazing ways. I bless the Lord for His grace and kindness in touching their lives and, through them, us as well.”

Below is a video of Ralph Winter discussing unreached people groups: [Link to Video]

“What is God’s intention for these people? What are you trying to see happen to them and to their societies, from the standpoint of God’s will?” These questions raised by Dr. Winter are key, whether we are discussing a people we travel “18,000 miles” to reach, or the people we are a part of where we currently reside. Let’s honor him by asking these questions of the people we are called to, and bringing about the change God desires to see.

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