Glossary of Special Terms Used On This Site
and in the WMA Video Series on Dependency
The following definitions are given to assist those who are not aware of the special vocabulary used in mission studies or what is often called missiology. The definitions are not meant to be highly technical. Words which have an asterisk (*) are defined elsewhere in the glossary.
10/40 WINDOW: The area between 10 degrees and 40 degrees above the equator extending across North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and much of East Asia. It is estimated that 97% of the people living in this area have not been evangelized.
AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION: The primary religion of the "spiritist" or "animist" in Africa. The formal practitioner is a specialist in healing, "divination", and providing guidance to those who depend on him or her. This practitioner may or may not be a "herbalist".
ANIMISM: Used to describe the worldview of those who believe that "spirits" reside in everything: people (including ancestors), rocks, wind, trees, river, etc.
APARTHEID: Describes the policy of so-called "separate development" which the South African government used to support white minority rule. Aspects of this policy were evident for several hundred years, but it was only formally adopted as government policy in the mid-twentieth century. The government of South Africa officially discarded apartheid as official policy in the early 1990s when the country became a multi-racial and multi-party democracy.
APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY: Used to describe ways of doing things that are appropriate to the society in which they are placed. Inappropriate technology is often too expensive or too complex for those who are supposed to benefit from its use.
BASIC PRESUPPOSITIONS OF LIFE: The assumptions which all of us have but which are often difficult to identify or define. They determine how we make decisions on the spur of the moment. It is often easier for someone else to identify one's basic presuppositions than it is for the individual himself.
CHURCH GROWTH: This term means different things to different people who use it. As used in this series, it refers to the movement which began in the 1960's primarily through the inspiration of Dr. Donald A. McGavran. It refers to a comprehensive way of understanding the growth and spread of the Christian movement.
COLONIALISM: Describes the spirit with which countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere set about to possess or "colonize" many places in other parts of the world. It often included imposing government and business practices in a way that benefited those doing the colonizing. In fairness to the colonizers, the process did provide employment and infrastructure through the building of roads, communication, western educational systems and other things which still benefit so-called Third World countries today.
COMMUNITY IMAGE: How people in the community view the church.
CONCENTRIC CIRCLES: Circles within circles are called concentric circles.
COSMOLOGY: Another word for worldview. It describes how people look at and seek to interpret the world around them.
DEPENDENCY: Most often used to describe those in society who are unable to care for themselves. That includes small children, handicapped people (both mentally and physically), the elderly, etc. As used in these lessons, however, it refers to those who allow someone else to carry them along financially and, sometimes, administratively.
DIVINATION: Describes the way in which a practitioner of traditional religion determines how something in the future will take place.
ETHNICITY: The characteristics of a given ethnic or people group.
E-0 EVANGELISM: Used to describe outreach among nominal church members. There is no increase in church membership when they come to Christ because their names are already on church rolls.
E-1 EVANGELISM: Used to describe outreach among non-believers who are in the same cultural group as those doing the evangelizing.
E-2 EVANGELISM: Used to describe outreach among non-believers who are culturally "near neighbors". They may speak a related language though it might not be mutually understood. An example would be German, French, English and Spanish people who have a similar cultural background even though they may not be able to understand one another's language.
E-3 EVANGELISM: Used to describe outreach among non-believers who are very different from our own cultural group. Their language, customs and worldview. are completely foreign to us. These are our culturally distant neighbors.
EVANGELIZATION: For our purposes, evangelization takes place when the Gospel has been presented in such a way that those hearing it are capable of making an intelligent decision - yes or no - regarding Jesus as Lord and Savior.
EXCLUDED MIDDLE: This term is used to describe an important area of life experienced by many spirits or animists. It is the spirit world of healings, demons, spirits, etc., between the High God above and Jesus who walks with us day by day. For a diagram see page 4 of the study guide of the WMA video series on dependency.
EXPATRIATE: Technically this term refers to anyone outside his or her own country. It is frequently used to describe missionaries who are not citizens in the countries where they serve.
FATALISM: This is the negative attitude which believes there is no solution to a problem or no way out of a dilemma.
GERM THEORY OF SICKNESS: Used to describe the western understanding that sickness is normally caused by bacteria or germs. This leads westerners to search for the "what" and "how" cause behind illnesses. Non-westerners often search for the "who" and "why" reasons for illness.
HARAMBEE: A social event in East Africa in which participants set a goal to raise funds for a church, community or family project. It is an attempt to make giving an enjoyable social occasion, often including a spirit of friendly competition in the buying and selling of donated items such as fruits, vegetables or cooked meals.
HERBALIST: A person who provides traditional remedies for illnesses. Such a person uses "herbs" (parts of plants or trees) and may or may not practice spiritism*.
HOMOGENEOUS UNIT: Used to describe a group of people having a common set of characteristics. They may speak the same language, participate in the same profession or have a similar cultural background.
INDIGENEITY: Describes the state of being indigenous*, or locally owned and operated.
INDIGENOUS: Those things belonging to the people of which they are a part. Non-indigenous practices are those which have been imported or borrowed from the outside.
INTER-ETHNIC MISSION SOCIETIES: Used to describe mission societies with missionaries from many churches cooperating in the spread of the Gospel. Such a society may have missionaries from the German Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Anglican and American Baptist denominations. For the rationale for this concept see page 108 of this study guide.
JUBILEE: The Biblical concept found in Leviticus chapters 25 and 27 and Numbers 36. It was a system built into society for the periodic redistribution of wealth. It included returning land to the original owners, freeing slaves, and forgiving debts.
MARGINAL CHRISTIAN CONVERSION: The term used to describe those who are only minimally committed to Christianity. They are the most vulnerable to turning to another religion and especially back to their previous religion.
MISSIOLOGY: Term used to describe cross-cultural mission studies. It was first used by Catholic missionaries but has come into common usage by Protestants in the last half of the twentieth century.
MOBILIZING: Refers to the concept of encouraging and equipping people to become active in evangelization or missionary activity.
MULTI-INDIVIDUAL DECISION: A term used to describe many members of a family or extended family deciding to become Christians at the same time. It differs from group conversion in that individuals have a choice in whether or not to join others in the process.
PARA-CHURCH ORGANIZATIONS: Christian organizations which are not directly related to any one church or denomination. They might be referred to as non-denominational or sometimes inter-denominational organizations. Examples of para-church organizations include Bible societies, World Vision, Scripture Union, Campus Crusade, and many others. This term would not be used to describe an institution (such as a Bible institute or hospital) directly under the control of one church or denomination.
PARADIGM SHIFT: Pronounced "para-dime". A paradigm is a framework into which we fit ideas which we hold to be valid. It provides order for arranging how we look at the world. When one changes the primary way he or she looks at the world, we call that "paradigm shift". The most profound paradigm shift for the Christian is the conversion experience.
PEOPLE MOVEMENT: Refers to the conversion experience of more than one person at time - usually a family or clan. It is not the same as a mass movement in which some members of a society may feel themselves coerced into agreement. Rather the term is best defined as a "multi-individual decision" - a real possibility in societies where communal decisions are often undertaken after discussion. For a good description of the concept of people movements see Chapter 7 in "People Movements in Southern Polynesia" by Alan R. Tippett.
PERPETUAL JUBILEE: Sometimes used to describe what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth" (Mark 10:21). It includes helping those who are in need, recognizing that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). In short, it does not allow for the accumulation of large amounts of earthly possessions.
POWER ENCOUNTER: The best known scriptural example of a power encounter is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The phenomenon occurs when the power of God is demonstrated in the midst of "the powers". It can be seen in the film "Peace Child" (story by Don Richardson) when a special stone was passed around demonstrating that its magical powers were no longer effective.
PROPHETIC MINISTRY: As used in these lessons this term refers to speaking out on important issues which communities and their governments need to hear. It may be thought of preaching a public message for public officials and others who need to hear it. The term is not used here in the sense of foretelling events which one thinks may be coming.
RESTRUCTURING: The term used to describe the changing of the church structure so that it becomes compatible with the society in which it is located.
REVIVAL: A spiritual awakening among believers - such as the East African Revival.
REVOLVING LOAN FUNDS: Refers to the establishment of small loan funds which are managed for the benefit of people who need help to start a business. It is assumed that unlike grants, these funds will be repaid and then re-used for the benefit of others.
SCAFFOLDING: The term used by Dr. McGavran to describe mission societies in relation to the churches they start. He claimed that it was not meant to remain forever, but rather to be taken down and moved elsewhere as soon as appropriate.
SCHISM: Refers to the division of churches into groups or factions. Many African Independent churches were started by such a schism.
SELF-IMAGE: How we view ourselves or how a church views itself.
SELF-RELIANCE: As used in these lessons this term refers to the Christian movement looking for local rather than foreign resources in order to do what God is calling His people to do. It does NOT mean that people do not rely on God.
SPIRIT THEORY OF SICKNESS: Unlike the "germ theory", the spirit theory of sickness concludes that there is a spiritual reason behind most, if not all, illness. This is believed to be true even when western medicine gives a carefully constructed scientific explanation for an illness.
SPIRITISM: Similar to "animism" - the belief that a spirit resides in everything.
SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: Dr. J. Edwin Orr, the famous researcher on revivals and awakenings, used this term to describe what happens among masses of unbelievers when they are brought to readiness for spiritual change. He reserved the use of the term "revival" for an awakening which happens among believers.
STOREHOUSE GIVING: A concept of giving which insists that tithes* (especially) and offerings should be brought first to the church or "storehouse". When this is done, gifts or offerings may be given to other organizations. The concept is based on Malachi 3:8.
THREE-SELF PRINCIPLE: Used to describe indigenous* or independent churches which stand on their own two feet. Such churches are often described as being self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.
TICKET SYSTEM: The system used to record the regular giving of church members. It was often a small amount compared to the income of the individual in Southern Africa. It was started by John Wesley and is still in use in some parts of Africa and elsewhere.
TITHING: Based on the Biblical concept of giving back to God 10% of what one earns. For the Biblical usage of the term see Leviticus 27:30 and Malachi 3:8.
WORLDVIEW: Used to describe how people view and seek to interpret the world around them. Another word for worldview is "cosmology".