I just found out today that Dr. Ralph Winter passed away on May 20, 2009. I hadn't even been aware that he'd been struggling with cancer, so it felt like quite a blow to discover the news of his death.
For me, as a Bible college graduate ('86) with a B.A. in Biblical Studies/Missions, Ralph Winter is best remembered as the man who founded the U.S. Center for World Mission, and who (together with Steven Hawthorne) edited what I consider the most valuable Christian mission handbook ever created: Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
But the best way to describe how significantly Ralph Winter has affected my thinking as a Christian who is passionate about "this gospel of the kingdom" being "proclaimed throughout the whole world" (Matthew 24:14) is to mention one simple term: unreached peoples.
In 1974, Ralph Winter pioneered the use of that term as a new way to measure the progress of the global advancement of the Gospel. To missions-minded Christians today, the term "unreached peoples" is as familiar and important as the idea of global missions itself. It is a reference to the ethnic groups of the world who have not yet heard or received the Gospel, which Matthew 24:14 tells us is a requirement for His return. This change in focus from "mission fields" to "peoples" may be one of the most significant contributions ever made in the great cause of Christian missions. It resulted in us realizing that the Great Commission will not be completed by simply saving more people, but by reaching more people groups -- by reaching all people groups!
So it's with sadness that I realize that a great general of God's kingdom is gone. But I know he is filled with joy as he now sees his King face to face!
And to give you a taste of who Ralph Winter is, I invite you to watch a brief but insightful video that I found helpful...
© 2009 by Ken Peters