Three Eras of OC Research

In September 2016, 33 OC workers met in Asia for a Global Research Consultation. Upon reviewing the 50+ years of OC’s work in mission research, we realized that we are in a third and new era of OC research. This article will provide an overview of the three eras of OC research and highlight what we envision for the next five years.

Era 1: Innovation

Looking back we saw that research was a part of OC ministry strategy from the beginning. In the 1950s the mission’s founder, Dick Hillis, identified regions in Taiwan that were least reached and mobilized workers to hold evangelistic meetings in those areas. In the 1960s Jim Montgomery, under the guidance of Donald McGavran, the Father of the Modern Church Growth Movement, investigated the growth of the church in the Philippines. He decided to do an in-depth research project on the Four Square Church in the Philippines and published his initial findings in the book, New Testament Fire in the Philippines. In hindsight, this research was foundational for the development of the Disciple A Whole Nation or DAWN Movement, which impacted not only the Philippines, but numerous countries around the world.

The 1970s and 1980s were very formative years for OC research. In the Philippines, the Disciple A Whole Nation initiative was gaining momentum. Then, for a special season, we sensed that God brought together in the California home office Clyde Cook, who was President of OC from 1978 to 1982 and a former field missionary in the Philippines, Jim Montgomery , Director of Field Ministries, Bob Waymire, Montgomery’s assistant for research and planning, and Paul Yaggy. These four men, and others, were strategic, visionary thinkers who formulated the vision, mission and strategy that championed missionary research as the basis for effective ministry. It is worth noting that Montgomery and Waymire were significantly involved in the developing world mission initiatives in Southern California, namely the Fuller School of World Mission, led by Donald McGavran, and the US Center for World Mission, led by Ralph Winter. These men set the vision and strategy that OC would follow for the next 20 years.

We draw the era of innovation to a close in the mid-1980s when OC experienced several significant transitions. In 1983 Larry Keyes became OC’s president, who himself was a noted scholar for his research into emerging mission movements in the two-thirds world. Bob Waymire left OC in 1984 to found Global Mapping International, and Jim Montgomery left in 1985 to start DAWN Ministries. Although these innovators moved on to other ministries, they set the stage for the following era.

Era 2: Implementation

Paul Yaggy was a key leader in this era, who would assist OC field workers to implement the new ministry vision and strategy. That fourfold strategy, Research, Motivate, Train, Mobilize, often referred to as RMTM, made explicit the importance of research. We will use the first OC Research Conference in 1984 as the start of the second era, which continues through the last conference Yaggy participated in Worthing, England in 2005 – about 20 years. Over these two decades there were nine research conferences, most initiated by Paul Yaggy. The focus during this era was on Church Growth or quantitative research and helping field teams develop effective ministry strategies. During this period, OC spearheaded the first whole nation church census in the Philippines, which became a model for other fields. Incidentally the next two directors of research were involved in the initial whole nation research project in the Philippines.

Era 3: Mixed Research Methods and Globalization

Larry Kraft, our current Director of Global Research, and his wife, Stephanie, reflecting on their own three decade journey as mission researchers, identified two themes that well describe this third era: mixed research methods and globalization. In recent years, OC researchers have begun to use more qualitative research methods as well as new technological tools such as online surveys. A second major theme is globalization. OC embraced globalization in 2010 when it launched the OC Global Alliance. Since then a Global Research Team has formed, which as a non-collocated team, stretches over 17 time zones. There are other exciting opportunities for OC Research to contribute to what is happening with mission information work at a global level, particularly through the Lausanne Research Network and the Community of Mission Workers.

Future Directions

This new era presents opportunities as well as challenges. As we look to the next five years, we will strive to empower more non-North American workers and raise up a new generation of mission researchers both inside and outside of our organization. Half of the participants at the recent research consultation indicated that creating opportunities for specialized training will be essential to realizing this desired future. Intentional mentoring, the use of virtual meeting technology to train workers in specific skills, further development of online learning tools, sharing about the biblical basis for research, writing and publishing were suggested as some ways to move forward. Several noted that the Global Research Team should grow in number and also provide the opportunity for workers to collaborate with the GRT as a secondary team.

Building on the past, OC researchers are well qualified and positioned to make a significant impact in mission research in the years to come. With a servant posture, we welcome the opportunity to come alongside others in the Body of Christ to assist them in developing more effective ministries.