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The 10/40 Window: New mission opportunities

Windows have always intrigued me. Curtain-fringed windows. Bay windows overflowing with flowering plants. Windows with shutters closing tightly against a storm. Windows barred to keep out danger. Windows stained to convey beauty or a message.

Windows. Sometimes they are open, welcoming us. At other times they are closed shutting us out.

But consider another window—a special one, behind which live millions of people, scattered in thousands of “homes” in scores of countries. These people are like us, with homes and families, joys and sorrows. People like us who need the Lord. But when they look out their windows, they can’t see the Lord; they don’t know the joy of salvation. And we must ask ourselves: What can we do to help?

Towards the beginning of the last decade, mission strategists and planners from Christian churches around the world began to take a serious look at the task facing them. After nearly 2,000 years of “going into all the world,” what has the church accomplished? What is left to do? Where should the church focus its efforts in order to fulfill Christ’s command to “go into all the world” and preach the gospel to “every. . . nation, tribe, language and people” (Mark 16:15; Revelation 14:6 NIV)?

How are Christians doing?

As mission leaders looked carefully at the issues involved in reaching the globe for the Master, several facts of both joy and concern have become apparent. First, the good news:

  1. Christian mission has been extremely successful in much of the world. As a result, the church today is no longer a European/North American church; but is the strongest single religious force in all of Central America, South America, many Pacific islands, and sub-Sahara Africa. The active membership in these countries far exceeds that of the “parent” countries.
  2. The church in these former “mission fields” now has a strong indigenous work force, capable of carrying the major burden of evangelism, witness, and nurture.
  3. The churches in these parts of the world have become serious missionary-sending bodies—hearing and answering the command of Jesus to “Go. . .” The goal of having missionaries “from everywhere to everywhere” has become a reality.

Now, the facts of concern:

  1. More than two billion people—that is, 40 percent of the world’s inhabitants—have never heard of the gospel in a way that speaks to them.
  2. Most of these are part of people groups that have no Christian presence among them at all. There is no one who speaks their language and/or understands their culture and/or lives near them so as to share the good news with them. They are what missiologists today call “unreached people groups” who will never hear the gospel unless someone crosses the cultural and language barriers that surround them.
  3. Every country on earth has such groups living among them. However, the majority of these groups are clustered in one section of the globe. This specific area of the earth has been pinpointed as a window of need, a window of opportunity, and at the same time, a partially closed window. It is referred to as “The 10/40 Window.”

What is the 10/40 Window?

The 10/40 Window is a section of earth running from northern Africa through the Middle East and central and eastern Asia, between the tenth and fortieth parallels north of the equator (see map on page 16). The area has several significant features that Christians must consider:

  • This is where a majority of the world’s population lives. Even though that area represents only one-third of the earth’s land, it is there that almost two-thirds of the world’s population reside. The two most populous nations on earth are within this area: India and China, which collectively represent almost one half of the world’s population
  • This is where the people who need the Lord are! More than 90 percent of the “least- evangelized” people on earth live in the 10/40 Window.
  • This is where many of the world’s most spiritually receptive people live. The 10/40 Window is the birthplace of all the major world religions—Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. With the exception of Christianity, all other religions are strong in this area today.1
  • This is where the hurting people are! The majority of the world’s poorest people—some 80 percent—live here. Even more important, more than 80 percent of the people in the world with the lowest “quality of life”2 live in this area.
  • But unbelievably, in spite of these facts, Christianity spends less than 10 percent of its mission funds and mission efforts on this area.

Adventists and the 10/40 Window

The Adventist Church has always recognized the need to go into “all the world.” Since the mid-1980s, however, there has been an increasing emphasis on finding the still-unreached areas and peoples of the world, and diligently targeting them for mission work.

Several organizations have been in the forefront of this move. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), with its emphasis on relief and development projects, consistently goes into parts of the world where other mission efforts would not be welcomed. Loma Linda University and its specialized medical and surgical teams have been able to take their gifts of healing to some previously untouched areas. Adventist Frontier Mission has focused its efforts on the “frontiers” of the world by doing its work in previously unentered areas.

In addition, since 1990 the office of Global Mission at the General Conference has spearheaded efforts to reach not just the countries of the world, but also the unentered population groups within each country. Many of them are in the 10/40 Window. In 1998, as a part of this global mission, nearly 20,000 Global Pioneers moved into unentered areas in their own countries to do pioneer evangelistic work on a voluntary basis, focusing on an unreached group for one or two years.

What can we do?

As committed Christians of the 21st century, what can we do to meet the challenges and needs the 10/40 Window presents to us? Obviously, we don’t want to turn our back on the hurting, the poor, and those without the joy of salvation. Here are some things we can do.

1. Take the issue seriously. Reaching the unreached is a serious, urgent business. Jesus said so. In the parable of the good shepherd, with 99 of his sheep safely in the fold, the shepherd risked the dangers of the night to seek the one that was lost. He risked his all for just one percent. Can we do less, when more than 50 percent of Christ’s sheep do not even know Him?

2. Pray for this area. Join millions of Christians around the world in intercessory prayer for people in the 10/40 Window. They need to experience the joy of salvation that we know. Place them before God’s throne each day. The early Christian Church consisted of people who prayed daily and fervently for power and wisdom. And throughout history, mission advance has always been coupled with dedicated prayer. Hudson Taylor, the famed missionary, once said, “If you would enter the province of Honan (in South China), you must go forward on your knees.” Can we do less?

3. Get involved. Our involvement on a personal level is essential to reach these people with the good news. Our talents and resources must be placed on the altar of God. We need to increase our efforts to meet the physical, material, and spiritual needs of people living in this area. Humanitarian, educational, and relief work do make a real difference.

4. Look for creative ways of sharing the “joy of salvation.” One of the best New Testament approaches is to go as “tentmakers.” The Apostle Paul entered “unentered” communities as a businessman with a trade. He earned his living making tents but devoted much of his energy to bringing the good news to people who had never heard it. Paul’s modern-day counterparts are finding joy and success by pursuing their professions in countries all across the 10/40 Window. Computer specialists, engineers, health-care personnel, business persons, entrepreneurs, educators, and other professionals are following in the footsteps of Paul, working for the advancement of God’s kingdom not as regular church-sponsored missionaries, but as modern-day tentmakers.

Christian students can pursue their education (especially advanced degrees) in universities located in the 10/40 Window. Here they can put themselves in close contact with future thought-leaders while they gain a credible education.3

But before going into the 10-40 ministry, they must be well-informed on one or more of the world’s major religions and the culture that accompanies it. Those entering countries in that area of the world obviously need to become extremely sensitive to the customs, culture, religious beliefs, and convictions of the people in this area. Only as this happens can they present the good news that Christians hold dear in a way that is meaningful to the hearers—answering their questions about life, meeting their heart needs in ways that are significant and culturally relevant to them.

No matter what method or approach we use, we must become one with the people as Jesus did—living among them, learning their language, sharing as much of their life and culture as we can. Only then will we have the right and the opportunities to begin sharing our convictions and beliefs.

Practice the art of genuine Christian friendship. Not friendship with a “hidden hook” to be dangled in front of non-Christians, and then withdrawn if they don’t respond in some pre-determined way. Not friendship with a “hidden agenda.” But genuine friendship that takes people and their lives seriously. We must get involved in the day-to-day lives of people and come in close contact with them as friends. Remember: We can give our unconditional love and friendship to non-Christians wherever we find them and the Holy Spirit can then use it. We don’t have to create or even worry about “results.”

One final point. Almost every country on earth has people from the 10/40 Window countries who are working or studying there. We can reach out to some of these internationals living among us, and by so doing, we can give them a clearer picture of what Christians and the God of Christianity are really like.

The 10/40 Window is a window of opportunity—at times cracked open slightly, at times tightly closed. Committed Christians cannot close their eyes to what we see through the 10/40 Window. We see the needs. We feel the pain. It beckons us. And God calls us to reach out to those living behind the window.

Pat Gustin is director of the Seventh-day Adventist Institute of World Mission. Her address: Andrews University; Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104; U.S.A. E-mail:

Notes and references:

1.   Population of the area, by religion: Muslims–22 percent, 706 million; Hindus–23 percent, 717 million; Buddhists–5 percent, 153 million.

2.   Quality of life is defined by life expectancy, infant mortality, and literacy.

3.   For more information on “tentmaking” and studying in countries located within the 10/40 Window, contact Global Partnerships at the Institute of World Mission. E-mail: Web site: