Thursday, May 21, 2009

Missions pioneer Ralph Winter is gone

Yesterday we lost a giant of the missions history of the global Body of Christ.

Ralph Winter died at 9:05pm, May 20, 2009, after a long illness with a slow-moving form of cancer.

You've never heard of him?

Have you ever heard of an unreached people group?

He coined the term at the 1974 Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization. An engineer by trade, he had taught in the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary and then founded William Carey International University and the United States Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA.

Dr. Winter was recently named by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 evangelicals in America and a lifetime achievement award from a major missions conference.

He affected my life in a profound and personal way. I met him at Urbana'93, at the Presbyterian student meeting. In just ten or fifteen minutes in a small group with him, he convinced me at a pivotal time in my life to come to the US Center for World Mission and do a missions internship. I ended up staying there for three years, attending the School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary, filling my address book with scores of new friends and missions innovators from all over the globe, many of whom I am still in contact with, and volunteering for the AD2000 United Prayer Track headed at that time by C. Peter Wagner.

I remember sitting in morning meetings with Dr. Winter in 1994. He was then translating for himself the book of Romans, and every morning we heard his new insights on the missiological intonations and implications of Paul's letter. His well-known saying at that time was that Paul's letter to the Romans was a missionary fund-raising letter.

A very humble man, Dr. Winter always treated everyone with utmost respect and generosity -- but his incredible mind would not let an academic missiological issue lie still. He is credited with prodding the global evangelical church to think of the Great Commission in terms of ethnic linguistic peoples, a watershed in missiological history that transformed evangelical missiological theory and witness.

The memorial service will be at 3:00 pm on June 28th, 2009, in the main sanctuary Lake Avenue Congregational Church on the 210 freeway in Pasadena, CA. (Thanks to Rory Clark for the correction.) The family requests no flowers. Memorial gifts can be made out to the Roberta Winter Institute and sent to the following address:
c/o Betty Leung
1605 Elizabeth Street
Pasadena, CA 91104

If you have a story about Dr. Winter that you would like to share, please email it to Greg Parsons at, and he will share it with others.

Enjoy your reward, Dr. Winter.