What you need to know about David Barrett and 700 Plans To Evangelize The World

Barrett’s contributions to the field of religious demography are extensive.

When the 1980s decade was coming to an end, certain US-based Evangelical Christian organizations like the International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Aid, World Vision, Seventh Day Adventist Church and a host of similar enterprises run by famed evangelists like Pat Robertson and Billy Graham among others, were aiming for a coordinated conversion campaign in Asia titling it AD2000.

AD2000 was initially used at a convention of international evangelical missions named Lausanne II in Manila in 1989. The movement spread rapidly around the globe in the 1990s being led by the World Evangelical Fellowship (an international alliance of national evangelical alliances), working with the AD2000 “movement.”

Lausanne II brought together a wide variety of individuals and organizations under the single goal of achieving a church for every people by the year 2000. This movement, led by an astute strategist and missionary Luis Bush from the movement’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, aimed for large-scale conversions of people living within what is known as the infamous 10/40 Window. (For more on 10/40 Window head here).

statsDavid Barrett (1927–2011), an outstanding statistician-evangelist associated with AD2000 spelled out one of the most important methods to fulfill this mission, which is to use computer technology to spread the Gospel. In the ninth chapter of his joint work with James W. Reapsome titled Seven Hundred Plans To Evangelize The World (published in 1989), the method is explained briefly:

 ‘Distribution of Computers’

We have long known that Christians own more  than a fair share of Earth’s resources, but in this computer age we find an additionally significant fact. Since 1980 Christians have acquired 42 million computers-main frames, minicomputers, and microcomputers. (They have also acquired 100 million additional screens or terminals , plus vast numbers of printers and endless varities of peripheral). As well as owning 58% of the world’s computers, the Christian world benefits from a further 30  percent which are under secular ownership (business, government, industry).

No other religious bloc- Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism-enjoys the benefits of the computer revolution nearly as much as Christians do. In their eyes this 1980’s revolution has been hogged entirely by Christians.

At any rate, Christians have certainly been given a startingly new range of communications tools to make world evangelization much more attainable-telephones, movies, radio, television and now computers. According to current statistics, Christians are acquiring new computers at a net increase of 16,800 per day.

To look at it another way, Christians today are accumulating massive increases in computer power at the rate of 6,000 MIPS (millions instructions per second ) every day. Do they really need any more technical assistance to accomplish world evangelization?

One must credit David Barrett for his keen perspicacity to anticipate and grasp the efficiency of evangelization with the help of computers way back in 1988. Many of the technical methods, techniques and tactics that today’s missionaries use across the world is said to be inspired by Barrett’s works.

In this context, it is instructive to have a brief glimpse of his life:

David Brian Barrett was born on August 30, 1927, in Llandudno in northern Wales in the United Kingdom. After finishing his B.A. in aeronautics from Cambridge University, Barrett began his career at Britain’s Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1948. (He would receive his M.A. from Cambridge in 1952.)

He was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1954 and a priest in 1955 and appointed as a missionary to Kenya through the Church Missionary Society in 1956. “Forget science completely,” his bishop advised. But Barrett could not……In 1962 Barrett was on leave in Britain, where he worked with famed Anglican evangelist Bryan Green. That same year he was invited to Union Theological Seminary in New York as a fellow in a twenty-member ecumenical studies program with Pitney Van Dusen, Kenneth Scott Latourette, and others. He went on to take doctoral studies in the social-scientific study of religion.

….Working extensively in Union’s Missionary Research Library, with its 100,000 volumes and vast archives, Barrett earned his Ph.D. in 1965 in a joint program between Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. His two main faculty advisers were Marxists, but they supported his research into 6,000 schismatic movements in Africa. Barrett’s dissertation was later published by Oxford University Press and today is considered one of the classics on the subject. ….In 1985, after the WCE had been published, Barrett (still under appointment as an Anglican missionary) left Nairobi for Richmond, Virginia, and a position as a research consultant at the Foreign (now International) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he remained until 1993. Until his death Barrett continued as an independent researcher of global Christianity through the World Evangelization Research Center in Richmond and its successor, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (established in 2003 by Todd Johnson at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in South Hamilton, Mass.).

Barrett’s contributions to the field of religious demography are extensive, and his published research continues to influence both Christian missionary effort and secular understanding of religious adherence. He spent more than ten years compiling and serving as editor of the World Christian Encyclopedia (1982), which was followed in 2001 by a second edition (with coeditors George Kurian and Todd Johnson) and the companion volume World Christian Trends (coauthored with Johnson). He was also a longtime contributor of statistics on global religious adherence to the Britannica Book of the Year and the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. ………Barrett was very concerned with the use of Christian resources in evangelization. In the late 1980s he decided to investigate the deployment of the missionary forces of various agencies—which turned out to be one of his most unpopular projects. The results showed that, while most agencies claimed to be evangelizing the world, few had workers among the unevangelized. Like so much of Barrett’s work, this analysis eventually produced some remarkable results. Shortly after Barrett’s death in 2011, the International Mission Board reported, “When David Barrett came to the Foreign Mission Board as a consultant in 1985, less than 3 percent of our mission force was deployed to this last frontier. Today, as a result of Barrett’s prophetic push, more than 80 percent of the people groups our missionaries serve among are unreached.” ……..The impact of his methods and findings reverberates around the world, as young researchers continue to use and develop his much-treasured scientific and biblical perspectives to understand and pursue world evangelization.

Reading about Barrett confirms, yet again, why in one way or another, the predatory powers of the missionaries are still very effective. Unlike many so-called ‘Miracle’ men, David Barrett based his studies, guidelines, and activities on the social-scientific study of religion and made his name as a leading statistician and demographer in the field of religion. So effective are his contributions to the field of religious demography that they still influence both Christian missionary effort and academic understanding of religious adherence.

Joshua ProjectNext, we can see how Joshua Project, the modern avatar of AD2000 has continued his legacy:

In the case of India, the Joshua Project created a list which stated the percentage of non-Christians in India as 93.3%. Quite diligently, the non-Christian communities are catalogued according to their location, religious affiliation, language, and population. This was accomplished by painstaking data collection using the pincode system devised by the Indian postal department.

Technical acronyms such as CPI, or Church Planting Indicator, with a ranking system of 0 to 5, are used to measure the progress of church growth based on churches established and number of ‘reached people’—that is, converts attending them. Not shy of sharing their success, the Joshua Project includes a scale which allows the missionaries to track the progress of conversion:

  1. Red indicates less than two per cent Evangelical and less than five per cent Christian.
  2. Yellow indicates less than two per cent Evangelical but greater than five per cent Christian.
  3. Green indicates from two per cent to greater than five per cent Evangelical.

Indeed, David Barrett and his 700 Plans is yet another testimony to the fact that no matter the advances in science and an individual’s accomplishment in various fields, the hold of Abrahamic fundamentalism on people’s minds remains strong as ever.