As an immature, scrawny high school senior, I had no idea what I was getting into when my church’s mission pastor invited four other high school seniors and me to attend Urbana 1984—for free! Theoretically Urbana, one of the largest mission fests in the US, is for college students. However, my pastor decided the best way to use the remaining mission funds from that year was to expand our world and cover our expenses. The five of us said yes to a five-day adventure and a conference about which we knew nothing.
Urbana ’84 guest speakers included Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Ralph Winter, and Greg Livingstone. These men of our great God shared the needs of unreached people groups (UPGs), a term I’d never heard before. A UPG is an ethno-linguistic nation with a common sense of identity, history, and culture where the church has not yet been established, or put another way, where the church is not.
The following fall, I enrolled at Wheaton College. My exposure From Scrawny Teen to 20 Years on the Mission Field An Invitation to the New Wineskins Anglican Frontier Missions’ Pre-Conference to UPGs and frontier missions increased exponentially. Every Sunday, through World Christian Fellowship, 500 Wheaties and I heard about areas of the world and people groups who still lacked access to the basic gospel message. The beautiful feet Isaiah speaks about (Isaiah 52:7) had not yet trodden their way. God began breaking my heart.
Over time, I understood that God was calling me to a geopolitical nation-state in the Middle East. This nation contained over 80 ethno-linguistic people groups, but just a few hundred indigenous believers lived in the entire country. God graciously used my wife and me to plant two churches comprised of Believers from a Muslim Background (BMB). God graced us with this fruit, not because of our linguistic ability or our spiritual depth. God moved because it was His Kairos Season for Muslims to encounter Jesus in that area of the country.
During my two decades in the Middle East, I repeatedly observed that Muslims worship liturgically with structure, order, and discipline. As a non-denominational evangelical I also noticed that the Anglican liturgy had structure, order, and discipline—and freedom too! Further, I discovered that Muslims are deeply sacramental in their understanding of reality. The sacramental identity is evident in the yearly sacrifice of sheep and goats. Many Muslims believe that this blood and other holy objects convey spiritual power. I came to understand that for BMBs, Anglicanism’s sacramentalism completes and fulfills the deficient sacramentalism endemic to and percolating within Islamic culture with the perfect and unique sacrament, Jesus Christ.
Further, I became convinced that new BMBs needed Jesus AND a new socio-religious tradition within which to follow him because being a Muslim is not only a religious identity but an all-encompassing socioreligious and cultural identity. I found that the Anglican prayer book tradition could provide such a socioreligious identity, not only to individuals but to communities of believers as well. In short, my journey into Anglicanism began with my quest to contextualize the gospel into an Islamic milieu for new BMBs and concluded, years later, with ordination to the priesthood.
From that quest comes the vision of Anglican Frontier Missions (AFM), to do frontier missions Anglicanly. AFM does frontier missions Anglicanly by planting biblically based, multiplying indigenous churches and dioceses among the three billion people and 7,000 UPGs still waiting to hear the gospel. Put another way, our vision is to establish the church where it is not yet viable or visible. Partnering with members of the worldwide Anglican Communion and other Christians living near or among UPGs, AFM equips and sends shortand long-term missionaries who harness the spiritually formational power, practices, and rhythms of the sacraments, liturgy, and the prayer book tradition to disciple believers from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animistic, and secular backgrounds.
Currently, dozens of AFM missionaries are serving across the globe in a dozen restricted-access countries. AFM missionaries are being the beautiful feet of Isaiah 52:7. AFM missionaries are doing frontier missions Anglicanly.
Every three years AFM missionaries return home for AFM pre-conferences held before the New Wineskins Mission Conference. As a former priest in the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina (2008-2013) and the Executive Director of AFM, I warmly invite you to join AFM missionaries, staff, prayer partners, and board members for AFM’s triannual pre-conference. Join us for Testimonies from the Mission Field (Sept. 20-21, 2022) and Reaching Muslims with the Gospel (Sept 22) to learn how the Spirit is moving in the most fragile and dangerous places on our globe.
More information and registration links can be found at https://anglicanfrontiers.com/afm-new-wineskins/. To learn more about doing frontier missions Anglicanly, pick up a digital or hard copy of AFM’s silver anniversary book, Shadows from Light Unapproachable.
by The Rev. Dr. Chris Royer, Executive Director, Anglican Frontier Missions; Priest in Residence, Trinity, Myrtle Beach