Ethnic Realities and the Church: Lessons from Kurdistan

Ethnic Realities and the Church is a history of missionary efforts among the Kurds.

This book is a handbook of mission strategy, relevant to missions everywhere. From the day the first missionaries arrived, they built schools and churches for the few courageous Christians who had held to the faith despite centuries of oppression under the rule of Islam. The missionary strategy was to persuade these remnant believers of their duty to be “a light to the Gentiles.” Unfortunately, the missionary strategy did not have its desired effect. Blincoe calls it “The Great Experiment.” For 150 years the missionaries kept at it, only to be misunderstood by the Christians (who wanted American and English allies in their quest to rule themselves) by the Muslim rulers (who suspected that the missionaries were preparing the way for a Christian kingdom). A different way would have to be found. This is the focus of Blincoe’s final chapter, titled “A Brief Missiology for Workers.”

Ralph D. Winter writes,

This book shows the way forward in a specific case, but does much more. In perusing its pages—sparkling with very candid and refreshing, daringly honest language—it is not difficult to realize the pregnant implications for work yet to be done else­where in the world.

Nor is it armchair stuff. This book tells the story of faithful, sacrificing, determined, competent workers laboring at great per­sonal cost with virtually no success throughout many decades. Blincoe respects stalwart, determined missionaries. He’s one of them. However, his creative new perspective is not only born of years of right-on-the-ground experience, but gains stunning cogency from the advantage he has of being able to stand back and view the entire story. Taken to heart, this book can single-handedly produce a dynamic new era in the greater part of the world of missions.

I know of no other book which presents a case study in such fascinating detail and depth and yet, at the same time, generates arresting, highly crucial missiological insights. In case you miss any of them along the way, the author devotes a whole chapter to missiological insights at the end.

This remarkable book fairly bristles with insights about how to get beyond centu­ries-old misunderstandings and move forward effectively. While it does not set out to oppose today’s most widely held mission strategy—that of always working through existing or “national” churches—it does nevertheless quietly lay down imposing, abso­lutely insurmountable evidence that reveals even so widely accepted a philosophy of mission to be simplistic. This thesis leads to many surprising insights into what can actually be done, and must be done very differently in order for Biblical faith (as con­trasted to organized Christianity) to make headway in the world of Islam, and it reveals much that can and should be understood equally well in Hindu and Buddhist spheres.

After all, much of the world’s remaining peoples are dynami­cally parallel to the mountain peoples this book so fascinatingly describes. What major political entity today does not enclose offended and threatened minorities for whom the culture or relig­ion of the dominant group is a dead-end street? To the perceptive reader it shows the way forward on the world level into the hearts of hundreds of other minority peoples scattered far and wide.

This book’s appeal can readily range all the way from young people contemplating the formidable challenge of world mission, to pastors and mission executives pondering stone walls of failure in many fields, to field missionaries perhaps too close to their work to see the heart of the problems they are dealing with, and yes, even the national workers who are inevitably part of the jumble of reality and without whom nothing ultimately can suc­ceed. All of these need this book to arrest and challenge them in their involvement as faithful disciples of the Living Christ.

Ralph D. Winter, Pasadena, California, March 1998

  1. Dudley Woodberry writes:

This study of mission work among the Kurds is the most comprehensive and best survey in existence. It captures the dedication and perseverance of the missionaries and the obstacles they encountered. But its greatest contribution is in evaluating the missiological decisions they made up to the threshold of the present decade, in which some Kurds, without an earthly homeland, have found a heavenly one through Him who had no place to lay His head.

  1. Dudley Woodberry, Dean and Professor of Islamic Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary