The Fourth Wave

Taking Your Place in the New Era of Missions


Ron Boehme

YWAM Publishing, 2011, 224 pp.  ISBN 978-1-57658-555-9



The first half of the book gives a concise, historical overview of missions.  The last half describes his vision for the fourth wave, "that will involve people of all ages and nationalities, reaching everyone in the world, using innovative technologies and relational approaches, in all spheres of life, with every believer being missional."  Boehme is the director of US Renewal for Youth With A Mission. 



"It's all about salvation--on a global scale." (15)  The focus of history is missions.  The first wave of Christian advance was launched on the Day of Pentecost.  But the modern era was marked when William Carey, the first Protestant missionary, sailed for India in 1792.  The second wave into the interior of continents began with David Livingstone's exploration of Africa.  And the third wave is distinguished by outreach among unreached people groups.  A fourth wave will involve people of all ages and nationalities reaching everyone in the world. 


Part I - History Is "His Story"

"Christian missionary work is the most difficult thing in the world.  It is surprising that it should ever have been attempted."  Stephen Neill (19)


1. Sea Change

"When I joined YWAM in the early 1970s, we were a primarily white, middle-class missionary society made up of three hundred full-time workers.  Today YWAM has over sixteen thousand full-time staff from over 150 countries working in nearly every nation on earth--whose members are 60 percent people of color." (22)


2. Ancient Waves

"The Bible presents a linear view of history. … Believers have a task to do in this march of history -- to 'go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone' (Mark 16:15)." (31)  The history of the ancient world in the Old Testament is the story of salvation revealed in many waves, including the salvation of Noah and his family, Abraham and the nation, Moses and the Exodus, decline and renewal of Israel, and similar stories under the kings.


3.  The Early Church Wave

"Jesus himself had set the missional direction for his followers by leaving the comforts of heaven, coming to earth, laying down his life for the sins of all people, and commissioning his disciple to go and do likewise (John 20:21)." (43)


Four commands of world evangelization, the missionary enterprise:

  • The what - Matthew 28:18-20 - make disciples and teach them to obey all my commands
  • The where - Mark 16:15 - everyone
  • The when - Luke 24:47-49 - when the Holy Spirit comes and fills you
  • The how - Acts 1:8 - in the power of the Holy Spirit


"From first to last the Christian mission is God's mission, not man's.  It originated in the heart of God.  It is based on the love of God.  It is determined by the will of God.  Its mandate was enunciated by the Son of God.  Its rationale is explained in the Word of God.  For its ultimate success, it is dependent on the power of God.  Nowhere is the sovereignty of God more clearly seen than in the Christian mission." (45, quoting J. Herbert Kane)


4. What Causes Rising Tides?

Five factors that influence the rising tide of missions in world history are revival, prayer, unity, providence, and technology.  (53) 


Part 2 - The Modern Era of Missions

"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." - William Carey


"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" - David Livingstone


5. The First Wave of Modern Missions: To the Coastlands (1730s to 1850s)

Count Zinzendorf launched a world-wide missionary movement that set the stage for William Carey.  Carey thought in terms of evangelization of whole countries.  But the first Baptist missionary to set sail was liberated slave George Lisle, who landed in Kingston, Jamaica in 1782. 


6.  The Second Wave of Modern Missions: To the Interiors (1850s to 1930s)

By the 1930s the China Inland Mission had grown to 1285 missionaries.  The Second Great Awakening paved the way for the second wave.  A major driver was the Industrial Revolution which created stronger and more affluent middle classes in Europe and North America. 


7.  The Third Wave of Modern Missions: To Unreached Peoples (1930s to Present)

The focus is the nations or ethnic groups (ethnos in the New Testament), those who have been overlooked.  Outreach increasingly utilized specialized methods in addition to preaching.  Pioneers included Donald McGavran (contextualization), Cameron Townsend (gospel in the heart language), and Ralph Winter (hidden people groups).  Unless a people movement to Christ is set in motion, the missionary task is not finished.  "A people group can be reached only if somehow there is achieved 'a viable, indigenous, evangelizing church movement that is a people movement." (101, quoting Ralph Winter) 


The second half of the 20th century saw the former missionary-receiving churches of the Global South take a major place in world evangelization and an amazing tidal wave of global missions expansion throughout the world.  "Yet, the greatest building wave is the hundreds of primarily Pentecostal Latin American, Asian, and African church planters that are starting churches and focusing their prayers and efforts on unreached people.  The mission field is becoming the missions force." (108) 


8. Going Global  (Key Factors)

1.    Revival!  The 20th century saw greater revivals than any other era.  It was revival on a global scale. 

2.   Prayer.  There has been an exponential increase in prayer and prayer movements. 

3.    Unity.  The Lausanne Movement, AD2000, Call2All, and global missions conferences represent the growing unity of those involved in global evangelism.

4.   God's Providence.  Huge people migrations, the involvement of youth and even children in missions, and the majority world missions movement are indicators of God's providence.

5.    Technology.  We have seen the advent of radio, air travel, vaccines, television, urbanization, globalization, and the digital age. 


9. Amazing Change


Part 3.  The Fourth Wave

"The fourth wave of modern missions will involve people of all ages and nationalities, reaching everyone in the world, using creative technologies and relational approaches, in all spheres of life, with every believer being missional."  (131)


10.  All Ages

People of all ages, including children, families, and youth, will share a role.  In 1976 Dale Kauffman started King's Kids International to enable families to get involved.  It now includes thousand of parents, teens, and children going on summer mission teams and serving long term all over the world. 


Here's an example:  "Hillary was seven years old when she heard that Chinese children needed blankets.  She decided to send her treasured baby lambskin to meet the need, and motivated her friends to give financially and collect supplies for an unreached Chinese minority group.  Though Hillary was just in elementary school, God used her to motivate her church to send short-term teams to China, where people were saved and many families were blessed with clothing, supplies, and playground swing sets." (135)


11. All Nationalities

The baton is being passed to the Majority World nations.  At the Tokyo 2010 Conference, delegates were surprised to discover how many African missionaries are serving in Japan.  Boehme believes the greatest additions to the mission force will come from China and India. 


12.  Reaching Everyone

Will you personally adopt a small geographic area where Christ is not known?


13.  Using Innovative Technologies

Radio, still critical, dominates the media of missions.  Television stations and ministries are being born and spreading around the world.  Film, orality, and the arts are being increasingly employed.  And the digital age provides phenomenal opportunities for reaching out.  "I believe billions of people will hear about Jesus through digital technology in the coming years.  It will be the greatest evangelism explosion in the history of the world." (155) 


14. Relational Approaches

Women and children are especially relational in their approach.  And Majority

World people are especially hospitality and relationship oriented.  In many places the church is being de-institutionalized to be effective in our highly social world.  Friendships are where it's at.  So the combination of high tech, high touch will be highly effective.


15. In All Spheres of Life

The implications of the Gospel, the comprehensive scope of Christ's lordship, will be applied to all spheres of life.  This is a tremendously expanded view of the role of the church on earth, the practical effects of which would bring whole nations under his influence and liberating power, the discipling of whole nations.  Christ came to redeem all aspects of the fall, including the elements of human society and culture. 


The fourth wave will view all vocations as mission conduits and see no division between the sacred and secular as all are viewed as under God's authority and in need of his transformation.  Their motive will be to serve as he did and in so doing, whole nations can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 


16.  With Every Believer Being Missional

"I believe that the call of God in the fourth wave of modern missions is for every believer on earth to be missional in the twenty-first century." (177)  "We are the first generations in history to have the knowledge and tools to reach every person in every nation of the world." (178) 


Part 4 - Spiritual Tsunami

17.  How Can I Catch the Wave?

The Missional Church.  "Local churches in every nation must imbibe this missional attitude in every small group, Sunday school, corporate service, and training opportunity.  Local churches must see themselves as living 'cells' that must multiply their life both locally and globally." (186)


Refocus Education.  "Today's Christian students should learn to think as Christian missionary photographers, teachers, scientists…." (186)


Where do I begin?  Get informed.  Take Perspectives.  Personally adopt an unreached people.  Encourage your small group or church to adopt and engage an unreached group.  Pray for China and India to partner in global missions.  Use your talent or vocation I missions.  Support local and international missions.  "I believe every Christian on earth should adopt at least one people group or nation as an object of their love and attention." (190)