Crawling Through The 10/40 Window

For more than two decades, much of the Christian world has been turning its gaze toward the 10/40 Window. Increasingly the North American evangelical church, the richest church in the history of the world, has been redirecting its missionaries and other missions resources toward the darkness within the this area of the globe. The goals are highly commendable, but are these methods prudent?

Argentine-born evangelist Luis Bush coined the phrase “10/40 Window” in 1989. The Joshua Project currently defines the 10/40 Window as those 69 countries that sit between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This is the heart of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It has been estimated that 90 percent of the 4.4 billion people living in the 10/40 Window are unevangelized; yet only 10 percent of our global missionary force serves there.

Why Not the West

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 2010 the U.S. sent out 127,000 of the world’s estimated 400,000 missionaries. It is wonderful to see U.S. churches accepting their role as senders. However, missionaries sent from the United States may not be the answer to opening the 10/40 Window.

In the current geo-political environment the United States and its citizens are not favorably viewed by a majority of the governments in the 10/40 Window countries. Of the 10 countries in the world that are classified as hardest for U.S. citizens to receive visas, seven of those are located in that area. In much of the 10/40 Window, missionary visas are simply not granted to foreigners.

The U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings and recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel in 23 of the countries. The Open Doors World Watch List also counts the top 10 most dangerous countries for Christians in the world within the 10/40 Window.

Women account for a disproportionately large percentage of U.S. missionaries, with single women outnumbering single men 4 to 1 on the mission field. While our culture views the involvement of women in missions as a blessing, much of the rest of the world disagrees with us. In fact, many of the cultures contained within the 10/40 Window are hostile to women—especially Western women.

The United States and its missionaries are simply not welcome in much of the 10/40 regions. But this doesn’t mean Americans should fold up our missions tents and ignore the billions of unsaved in these parts of the world. Jesus promised us hard times: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). John Piper echoed this same sentiment when he wrote, “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.” Nobody said missions was easy. Still, there may be a better approach.

Sending from the Global South

In recent decades we have seen an eruption of evangelical churches in Latin America and Southern Africa. New churches and individual conversions are emerging in the Global South. Many of these newer churches now have a generation or two of spiritual maturity and are sending out their own missionaries.

As churches in the Global South have developed, many U.S. missionaries and churches have changed their approach to these regions and are beginning to transition into supporting roles. Churches in Latin America and Southern Africa are now seeking theological resources, biblical training, and assistance in forming seminaries. In many of these countries, U.S. missionaries are focusing more on discipleship and theological training.

Already missionaries are going out from these regions. But why not send more? Compared to those from the United States, missionaries originating from the Global South can gain easier access to countries in the 10/40 Window. For instance, Latin American passports can gain access to countries that U.S. and Western European passports can’t. It may be time for our churches to embrace the shifting landscape. Rather than sending missionaries from our home country, we can send to the 10/40 Window our brothers and sisters from the Global South.

Embracing Evolving Dynamics

The lives of our U.S. missionaries are no more valuable in God’s eyes than our Latin and African brothers and sisters. But the issue is not about danger or ease of passage. This is about wise use of the resources God has given us. Churches in the United States possess wealth unmatched in Christian history. Those vast resources could be effectively used sending U.S. missionaries into the Global South and providing discipleship and theological training to our brothers and sisters in Latin America and Southern Africa. Let’s give the churches in the Global South the training, resources, and financing they need to reach the 10/40 Window. Churches in the United States and churches in the Global South can partner together to evangelize the billions of lost souls in regions that need to be evangelized with ferocity.

After decades of taking the lead, we in the Western world may need to take a more supportive role and let our brothers in the South handle the face-to-face evangelism. What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.

  • Saul

    I appreciate the general sentiment of your article about being good stewards of resources. However, perhaps it should be a “both/and” rather than shifting to just funding the Global South to do the heavy lifting? There are fewer and fewer “open” countries that give out “missionary” visas. “Missionary” is no more a business/job title in foreign countries than is “disciple-maker” domestically in the US. We go as missionaries with whatever vocation God has gifted us (just as we are disciple-makers in our home country with whatever vocation God has gifted us).

    In the Middle East, for example, there are no “closed” countries–they are desperately recruiting US physicians to work there. They don’t want physicians from the Global South. Such jobs are “closed” to those from the Global South but way “open” for US docs.

    Yes, let’s encourage us in the US to invest creatively to fund missionaries from the Global South. But, the lure of security, comfort, and wealth in the US continue to douse the flames of creative passion to go to the ends of the earth. Let’s not add to this downward trend. Instead, let’s make it a “both/and” so that we, American saints, don’t miss out on all the fullness of life that Christ offers (including living and dying as missionaries to the hard places).

    I spent several years working as a missionary in an East African country that is not hostile to Christianity but does not give out “missionary” visas–my vocation allowed my family and me to live/work there, but I now am pursuing access to countries openly hostile to the Gospel (they don’t give out missionary visas either) but, unbeknownst to them, they are recruiting missionaries anyway (they just think they’re recruiting doctors, engineers, etc…).

    There are many, many wide open doors in “hostile” countries that will only fit workers/professionals with US credentials. And, there are places where those from the Global South may have easy access.

    Let’s be good stewards of our resources and do both.

    • AndyB

      Love what Saul said

    • Nicole

      Exactly. John Piper even did an entire sermon on this. “If we sacrifice our dollars but neglect to send our sons & daughters… we’ve missed the point!” (as I remember the quote)

  • Simon

    good thoughts, but what about National Missionaries…training up natives to reach their own people. This is the approach of Gospel for Asia.

    • Jean

      This is the whole idea behind what most Western mission agencies are doing in the 10/40. Making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

    • Jack Rose

      The problem, Simon, with that is that there are NO Christians in many unreached peoples…so there are therefore no national Christians to train. The 2nd problem with this is the way those people are viewed, namely, nationals who have been bought (sold out to) by the West to advance a Western religion and agenda. This issue is way more complicated than finding the cheapest laborer. So the problem with Gospel for Asia and this article is that both allow the West to avoid having to go, which is simply disobedience.

      • Justin long

        Complexities complexities. It is not true that there are no Christians amongst Unreached peoples. That is not the classic missiological definition. Most Unreached peoples have at least a few believers among them, and many of large numbers. Even heavily unevangelized people’s (the least told of the Unreached) often have at least a handful of believers (e.g. Somalis, Saudis for example). There are very few people’s that have no believers, so that’s not really the issue.

        • Nicole

          Ok, Justin, so then we call them “unengaged”, since “unreached” has your definition. Either way, there ARE many people groups with ZERO Christian influence. Just because there are some churches in every country doesn’t mean they can effectively reach each group. For example, there is a Muslim people group in Kolkata, India that are completely without a gospel witness. How is that possible, considering there are a ton of churches there? They are a different caste and speak a different language than the rest of the city! Therefore, their neighbors can not reach out to them. However, there are Western teams targeting the group and having some success. This IS a very complicated issue, and if we want to talk effective strategy, we have to consider these things.

          • Justin Long

            Yes, I agree, there are groups that have very few or no Christians. Since JP doesn’t let me select by # of Christians, its difficult to know precisely how many. JP lists 4,585 peoples with % Christian < 0.00%, but I suspect a great many of those actually have SOME believers. For example, out of the 128 million Shaikh (0.00% Christian), I'm fairly certain there are some Christians.

            I'm not arguing about that; I'm just clarifying the need to be precise in our definitions. "Unengaged" does not mean "no Christians" either–it means the group is not engaged by a church planting team. By your description, this Muslim group in Kolkata is "not without a gospel witness" – because there are Western teams targeting the group.

            Yes, I'm picky. But I'm a researcher, and we researchers are picky.

            I do agree overall that the West should send its sons and daughters, not just pay non-Westerners to go and risk all in our place.

  • Bruce Lu

    Thanks for the article, Mike!

    Also, many of the people from the 10/40 Window (but still a small portion comparing to the whole) are coming to North America. Look at all the international students on university campuses and our neighbourhoods. North American churches can welcome and reach out to the people coming from the 10/40 Window. I pray their lives will be changed by God and catch on the vision of the Great Commission. Ultimately, they can be sent back to their home countries equipped with the gospel!

    “What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.” Amen!

  • Daniel S.

    An interesting perspective. Although I understand that your focus is more on the closed-access countries, this strategy does seem a bit broad. Some of the countries within the 10/40 window are still suitable for effective Western mission work and should not be excluded by a blanket strategy. Japan is a perfect example. The country is affluent and is very receptive to Western ideas at this point in history. Missionaries from the global South might find it more difficult to find the resources to send missionaries to such an affluent country, and they might not (depending on the country) have a history of political and economical cooperation like Japan has with a country like the United States.

    Your article does bring up a few good points regarding the limitations that Western missionaries run up against in this area of the world. We would do well to use our minds for God’s glory in sending effectively to the various nations in that part of the world, and that definitely means cooperating with our brothers and sisters in the South to help further the kingdom.

    Your article reminded me of what Dr. Tim Tennent said in a recent interview: (via

    “We may have been playing the melody all these years and now we need to play a more supportive harmony role, but we still need to keep playing. God is not finished with the Western church. He is unfolding a grand, redemptive plan and it will take the whole gospel in the whole church to bring the gospel to the whole world.”

  • Angelo

    How about partnering with those in Asia like Filipinos?
    By the way, I agree with this:
    “What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.”

  • Blake

    Interesting article. I wonder, if the author or other commeters know, are churches in the global south financially equipped to send people to the 10/40 or would that also be a huge focus in an American shift towards supporting these regions?

    • BJ

      Western Missionaries raise twice as much sometimes triple the amount of financial support than do missionaries from other countries. The Global South is financially equipped to send out missionaries that are prepared to live at the same economic level they lived at in their home countries. US missionaries (over and above other western missionaries) have a more difficult time living on less (in general).

  • Michael Cordich

    Great post. I would add one other option. If one seriously wanted to go to a nation that appeared to be closed because of visa restrictions, that person could move to the global south, change citizenship and then be sent from the new homeland. If our true citizenship is in heaven, then our natural born citizenship here on this earth could be changed for the sake of the gospel. Just I thought I’ve been having for a number of years now regarding many of the difficulties you mentioned at the opening of your post. Thanks again.

    • BJ

      It doesn’t need to be that complicated. Although that might work! If Americans can not get Missionary Visas they should not be getting Missionary Visas. If you have a heart to live among the least reached and share Christ than look for a job in that region, start a business, work at a school, get involved in medical work. I doubt that traditional missionary visas are the best way to reach out to the 10/40 window anyway.

  • TJ

    This is an interesting article, highlighting the importance of our Global South brothers and sisters. But the main points described here don’t add up in South Asia (though perhaps the author isn’t describing South Asia in his very broad approach). For instance, the Global South missionaries in our area are brilliant, but also tend to be “disproportionately female.” I don’t see how the non-US demographic changes this. Or, for instance, almost all of our Global South missionary friends have a difficult time obtaining visas to our country, where as US missionaries have very little difficulty (this w/o ascribing the ‘why’). Missionaries from the Global South definitely don’t receive the same shock-attention out in the markets or in the villages, but that’s not sufficient reason to chuck the entire system.

    This quote is preeminent, whether being Global South or an American or a Keralite GFA “national missionary”: “What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.”

    • BJ

      Nothing wrong with female missionaries. I am sure they are ‘brilliant’ as you say without a caveat. Global south missionaries have their own set of prejudices they have to overcome that is certainly true. They are not necessarily more accepted.

  • Ian Smith

    Men and women in the West need to be faithful to the call God has put on their lives–its not a choice of prudence (the word which you used) it is a matter of obedience.

    Rather than being an either-or dichotomy, it is a both-and holism. More and more men and women from the Majority World (stop using the term ‘Global South,’ it is pejorative) are being called by the Lord into Kingdom service. The churches in the Majority World need to learn how to steward and send these missionaries as well.

    We have created many unhealthy dependencies (which exist whenever Western money comes into play) among the global church with our check-book missions. We need to be wise with our resources.

    Mission sending from N America is not done. As long as there is a living church here we are responsible to be obedient not just as senders but also as goers.

    Currently we have been sending many out with a shot-gun approach, our problem now is how to fund surgical, well-trained and equipped missionaries rather than continuing to send 18-year-olds with no cross-cultural experience.

    • BJ

      Agreed, with one comment on: “surgical, well-trained and equipped missionaries rather than 18 year olds with no cross-cultural experience.” It’s difficult to (nearly impossible) to train and equip a western missionary in the west. The best missionaries I have ever met and worked with started out as 18 years old with vision, passion, determination and willingness to be cross cultural. Some of the most devastated western missionaries I have worked with have been well seasoned western pastors, elders teachers who have come overseas at an older age and find it so difficult to adapt to a new culture and worldview they end up ministering mainly to other westerners.

  • Justin Long

    Hmm. I disagree with the idea that Western missionaries can’t go to the 10/40 Window.

    1. I can’t think of a single People Group Cluster in the 10/40 Window that cannot be reached somewhere either IN their homeland, CLOSE to their homeland, or in a large diaspora population with direct connections to their original homeland.

    2. Obviously, Westerners might not be able to go on “missionary visas” but that doesn’t mean they can’t go using a platform that is a blessing. I know very few missionaries who are on “missionary visas.” If a Westerner has a calling from God to a specific people group cluster, they could be placed. Virtually all of the largest and least-reached countries are open for entry in some form.

    3. Danger goes with the territory. Just because a place is dangerous doesn’t mean it should be avoided by Westerners.

    4. I disagree with the idea that women aren’t accepted in the 10/40 Window. I know of several places where a disproportionate number of women serve, are a blessing, and are catalyzing church planting movements–and some of those are places one wouldn’t normally think it possible for a woman to serve….!

  • Adrian Watts

    I have worked in almost every country in the 10/40 window, as well as having lived as an expat in a middle eastern country with my wife and children, and without fail I was instantly recognized from Dakar to Seoul as “The American”. Having spent years meeting people in The Window I can support many of the concepts put forward in the article. The idea of Americans, and female Americans in particular, being able to spend the time necessary to earn the trust of locals in many of these countries is a truly daunting, and even a dangerous undertaking. That said I have seen it happen, especially when we are able to invest the time necessary to live in the region and to share the experiences and lives of the locals.
    What I see as a real challenge for the Western Evangelical Church is to take the very real opportunity of truly partnering with our Latin American and African brothers and sisters in evangelizing to the people living in the regions of the 10/40. As the church has worked in Africa and Central and South America for years now to develop disciples and leaders, we must now trust and work with them to carry the torch further. I think that the point is valid that the brothers amd sisters from the global south will have an easier time evangelizing to the 10/40 region, and that the western church should recognize this and work to support them and to develop them for the meeting of this labor.
    That is a great picture of the body working together for the Kingdom.

    • Justin Long

      Certainly I completely agree that holistic, multiagency, multinational partnerships will require to see completion of the task. We need to be the “whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world.” In my agency, Mission to Unreached Peoples, we intentionally participate in the Ethne initiative and have a department (Ephesus) focused on partnerships with many other agencies and structures around the world. I don’t know that it’s so much we need to let them take it farther as we need to take it farther, together?

  • Doug Nichols

    Even though I see some of your valuable points of trusting God for those in the West to support international workers from other countries other than the West, it is very disappointing to see the emphasis of just a support roll rather than a sacrificial roll of missions to go, even though it may be dangerous, difficult, expensive, hard.

    I have recently written an article “Nine Urgent Needs for Additional Missionaries Worldwide” [] which is quite different than your emphasis.

    Let me encourage you with the following, ” . . . for a wide door for effective service has opened to [us], and there are many adversaries . . . Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men [be mature], be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:9, 13-14, nasb).

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Doug Nichols

  • Jack Rose

    Was it McQuilkin who said, “Once the West stops sending her sons and daughters, she will soon stop sending her dollars as well.”

  • Adeniran Isaac James

    Being a student in a Mission school in Nigeria, I am conversant with issues relating to the 10/40 window especially as it remains no-go area; but to me this is not a limitation nor is it a challenge. What limits us is our unchanged approach or strategy! Many citizens of the unreached people groups of these nations/countries are found in virtually all cosmopolitant states in the world where no national law forbids the preching of the Gospel, these citizens are in number that if missionaries on ground are deployed to, they will still not be sufficient! I know this, consider kano, Lagos state of Nigeria etc, Lebanees, Turkish, Arabians etc are all over the place! Think about most American states, France state, England etc. Let me pulse, if you need detail strategy to go about reaching this nation I shall be ready to present a papper at your request. Thanks. Call +234-7068362857.

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