How Can I Get Involved in Research?

“People who do global church research in OC, and in missions in general, often back into it,” Stephanie K says. Very few people go into missions thinking that research will be their focus. Many OC researchers started as engineers, teachers, librarians or church planters.

“You don’t have to be this trained mission investigator to think about doing research in OC.” The OC Global Research team recently had two new workers join, one who has some specific experience in market research, the other who has done informal field interviews. Two associates of the Global Research Team come to OC from academic backgrounds and volunteer part of their time assisting with projects where their special skills are an asset.

Stephanie says: “Doing research in OC has more to do with being a curious person and asking good questions than it does with having a specific skill set.” What’s important is to have the attitude of a life-long learner. Database manipulation and mapping skills, for example, can be learned along the way by those who need to use them.

How has Global Church Research Helped OC Ministries?

A classic example of how OC uses global church research is in the Philippines’ DAWN movement (Discipling A Whole Nation). “We’ve used strategic information greatly to see many, hundreds and thousands, of un-churched villages targeted for church planting,” says Dave W, worker in the Philippines. “Our researchers gather data on villages with churches, villages without churches. We put them on maps, we gather pastors together, we present these maps and give a challenge of adoption for an un-churched village for church planting. And by using this information, we’ve seen thousands of un-churched villages targeted and churches planted in these places because of this information that was shared.” This model has been repeated in Guatemala, Brazil, Romania and many other nations in the world. Currently, OC is helping serve the Mongolian Evangelical Alliance with a similar research project.

What Makes OC Global Church Research Unique?

Since its inception, OC has taken a servant and learner posture when it enters a new country, region, or city. OC research facilitates this learner’s attitude because, before any ministry is done, research is conducted to understand what the church in that area needs, what the leadership desires, and how OC can help realize the goals that the established church expresses.

Larry Kraft, Director of OC's Global Research team says: “We don’t go into a situation and say ‘this is what you need to know.’ We go in and ask a national pastor or church leader what decisions they are facing. We talk through with them what they need to know in order to make the wisest decision. Then we help to figure out how to get that information, look at it, and come to appropriate conclusions, as opposed to coming in with a canned product.”

Constructing a Worldview

Our friend, Dr. James Slack, who works with the International Mission Board, has been so kind to allow us to share the instruments he developed to conduct an ethnographic survey of a people group. Step by step instructions are given to describe the worldview of a specific people. A number of questions guide the field researcher to investigate family, social, religious, economic and political structures. Supplemental information is provided to help the development of chronological Bible story telling. The attached file contains all of research instruments.

A Tale of Love, Divine Openings and a Middle East Research Project

Because our projects are often carried out in sensitive locations with partners who have to be very careful what they say and to whom, we are vigilant for their safety. So, up front, we apologize here for presenting only the broad strokes of a wonderfully true tale of what God is doing in a Middle Eastern country right now. Here’s our attempt to share what’s fit to tell:

An American Farmer (we’ll call him AF) went to work with a Christian ministry in a country in the Middle East where there was war going on. There he met a gal from a nearby country (let’s call her AB- Arab Beauty) and, after extensive negotiations with her Arab family, married her. Although he wanted to remain there, it pleased AB’s family that AF agreed to move to her home country for their first two years of marriage.

Preparing the Next Generation of Researchers

OC’s Director of Global Research, Larry Kraft, shares his pilgrimage as a researcher and his heart to prepare the next generation of mission researchers.

    When we first moved to São Paulo, there was no permanent national research function in Brazil and no researcher on OC’s team. I was recruited to begin a research department for the team and, hopefully, grow it to be of use to the national church. God blessed our work and our team eventually became a trusted source of information on the Church in Brazil. Newspapers would call us and verify their information before sending stories to print. Students would ask for help in writing papers about current trends. Our services were used to deploy church planters into the most strategic locations.

Finding Your Way in OC Research Course Now Online


A nine part online introduction to research is offered through the OC Learning Center. This course is recommended for all new OC field missionaries and is also open to other workers.

Research is foundational to OC’s stated organizational strategy: “Using Research, Motivation and Training we Mobilize the Christian leaders to reach their nations and beyond.” OC believes that the primary outcome of research is to provide a basis for decision making for a team ministry to the church and for carrying out the other three categories of our strategy: motivation, training, and mobilization. Research is intricately and fundamentally interwoven with team ministries on the field and even with individual ministry opportunities.

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Fascinating Research Reading


Here are several-recent research based reports and books about religion that make fascinating reading.

Brazil’s Changing Religious Landscape

The Pew Forum published a report on Brazil’s Changing Religious Landscape (July 2013), which documents the rise of Protestant Churches in the world’s largest Roman Catholic Country. However the percentage of Roman Catholics in Brazil is declining. The fastest growing Protestant Groups in Brazil are Pentecostal, growing through conversion. This report is based on the Pew Forum’s analysis of Brazilian Census Data and provides a transferable model of how to analyze Census data from other countries. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/07/18/brazils-changing-religious-landscape/

The Power of Information


The following story demonstrates the power of the right information placed in the right hands at the right time and therefore also illustrates why OC places so much emphasis on research.

What does it take to trigger an effective church-planting movement? Sometimes all it takes is a single piece of paper and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! Ask the church planters in Brasov county in Romania, and they'll tell you how one piece of paper launched their vision.

Partnering in Research with the Mongolia Evangelical Alliance

Two years ago, the Mongolia Evangelical Alliance (MEA) approached One Challenge and proposed a combined research project to discover the number of churches in Mongolia as well as the health of these churches and how to best reach nomadic tribes or those who live outside cities. In this video report, Project Leader Eric Smith shares about the training of local field researchers and a general overview of the project.

The MEA has set ambitious goals for the future of the church in Mongolia: 3,400 healthy churches, 300,000 believers and 600 missionaries sent by the year 2020. Russ Mitchell, an OC researcher working on the project, writes: “The church in Mongolia has seen spectacular growth in the last two decades. In 1990, when the country transitioned from Communism to a democratic form of government, it is reported that there were just four believers. The Census in 2010 recorded 40,000 Christians. Today there are about 600 churches: 300 in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and 300 in the provinces. During the Communist years, Buddhism lost a great deal of its following as people embraced atheism. This seems to have created a spiritual vacuum that has resulted in great responsiveness since 1990.”

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