At Ralph Winter’s memorial service in Pasadena on June 28, I drew attention to one main reason for gratitude out of many that I feel.
I thanked God that Dr. Winter’s relentless pressing of the global application of the gospel and his tireless emphasis on the biblical and global reality of unreached peoples (not just fields), helped me know and love the enormity and centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He explained why such a missions focus would have this effect. I find this insight historically true and needed today. He wrote in 1995 in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research,
One of the most important functions of the missionary movement is to continually rescue the faith itself from becoming lost through institutional and cultural evolution and absorption.... That process of trying to make our faith understandable cross-culturally has in many different but vital ways pumped back into the home church a constantly renewed sense of what is, and what is not the [gospel]...
Unless we become as serious about rediscovering the true faith in contrast to the assumptions of our own culture, we will trumpet an uncertain sound wherever else we go. (Vol. 19., No. 2, April, 1995, p. 60)
In other words, the constant effort to spread the gospel—especially across cultures—is crucial to preserving the gospel. This is true for more reasons than we realize. I would say it is true at the global level, the denominational level, the local church level, and the individual level.
Where a person or a group is not spreading the gospel, they are losing their grasp on what it actually is.