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Global Research

Research … not Glamorous but Vital in Ministry

Research plays a large part in all OC ministries. It may not be glamorous or “frontline” work, but it is a vital part of healthy ministry, and OC couldn’t do what it does without it. OC workers Larry and Stephanie K have played a huge role in OC research since they joined the organization in 1985. Now they lead the OC Global Church Research team, which serves OC ministries as well as multiple mission efforts from other organizations all over the world.

Larry and Stephanie in Global Church Research

Larry and Stephanie

“The OC Global Church Research team catalyzes prayer, catalyzes missions and catalyzes church planting in the most needy places. We work to understand the needs of pastors and church leaders, so we can bring better training and assistance to them,” Larry says.

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 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.”

This process actually makes it quite hard to communicate simply what OC does as ministry, because what we do varies per country, per situation. “If I explain to inquirers that we don’t start specific initiatives until we investigate local or national needs, people can more easily understand why questions about ‘what we do’ don’t get a standard answer,” says Larry.

Brazil Global Church Research

When church leaders saw the uneven distribution of believers and churches in Brazil, they were moved to send new church planters to the Northeast.

One paradigm which helps explain OC’s style of research is DIKW: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. Although OC workers attempt to gain all of these elements, we primarily concern ourselves with attaining “wisdom.” That means that we take data, organize it into information, which yields knowledge that can help us determine the best course of action for the future. “Our goal is to always ask the questions, ‘What strategy decision needs to be made, and what do we need to know in order to best make that decision?’” Larry says.

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.

Gordon volunteer Global Church Research

Gordon, extraordinarily faithful volunteer partner

“You don’t have to be this trained mission investigator to think about doing research in OC.” The OC Global Church 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. 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.

world research map Global Church Research

Information contained in maps like this have served international partnerships such as the GCPN (Global Church Planting Network).

Another exciting project happened in South Africa to determine the needs of leadership development. “It’s been about a three-year project that we’ve been working on to assess the training needs that the pastors across South Africa are facing. We’ve interviewed almost 1,000 leaders across SA, particularly in 75 communities that have been selected,” says Karl T, OC South Africa’s field leader. “The hopes of this data, the information we are going to give to those who are doing training, and the formal and non-formal training of leader … we trust will help them to be more effective.”

OC Global Research Team is also currently involved in exciting projects with other organizations in multiple locations around the world. Larry says: “We’ve also seen how good information can be used to assist global partnerships to make decisions about how they can be even more effective partners for the accomplishment of the Great Commission in many different regions and worldwide.”

How to Pray

Russ Assistant Director of Research

Russ, new Assistant Director of Research

Two years ago, the OC Global Research Team consisted of Larry and Stephanie, who were living in the UK, and a few volunteers scattered in different countries around the globe. Then God began to send them more non-co-located volunteers. Soon to follow were two new teammates who moved to the UK, too. Then in August Russ Mitchell accepted the position of Assistant Director of Research, essentially tripling the size of the team in the span of eight months. (Russ and Cathy continue to live in the US and serve the team remotely.)

Pray for this major transition as Larry and Stephanie work to nurture and develop their team to be a supportive resource to all OC US-Mobilization Center and OC Global Alliance teams around the world. Pray that God will open the doors to effective service for our field teams. Pray also that they would find balance in assisting the OC world as well as other organizations within the whole body of Christ.

Spiritual warfare is real and attacks researchers regularly. “Satan likes us to live in a fog, because when in a fog we’re disoriented, spin our wheels, and we don’t accomplish much. Our enemy doesn’t like us to have the clarity that good information brings,” Larry says. “There are almost always spiritual attacks and backlash against people getting involved in research. Pray for God’s protection on our team and on the use of the information we uncover. Protection and spiritual discernment are very important prayer requests for us.”

For more information on OC research, visit the OC research site:

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