The Worldwide… Waffle? by Ian Downs

waffleContemporaries of Columbus were convinced that the world was flat like a pancake. Of course, his historic voyage of 1492 disproved this idea. But—it has taken over 450 years for those focused on missions to abandon the pancake theory!! “What!” you say, “How could this be?” Here, let me explain:

Mission-minded people have thought for a long time that the world was like a pancake, and the Gospel was like the syrup. As long as you poured on enough syrup, eventually the whole pancake would be covered with it. So they thought that, as long as they kept sending missionaries and getting people saved, the Gospel would one day fill the whole earth. Sounds good, right? Contrary to this theory, after hundreds of years of sending missionaries and mission money to Africa, we are seeing that some of the continent is very Christian, while other parts are still quite resistant to the Gospel.

Why? It’s because the earth is not a pancake but a waffle! A waffle has pockets that the syrup can fill, but each pocket is surrounded by barriers. That’s what’s happening with the Gospel; it is filling certain areas of the world, but it is not crossing the barriers to reach all the pockets of people (people groups). The nature of these barriers may be linguistic, religious, racial, social, economic, or something else.

How many pockets or groups of people are there in the world? An estimated 24,000! That’s like a square waffle that has 156 x 156 pockets. I hope you’re hungry. How many people groups have not been reached? Around 8,000—quite a sizeable bite.

How can we reach these 8,000 yet to be impacted with the power of the Gospel? We must focus on how to overcome the barriers that separate these people from Christ. We need to insert the Gospel into each pocket, and that requires prayer, and strategy, and going to the very corners of the waffle—I mean—earth!

That’s why I have come to the U. S. Center for World Mission. I want to participate in this exciting, strategic task. We won’t stop until every barrier has been overrun and every pocket has been filled with God’s glory!

Ian Downs, Mission Frontiers (, Jan 01, 1998, Volume 20:1-2, pp. 48.