Dr. Ralph Winter passed away a few days ago at the age of 84. Most people, even most who are deeply committed to Christ and his work in our world, won't recognize his name - even though Time named him as one of the 25 most influential Christians in the US just five years ago.
Dr. Winter spent his life as a missionary, a missions professor, and a "mission engineer." His wisdom and insights literally changed the way much of Christendom engaged in the work of cross-cultural ministry. In 1974, he introduced the concept of "unreached people groups" that changed the way people looked at the world. Throughout his ministry, he encouraged collaboration and cooperation among Christian groups to accomplish greater things for the glory of God. This is best seen in the US Center for World Mission, the organization that he established in Pasadena, CA as a hub of mission activity, research, strategy, and sending. Dr. Winter also developed Perspectives on the World Christian Movement - a college-level course on missions that has been taught to thousands of Christians in hundreds of locations across the US.
As with many Christian leaders today, I have been influenced by Dr. Winter's vision and insight and efforts. I have taken the Perspectives course and was stretched and encouraged by it. But I also had a couple of occasions to meet Dr. Winter and spend some time with him - listening to him teach, asking him questions, sitting at his feet. In both instances, his insights into Scripture and into our world changed the way I looked at our God, our mission, and my life and ministry.
Though we will mourn Ralph Winter's passing, the Kingdom of God is larger and more diverse because of his ministry and vision. In my mind, he was one of a handful of the most influential and important Christian leaders of the last fifty years.
You can read Dr. Winter's obituary here and John Piper's tribute to him (with a four minute video of Dr. Winter) here.