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  • Writer's pictureEconomia e Evangelismo

ECI - Evangelistic Constraints Index: a few comments and reflections

In the last post, I briefly presented the ECI - Evangelistic Constraints Index, which is a number that expresses the difficulty of evangelizing a region. Let's remember: the index is the sum of the shortage of missionaries, the scarcity of material resources and the religious intolerance in a region. Why were these three criteria chosen to compose the evangelistic difficulty index? Basically, missionaries, material resources and religious freedom are the main evangelistic resources available to evangelize a region. The greater these resources, the easier missionary work will tend to be. Therefore, ECI is a measure of restriction of evangelistic resources in a certain place and at a certain time. Here are some important comments:

1 - Because it is a number for an especific place in an especific time, the ECI may not capture the history of evangelistic advances which took place there. The ECI doesn't exactly say if a region is under or over-evangelized, but it just gives some clues about it. Consider, for example, the case of Dominican Republic:

Out of 310 regions covered by the ECI, the Dominican Republic is the 309th easiest region to be evangelized because it has a lot of missionaries, relatively low material restrictions and a peaceful situation regarding religious freedom. We can ask ourselves: has the Dominican Republic already been evangelized? The ECI does not give a direct answer to this question, but it does answer another question: if there are so many missionaries (which, incidentally, are the result of their own evangelistic work), sufficient material resources at their disposal and a free path in terms of religious freedom, isn't it reasonable to expect that the missionary work in that place, in comparison to others, is quite advanced or even complete? This brings us to a second important comment. 2 - The ECI may not be exactly an indicator of evangelistic advancement, but it clearly reveals the places ABOUT WHICH WE DON'T NEED TO BE SO WORRIED. When the ECI of a region is low, it means that in that place THE EVANGELISTIC FORCES ALREADY INSTALLED are enough (or more than enough) to finish the work, in comparison to other places. It also means that there is already a vigorous evangelistic dynamic there, THAT DOES NOT NEED TO BE BOOSTERED FURTHER. A quote from Mrs. Ellen White comes to mind:

“The money spent in enlarging the institutions in Battle Creek might far better be devoted to planting the truth in cities and places where it has not yet taken hold. Money has been entrusted to human agents, to be invested in the Lord's work, put out to the exchangers and increased with use. Again and again the men in positions of trust have had laid before them the necessity of the Lord's vineyard's being more equally worked. The vineyard is the world, every part of it is the Lord's, and it should receive due attention. No one locality is to swallow up every resource that can be obtained to enrich and magnify and multiply its facilities, while the largest portions of the field are left destitute. This policy is not inspired of God. The gracious calls of mercy are to be given to all parts of the world. God's field is the world....” Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 13

In order for the Lord's vineyard to be more equally worked, the least that can be done is to stop the flow of resources to places where there is already a robust evangelistic dynamic, when compared to others. What remains to be investigated is just how much of the resources in Dominican Republic could be allocated to places with greater evangelistic difficulties. We are well aware that there is already a natural tendency towards the preservation of evangelistic resources in a region: much of the material resources cannot easily leave the country. The same is true for missionaries: many do not want to or could not leave their lands. What is certain, however, is that increasing evangelistic efforts in places with low FDI does not fit the divine plan. And if anyone still has any doubts that this happens, just look at Calebe Project.

To illustrate what I mean, let's consider something that might surely happen within Calebe Project: imagine a group of Adventist young people from southern Brazil, say from Associação Central Paranaense, who is making evangelist work in Mato Grosso do Sul. Let's see what this means:

Both regions have the same level of religious freedom and the same access to material resources, but the central region of Paraná is a little more scarce in terms of missionaries than Mato Grosso do Sul. It turns out Central Parana is in a bigger evangelistic trouble than Southern Mato Grosso. “There are those who think it is their duty to preach the truth, but they dare not venture from the shore, and they catch no fish. They will choose to go among the churches, over and over the same ground. They report a good time, a pleasant visit, but we look in vain for the souls that are converted to the truth through their instrumentality. These ministers hug the shore too closely. Let them launch out into the deep, and cast their net where the fish are. There is no lack of work to be done. There could be hundreds employed in the vineyard of the Lord where there is now one.” The True Missionary, February 1874 You see: those Calebe youngsters who left Paraná towards Mato Grosso do Sul are momentarily increasing the number of missionaries in a place that is already more crowded with missionaries than the region where they live. It is a displacement whose purpose is to reduce evangelistic forces in a place that is most in need of workers and to increase evangelistic forces in a place that is less in need. Adventist young people are more helpful in Central Paraná than in Mato Grosso do Sul. Sister White warned those who dare not leave the beach for the high seas, but Calebe Project is usually worse than that: it makes those who are on the beach walk further back, farther away from the sea. It's like going into a mangrove swamp to fish for crabs. This brings us to the third and final comment.

3 - The illustration of the beach and the high sea used by Ms. White is the most opportune to explain what the idea of ​​the ECI is. The greater the ECI, the further out to sea the region. The smaller, the closer to the beach. Taking into account that the Lord's vineyard is the world, an ECI from 0 to 0.30 can be considered a beach and there are all regions of Brazil (the worst region is Piauí, with an ECI of 0.25) and South America, Canada (0.17), USA (0.18 to 0.23), all of Central America, much of Africa and a considerable part of Europe. As of 0.30, we are entering the water: Bulgaria (0.31), Timor-Leste (0.33). When we reach 0.40, we can no longer stand on our feet in the water: Senegal and Cambodia (0.40). From then on, things start to get ugly and the waves are frightening: Thailand (0.44) and Vietnam (0.45). From 0.50 onwards, only by boat: Bangladesh (0.54) and Tunisia (0.57). At 0.60, we can no longer see the beach: Turkey (0.60) and Pakistan (0.61). At this point, we look even farther out to sea and see a grotesquely frightening storm: Syria (0.80). Here, fear is perhaps no longer the best word. Better to replace it with despair. The ECI doesn't mean that we should all go to Syria, although that's not a bad idea, but that we should at least swim a little deeper into than where we are. "Go out into the open sea, and cast your nets to fish." Luke 5:4 - ACF May God have mercy on us all!


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