Venture Center

The Venture Center is a collaborative mission base located on a 17-acre campus in Pasadena, California. The Venture Center currently functions around seven hubs of frontier mission focus, which include prayer, research, innovation, media, education, strategy, and mobilization with a continued focus on unreached people groups. The U.S. Center for World Mission archives reside at the Venture Center’s Latourette Library and house collections by Ralph D. Winter and Donald McGavran. Many ministries had their genesis at the center or have been resident for a season before moving on to new locations throughout the world.[1]


Ralph D. Winter (1924-2009) and his wife Roberta Winter (1930-2001) served as Presbyterian missionaries to a Mayan tribal group called the Mam people in Guatemala for 10 years. Roberta was a registered nurse who graduated top of her class at USC.

In 1967, Ralph served as professor at the School of World Mission (or SWM, now called School of Intercultural Studies) at Fuller Theological Seminary for 10 years. Among other things, he taught the historical development of the Christian movement. Roberta was very involved in Ralph's teaching, filling in for him and helping to grade papers.

In 1976 Dr. Winter founded the U.S. Center for World Mission, now called Venture Center on the former Nazarene University campus in Pasadena, this was also the form Pacific Bible College and Pasadena College (1897-1976).

Dr. Winter was named among the top 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America by TIME magazine.[2]

He was a strong influence on Pastor Rick Warren Warren who learned from Winter that a church should not be judged by how many people it seats, but rather by how many people it sends to mission fields. Basing his church on that model, Warren said his church has now sent thousands of people to some 100 nations, and is first church to send people to every country in the world.[3]

Pastor John Piper is quoted as saying, "Nobody in the area of missions had a greater impact on me. Ralph Winter was probably the most creative thinker I have ever known. I mean, on any topic that you brought up, he would come at it in a way you have never dreamed of. He saw all things in relationship to other things that you would never think of relating them to."[4]

Pastor Jack Hayford said of Winter, "I have never known a more diligent servant of the gospel; one so marvelously wrapped in the giftpackaging of a profound scholar, missionary, pioneer thinker and friend." [5]

A colleague of his at Fuller Seminary, C. Peter Wagner, said, "History will record Ralph Winter as one of the half-dozen men who did most to affect world evangelism in the twentieth century."[6]

The famous evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham said, "Ralph Winter was a man of God who gave a vision to many Christians of a world in need of the gospel. I used to meet with him on many occasions, often in small group prayer. Some of my vision for world evangelization came from my interaction with him, and I am grateful.[5]

The Venture Center, and its affiliated ministries, is run by members of Frontier Ventures which was founded by Ralph D Winter.


Before the U.S. Center for World Mission was established, when Ralph Winter was teaching at Fuller Seminary's School of World Mission (SWM), he and Roberta had a sense they might be doing something different new. While teaching some 1,000 missionaries at the SWM, he gained insights into what was happening—and not happening—around the world. He and others at the SWM, observed that there were cultures or "people groups" where there was no church and usually no missionaries. And, if every Christian in the world witnessed to everyone in his or her own culture, these people groups, which represented half of the world's population would not be touched. Because of barriers of culture and language, the rest of the world was sealed off from the Gospel in distinct people groups without a viable, indigenous, evangelizing church.

Winter presented these ideas in several forums, but the most "public" one was during the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, called by Billy Graham. The title of his presentation was The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Priority. During the presentation, Winter countered the widely held idea among mission groups at the time that cross-cultural evangelism effort was no longer needed because every political country had missionaries.

Using statistics and graphs, and with input from around the world, Winter showed that there were still 2.5 billion people who could not hear the Gospel in their own languages and cultural setting in a way they could understand. As a result, he argued, cross-cultural evangelism is not only needed but urgent.[7]

The presentation became known as a watershed moment for world missions and many, including Pastor John Piper, believe it changed the global strategies of mission agencies thereafter.[4]

After coming back to the United States from the conference, Winter began to believe there needed to be a place where mission agencies can collaborate to complete the unfinished task. He had been trying to persuade Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was a professor, to create such a missions think tank, but Fuller decided not to.

He left his tenured faculty position there and along with Roberta, a receptionist and only $100 in cash, began the task of purchasing the former campus of Pasadena College to be the site of the USCWM.

To establish a church among every Unreached People group is the driving vision and burden of the U.S. Center for World Mission. As the Center was getting started, many other ministries were formed along the way.

Even before the Center began, the need to make mission resources more available led to the founding of the William Carey Library Publishers. Because of WCL, valuable mission books and videos are published and distributed no matter what the quantity.

In 1974, the Institute of International Studies arose out of a need not only to train people as missionaries but also to provide an intensive foundation on what is happening in the world and what needs to happen. Now called the "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement", or "Perspectives" for short. With over 100,000 alumni in North America alone, the course covers information crucial to any person interested in God's global purposes and has said to be a life changing experience for many who have taken it.

Building on these ministries, the Winters took the radical step by founding the U.S. Center for World Mission in 1976 in a few rented offices on the 17-acre campus of Pasadena Nazarene College. Their purpose was to pull people together to concentrate on the plight of the Unreached Peoples. To most effectively fulfill this purpose the U.S. Center went on to purchase the campus which was up for sale at that time. They had little financial backing but a great dream of a unique, missionary center. The money came in miraculous ways, primarily through small gifts of individual Christians around the country. The final payment for the campus was made in 1988.

The financial struggles up to that point became a "soapbox" from which to proclaim the vision. The Center hoped to motivate thousands who could then build a movement that would bring tens of thousands in touch with God's heart for the unreached.

The efforts to establish the U.S. Center have also led to the development of a wide-ranging movement to the frontiers of mission that now involves thousands of people and hundreds of missions organizations. The Center seeks to serve this growing movement with resources, information, and strategic insights that can help the movement grow and effectively reach all the unreached peoples.[8] In 2015, the US Center was renamed the Venture Center.[9]


The Venture Center focuses on advancing God's primary purpose: His glory among all nations. To this end, the Center: studies and promotes global mission efforts for new insights; seeks to recognize what is missing; proposes answers to unresolved problems; and pilots solutions for others to follow or adapt; and mobilizes people to engage in the task.

“We seek to avoid doing what others can or will do, and focus our limited resources on critical contributions to the mission effort that others can’t make or won’t make” -Venture Center [10]

Unreached People Groups

Originally called hidden people groups, mission leaders later agreed to change the name to unreached to better capture the image that the Gospel had yet to reach these people in their own language and culture. An unreached people group is one where there is no viable, indigenous, evangelizing church movement.

In 1976, when the USCWM was founded, there were an estimated 17,000 unreached people groups. The latest figure as of 2009 places the number of unreached people groups at about 7,000, but some of that decrease is from a better understanding of the situation "on the ground" in any given people group.

Venture Center Ministries

See also


Further reading

External links

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