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New Tribes Mission

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New Tribes Mission
File:New Tribes Mission logo.png
Founders Paul Fleming
Type Evangelical Missions Agency
Founded 1942
Headquarters Sanford, FL
Area served worldwide
Revenue $64 million in 2007[1]
Employees 3,300[2]

New Tribes Mission (NTM) is an international, theologically evangelical Christian mission organization based in Sanford, Florida. NTM has approximately 3,300 missionaries in more than 20 nations, second only to Wycliffe Bible Translators/SIL International David Hesselgrave, Executive Director of the Evangelical Missiological Society, has said of NTM, "New Tribes Mission is in the vanguard of Christian missions. NTM sends out trained missionaries; they send them to the most needy peoples and places on earth; and they send them equipped with a missionary strategy that is second to none."[3]


NTM's Purpose Statement reads: "Motivated by the love of Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, NTM exists to assist the ministry of the local church through the mobilizing, equipping, and coordinating of missionaries to evangelize unreached people groups, translate the Scriptures, and see indigenous New Testament churches established that truly glorify God."[4]

The organization sends missionaries from local churches around the world to Latin America, West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Arctic. Countries include Brazil, Bolivia, Cambodia, Greenland, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Senegal, Mongolia, Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and formerly to Venezuela.[5]

The mission's focus is on people groups where no translation of the Bible exists.[6] When such a group is identified, NTM first attempts to make contact and establish a relationship. Then, missionaries are sent to learn the language and the culture of the native people, while further developing relationships and providing humanitarian aid. The missionaries translate biblical literature into the indigenous language, as well as teach natives how to read and write in their own language (which is prevalently necessary). The professed goal, however, is to establish fully functioning churches that operate independently of missionaries, which, "in turn reach out to their own people and to neighboring tribes."[7]

NTM's purpose statement states that its' sole goal is to, "evangelize people groups who have had no access to the Gospel, translate the Scriptures into their language, and plant a church."[8] NTM is held accountable by MinistryWatch and by the IFMA and, "adheres to the organization's standards."[9]

Early history

NTM was founded by Paul Fleming from Los Angeles, in 1942.[10] In the '30s, Fleming had worked as a missionary in the British colony, Malaya. The organization sent out its first group in November 1942, to Bolivia. Of the 10 adults and six children, six were killed the following year. According to Time Magazine, five NTM missionaries were killed by aboriginal Bolivians in 1943.[11]

Initially, NTM was based in a former nightclub in Chicago. In 1943, NTM started publishing its magazine Brown Gold. In 1944/45, NTM moved headquarters to Fouts Springs, California, where it established its', "boot camp."

In June 1950, the first plane bought by NTM crashed in Venezuela, killing all 15 people on board. The second plane bought by NTM crashed in November the same year at Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), while on its way to bring missionaries abroad, killing all 21 aboard, including spouses, several children and founder Paul Fleming.[11] In July 1953, 14 NTM members serving as volunteer firefighters died in what became known as the Rattlesnake Fire about 25 miles north of Fouts Springs, California in the Mendocino National Forest.[12]

Recent history

In recent years a number of New Tribes Mission personnel have been killed by guerrillas in different parts of the world.

In 1993, members of the FARC guerrilla movement abducted three NTM missionaries from a village in Panama and brought them to Colombia where they were killed in 1996.[13] In 1994 two other missionaries were killed after being taken at gunpoint from an NTM school in Colombia.[14]

In May 2001, Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Philippines kidnapped a New Tribes Mission pilot, Martin Burnham, and his wife, Gracia, as they celebrated a wedding anniversary. In June 2002, during a rescue attempt by government troops, Martin Burnham was killed and his wife received non-fatal gunshot wounds to the leg.[15]


The core belief of the New Tribes Mission is, "Sola Scriptura," accompanied by a historical-grammatical hermeneutic in interpreting said Scriptures. This emphasis on, "word by word inspiration," leads to literal belief, "in the fall of man, resulting in his complete and universal separation from God and his need of salvation;" those who die unsaved go to, "unending punishment" (hence the mandate to evangelize those without access to the gospel). Additionally, NTM is a dispensational organization, subscribing to the, "imminent...pretribulation and pre-millennial return," of Jesus Christ to earth.[16]

Training Program

New Tribes Mission requires all candidates to complete a training program.[17] The training program can take up to four years to complete. In the US, this training culminates in a Bachelor's degree, although it is not accredited.[18] However, major Bible colleges such as Moody Bible Institute and Columbia International University generally tend to recognize credits from NTM.

The first phase of the training consists of basic Bible education.[19] This phase lasts two years. In the US, this training takes place at one of two different Bible schools in Waukesha, WI, or Jackson, MI. These schools are collectively called the New Tribes Bible Institute. This portion of the training program is often waived for candidates possessing previous Bible training from accredited Bible colleges.

The second phase of the program involves extensive study in cross-cultural communication, church planting, and linguistic analysis.[20] It also lasts two years, although there is a one-year track for those going into aforementioned "support" roles.[17] Candidates study advanced linguistic techniques, learning how to alphabetize unwritten languages and translate the Bible. Formerly called, "Boot Camp," this phase also emphasizes basic living skills necessary for survival in undeveloped areas of the world (e.g., constructing and cooking from clay stoves, building jungle shelters, etc.). In the US, this takes place at the NTM Missionary Training Center in Camdenton, MO.[21]

A NTM Canadian training center exists in Durham, Ontario.[22] Similar training programs, adapted to the cultures in which they operate, exist in many other countries, including Australia,[23] Brazil,[24] Germany,[25] Mexico[26] and the UK.[27]

Evangelistic Approach

New Tribes Mission's strategy for church planting starts with language acquisition.[28] NTM believes that individuals should have access to the Bible and its teachings in their native languages, and refuses to teach in English or local trade languages. Several unwritten languages on the verge of extinction have been given new leases on life because of missionary efforts to reduce them to writing and to teach their speakers in literacy.

After becoming proficient in the local languages, NTM missionaries initiate in-depth Bible studies with interested parties. Rather than distributing tracts or showing the "Jesus" film (popular methods among many organizations), NTM focuses on teaching through the Scriptures chronologically. Missionaries begin with the Genesis account of creation and follow the storyline of the [Bible through to the story of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the New Testament.[29] This approach is necessary because most of the cultures in which they work have no exposure to any biblical teaching whatsoever, and therefore require solid grounding on the foundational principles of the Old Testament before they can be introduced to the New Testament Gospel.[30]

This chronological curriculum consists of 50 lessons and is called, "Building on Firm Foundations." It was written by Trevor McIlwain and Nancy Everson, originally published in 1985.[31]

Paul Humphreys of GoodSeed says: "There is a lot of talk today in 'church' circles about how little people know about the Bible... Biblical illiteracy is not a new trend. It has been around a long time. The underlying cause is explained by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-32)... It seems almost impossible to have an accurate concept of God apart from the knowledge of certain foundational biblical stories.

The biblically illiterate need to begin with an understanding of who God is, and where they are in relationship to their Creator-Owner-truths set forth in the pages of the Old Testament. They need to know these things before we can expect an accurate response to what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross" (GoodSeed Gleanings, No. 6, Sept. 2000).[32]


New Tribes Mission is listed by Ministry Watch on the Shining Lights ‘Top 30’ Exemplary Ministries., in response to requests for a list of Christian ministries that are among the best to which donors can give with confidence, has released a “Top 30” list of ministries as the latest Shining Light profile. New Tribes Mission is one of those Top 30 Shining Lights.[33]

Criticism and Controversy


Paul Gifford accuses NTM of engaging in industrial espionage[34] and representing US foreign policy interests in countries where they are active, although the fact that almost 40% of New Tribes Mission personnel is non-American[35] would tend to undermine the allegation.[36] Because of the mission's alleged methods in Latin America, NTM has been investigated, and subsequently cleared of any wrong-doing by the all-party Parliamentary Human Rights Committee in Britain.[37] However, a letter of protest signed by Bishop Trevor Huddleston, Lord Avebury, Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Rabbi Richard Rosen and Survival International President, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, called on the Mission to halt its controversial activities and respect tribal religion and culture.[38]

Political Controversy in Venezuela

In October 2005, the BBC reported that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez had announced his intention to expel New Tribes Mission from Venezuela. He accused New Tribes Mission of imperialism, of collaborating with the US CIA, of violating Venezuela's national sovereignty, and of violating the country's laws by making unauthorized flights into and out of the country. He also attacked the group for building lavish camps in which to live next to poverty-stricken villages.[39][40]

Responding to the allegations, NTM said, "Any kind of air travel we do, we always do within the guidelines of what the government allows. We always file reports." With respect to "luxury" living, they "live in homes that make it possible for them to continue the work that they do. The homes that they live in are very simple."[41]

On November 3, 2005, hundreds of Venezuelan indigenous people marched in Puerto Ayacucho protesting against the expulsion of NTM by the Venezuelan government. Although the Venezuelan constitution recognized their collective ownership of ancestral lands in 1999, "poverty remains acute among many Indian communities and many protesters said the missionaries were the only people who have tangibly improved their lives."[42]


External links


  1. MinistryWatch Summary Report
  2. Ministry Watch – History of NTM
  3. NTM - planting tribal churches : Home - TESTIMONIALS
  4. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: doctrine
  5. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: where we serve
  6. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: purpose
  7. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: vision
  8. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: purpose
  9. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: accountability
  10. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: heritage
  11. 11.0 11.1 Death in Grindstone Canyon - TIME
  12. Mendocino National Forest - Rattlesnake Fire Interpretive Site
  13. NTM Missionaries killed by FARC
  14. NTM News Report on hostages
  15. CBS account of Burnham kidnap
  16. Ntm Uk: About - Doctrinal Statement
  17. 17.0 17.1 NTM - planting tribal churches : Train - SUPPORT TRACK
  18. NTM - planting tribal churches : Ntbi - FAQ
  19. NTM - planting tribal churches : Train - DISCOVER BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS
  20. NTM - planting tribal churches : Train - MISSIONARY TRAINING CENTER
  21. NTM - planting tribal churches : Train - CAMPUS PHOTOS
  22. New Tribes Mission of Canada
  23. Ntm Australia: Train
  24. NTM - planting tribal churches : Brazil - MINISTRY INFORMATION
  25. NTM DE: Ausbildung
  26. Explore where NTM missionaries are serving around the world: mexico
  27. Ntm Uk: Train - Cross-Cultural Communications
  28. Christian missions reach new tribes with the Gospel: core values
  29. Trevor McIlwain. Building on Firm Foundations. Vol. 1. Sanford: New Tribes Mission, 1987. 8.
  30. The Whole Word for the Whole World | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
  32. Using Chronological Teaching -
  33. MinistryWatch Full Profile
  34. Gifford p. 202
  35. NTM Who We Are, Where We Serve
  36. Gifford p. 205
  37. Gifford, p. 114
  38. Lewis 1988, p. 221
  39. BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez moves against US preachers
  40. BBC NEWS | Americas | Venezuela orders missionaries out
  41. Venezuela to Expel New Tribes Mission | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
  42. Venezuelans protest Chavez missionary threat - Americas -

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