(re)Defining “Cutting Edge” in an Upside-down Kingdom

When we decided on the theme for this issue, “Women on the Cutting Edge of Missions,” we were focusing on “typical” images of influential, wise, creative women who are greatly impacting missions and evangelism today. On a secular level, we would look to the equivalent of Angela Merkel, Ho Ching, or Condoleezza Rice. On the Christian historical level, we would look to Priscilla, Clare, Catherine Booth, or Mother Teresa.

But as you will read in this issue, “cutting edge” has various facets, the least of which is the typical definition. We must continually come back to the reality that we are God’s workers in an upside-down field. As our authors remind us, women who are indeed on the cutting edge of missions are often nameless to most and can easily go faceless in a crowd of those who are perceived to be “the powerful.” They are the hands in J.R.R. Tolkien’s description: “Such is oft the deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

Is it that instead of “cutting edge” being defined by the world’s standards—by measures of quantity and excellence and brilliance—that we, as God’s people, begin defining it as being on the forefront and leading edge of proclaiming God’s love through the power of his Spirit in compassionate ways that impact perhaps just one life at a time?

In an upside-down kingdom, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first, “cutting edge” may look like one Jesus-loving Filipino housekeeper in the Middle East who has found the key to opening the hearts of her employers, friends, and neighbors to the hope of heaven.

Perhaps “cutting edge” in this upside-down kingdom is one West African 22-year-old widowed mother of five giving herself to the task of opening an orphanage for children in her community who have lost both parents. Perhaps “cutting edge” is looking in the eye a neighbor who is in deep pain, and sensing that he or she is open to the gospel, laying aside our standard answers and instead following God’s Spirit to share the gospel in a completely unique and creative way.

In his book, Sub-Merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World, John Hayes shares this story of 22-year-old Sopheap who was dying after a short, torturous life of abandonment and abuse which left her deaf and infected with AIDS. One loving community—Sunrise, a home and hospice care for those suffering from AIDS—led by one faithful woman, Diane Moss, cared for Sopheap as she had never before been cared for and loved on her with all the love they had to give.

They spoke of the hope of heaven, and when Sopheap died three days later, “though her brief, brutal life and tragic passing did not garner headlines…every moment of her last three days was front-page news in God’s upside-down kingdom.”1

Hayes goes on to charge us:

In fact, [Sopheap’s] last three days with us could have been seen as a loose thread in a clumsily stitched pilgrimage. There was little glamour in Sopheap’s life….This story reminds me that if we, as the people of God, are going to meet the Sopheaps of this world squarely, as Christ did, we are going to have to reach into the deepest pockets of our souls and pull out more than the loose change of the world’s clichés.2

Similarly, Mother Teresa once said that she “did mathematics differently” than most people. Instead of worrying about ministering to a large number of Indian Hindus, she and her colleagues looked at each individual separately. Her mathematics “considered the one she was loving right now as the total of God’s universe at that moment.”3

As you read the articles in this issue of Lausanne World Pulse, you will hear from women telling of how God’s Spirit is doing mighty things in an upside-down way around the world. We pray that your soul will be refreshed and encouraged by stories from China, India, West Papua, Argentina, Yemen, and elsewhere.

It is our hope that not only would we, as God’s workers in an upside-down kingdom, begin to see “cutting edge” in a new light marked by one life at a time, but that we might even take the next step of walking on the “bleeding edge” of evangelism and missions, living lives that are sacrificially poured out as an offering to do whatever it takes so that all—from the least to the greatest—may hear and believe in the great name of Jesus.


1. Hayes, John B. 2006. Sub-Merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 287.

2. Ibid, 288.

3. Adeney, Frances. 2010. Graceful Evangelism: Christian Witness in a Complex World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 183.

Laurie Fortunak Nichols is editorial coordinator of Lausanne World Pulse. She also serves as editorial coordinator for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and managing editor and book review editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). She has edited a number of books, including the recent Extending God's Kingdom: Church Planting Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, with A. Scott Moreau and Gary R. Corwin.