History of Perspectives Course

The Story of Perspectives

Perspectives is a word which has come to refer to a course of study about how Christians can join with God in pursuing His global purpose throughout history to evangelize and bring transforming blessing among all peoples.

The Summer Institute of International Studies

The course was the creation of Ralph D. Winter. The beginnings of the course go back to Winter’s observations of the hundreds of young people at Urbana ’73 who expressed their interest in becoming missionaries. To help these young people make well-informed decisions about mission endeavor, in the summer of 1974. Winter put together a credit-bearing course called the “Summer Institute of International Studies” (SIIS). The SIIS course called upon several different mission professors to blend their teaching to provide a basic introduction to God’s global purpose with a special emphasis on completing the task of world evangelization amidst every people group. The SIIS repeated for four summers.


The historic Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization served to unite evangelicals to define and to complete the task of world evangelization in a way unlike anything since perhaps the 1910 Edinborough gathering of mission leaders. Ralph Winter’s address, “The Highest Priority,” is still recognized as one of the most definitive presentations at that historic gathering. Perhaps indicative of the same paradigm-shaping force was then use of the word “Evangelization” (a task to be completed) instead of “Evangelism” (an activity to be done) at an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Association. Perspectives missiology is in large part a development of Lausanne missiology. The spirit of cooperation and shared vision engendered by the Lausanne congress provided the environment in which the Perspectives course has flourished.

The Institute of International Studies

In 1978, Ralph and Roberta Winter founded the US Center For World Mission. An important part of the USCWM was the SIIS course which was 4 Perspectives Developer Manual – Version 1.0 expanded to a full semester of classes and called the Institute of International Studies (IIS). There were four parts to the IIS, Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. The curriculum leaned heavily on a course developed by Ralph and Roberta Winter called Understanding World Evangelization. One of the textbooks for that curriculum was a compendium called “Crucial Dimensions on World Evangelization” edited by Winter, C. Peter Wagner, Arthur Glasser, and Paul Hiebert. The IIS course ran with some success every semester using a symposium of professors and speakers.

IIS by Extension: Perspectives

In the spring of 1980, an IIS class was conducted by extension at Penn State University. It was a great success, giving direct rise to Caleb Project and other long-lived expressions of mission commitment. During the planning before this course, a team of volunteers and USCWM staff was formed to revise the IIS curriculum into a format that would be better offered by extension. Many people served on the team that developed the curriculum, among them , Darrell Dorr, Jay Gary. The person who led the efforts of the curriculum development team was Steve Hawthorne. Winter gave the course the name Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. The curriculum consisted of a reader by the same name co-edited by Winter and Hawthorne, and a study guide authored by Hawthorne. These materials were released at Urbana ’81.

Residential courses continued at the USCWM in Pasadena. Extension courses multiplied because of the determination to train coordinators to conduct courses in their locales. Jay Gary and others designed a coordinators manual and workshop to enable the course to be offered in many places at once by extension. Many hundreds of coordinators have been trained using approaches first tested at Penn State in 1980.

The Explosive Growth

Since 1981 the Perspectives course has been offered throughout the year at extension sites around the world. Over 65,000 people have taken this course in North America alone, with over 12,000 alumni in New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and other countries. Perspectives is also available in Spanish and Korean, and other translations are in progress.

Undergraduate and graduate credit is available through schools such as Trinity International University and other cooperating institutions. Perspectives is also offered online and by correspondence. In addition, over 100 schools use the Perspectives Reader in their missions courses (over 130,000 in print).

With over 600 instructors and more than 150 locations annually, over 6000 people are exposed to course every year. Many of the students in these extension classes take the course for credit. Many more work through the material because they have heard how powerful and helpful the vision can be to shape their lives with significance.

(Taken from Perspectives Development Manual)

Perspectives in India

Perspectives Reader has been used in some of the seminaries in India as part of the Mission course. Perspectives course in India got a boost by the development of a pilot course “Inheriting God’s Perspectives” with inputs from Indian leaders, later this was developed into bigger reader with “Perspectives on World Mission, South Asia Version”. More than 3000 copies of this book were sold and it is still used by many seminaries in India as part of the mission course.

Still, the course was not offered on a regular basis. A small groups studied “Perspectives on World Mission” at different places in 1999. Later Frontier Educational Services took the responsibility of offering the Perspectives course in India. In 2002, the first course was offered in Bangalore based on the original course. Later the fifteen-week course was offered at Bangalore and also intensive courses were offered at different places in India.