This week I read a blog by a young lady that said that a great burden was lifted from her shoulders when she got rid of the notion that missions is the most important thing for a Christian. It was actually the kind of blog that I like because as I listened to her side, I was forced to challenge my own thoughts on the subject. I didn’t change my position, but I did appreciate what she was saying–she is single, very shy and could never do the kinds of things that missionaries do. And that is why I have been writing this long series on “Strategy.”
Over the past many posts I have been trying to make just one point: every Christian must take ownership of the Great Commission. This post is just to give you an overview of what we are all up against. For those that give money, for those that pray, for those that train, and for those that go, it is helpful to step back every once in awhile, and look at the state of things. As the church, how far have we gotten, and far do we still need to go, to complete the task that Jesus has given us?
The Great Commission (Mt 28:19) is the only command that Jesus gave to the church after his resurrection; so our primary task is to make disciples of all nations (ethnic groups), to baptize those disciples and teach them to obey his commands.
At this point, there are two important points to keep in mind. The first is that, either God’s sense of fairness is very different from ours, or he has some unexplained way of sorting it all out on the judgment day. Billions of people have died since the apostles were sent out having had no way to hear the gospel. For example, think about how many American Indians, Mayans and Incas died, in isolation from the gospel, before Columbus landed in 1492. There is no Biblical promise that every person, every family, or every community will hear the gospel.
The second point is to remember that our job is not to Christianize the world. A task like that would be like trying to dig a hole in water; as you take a shovelful out, it would just fill back up. In the same way, countries of Europe and North America, that were thought to be Christian, are de-Christianizing themselves.
The best that we can do, then, is to provide gospel access around the world, at least to some people from every ethnic group, and if Jesus hasn’t come back we should get to every province, and then every district, then every community, etc. The important thing, which was mandated by Jesus and was modeled to us in the book of Acts, is to keep taking the gospel forward to the ends of the earth.
There are about 12,000 ethnic/language groups in the world and 40% of them are cut off from the gospel. Some of these groups number in the millions and some in the hundreds. Most of them are in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Chinese.
Being only 60% finished after 2000 years sounds discouraging but there are several reasons why I believe we are nearing a tipping point.
- As we get more disciples on the planet, we get more prayers for missions.
- Missionaries are still coming out from European background countries but, for the first time, thousands of missionaries are coming from South America, southern Africa, India, China, Korea, etc.
- There is almost no emphasis being placed on planting a denominational flag, such as Baptist, Methodist or Church of Christ. We are joining together in a more Biblical fashion.
- The English language is showing up everywhere, because of business and the internet, making it possible for missionaries to share the gospel while learning a foreign language.
- Air travel reaches every country in the world that I know of.
- People are more affluent to help pay missionary bills.
Admittedly, the last people groups are in places that can be dangerous and inhospitable; and some of those cultures, Islam in particular, stifle movement of the gospel. But now is certainly not the time to be discouraged. There is incredible opportunity for global evangelism and I encourage you to take ownership of this task and, even if you are very shy, are single, are disabled, are elderly, etc, find the way that you should give, pray, train or go.