M o d u l e 2:
Take a moment and think about your family and your friends. If you knew for sure that when you see them next that it would be the very last time on this earth, what would you say to them? What are the words that you would leave with them?
While the actual words that each of us might say would be different, we would all want our words to be meaningful. We would say things that were important to us.
More than 2,000 years ago, God Himself came to earth in human form. He had family and friends. After He was crucified, buried and rose from the dead, He spent time with them knowing full well that He was about to leave Earth and ascend into heaven. What were those final words that Jesus Christ spoke to them and to all of us who have followed Christ? Could we agree that they would be words that are very meaningful and important? These are the last spoken desires that our Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke to His disciples and to us:
According to Mark, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
The apostle Matthew recorded Jesus saying these words: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:18-20)
And finally, in the book of Acts, Jesus said, "'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." (Acts1:8, 9)
If you knew that you were going to leave forever,
you would make your last words count.
Jesus' last words are often referred to as the "Great Commission." They are actually repeating God’s eternal purpose that was revealed first to Abraham and continues throughout the Bible - the purpose of bringing the blessing of the good news about Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world. So, we could call this the "Great Re-commission".
In the New Testament, the word "nations" comes from the Greek word "ethne", which means ethnic groups - not political nations or countries. The Great Commission could be written, "Go and make disciples of all ethnic groups." There are thousands of distinct ethnic groups in the world today. It is God's heart that every ethnic group has the opportunity to know Him.
It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus Christ commanded us to GO into the entire world and take His good news to all ethnic groups. Have we done this?
A. Where we are today
If we were to use 10 people to represent the world’s population, the state of Christianity would look something like this:
When God told us to go and make disciples all of the "ethne", or ethnic people groups, He was giving us a good strategy. Each ethnic group is unique, and each church begun among them will be also. Cultural identity is often based on things like language, birthplace, family heritage, social levels, occupation and education. An effective way for God’s blessing to spread among a specific ethnic group is to begin a church among it that can evangelize others and disciple them.
To what ethnic people group do you belong? How many people from different ethnic groups do you know personally? What are some of the things that make them different from you? Do they speak or dress differently or eat other foods? Examine what your attitude is toward people who are different from you. Does this attitude reflect God’s heart?
Action point: Learning about other cultures happens best through experience, not just reading books or magazines. Look around you where you live, work, play, shop and eat. What opportunities do you have to meet people from other cultures? Make an effort to reach out in friendship to those who are not from your own ethnic group.
If we look closely at the division of the world's population given earlier, we see that there are seven non-Christians for every committed Christian to evangelize (because we can't rely on the nominal Christians). This means that if every committed Christian leads seven non-Christians to the Lord, we could finish the task of world evangelization!
But wait a minute. On further thought, why is it not so simple?
Each committed Christian might be able to find four unbelievers in his or her own ethnic group and lead them to the Lord. But it will be much harder to share the gospel effectively with three unbelievers who are in other ethnic people groups. There are many barriers to be crossed for this to happen.
B. Barriers to the Unreached Peoples knowing Jesus
The unreached are unreached for a reason. Do you wonder, in these modern times of computers and jets, why it is that 30 percent of the people on earth still do not know who Jesus Christ is? How could it be that a drink called Coca-Cola could make it into the lives of nearly every people group on earth in less than 100 years when the gospel has not done so in as many as 2,000 years?
Some of the answers are obvious and some are not. Some of these peoples live in very remote and rugged lands, or they only speak their unique languages and have no Scripture or evangelistic materials available. Many countries lack religious freedom; their people are forbidden by law (sometimes under the penalty of execution) to change religious beliefs. And of course, as in any culture, there can be suspicion toward new ideas, different beliefs or change of any nature.
There are other reasons why the unreached do not have churches. Some have nothing to do with the unreached people or their political situation but have a lot to do with us - the 10 percent committed Christian population. Christian disinterest could very well be the greatest hindrance to the gospel. Perhaps it was this type of disinterest that stirred Jesus to violently overturn the tables of the sellers and money-changers inside the temple in Jerusalem and say, "Is it not written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." (Mark 11:17)
Disinterest is probably the biggest reason why many churches no longer pray for the needs of all the nations. We rob God by not blessing the nations with what He gives to us. Lack of prayer and a lack of giving by believers are hindrances to the spread of the gospel.
Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). A lack of Christian workers to go and share the good news with the unreached is a great problem. The majority of Christians became followers of Jesus because someone told them that God loved them so much that He sent His only Son to earth to take the punishment for their sins. People telling people is God’s plan.
C. The Great Imbalance
While the greatest need is for Christian workers to cross cultural barriers to share the gospel among the unreached peoples, only 2 percent of the Christian missionary workers go to the unreached peoples. Nearly all of them - 98 percent - go to the reached peoples.
Unfortunately, funding for the work of spreading the gospel is spent in the same amounts. Only 2 percent of all money given to world missions goes to work among the unreached, while 98 percent is spent on those who already have a church nearby.
Is it fair that we hear the gospel over and over and over
while billions of people have never even heard it once?
Personal reflection: Jesus spoke His last words on earth and challenged His disciples to go and preach the good news. Those who heard His command obeyed it. They told other people. People have continued to do this throughout the last 2,000 years. Someone told you, and now you are a believer. Have you ever told anyone else about Christ and what He has done for you? Have you ever invited someone to an evangelistic meeting? Have you ever prayed for or given to world mission efforts?
Pray: Dear Lord, I want to obey your last words - the command to disciple all nations. Please remove the barriers that keep the ends of the earth from knowing you. Send more resources and people so that the good news may be preached to the unreached. Establish your church throughout the world. Amen.
D. The Gap and Your Response
God is looking for people who will "...stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land..." (Ezekiel 22:30)
There is a large "gap" between where the Christian Church today exists and God’s desire that His kingdom be established in ALL the Earth. The gap is real; it is made up of thousands of unreached people groups and no one sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them.
Whenever a people group is reached (that is, a strong church takes root that can evangelize the remaining members of the group without outside help), the gap shrinks a little bit. The Great Commission of Jesus is a command to bridge this gap. There are still many who have not heard the gospel message of God's love for them. The only way that they will hear is for His followers to stand in the gap and work to tell them. Christians respond differently to the gap. Although we all came from there at some point in time, some Christians quickly forget that the gap exists. Others ignore it to satisfy their own desires. There are still others who are keenly aware of the gap and care very deeply about it, because they know that God does.
Committed Christians care about the unreached because God cares. They study His word. They study world events. They pray. They act.
Personal reflection: Do I understand God's heart for all nations to know Him? Am I willing to join in with God and other committed Christians in reaching people with the gospel?
There is much work for us to do, but we will reach the remaining unreached people groups. It is foretold in a scene of heaven described in the last book in the Bible:
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:9, 10)
In this scene, members of all the people groups of the world are worshiping before the throne of God. This is the purpose of world missions: that all peoples on earth be brought to God through Jesus Christ and worship Him.
If you have a globe or world map, take it out, look over it and pray: Dear Lord, thank You for making me aware of the global need to disciple the unreached people groups. Please awaken Your concern for the lost in my heart. Help me to care more deeply about the things You care about. Give me the courage to take action and be a part of Your global purposes. I do want to make a difference. In Jesus' name and by His grace, Amen.
Action point: If you are ready to impact the unreached peoples, join with thousands of others who have made the following pledge.* Print it out, sign it and either hang it in a place in your home or tape it inside the cover of your Bible to remind yourself of this commitment.
* Adaptation of the pledge from the International Student Consultation on Frontier Missions, Edinburgh, Scotland, November 1980.