Becoming a co-missional church
The mission of the Church has never been more clear at any point in history than it is right now. That may sound like a bold claim at first glance, but it is a true statement when we survey the scriptural theme from Genesis to Revelation of God's plan for redemption and then compare that to the global landscape and what is happening at this unique moment in history. To be clear, the mission has not changed since Jesus commissioned his disciples by saying,
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." -Matthew 28:18-20
This is the unquestionable mission and directive of God ... that disciples are to be made of "all" nations. This mandate is coming directly from our King, Jesus. He has all authority, and He has given this directive to His disciples and to the Church. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, God's story of the redemption of mankind has been unfolding.
The outcome is certain
If we are tempted to question this directive or the ability to accomplish it, I want to leave no doubt in your mind today on whether world evangelization is possible or not. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says:
"And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
And in Revelation 7:9, we see the results and fulfillment of the Great Commission::
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" -Revelation 7:9-10
When my God says "shall" there is no power or authority in heaven or earth that is going to keep it from happening.
A great imbalance
One of the great challenges of our day to overcome is to realize the sheer weight of the task at hand. At the time of this writing, there are roughly 7.75 billion people on our planet. Of those, nearly 3.2 billion people are living in an area with little or no access to Jesus. That equates to approximately 40% of the world's population with no missionaries or gospel witness.
Additionally, of the 400,000 missionaries sent out from churches, only about 3% of them are working among these 3.2 billion unreached. And of the $47 billion given annually for missions work, only 1% of missions giving goes towards this critical unreached group. 97% of our missions personnel and 99% of our missions giving goes towards nations that are already reached with the gospel while ignoring almost entirely the 3.2 billion people of greatest spiritual need and with no one to share with them the hope and good news of Jesus Christ.
The tragic reality of these numbers is that as world population is increasing, the rate of sending and giving is not able to keep up with the explosive population growth among the unreached. Unless something changes, more people than ever before in all of history will die and be lost for eternity without hearing how to go to heaven. Something has to change.
What can we do?
In 2015, we were blessed to take our first trip to the nation of Nepal, and our eyes were opened to the reality and scope of the unreached for the first time. The impact left a lasting imprint on our hearts. As God has also opened our eyes to see the details of this story throughout all Scripture, and then allowed us the opportunity to see and understand what has been happening around the world in the past 100 years or so, this has had a profound effect on our journey towards becoming a co-missional Church.
How can an individual or local church begin to engage in this problem of the unreached?
Pray differently. The work of the commission is fueled by prayer to the Lord of the Harvest to send out more laborers. God's first directive in Scripture is to pray. Pray diligently and daily for the unreached peoples of the world.
Send differently. Make a priority to direct more missions resources towards groups with little or no access to Jesus. Give joyfully and sacrificially towards the mission, and realize we have more resources than ever before in all of history. It isn't a question of resources, but how they are allocated.
Go differently. Make a determination to target those groups that have yet to hear the gospel and realize that they remain unreached for a reason. Find out what those barriers are and be determined to find ways to get the gospel and workers to those places where it is needed most.
Our church has recently adopted an unreached people group. At our corporate gatherings, we pray for this group, as well as doing so daily as individuals. We have reprioritized our missions funding to focus on unreached peoples. While we haven't withdrawn support to existing missionaries, we've prioritized future giving to focus on those without little to no gospel witness. We have also started educating our students on these things and refocusing our short-term trips to intentionally take them among the unreached, and it is rapidly gripping their hearts and minds. As I write this, two of our students have already committed their lives to this calling in the past four months, and one of them is currently serving for the next five weeks in an unreached nation alongside missionary partners who are planting churches in unreached villages. I believe God is going to send many more as we give this generation a vision that many (most?) of us have never had.
This is the most exciting time to be alive in all of world history, and we have more knowledge and resources at our disposal than ever before. I believe the apostles in Acts looked forward to our days with great anticipation. The question is not whether or not we have a role to play individually and corporately, but rather what role will we play in service to the command of our King? Start today by learning about an unreached people group and considering adopting them. This is the first generation in world history where finishing the mandate laid out by Jesus is physically possible. Let's work together to get the job done.
Father, we pray to you, the Lord of the Harvest, to send out laborers into your harvest!
Aaron Mapes is the lead pastor of First Assembly of God. He can be reached at 541-447-9845.
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