Are we doing enough?
He could have lit up the sky. Or spoken audibly from heaven for all to hear. He could have come with lights, camera and action and much fanfare. He could have have opened the heavens and revealed his glory and the thousands of angels around his throne, for all to see and marvel. But he didn’t. He did something much different. Much harder. Much more costly. Much more loving and humbling. Christ came in the flesh, as a baby, wrapped in humanity, he humbled himself and became a Man, subject to human limitations, weakness, temptation and pain.
He came in flesh and blood. God could have revealed himself in so many of ways to humanity, but he choose to take the very nature of man, coming in the flesh and as a servant. Someone who identified with us, became like us, felt our pain. Understood our plight and identified as one of us. The Message version of John 1:14 says this,
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
He didn’t stand far off. He came near.
John would later write in 1 John 1:1-4 (MSG),
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3-4 We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.
Christ gave up the comforts of heaven, the worship of angels, the streets of gold, the walls of jewels, the bosom of the Father and stepped into our world. As followers of Christ, God is calling us to walk like he walked, to live like he lived and to embody the Good News of Jesus to the uttermost parts of the earth. Paul said it this way,
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Romans 15:20 NIV
This type of service to Christ is for no other reason than obedience to the Father’s will and the infinite gratitude in our hearts for what Christ has done for us. When we behold his love, glory and grace, we will naturally want to share it with others. So if we are to follow in his footsteps today, how can we stay comfortable when the love of Christ compels us? When our faith will not rest until it finds a vehicle of expression? Like Christ, the love of God must compel us to action in one way or another. And for our generation, the state of the world begs the question, are we doing enough?
No I am not speaking of in anyway attempting to earn our salvation. Work for our own righteousness or attempt to please God via service. That’s simply preposterous.
That task was completed over 2,000 years ago forever and always at the cross of Jesus Christ alone.
What I am talking about is taking responsibility in our day to fulfill the Great Commission that Christ gave his disciples.
Mark 16:15, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
While the early disciples were credited with turning the world upside down, the task today is far from complete. In fact, there are 3.11 billion unreached people (out of a total population of 7.38 billion) in the world. The people of the world are made up of 16,560 people groups and 6,698 are classified as unreached. These unreached groups either have no evangelical witness or a very small amount of believers and not enough resources to sufficiently evangelize their country.
Here are the latest stats from Joshua Project:
% Unreached Groups:
Popl in Unreached:
% Popl in Unreached:
So I decided to talk with Steve Harling, the New President of Reach Beyond. Reach Beyond is one of a handful of organizations working to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation. The son and grandson of missionaries, early in his career Rev. Harling served internationally as a missionary with SIM and as pastor of the Khartoum International Church in Sudan. He has more than 25 years of mission board experience with SIM, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Global Refuge and Bethany Home. He’s also spent 36 years as a pastor in churches of up to 4,500 members and has served for the last eight years as lead pastor at Foothills Community Church.
Now he’s committed to bringing the Gospel where it isn’t currently known through Reach Beyond, a media and medical-based evangelical outreach ministry with operations on five continents. Reach Beyond uses modern media including radio broadcast, webcast, social media and solar-powered radio distribution to spread the Gospel. It also provides medical services to the needy throughout its network.
My question for him was this: With all the resources, people and freedom in America, are we doing enough for the sake of the Great Commission in all nations?
Harling told me this, “Here’s the thing. I am excited about the missional movement in the United States. I think it’s tremendous that churches have caught a vision for reaching their own communities, serving their communities and addressing spiritual darkness, poverty, ignorance, disease in their own communities. Those are fantastic things. But I think there is a tendency sometimes to look at it as either or. Either big on global missions or big in your own community. But my argument is it can’t be broken down like that. It’s not either or. It’s both and. There are tremendous churches doing great things around the world.
Harling believes it’s time for churches in America to adapt a new model of missions, one that includes raising up and sending missionaries from within the local church context. He related that in past years, we’ve incorporated a limited model of pay, pray and get out of the way, but he believes that God is up to something today that may require a new model to get to places that aren’t currently being reached.
“But the old paradigm of pay, pray and get out of the way, which basically meant you support missionaries financially and pray for them. That paradigm had a great life cycle but I think God is bringing a new paradigm into play. I call it the partner and play paradigm.”
The partner and play model is where churches are active in getting their people onto the front lines of missions today.
“This is where churches are looking to get their people on the front lines. Through short term mission trips, and other engagements and recruiting and developing their own people to go out as long term missionaries.”
In terms of why the Great Commission hasn’t yet been fulfilled, which by the way is a prerequisite to the Second Coming of Christ, is because of resistance and tendency to go to where there is low hanging fruit, rather than unreached peoples. To go where the field is ripe and the hardest work is done. Historically it’s been said that the Gospel is propelled by resistance and prospers with persecution. This is happening in China today. Early church theologian Tertullian is famously quoted as saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Harling related that there are now around 300,000 missionaries today, with movements for missions being raised up around the world. There is a force out there but the problem is resistance from other religions and restrictions of government. But according to our Lord, resistance is not an excuse to inaction. Harling told me,
“There are literally 300,000 of cross cultural ministry workers in the world today. They are literally all over the planet. God is raising up missionary movements all over the world including Brazil and Nigeria and Korea. Missionaries are coming from there as well.”
The problem is we’ve gone where the ground has already been prepared and the harvest is ripe and the fruit is ripe for picking. He continued,
“There is a huge missionary force out there but the low hanging fruit that is easiest to get to is the reason they are low hanging fruit. The problem is now, we are getting to a point where the remaining people who need to hear are coming from places where it is hard to go. Where there is opposition. Opposition from another religious narrative, if you will. Or opposition from government forces, these are the places where it is difficult to get to.”
Difficult, yes. Impossible, no. Resistance is sure. But if we won’t go who will? If we won’t do something who will?
Could it be that God has so positioned the American church with the resources, the freedom and the opportunity to awaken a missions movement unto the ends of the earth? It’s possible. Maybe even probable.
One thing I do know is that to whom much is given, much is required. The Church in America is asking again for a great move of God and to that I say, “Amen,” but could it be that God is asking for a move of his people, responding with a “Yes,” to his command to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth?
How will we respond?