By Cal Kierum
“Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”
This thought-provoking quote came from Dr. John Piper on a message that he gave on the supremacy of God in missions. The underlying idea is that God desires and deserves worship from every tribe, tongue, and nation. But in our fallen world, there are still many nations who have never heard the Gospel.
And if they have not heard, how can they believe? If they don’t believe, then they cannot worship in Spirit and in Truth. So missions exist for a period of time so that all nations have the chance to know God. One day, missions will cease, but worship of God will persist through eternity. Hallelujah!>
One consistent theme throughout the Bible is God’s plan to redeem the nations. Starting in Genesis, the descendants of Noah are divided into the nations of the earth. Then their language is confused at the tower of Babel and they disperse to fill the earth. Later in Genesis, Abraham is promised that from him, God’s chosen people will come. Part of that promise is that his seed will be blessed.
This promise ultimately is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples a very important teaching on His authority and His command to … “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
But how are we in the 21st century to understand the concept of “nations?” The word used in Greek is ethne, the same word from which we get our English word “ethnic.” Clearly, God is not speaking about nations as we envision them (political entities), but rather people groups. You can see this looking back into Genesis where the term “nations” is first used to describe the various descendants of Noah. So Jesus has instructed us to “make disciples of the nations,” meaning that the Gospel is to be taken to each unique people group.
Lest we think that work is done, there are thousands of people groups that have never heard the Gospel and don’t have a strong, evangelizing church within their ethnic or language group that can then help more people in that group to hear the Gospel.
A good Web site for learning more about this is the one for the Joshua Project. Their statistics currently show that of 16,350 people groups in the world, 6,642 (40.6%) are as yet unreached. Most of these people groups live in the “10/40 Window,” the lands between 10 degrees North and 40 degrees South latitude in Africa and Asia. Many live in severe poverty and are trapped in religious belief systems that make them somewhat closed to the Gospel.
The major belief systems of these groups include Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Animism. These people groups remain unreached because they are hard to reach. Furthermore, most of the money, resources and missionaries that American churches put into missions are not directed toward the remaining unreached people groups, but toward those who have already had exposure to the Gospel, where churches are established.
However, God is opening doors in mighty ways among the unreached people groups. Around the world, Muslims are coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Holistic presentations of the Gospel in both word and deed (through compassion ministries) are allowing Christians to be the hands and feet of Jesus around the world. This is happening among people groups where traditional proclamation of the Gospel would either not be allowed or would fall on hardened hearts.
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