Five years ago, I hardly knew other religions existed. As I learned through Scripture about God’s passion, I started understanding how He sees the world. That changed the way I saw it. I realized my definition of missions needed to align with God’s. In Revelation 5:9 God gives us His definition of missions: “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” God’s ultimate goal in the Bible and all of history is to be known and worshipped by every nation, tribe, people, and language. Missions is extending worship where worship isn’t. If this is His ultimate goal, it must be ours. All our resources need to be applied to seeing this become a reality.
Each of us can walk down our city street and see the need for more Christian laborers. We need help with the poor, help in youth ministry and college ministry. There are needs everywhere. However, the question to direct our focus should not be “Where are the needs?” The question is “Where are the greatest needs?”
What’s a Nation?
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commissioned His followers to “make disciples of all nations.” Though translated as “nations,” it should be understood as “race or tribes” or “people groups.” A people group is best described as an ethnolinguistic group, meaning people who look alike, act alike, and speak the same language. It is the furthest the gospel can spread within a group without hitting a significant barrier.1
There are approximately 17,000 people groups in the world today.3 Of these people groups, nearly 7,000 are without access to the gospel. An unreached people group is a group with little to no access to the gospel, and with a population of less than 2 percent evangelical believers. Over 2.8 billion people fit this category. The majority of unreached people groups (85 percent) live in the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is between latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north, from West Africa to East Asia.
It’s easy to get lost in the Christian life. We must have a North Star. It gives us hope. It redirects our journey. Some of the most incredible sailors in history could navigate the oceans simply by using the stars. I still have trouble finding the Big Dipper. Luckily God has given a clear North Star in Revelation, showing us every nation, tribe, people, and language will worship Him (see Rev. 7:9).15 Yet there are billions of people without the gospel. Sadly, less than 2.5 percent of foreign missionaries are working among unreached people.16 Of all the money US Christians designate for “Christian causes,” only 5.7 percent goes toward missions. Six cents out of every one hundred dollars is allocated to the unreached!17 While there is vast need for funding, the greater need is for volunteers who will take the gospel to the unreached.
Though many Christians may never become long-term missionaries, the reality is God has commissioned each of us to live a missional life. Whether you live in Idaho or Ireland, you have a part to play. For some it may be relocating geographically. For others it may be reallocating financially. For all, it should be allocating our prayers to see these groups reached with the gospel.
Paul established a foothold for the gospel in influential areas. His goal was to see the gospel available. Paul said, “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand’” (Rom. 15:20-21, nasb). The goal is access. If they have access, they have a chance to hear and respond. God’s plan includes all peoples! He desires to finish the task. This is the heartbeat of the church and should be the heartbeat of every believer.
By Josh Cooper