Reaching Unreached Peoples Must Remain the Priority of the Church
The mission of the Church is more than reaching unreached peoples but it certainly is not less than reaching unreached peoples! Reaching unreached peoples is at the very forefront of the outworking of God’s global mission agenda and will always be so. We minimize the importance of this task at our peril and to the detriment of the world Christian movement! We simply cease to move God’s global mission agenda forward, if reaching unreached peoples is removed from the very top of the priority list of world mission!
Jesus began outlining his global mission strategy to his disciples by instructing them to ‘go and make disciples of all the nations’ (Mt 28:19 NASB). Simply put, Jesus was saying that they were to ‘establish a witnessing community of Christ followers in every nation (people group) on earth’ – no more and no less!
It is God’s will that ‘none perish but that all come to repentance’ (2 Pe 3:9 ). In fact, Jesus promised to ‘draw all people to himself’, following his death and resurrection (Jn 12:32 ).
As desirable as this is, it can only be realized if a people group is reached or discipled. It can only take effect when an indigenous Church, capable of evangelizing its own people, is planted. The saying is so very true, “The harvesters are in the harvest field.’
To emphasis this point, when speaking to a group of Christians or a local church, I often ask the question as to how many present were won to faith in Christ through the ministry of a foreigner? Sometimes one or two hands are raised but seldom more. It becomes very obvious that the all-important work of evangelism, within a people group, is most effectively carried out, when done by people who belong within that very same people group and who can communicate the gospel in the heart language of the people and in culturally appropriate ways.
By definition the task of reaching unreached peoples can only be done by foreigners! We call these people missionaries and have done so for hundreds of years. Initially they were called apostles and were designated by Christ as such. The reason why they have also been designated first in the order of ministries in the Church (1 Cor 12:28 ) is precisely because they spear-head the advance of Christian mission into regions beyond (2 Cor 10:16). Without them the world Christian movement would simply grind to a halt. Well, in one sense we will always keep things ‘moving’ for such is the nature of ‘man’. But not all activity is productivity. And ‘moving’ Christian mission without reaching unreached peoples is not productivity, it is simply activity for the sake of activity. This is not moving the world Christian movement forward towards completion and closure (Mt 28:20)! May God save us from such a false, destructive and deceptive sense of ‘progress’ in Christian mission!
Mission is More than Reaching Unreached Peoples
As stated above, mission is more than reaching unreached peoples. In addition it includes:
1. Evangelizing within a reached people group
2. Preparing God’s people for God’s future world where we will rule and reign with Christ (2 Cor 11:2 ) and
3. Being a living ‘witness to Christ’s Kingdom’ within a people group, as Jesus stated in Mt 24:14 “this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come”.Christ is determined that the gospel not only be preached but lived out as a testimony to His coming Kingdom. This happens when His community of transformed people provide their people group with a witness of what Christ’s promised coming new age will look like (2 Pe 3:13). Again, without a people group first being reached this simply will not and cannot happen!
The Church Exists By Mission and Therefore For Mission
The Church in all reached people groups exists by mission and therefore for mission! For example, someone or some people, foreign to your people group took up their cross, left home, family and the familiar, traveled to your people group, learnt a new language, studied a new culture and communicated the gospel to your forefathers – some of whom were touched by the Holy Spirit, through their message, and believed. After many years they traveled back to their home land or in many cases were buried in the land of their sacrificial missionary endeavors! All of us who enjoy the blessing of the gospel today have such a story – whether or not we are aware of the details and the names of the missionaries involved.
Replicating this process of ‘reached people groups reaching unreached people groups’ must continue. God forbid that it should stop with us! How can we possibly stand before Jesus on ‘that day’ with the testimony of having received blessing but having refused the responsibility of passing it on.
The Church in every reached people group MUST have a vigorous missionary sending program. A new generation of young people must know the history of how the gospel came to them. The price that was paid, the sacrifices that were made for their salvation, that all began with Christ’s sufferings at Calvary and continued through His apostles/missionaries – filling up the sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24) in order to bring Christ’s work on Calvary’s cross to its desired conclusion.
Keeping the Focus Where It Ought to Be
The sad fact is, in fact, the appalling tragedy is, that there exists in our world today millions upon millions of people who never get the chance to hear the gospel. They live and die without ever knowing Christ died for them, simply because their people group has never been reached and this, after some 2000 years of world mission!
The Joshua Project, an excellent source for tracking unreached people groups, currently lists 6,738 unreached people groups (https://joshuaproject.net).
Not only is the continuing ‘unreached status’ of these, more than six thousand unreached people groups, preventing tens of millions of people from obtaining an inheritance among those who are being saved (Ac 20:32) but also preventing the closure of this age and the beginning of the glorious age that has been the hope of God’s people since the time of Abraham (Heb 11:10).
Let’s keep the main thing the main thing and continue to ‘make disciples of all the nations’ as Jesus, the ‘Lord of the Harvest’ very wisely and strategically commanded us to do!
Max W. Chismon