“It is finished.”
Drenched with His own blood, the Savior’s final gasp was the GodMan’s exclamation point on His mission; a mission we revel in every day that we remember ourselves to be redeemed sinners. But 2000 years later His mission is still hidden from many. One barrier or another walls off 2.6 billion people from the gospel. Maybe because no Christian lives near enough to them to tell them about Jesus, or because no Christian knows their language, or because no one has been able to climb over their cultural barriers–or tried.
That such isolation still exists, is stupifying in an age of wireless technology, gigabytes, Facebook, Skype, smartphones, Google Earth, and nanotechnology. Doesn’t everyone have a computer with which to google “God”, “Jesus”, or “good news”?
No. Did you know that there are even some people you share the planet with who have never even read a book? Not just because they can’t read (they–and 1 billion others), but because as of yet there’s nothing to read in their language; it’s strictly oral without so much as an alphabet.
A massive missionary force has been dispatched to the world–and not just by the West. 16,000 South Korean missionaries serve in 168 countries. The India Missions Association (IMA) is the largest missions association in the world and has sent out nearly 50,000 Indian missionaries. It wasn’t that long ago that Mongolia was exclusively a mission field but now even it is sending out missionaries. Why, therefore, are so many people still in the dark about Jesus?
One reason is that not enough missionaries are in the right places to reach these folks. Amazingly, only 2 out of every 100 missionaries are working to get the gospel to people who have never heard. 98% are working in places–and among people, who already have access to the gospel.
Which prompted a brother to ask me this morning, “Why is that?”
One reason is danger. A sizable portion of the people in question are imprisoned behind a religion which is carefully protected by government enforcement. For example, You can’t just fly into King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia and show officials your missionary visa. The royal family considers itself the custodian of Islam since it is its birthplace, as well as the home of Mecca. They would throw you out of the country. Well, they wouldn’t issue a visa in the first place. Even if you managed to get in and flew under the radar and shared the gospel, any Saudi national who converted would face the death penalty.
The last time I was in Laos, I attended a public worship service in the capitol city. At that time it was only one of three legal churches legal–presumably kept as showcases to deflect outside criticism that there is no religious freedom. Which there isn’t for the 217,000 Christians living among 6 1/2 million people. Believers routinely organize as underground churches and keep a low profile. When they’re exposed they face banishment from their villages or even prison. Although the government is atheistic, it’s happy to support the pervasive Buddhism (well-mixed with animism) because it is a historical and cultural faith. In other words, it’s not “imported” like Christianity.
India is often thought of evangelized, a place of churches and missionaries. But in a nation of 1.2 billion people, the amount of work to be done is staggering. Here live the world’s least-evangelized groups. Of the 159 people groups with more than a million people, 133 are in India. India is more ethnically diverse than any other nation on the planet, with a total of 2500 different people groups. Depending on the state, there is greater freedom or less. In some places, the Hindu majority can be vicious.
Danger. That’s at least part of the reason why more missionaries aren’t working in some of these places. First it takes ingenuity to concoct a way to get in, and then resolve (faith) to stay the course when the risks escalate. In 1989 at the second Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, George Otis asked this penetrating question, “Is our failure to thrive in Muslim countries the absence of martyrs?” Probably. Otis’ remark was before the West woke up to the to the emerging power of radical Islam. With the blood that Sharia supporters have spilled in the last 15 years, numerous Christian voices suggest that any great missionary push into the belly of Islam will require much blood. In this case, offered in love, not taken in hate.
Who will answer like Isaiah, “Here am I send, me!”?
Young people are being shaped and molded by school counselors and parents to excel in academics and sports and leadership opportunities, in the hopes that they’ll be positioned for a spot in a prestigious school (preferably with a scholarship), in the hopes that they’ll secure a high-paying job in medicine, law, finance, or technology.
For what? To die rich? To never have to worry about bills? To never have to explain to your child why you couldn’t afford to buy him the teen status symbol everyone else has? To get your name on a trophy that will be forgotten by most after next year’s winner is announced? To prove to the prom queen that she should have gone out with you? Like chicken left out on the counter, the shelf-life of such attainments is unsatisfying brief. The dull emptiness left must then be replaced by some new challenge.
Here’s one: go and die for Jesus; prepared to, even if not asked to. Take that professional degree and slip into a country that’s salivating for engineers or physicians or nurses or teachers. If you are the adventuresome type, exchange your motorcycle or rockclimbing gear for a round trip ticket to scout out some place where they haven’t heard of Jesus. Then come back and create a way to reach them. Contact agencies, get any training you need. If a mission agency won’t take you even though God’s sending you, find a way to go anyway. In Vietnam I met a Christian CPA from Scotland. Although sent by God, he was not sent by an agency. He arrived in Ho Chi Minh City not knowing the language or anybody in the country. Yet when I met him, he’d already been a financial adviser for small businesses, an English teacher, a university president, and a witness for Jesus around many campfires.
Let the stories of missionaries like William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Patrick (yes, St…), Raymond Lull, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, and Amy Carmichael, inspire you. Pray for the power and the drive of the Holy Spirit. Read your Bible and memorize it. Ask your friends and acquaintances what they think about Jesus. Learn from their answers. Pray for lost people. Buy Operation: World and start praying for the nations. Take the Perspectives Course on the World Christian Movement. Invest your life in something you can take to the grave: a few living, breathing, redeemed trophies of God’s grace rescued from among the millions still hidden from the greatest message known to mankind. How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Rom.10:15)