For over two billion people in the world today, darkness is their reality. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this reality:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. (Is. 9:2)
Although this passage was pointing God’s chosen people to the coming of the Messiah, the truth here is still relevant to us today. There are people dwelling in darkness that is not penetrated by the light because they have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.
The Great Imbalance
These two billion people who still do not have access to the gospel are known as Unreached People Groups (UPGs). A person who is unreached is not more lost than your neighbor who doesn’t know Christ—the difference is access. The unreached do not have a neighbor to tell them about Christ. In most cases, there is not a local church to attend, or a Bible to read/hear in their language. The majority of the unreached live in a region known as the 10/40 Window, which includes North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Even with two billion in the world without gospel access, the majority of the missionaries and missionary funding goes into areas that are already reached! Christians send one missionary to the unreached for every forty missionaries we send to the reached world. When it comes to funding, only one percent of dollars designated to missions goes toward work happening among the unreached. Not one percent of all giving—one percent of the funds that are set aside for missions. Americans spend more money on Halloween costumes for their pets than goes to the unreached! This imbalance in resources is what is referred to as The Great Imbalance in missions.
To evaluate what remains to be accomplished in the modern missions movement, we need to go back to the task given by Christ in the Great Commission. These were some of Jesus’ last words and instructions to his disciples. When Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples of all nations, he was referring to people groups, not individual countries. The Greek word for nations means groups of people that are distinct from one another, sharing the same language, cultures, and customs. One country can have hundreds of people groups. India alone has between 450 and 2,000 people groups, depending on how specifically you define them.
How is the church doing in our obedience to the Great Commission, specifically in the area of making disciples of all peoples? Two billion people in the world without access to the gospel shows that there is much left to be done. Why is this the case?
3 Reasons for the Great Imbalance
Reason #1 – I am not “called” to missions
As modern Christians, it’s easy for us to designate the role of missions to those who have a specific call to be missionaries. While the Lord calls specific people to move cross-culturally to engage in this work, the Great Commission is given to all disciples, not a select few. Maybe you are not called to move overseas, but as a disciple of Jesus, you have a role! We can’t sit back and expect others to participate in the mission of God. You may be surprised to discover the important ways you can participate in this work without moving overseas. Check out the recommended resources at the bottom of this post to discover more about the roles of a “World Christian.”
Reason #2 – When comfort and security become idols
It is no secret that the places that are left are hard to reach. All the easy places are taken! We have been left with the areas of the world where the cost is great. Those going to serve in this region of the world risk their comfort, safety, security, and even their lives! Admittedly, it takes radical obedience to follow God’s call to these hard places, often with a willingness to lay down your life for the sake of the gospel. But the call to “take up our cross” and follow Christ, is a radical call. Why then, do so many Christians fall short of radical obedience? Is it possible that we have slowly allowed comfort and security to creep into our lives so that they have become idols, keeping us from a willingness to follow such a radical call?
Reason #3 – We have not seen the value of the Pearl of Great Price
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46)
My family spent time serving overseas, and our greatest mentors were our area leaders. Our first year overseas was a year filled with many joys and hardships. Over rice and hot tea, we talked about the commission to make disciples of all nations. Our mentor and his wife gave over thirty years of their lives living and serving in a foreign culture. In his encouragement to us, he proclaimed, through tears, that he had found the Pearl of Great Price. The cost was great—they had elderly parents back in the States, were raising kids in a different culture and seeing them move back to the States for college, and adjusting to living in a foreign culture. Yet they still declared that Jesus is worth it. His glory among all nations and his kingdom is worth it. This is what we were created for. Is the Kingdom of God and the treasure you have in Christ, the pearl of great price to you? Are you willing to give everything you have for him?
Do these reasons resonate with you? Maybe you do not realize that the call to participate in the mission of God is not for a selected few, but the whole body of Christ. Maybe comfort and security have become idols to you. Maybe you have not viewed your role in God’s kingdom as the most valuable thing in your life. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in response to him.
Our motivation for missions cannot come from guilt or even from a love for the lost. These motivations will soon burn out. Our motivation must be dependent on a desire to glorify God and see his kingdom be proclaimed throughout the entire world—every tribe, tongue, and nation. When we have tasted the goodness of the Lord and found the Pearl of Great Price, nothing should stop us from sharing this treasure.
Jesus is the light of the world, and only He can bring hope to those in darkness. Are we willing to carry the light of Christ? He is worth it all, even facing the darkness. Let us not be people who shield our eyes from the darkness, but who face it, knowing that we carry the Light and the glory of the Lord is worth it.