Christian, what is the purpose of your life?
In the gospels, we see a picture of Jesus’ purpose, and the end of each gospel especially gives us glimpse at how his purpose affects ours as his followers. If we carefully examine his final conversations with his disciples, the imperatives are clear:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19); “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47); “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21); “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
How are we doing with these marching orders? Great strides have been made from the time of the early church to today. Christianity has certainly made an enormous impact on the world.
But there is still much to be done. According to The Joshua Project, there are around 3 billion people in the world that do not have a gospel witness. What will we do with this? Let’s take a closer look at the Christ’s mandate to the nations, the current state of the world, and how we, as Christians, have a God-ordained task to complete.
A Mandate to the Nations
“Go and make disciples of all nations.” The word “nations” often makes us think of geo-political nations (U.S.A, China, Iran, etc.), but this word in the original text is “ta ethne”, meaning people groups. A people group is a group of people that share a common language, history, and culture. There can be many people groups in one geopolitical nation. China, for example, has 545 distinct people groups.
An unreached people group is a people group that lacks a community of Christians able to share the gospel with the rest of the group without outside help. If less than 2% of the population is evangelical Christian, the group is considered unreached. Without God’s divine intervention, they will have no gospel access. These people could walk for weeks or months and never come across a Christian, a Bible, or a church. Of China’s 545 people groups, 443 are considered unreached with the gospel. Most of the remaining unreached people groups in the world fall within 10 degrees latitude and 40 degrees latitude, in an rectangular area of the world missiologists call the 10/40 window. This area expands from North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The State of the World and the Task Remaining
Our God is a missionary God. Jesus tells us that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). All throughout the pages of Scripture we see God’s promise to bless the nations and fill the world with his glory (Habakkuk 2:14).
Tragically, a lack of strategic focus among the global church has led us to a point where only 3% of the missionary force are sent to work among the most unreached. Even worse, only 1% of all funding given to missions goes to the work that is happening among unreached people groups. This reality of uneven support has been referred to as “the great imbalance” in missions.
Blessed To Be a Blessing
Pick up a biography of William Carey, Adorinam and Ann Judson, Jim Elliot, or other faithful missionaries and martyrs, and you will see that the lives of missionaries are lives of suffering; oftentimes deep and unimaginable suffering. What compelled them to give their livelihood, their families, even their own lives to labor among a foreign people? What about us, who may not have been given a distinct call to go? Are we off the hook?
Throughout Scripture, we see a grand story of God’s promise use the nation of Israel to bless all nations. Through Israel comes Christ, and because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, a remnant of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be grafted into God’s chosen people (Revelation. 7:9).
Because our God is a missionary God, his people must be a missionary people. All Christians have a role to play in God’s mission. Fulfilling this promise is not just for a subset of “super-Christians” who move overseas. It is for every believer, every human being who has been blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Does that mean that every believer should move cross-culturally to labor and complete this task? No. God calls specific people, for his purposes, to labor cross-culturally. But oftentimes we dismiss the possibility that he could desire to use us, because it makes us uncomfortable, seems too radical, or we feel ill-equipped. Instead of asking “why should I go?” we should be asking ourselves, “why should I stay?” Go to God with an open heart and willing hands, and ask him to reveal his purpose for you.
If God has made it clear to you that you are to stay, there are still vital roles that the Lord gives to those who remain among their own people and culture. We need laborers who will pray faithfully for the Lord to send workers to the harvest. We need prayer warriors praying for those who go. We need believers who are willing to sacrifice financially to send these workers. We need Christians who will help others catch God’s global vision. We need loving people who will welcome the foreigners living among us, sharing the gospel faithfully with those who have joined us from unreached places, and encouraging them as they become Christ-followers to take the gospel back to their own people.
There is a role in the task remaining for every Christian. You were blessed in order to be a blessing among the nations. One day, we will stand before the throne of God and worship him with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. That is a promise.
What is your role?
Join us this fall to unpack this topic and more in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class and discover your distinct role and purpose in God’s global movement.