Sunday night we had the privilege of hearing from the heart of our IMB president, David Platt. Of the many challenging statements he made that night, one question continues to burn in my mind:
When will the concept of unreached peoples become intolerable to the church?
With 2.8 billion people around the globe considered "unreached" with the good news of the love of God made manifest in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf - and a mere fraction of our resources (people and money) being allocated to get the gospel to them - we must conclude that the average Christian either
- Does not understand the reality of the unreached or
- Does not care
I can do little to address #2, and would like to believe that the general apathy and inaction of the church stems primarily from #1. Let's deal with that now (and I will be pulling from a lot of what David said Sunday night to do so).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE UNREACHED?
Practically, this means that you lack access to the Gospel. It is very likely you have never heard of Jesus Christ, or at best you have a general, pop-culture idea of Him as an historical figure, a teacher of great truths (like Confucius or something). It is also very likely that you have never met a Christian, been in a church, seen or read a Bible. Unless something changes you will be born, live your life and die without ever being told once about the love and mercy of God found in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is not the same as being "lost."
You have lost neighbors, co-workers and family members - but they have access to the gospel, because they are YOUR neighbors, co-workers and family. You are their access. To be lost in Athens, GA or even Gulu, Uganda is different than being lost in North Korea or Saudi Arabia. Georgia and Uganda have churches, bibles and a large majority of Christians. In North Korea you can be executed for owning a Bible. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to build a Christian church.
When we talk about the 2.8 billion unreached around the world, we are not talking about people who have simply rejected Christ - we are talking about people who will most likely die without ever having a chance to accept or reject Him.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO DIE WITHOUT ACCEPTING CHRIST?
The Bible is crystal clear on this. It is not an enjoyable topic to discuss - I write it with tears - but I think it is perhaps one of the most misunderstood truths in all of Scripture, and one of the most paramount to our living on mission with God.
The Book of Romans was written as an explanation for why Paul wanted to take the gospel to Spain - a sort of missionary support letter. In Romans, Paul explains the reality of the problem that is faced by all mankind - reached or unreached, Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free:
- We all have knowledge of God (Romans 1:18)
- everyone, everywhere, in every language, culture and geographic location is aware in the depth of their soul of the existence of God
- We all have rejected God (Romans 1:21)
- rebellion and rejection looks different in different places; idols look different in different cultures and contexts. But whether we choose golden statues, Buddha or Allah, money, football, or ourselves - we have all rejected God
- We all stand condemned before God (Romans 1:18 - the end of chapter 3)
- we are all condemned because of our sin, not because of rejecting Christ. Therefore those who never hear the gospel suffer the same fate as those who hear and reject
- To believe and be saved, we must hear the gospel and respond to it (Romans 10:14)
- the gospel is only good news if it gets there in time
So you see, 2.8 billion people are facing a Christ-less eternity in a place called Hell, and their only hope is the love of God found in a Savior they know nothing about. But WE KNOW, and we can go tell them - we have been shown such great mercy in where we were born and what we were taught and how God granted the faith to believe. Could it be that we were not just shown mercy for our own sake, but that we might proclaim the mercies of God among the nations? Could it be that we were, in fact, blessed with the gospel so as to be a blessing to all nations?
WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
So I pose the question again: What will it take for the concept of unreached peoples to become intolerable to the church?
We know what it means to be unreached; we know what happens to all people who do not accept Christ; we have the greatest news of all time for all people - news of a King who loves us and has conquered sin and death on our behalf. How could we do anything less than laying everything on the table before our Lord and King, offering to Him our lives, our family, our future, our plans, our retirement, our hobbies, our city, our friends, our comforts, security, hopes and dreams - all for the sake of the spread of the news of the King who has come and is coming again, among unreached people in unreached places until there is no place left where His name has not been proclaimed.
He may ask us to go, or stay, or a little of both. But regardless of the details, He has asked all of us to join Him in His mission to spread His glory among the nations - why settle for a life devoted to anything else?
As for our family, we currently feel called to live this out here in Athens and Watkinsville, GA. That may change one day, only God knows - but I want to say publicly what we've said in prayer privately:
our "yes" is on the table and we are willing to go - anywhere, anything, anytime.
Will you commit to the same? Will you put your "yes" on the table before God and leave the details to Him? Are you willing to go wherever He sends you and do whatever it takes to get the gospel to the places that it has not gone and no one else is taking it?