A while back I wrote a post about prayer and the importance of having a strong prayer team back home holding the rope and lifting us up, a team on standby, ready to lift up requests from the font line. Today I want to go a little deeper and get us all a little more uncomfortable where we are sitting, because let’s be honest, our God isn’t a God of only comfort. If you think he is, you may want to stop reading here and go back to scrolling through Facebook.
I recently watched a video online put together by Gospel Frontier Missions. In this video they presented some startling facts about the state of missions in the world today. It described what we as Christians are doing to spread the Gospel to unreached places, the places where men, women, and children have not had the opportunity to respond to the Gospel, to where there is no witness, to places where people have never even heard of who Jesus is. Sounds crazy right? How are there places where people haven’t even heard the name Jesus? Well, believe it. I lived in one of those places for two years.
In the video (click here) they break the world population into three groups. First, those who identify themselves as Christian, second, those who have access to the Gospel but who have chosen not to follow Jesus, and lastly, those who have never heard of Jesus and have no witness or access to the Gospel. That last group, those who have never heard of Jesus, makes up 29% of the world’s population, or about 2 billion people. So who is reaching out to those 2 billion people? Of those who identify themselves as Christian, only 1 out of 1,800 serve as cross cultural missionaries. On top of that, 72% of these missionaries are serving in areas already considered Christian. Contrast that with the 3% of missionaries that are serving the last group, the unreached 2 billion who have never heard of Jesus. That’s right, only 3% of Christian missionaries are going to those who have no other opportunity to hear of Jesus Christ!
The financial statistics are even more shocking. Of the just over 2 billion people who identify themselves as Christian, only 2% of their income is being given to Christian causes. Of that 2% given to Christian causes, only 6% goes to missions work specifically. Of that 6% that goes to missions, only 1% of it funds missions to the unreached! That’s right, the 29% of Earth’s population, the 2 billion who have never heard of Jesus and have no opportunity to hear the Gospel, are only being sent 3% of our missionaries armed with only 1% of missions funding (0.06% of money given to Christian causes)!
Often I hear our pastor talking about the resources that we have been given, challenging us by asking how we are leveraging our resources for the Gospel. What are your resources? There are at least four that we all have: our time, relationships, finances, and talents. Think about it. How are you leveraging your resources for the least reached, the unreached of the world? How can you leverage your time for those across the world without actually being there? I think there are a few things you can do, and if you get creative there could many more. First, just as I mentioned in the last article, PRAY. Start by picking a country and pray for that country. Next, “adopt” an unreached people group within that country and commit to pray for them. Then, find a missionary working in that country who is reaching out to that people group. Sometimes this can be a bit of work, especially in “closed” countries. This is where mission organizations can help. You can try getting in touch with organizations that might work in the country and ask if they can connect you with a missionary.
Now you have a country, an unreached people group, and a missionary to those people who you can leverage your time for! Beyond prayer, you can email and connect with that missionary. Encourage them by telling them how you are praying for them. Pray for their prayer requests and praise with them about answered prayers. When they come home for home assignment, find ways you can pour into them or help them while at home. This could be as simple as trying to meet up for a cup of coffee, a meal, or a Skype call and simply sit and listen to their story of what God has done in them and through them their last term. If they are close by, help them in getting situated into their home while they are in America. If they are a family, offer childcare so the parents can get a date night. Chances are they didn’t get enough of them on the field. There are many ideas of how you can leverage your time to encourage missionaries.
Your next resource is your relationships. You have a social network of friends, family, and coworkers that the missionary doesn’t have access to. You may go to a different church, have a different small group, or a different Sunday school class. Host a dinner or a dessert time and invite people from these circles to come and listen, ask questions, and learn about what God is doing across the world and develop relationships with real, in the flesh, human missionaries. We are normal people, not superheroes, nor are we just faces on a prayer card. We have been able to have dinners with friends and times of sharing with small groups, and they have been great for the soul. It has been so heart warming to us to be able to share with a small group of people, develop relationships, and answer their questions about our time reaching the unreached.
Also, one area of being a missionary that can be stressful, frustrating, or uncomfortable is fund raising. Some missionaries are funded by their sending organization or denomination. However, many missionaries raise their own support. As you can imagine, asking for money can be uncomfortable, and it can be stressful when it looks like the funds might not come in. It takes a lot of faith to trust that God will come through when it looks impossible to our human eyes. Leveraging your resources and hosting these dinner or dessert times will provide missionaries access to others who may be interested in partnering with them financially to reach the unreached.
That brings us to our next resource you have that you can leverage, your finances. Looking at the figures, very little of Christian giving is allocated to reaching the unreached. If you are not called to go, I would say you should consider yourself called to send. We are all called to play our part in the the great commission, and yes, while there are people struggling to make ends meet, I would probably say that most people have some expendable income. I encourage you to invest in something with eternal returns by PARTNERING financially with a missionary. Yes, I say partnering, not supporting, because by giving financially to a missionary, you are playing an important part in reaching the unreached. It takes a missionary to say yes to God and go, but it also takes many more back home to get them there and sustain them there. I know it sounds self-serving writing this because I am a missionary, and I am raising support. But honestly, we just want you to get involved in some way. If you want to partner with us, awesome! We would love to have you on our team! However, if God is placing another missionary, country, or people group on your heart and you want to support them, I say go for it! I just encourage you to find some way that you can leverage your finances for Kingdom work amongst the unreached.
Lastly, you can leverage your talents. God has created you uniquely, giving you gifts, knowledge, and experiences. Are you called to leverage your gifts and skills in the sharing of the Gospel with the unreached? Honestly, it seems just about anything can be used on the mission field. We have seen this in our organization, AIM. For example, we have even seen recruiting for single men needed to simply sit in coffee shops and develop relationships with others so that they can share Christ! We’ve seen opportunities for surfers, fisherman, nurses, doctors, pastors, and we even had a sniper from the SWAT team serve with us last term. One thing we learned this last term is that when you say yes to God, He will use all of you, even in ways you didn’t know possible. He will take you out of the box you have put yourself in. He will unlock and reveal passions and gifts that you did not know you even had and use those for His glory! The question we hear people ask is, “Am I called to go?”. I think the more important question is, “Am I called to stay?”. The truth is not everyone IS called to go, but I think the important thing is to know that you are where God has called you to be and that you are reaching those around you.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus is with the 11 remaining disciples and gives them this commandment, the Great Commission:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The truth is, this is a commandment to all of us. Wherever we are, God is calling us to make disciples of all nations. You can do this by being a missionary where you are at, but you can also participate in making disciples of ALL nations. If God is stirring you to go, then by all means start taking that walk of faith! If God is calling you to stay, then begin a partnership with a missionary who has been called to go.
Just before Christ left the earth, he gathered with his disciples and said this to them before he ascended into heaven.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
This is another commandment given to the disciples regarding spreading the truth about Jesus. What is interesting to me here is that the same commandment is given to all of them: That they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. He did not divvy the responsibilities out. He did not say, “Peter and James you have Jerusalem. John and Andrew you have Judea. Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew you have Samaria. Last but not least, James, Thaddaeus, and Simon, you get the ends of the Earth.” The truth is that this commandment, this assignment was given as a shared responsibility to all the disciples of Christ. We may not be one of the 12 disciples of Christ, but as true followers of him we are disciples of Christ and therefore have a shared responsibility of seeing the Gospel spread to all nations, all peoples, so that all may have an opportunity to respond to the Gospel and find freedom in Christ.
So, what are you going to do?