The purpose of world missions is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God into people groups where there is no indigenous, evangelizing church. This assumes something about “disciples” and something about “nations.” These terms are used in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” My assumption about “disciples” is that they are people who have seen “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), and who cherish “God in Christ” as the supreme value of their lives (Philippians 3:8). My assumption about “nations” is that they are not geographic, political countries but “tribes, languages, peoples and ethnic groups” (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). Based on these two assumptions, then, the purpose of world missions is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God into people groups where there is no indigenous, evangelizing church.
According to one research group (Joshua Project 2000), in June of this year there were 579 peoples in the world with populations over 10,000 which did not have any church planting missionary effort in them. In July, the Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCWE ’97) met in Pretoria, South Africa with the result that all but 172 of these peoples were targeted by mission agencies. This is a remarkable progress toward finishing the real missionary task of the church. (If you want to keep up on things like this, subscribe—free—to Mission Frontiers, US Center for World Mission, 1605 Elizabeth St. Pasadena, CA 91104.)
But the real source of hope in world missions is not the statistics of man; it’s the promise of God. Namely, Matthew 24:14—“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.” The “shalls” of God are backed by omnipotence. This great work of spreading a passion for God into people groups where there is no indigenous, evangelizing church cannot fail. This is the great hope of the missions enterprise. The word of God will not fail.
But the price will be very high. Not so high that it is not worth it. But very high. Jesus expresses it in Matthew 24:9: “You will be hated by all the nations because of my name.” The purpose and the promise will not happen without the price of opposition and suffering. In fact, the price is not just the result but the strategy of the purpose. God has a certain number of martyrs appointed (Revelation 6:11). Jesus said that when you are arrested and taken before governors, “this will be a time for you to bear testimony” (Luke 21:13). The purpose, the promise and the price are all bound together.
Did you notice the phrase, “all the nations,” in the purpose, the promise and the price?
“Make disciples of all the nations.”
“This gospel…shall be preached…to all the nations.”
“You will be hated by all the nations.”
I call all of you with Hebrews 13:13 (again!) to “go out to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.” What will this mean for you? It will have to do with “all the nations.”
Seeking a full heart for this with you,