Let the Nations Be Glad!

Session 1

The Supremacy of God in Missions

Sing to the Lord All the Earth

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
     sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
     tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
     his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
     he is to be feared above fall gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
     but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
     strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
     bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
     Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
     he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
     let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
     before the Lord, for he comes,
     for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
     and the peoples in his faithfulness (Psalm 96:1–13).

So Lord You are a gracious, global God. The nations are Yours because You made them, and You are not content that they live in rebellion against You. You will have every knee bow. Every tongue will confess that You are Lord. You will own rightly and manifestly Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Benin, Mexico, Canada, China, Mongolia, India, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, Australia, and all the Middle East with its high-handed rebellion against the crucified Son of God, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, yes and Israel. You will have them for yourself — all of North Africa and all the countries to the South of that great continent. They will be yours one day. My prayer earnestly is that this time together will be used by Your sovereign hand to make that happen. You ordain means to the achievement of your global purposes in prayer and in sending and in going.

I pray that prayers would be answered in this room, Lord. Many people are in this room wondering, is it me? Am I one of the goers? Am I one of the martyrs? Am I one of the radical lay-my-life-down wartime living senders, who change everything for the cause of the globe and the mission? Lord, I pray that nobody remains the same. That you will make world Christians here. People who carry the globe on their heart because Christ is in their heart and the globe is a peanut in his pocket. This is no trouble for the risen Lord Jesus. He is in us, and we praise you Father for him who loved us and gave himself for us and for millions around the world, who he means to gather into one priesthood. So God come help us. Don’t let us play games here I pray. Communicate with us and deal with us deeply. I ask this in Jesus’s name, amen.

Disillusionment and the Authority of Christ

I was reading “World Magazine” this week, and two articles were really moving to me. Andrée Seu’s is often moving to me. That’s not the one I’m going to refer to though, but this one by Mindy Belz. Mindy is an international correspondent and travels around the world a lot and was in Afghanistan when she wrote this. She said something in two sentences that stirred me and I thought I’m going to read that right off the bat Friday night. The first thing she said that gripped me was this:

In many quarters especially among the young people, the disillusionment with Islamic movements of all shades is palpable.

That really struck me. We think that everybody who flies under the banner of Islam is a rabid extremist. There are millions disillusioned. That’s an answer to prayer. I pray for the disillusionment of Islam a lot. I hope you do too. They have no savior. They need to feel disillusioned with their system. It is so hopeless. But the one that really gripped me was when she said this:

Yet for me and my fellow Christians in the West, too often we put more faith in the headlines of this place — boasting of insurgency, casualty figures, futility of US mission — than we do in the words of Jesus Christ, whose great commission begins with the call, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

That gripped me because emotionally that’s true. It’s true for me often. You read a headline about some violence or some hardness, and it takes over your emotions, and the words of Jesus are just kind of small and little. That’s just absurd. That’s insane. He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go therefore to Afghanistan and make disciples.” That’s the word that is 10 million times more powerful and more important than any headline you’ll read about insurgency. I was moved by that article and thankful for Mindy and the whole crowd there at “World Magazine.”

Let the Nations Be Glad

This course is built around the book Let the Nations Be Glad and the content of it. This is the book I wrote in 1993 and have updated it twice since then. The outlines that are going to be on the overhead are more or less taken over verbatim from here, with a few others thrown in and a lot of texts along the way. If you don’t have this and you want to have in fullness what I’m saying here, this is the way to have it in fullness.

I’ll try to say how sermons became a book over time. It’s really interesting. In fact, that is what I want to do is start with an autobiography because you might wonder (you should wonder), “So why did you write a book on missions you’ve never been a missionary? You don’t even like to travel, only your wife likes to travel.” I really don’t like to travel. We stand in customs lines in Brazil and Australia, and I look at Noël and say, “You enjoy this?” Why am I writing this book? Somebody who’s been there and done that for 30 or 40 years, maybe they’re in a position to write that book. That’s the story I want to tell you for maybe 10 or 15 minutes here before I jump into the substance.

An Awakening to Missions

I was sitting at the dining room table tonight eating dinner about an hour ago with Talitha and Noel. When I was done with my hamburger, I was just sitting there looking out the window shaking my head. I didn’t realize I was shaking my head. Noël said, “Why are you shaking your head? What did I do?” I said, “I just can’t believe I’m teaching this course. Why am I teaching this course? I can’t believe I wrote that book. How did this happen? Should it have happened?” Because if anecdotes are right, this book has made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. It has put people on the line. I’ve had a dad say to me, “If my kid dies on the field, I’ll kill you.” That’s what he said.

Here’s the story. I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina in a home that was over the top Christian, joyfully, gloriously Christian. My dad was an evangelist — an old time, independent, fundamental Baptist evangelist that had revivals, not the way you should use the word revival, but he held revivals. He used to joke and say, “We don’t hold them, we let them go.” That’s the way he would talk. What he meant was mini-crusades like Billy Graham. Billy Graham would do them for 50,000 my dad would do them for 500. That was the difference. My dad went all over the country. He was in every state and Canada and spent I suppose 60 years of active pursuit of unbelieving sinners for Christ. If you grow up in a home like that it makes some impressions. I wrote down four here that are just huge.

Number one, my dad loved the glory of God. He pronounced it glory. He used it in every prayer that he ever prayed that I ever heard him pray, whether it was family prayer or a church prayer. He loved the glory of God, and he was full of joy in it and full of worship. My dad was a worshiping, singing man. I don’t think many of you had the privilege of growing up in a home where on vacation with you and your sister sitting in the back seat, your parents would be singing songs of praise to Jesus in the front seat. That’s rare.

Number two, my dad really believed people were lost. He really believed they were hellbound. My dad was the happiest man I’ve ever known. He had no qualms doing what I’ve never done, namely begin every sermon with a joke. He was just hilarious at the dinner table. He would come home with his jokes. Most of them were inappropriate because they were ethnic jokes or drunk jokes. I loved them. That was before the politically correct day and we didn’t know what we were doing, shame on us. But he was just unbelievably happy. But when he got serious in the pulpit, he scared the willies out of me. The text that I remember for perhaps most often that frightened me was Hebrews 9:27.

He would squint and get this look in his face that was really serious. He would say, “It is appointed unto man once to die,” and he would squint,” and after that the judgment.” And everybody thought the floor might open any minute. This is a Jonathan Edwards type moment. I saw the happiness, I saw the healthy humor of a human being over here, and I saw a man just who felt like his ministry was always standing on the brink of hell, just pushing people back. I’d watch him cry at the end. He’d stand at the end while we were singing, “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.” He’d look right at you and say, “He’s calling you, he’s calling you.” Here’s this little kid traveling with his dad from time to time absorbing the fact that people are lost. That’s where this book comes from among other places .

Sacrifices and Labor for the Lost

Number three, my dad was willing to make sacrifices. People get on a lot of people’s cases about the way they do their marriages. I will never ever, ever get on my dad’s case for the way they did their marriage. He was gone for two weeks and home for four days, gone for three weeks and home for four days, gone for four weeks and home for four days, and gone for a week home for four days. Two thirds of my life he was gone. I never once resented a minute of it. To this day I hold him in the highest regard. People can make a case if they want that I’m bad the way I am because he didn’t do his job, and I will just say I’m going to heaven not believing that and not caring if it’s true.

Unless you hate your kids you cannot be my disciple. Go ahead and tweet that question right now if you want to, because I don’t have any better answer than to say I admire my dad for pursuing lost people. My mother never said a word to me or to him in my hearing of resentment. She was an omni-competent mom, doing everything he did when he wasn’t there, and being glad when he did it when he was there. My whole vision of manhood and womanhood grew up watching the dynamic of my mom’s genius.

She was showing the total competency of a single mom two thirds of the year, and a totally glad hearted, submissive attitude that said, “Yes I’m glad you’re here. Go ahead and lead the devotions, lead us wherever you want to lead us. I’m just tired of leading this ornery kid of mine. Take over, Bill Piper.” It was a huge sacrifice for my dad to live out of a suitcase for what 40 years? It was a huge sacrifice. As an old man I’d get out his poems. I’d say, “Daddy read me a couple of your poems.” He wrote poems for me when I was six, I wanted to hear him read it. He’d cry every time he read these poems. He wrote a poem called, “Home Is Where I Hang My Hat.”

Number four, my dad had faith in the sovereign goodness of God. We would sit down and we would mail out letters. I’d lick envelopes or I would stuff envelopes and fold letters, and we’d send these out to 100 churches in California and Oregon and Washington to see if they wanted him to come. That’s the way he made his living, love offerings, and if he crossed the country in the 50s, you don’t come back the next night. You’re puddle jumping across the country and you stay there for three or four or five weeks. You try to get churches to want you all back to back. That’s not easy. We’d bow our heads and we’d pray, “God over these 100 letters, grant that there would be six invitations back to back in a geographic area.” He believed it.

My dad just never communicated to me this wasn’t going to happen. We prayed and he got up and went about his business, like this is going to happen. God rules. He loves lost people and he’s going to use me to find them and he’ll make a way. I to this day just stand in awe of my father’s faith in the way he led his life. Those are some of the roots.

Seeds of Missions Ambition

I went off to Wheaton College. There was a missions week every year at Wheaton whatever they called it festival, I can’t remember. In those days people were marching for Vietnam and they’re marching for civil rights, but there was always this band of crazies who every fall called everybody to care about the nations, which nobody did, nobody did in my generation. That’s an overstatement, but you know what I mean. They were barefoot on the streets with black armbands and making it happen for civil rights and Vietnam. But there was always this radical group saying, “Hey, there’s a world bigger than Vietnam, bigger than civil rights.” I always watched that. Then of course lots of us didn’t give a rip about anything, we were just into girls, literature, or just totally into ourselves. We didn’t care much about civil rights or Vietnam or the world or anything, but seeds were being sown.

Jim Elliot you know is an alumnus of Wheaton, and therefore he was featured. He was one of the missionaries who died in 1956 in Ecuador along with four others. He said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” That’s a powerful sentence. Have you ever heard of it? We used to put it on t-shirts and shirts around here in the early 1980s when we were coming alive to this. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, like his life, to gain what he cannot lose, like Jesus. Wheaton was not insignificant though not major in the shaping of my missions vision.

Fuller Seminary is where all the theology came together that’s underneath everything. I fell in love with the sovereignty of God. You may not believe this or know this, but I went to Fuller as a pretty fighting, free-willer, Arminian type. I got into this course with James Morgan. He was pulling Romans 9 on me, which is not fair. I wrote at the end of that course in a blue book — I wish I’d saved it because it was epoch-making — “Romans 9 is like a tiger going around devouring free-willers like me.” That’s what I wrote in my final exam.

On the way there, I remember standing outside his classroom after one day he’s arguing about the sovereignty of God. He was defending the sovereignty of God in all things and God controls the world and rules everything. I went up to him and he was a pretty big guy. He died of cancer while I was there, stomach cancer. We used to play handball together, and it was sad to lose him. He had a wife and four kids. But he was big at first. He was talking about the sovereignty of God. I said, “Dr. Morgan, do you see this? (I held up a pen) Watch this. I dropped it!” I just settled the Arminian issue right there. But by the end I was writing about Romans 9 and it did devour a man-centered free-willer and turned me upside down.

All for the Glory of God

Then Jonathan Edwards’ book, The End for Which God Created the World has after the Bible remained one of the top three influences in my life I suppose, along with Freedom of the Will and a few others. But The End for Which God Created the World, which is what you’re going to hear a lot of tonight and tomorrow morning, showed that God created the world for the glory of his name. God created the world to display his majesty. The universe is about God. When you look at the Hubble telescope pictures, and you read a little bit of astronomy and physics, and you realize this universe is getting bigger all the time as we discover its bigness, this drives humanistic scientists up the wall because they know how small man is. Here’s this infinitesimally small planet called “Earth” where we live, and then nothing out there. What does that mean? More life has to be out there. If it’s this big they have to be out there.

What’s the assumption behind that? That it’s about us, it’s about humanity. It’s about evolving into something smart. I say, wait a minute. That may not be the point of all this bigness. Like the heavens are telling the glory of God. It’s very fitting that we be infinitesimal and the voice of the glory be infinite. Wouldn’t that be appropriate? I mean that makes sense the other doesn’t make any sense. The glory of God is what it’s all about both in history and in the galaxies.

I went to Munich after Fuller learned a foreign language, lived in another culture, and felt like a one year old again. You’re working on a doctorate and you can’t talk. You feel stupid and you feel there’s a whole world out there that I don’t know anything about, and I’m just so foreign here. It was just this a great experience everybody should have. I became much less American there and much more Christian. That’s one of the effects of being outside your identifying culture. You realize, “Okay who am I? Must I have America to be me? Or do I need Jesus to be me anywhere?” It’s good to live for a season away from your seemingly identifying networks of people and of culture that define you. Because if they define you more than Jesus defines you, that’s not good. Munich was big in that regard.

Setting a Flame to the Kindling

Then I was 28 years old and I came to Bethel. I live in the Twin Cities because I got my first job at Bethel, which is the only reason I came. I never heard of Bethel when they offered me this job, and I stayed there for six years. I see some of my former students. I passed one of my students walking over here today at 2:30 p.m. and I asked her about her grandchild. My students have grandchildren. That’s not possible. I remember her, Edith. She was an A student in Luke. It was like yesterday I remember Edith. Now she’s got grandchildren. Good night. How can that be? Anyway, Bethel was that season of intense Bible teaching, where everything was just settling in and I was just consumed with preparations and teaching and trying to understand books of the Bible and teach them.

Then came 1980 in Bethlehem and ever since then, I’ve been here. Then in 1983 was the big change. So up till then, there was no big missions commitment, no big missions anything. You’re just having everything put in place like kindling before the firefall and it fell in 1983. Phil with Tom here on the front row and for me. The church had a missions conference when I came and I never preached at it. Two people did for 1980, 1981, and 1982. So in 1983, the missions committee said, “Would you preach one of the two weeks?” And I’ve been doing that ever since. I said, “Sure, if you want me to.” I’d never preached on missions for three years.

I was in the middle of the series Desiring God, which became the book. So I decided to name the sermon “Missions: The Battle Cry of Christian Hedonism” in the fall of 1983. Preparing for that sermon was life-changing because a lot of things clicked. The glory of God connected with the globe (duh). This is how fragmented your brain and your soul can be. Some of you are in this place right now and tonight for some of you will be like this. Right now you got these two things in your head, okay? God created the world and owns the world and God is infinitely glorious and sovereign. And they’ve never come together. There are no implications flowing at all from those two things in your head, they’re just like lobes of your brain that never meet.

In that preparation, they just came together and said, “Well, yes, Jonathan Edwards. If God is doing all for his glory, then he’s passionate about the worship of his name among the nations, which means we should get it for him, if that’s what the Bible says to do, and it does.” So ever since then, and I could tell you a lot of stories between then and now, the glory of God came together with the world. The idea of peoples came together with Ralph Winter, though we won’t talk about it because I’m going to talk about it later. Prayer connected the power of the word to convert the world — domestic ministries and frontier ministries. Oh, how we wrestled in those days with the relationship between the neighborhoods and the nations and how they fit together.

Missions and Local Ministry

We worked it out, we put it in writing for how these things work in our minds, for how they’re not at odds. You don’t have second class citizens in the church. Those who are on the street in Philipp’s Neighborhood and those who are on the street in Afghanistan. No second-class citizens here. There’s an interrelationship between those two. Here’s a simple way to say it: If you are passionately committed to local domestic ministries — abortion, poverty, AIDS Ministries, anything where you’re going to relieve some suffering and point people to Jesus — you should really care about exporting that where they don’t have churches to do it. See?

The only place people can go with ministries is where they’ve seen them and do them. So if you’ve got it in your head that there’s a tension here, you just need to get over that. There are reasons why goers should care deeply that there are stayers who minister and lay their lives down in local evangelism. And there are reasons why those who stay and lay their lives down in local evangelism should be thrilled that there are goers exporting that sort of thing to places where there’s no Jesus to even get something like that started because nobody believes.

There’s no tension here. This is a symbiotic reality. When you plant a church, you’re planting it from something. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of churches that are doing the right things. I saw somebody blog the other day. It was so wise. They just said, “Don’t expect any radical transformations on the airplane. What you’ve done here, you’re going to do there. What you’re good at here, you’ll be good at there. What you’re bad at here, you’ll be bad at there.” There’s nothing on the airplane that’s special. You don’t become a different person when you land. That’s just huge.

We’re raising our kids to be either sleepers or engaged. And out of all that, from 1983 to 1993, there were sermons, conference talks, meditations, Star articles, whatever, and the first edition to this happened. Someone might ask me, “So how can you be audacious enough to do that?” I brought this book along. This newest one called Bloodlines because this is even more audacious. Like, what are you writing this for? What do you know? Look at your church. Mr. Diversity and Mr. Harmony? You’re going to write a book like this with a mainly white church? What are you doing? And that’s pretty much the way I feel about this. I feel like, “You’re not a missionary. You’ve never even suffered worth a toot. What are you?”

There’s a real simple answer to that. I just read my Bible and say what I see and feel really strongly about it. I don’t commend any sermon or any article or any book as true and helpful because of me, anything about me, nothing. I’m loud, right? So who cares about loud? I live this way. I’m married this way. I’ve got these kids. Who cares? I want to know, is it true? Is it in the Book? Is it God’s word? That’s all I care about. So I just say to God, “I’m going to do my best. I do my best with racial harmony. I’ll do my best with missions involvement and mobilization. But in the end, I’m a C minus human being, maybe D. And if this is of any help, it’s not because of my grade.” It isn’t.

It’s because it has Bible in it with some arguments. That’s what it means. Which is what this seminar is. So that you need to ask why people write books the way they do, and do they have any right to write them? And my answer is, I don’t even write to do anything. I just do it because I feel like doing it. When I read my Bible, I can’t not write about it. And so if people get help, I can’t help that. If people read it and get stirred up to go, I say, “Don’t let your dad kill me.” So I don’t know if that is helpful for you or not but that’s where the book came from and that’s the way I feel about most of the books that I write.

A Passion for God’s Supremacy

Here’s where we start. If you’ve been at a church long enough, you can persuade people to make the church mission statement the one you have for your own life, or you can take for your own life the one that church has grown to be because you’ve been there long enough. So the church embraced this one, it’s on the wall up there, and I would say it’s my life mission statement:

We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

That words is peoples. That “s” is not an accident. It’s not people, it’s peoples. And that piece in our mission statement makes us a missionary people. One of my goals for this seminar is to sow seed into the wonderful awakening that has been called the New Calvinism or the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, or Reformed resurgence, or whatever, because — and I read this again in email today from a friend — it’s wonderfully energetic for church planting by and large. There is the Acts 29 phenomenon and lots of other evidence of God’s great blessing, great power, and great energy. And you don’t, by and large, when you go to taste a passion for unreached peoples in this movement. A lot of people are aware of this. We had Ed Stetser talk about it at the conference a few weeks ago.

I carry that torch. That’s one of my little torches. I’m going to walk into every situation I can and say to all of you who may have grown up in churches or homes where that was a zero phenomenon, it just was not on anybody’s agenda, and I’m just trying to light your fire with this and pray that the Lord would never let it go out. So our mission statement has “peoples,” and we’ll talk about what the difference is between people and peoples in a minute. Here’s the thesis of the seminar:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

It really makes a difference in your life when you decide what things are going to stop being in the age to come and what things keep on going in the age to come. And missions does not keep on going. Evangelism does not keep on going. Worship keeps on going, obedience keeps on going, lots of things keep on going, but not missions. It is a temporary necessity because what is most important isn’t there.

So don’t ever say missions is the most important thing in the world. It isn’t. How can it mean to be more important in the end? And that was so important. I just didn’t get that when I was in college and I’m glad the Lord has made that plain to me now.

The State of World Christianity

So the first thing I want to do is just get us oriented in the new shape of World Christianity. That’s a phrase from Mark Knowles’s book. So let’s just get ourselves oriented. What’s God been doing for the last 100 years in the world? And lots of you know these facts, but some of you, this may be newer and it’s good to review in any case. Lamin Sanneh, or however you pronounce, is professor of history at World Christianity, Yale. And he uses the word breathtaking to describe the situation we’re in right now. This book is called Disciples of All Nations. He says this:

Among the many breathtaking developments in the post World War Two and the subsequent colonial eras, few are more striking than the worldwide resurgence of Christianity. With unflagging momentum, christianity has become, or is fast becoming the principle religion of the peoples of the world. Primal societies that once stood well outside the main orbit of the faith have become major centers of Christian impact, while Europe and North America, once considered the religion’s heartland, are in noticeable recession. We seem to be in the middle of massive cultural shifts and realignments whose implications are only now beginning to become clear.

Now, I wonder if he’s right about that right there. He’s certainly right about this in the last 100 years, and we’ll see some statistics on that, but there’s a lot of debate right now about whether Christianity, meaning broad church attendance and that sort of thing, is up-down or straight. The most statistics I looked at are that America has been pretty steady for about 50 years at who goes to church. There are places that are way more secular than used to be like the Northeast and Northwest, but when you take America as a whole, I don’t know if this is true. It may be and maybe you can point me to some things that would show me. So there’s his breathtaking situation.

The term that you should be familiar with is that one right there, “the Global South.” The new terminology that has been introduced into our vocabulary — Philip Jenkins is the main person who did put that in our vocabulary — is the term Global South. It’s a reference to the astonishing growth of the Christian church in Africa and Latin America and Asia, while the formerly dominant centers of Christian influence in Europe are weakening. In my paraphrase, I left out America because I’m just not sure. I don’t know. We may be getting weaker. Things may be going backward in America, but I don’t know if that’s the case or not. So, know this term, “the Global South.” It’s not going to go away for a long time and here are the reasons why.

Realignments of Christianity Toward the Global South

Here’s what we mean in the big shift. At the beginning of the 20th century, Europeans were 70.6 percent of the world’s Christian population. By the end of the 20th century, the European percentage of Christianity had shrunk to 28 percent. So notice that decline. That’s what they mean by a dramatic backward movement. Latin America and Africa combined provided 43 percent of the world’s Christians. So that movement from 76 percent to 28 percent is the emergence of the Global South and the decline of the centers of the faith for the last 1,000 years.

In 1900, for example, Africa had 10 million Christians — and understand that definitions mean professing Christians, no attempt to read people’s hearts here — representing about 10 percent of the population. By 2000, so now 100 years later, this figure had grown to 360 million from 10 representing about half. So it was 10 percent to 50 percent of the population quantitatively. “This may well be the largest shift of religious affiliation that had ever occurred anywhere.” That’s a quote from Philip Jenkins. So that’s a sketch of some of the Global South.

This is from the Joshua Project. If you’re not familiar with it, get familiar with it because there isn’t a better place for keeping yourself informed about the movement of God among the unreached peoples. They say this:

In the past 10 years, for every one new believer in North America in Europe, there have been nearly 30 new believers in the developing countries of Nigeria, Brazil, India, and China. So thinking of America, again, I’m not making the point that America is growing, like the church is growing in the third world or in the Global South, I’m just saying that it may be that we’re steady rather than that kind of amazing increase. That was a new statistic to me in preparing for this class that stunned me and made me very excited about what God’s doing elsewhere.

A Great Redistribution

Mark Knowles’s description of the new shape of World Christianity is probably the most provocative. Some of these are funny, in fact, it’s very amazing. He says:

The Christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last 50 years than any comparable period in history with the possible exception of the earliest years in church history.

So here’s about eight or nine of these facts that are remarkable:

Active Christian adherence has become stronger in Africa than in Europe. The number of practicing Christians in China may be approaching the number in the United States. Live bodies in church are far more numerous in Kenya than in Canada. More believers worship together in church Sunday by Sunday in Nagaland than in Norway. More Christian workers from Brazil are active in cross-cultural ministry outside their homelands than from Britain or from Canada.

I was just in Brazil and I gave him this quote and I pleaded with the people I was with, “Don’t have a mindset of being a receiving country anymore. Just let that go. Dream a dream.” Brazil is the 14th largest sending country in the world when it comes to missionaries. Dream that up to 10, eight, or seven. Become a major force for missions in the world, not just a receiving group that they have been for a long time. And that’s true of numerous lands. He continues:

Last Sunday, more Christians believers attended church in China than in the so-called Christian Europe. This past Sunday, more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, than did Anglicans in Britain, Canada, and Episcopalians in the United States combined.

So more Episcopalians were worshiping in Kenya than in the U.S and Canada combined, in South Africa than in us combined and so on. Those are amazing numbers. It has blown away the liberal establishment of Anglicanism in Britain. They don’t know quite what to make of it because if you have a big world assembly, then they are more bishops from the African lands and they are from the North countries where it all started and they’re all Bible believers. It’s absolutely maddening to liberals when black people are Bible believers, because you have to defer to blacks because that’s politically correct and they all get it right and you don’t because you’re liberal. And I love them being in that pinch. Love it. That’s the way it ought to be. Knowles continues:

Last Sunday, more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland (that must make John Knox roll over in his grave). This past week in Great Britain, at least 15,000 Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals, namely the British natives, most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.

You go to London today, what are the biggest churches? They’re African churches. They’re just massive. Some are 10,000 people, mostly Nigerians and Kenyans, worshiping God. London doesn’t know what to make of it all. It’s just remarkable. Wonderful.

The Spread of the Prosperity Gospel

Here’s a caution from Michael Horton:

Celebration of the much-advertised expansion of Christianity in two-thirds world, most notably in recent years in Philip Jenkins’s, The Next Christendom, should at least be tempered by the fact that the prosperity gospel is the most explosive version of this phenomenon.

I totally accept that caution. It doesn’t undo my gratitude to God for what’s happening outside the states and outside of Europe in Asia, South America and Africa, but it does temper it with the fact that we’ve got our work to do. The church has its work to do. The gospel is spreading in forms that are defective in many places. So what’s called for? Boycott? No, teaching is the answer. Truth is what’s called for, the maturing of the church.

I think you should not be intimidated too much by those who accuse you maybe of cultural imperialism if you think that you might have something to teach somewhere in the world besides America. What you need to think — and I don’t know if we’ve gotten this right for 150 years — is that the way you want to teach, if you go someplace to deepen or strengthen biblical, is that you want to do it in such a way as to equip others so that you’re not relied upon indefinitely.

That there are hermeneutical, methodological, pedagogical ways of doing it that haven’t been done. Lecturing isn’t going to cut that. If you lecture only, you will be depended on forever. But if you sit down with a person and make them get meaning from texts under your guidance for a year or two, then they should be able to do it and then have somebody else do it. And then they’re not dependent anymore, saying, “Tell me what this means.” There are ways to do that. That’s why this college and seminary here exist. We believe massively in this thing called arching, which is just a fancy way of learning how to take a paragraph, break it down into propositions, find out how they’re related, what’s the point, and you can argue for that against anybody in the universe and make a case with authority that’s what this paragraph means.

That’s what’s needed all over the world — authoritative preaching from the word that people can see you got it from there. You’re not just saying it. Who cares about who’s saying it? Is it there? And that takes work and there are cultural conditions all over the world that militate against work, militate against solitude, and militate against thinking, and we just got our work cut out for us big time. So this caution is sober and wise but not the end of the matter. I’m thankful that God has done what he’s done. So that’s the end of my little jaunt into the Global South and the present situation.

Question and Answer

By the way, I can’t remember whether David said it when he was introducing us, but he did mention the questions at the end for like a half an hour or 45 minutes with whatever you’ve tweeted in or texted in. But periodically, though it’s risky in a crowd this big, I’ll open it up for questions, including right now.

Is Global South a verb, or how are we going to use it?

It’s a noun. Global South is a noun. The Global South is just a phrase that’s in the literature now and it refers to South America, Africa, and Asia, where the center of Christian strength and growth is happening. It’s moving out from the former centers of Europe and America. That’s the gist of it.

You mentioned the prosperity gospel and the changes in the gospel. What’s being done to engage those teachers to have a conversation?

Well, I’ve not engaged personally with any of them, but I put, in the newest edition which just came out in 2010, a section on a plea to prosperity preachers. My effort is to throw it out into the literary world and hope that somebody reads it. A second answer is, when I went to Australia and when I went to Brazil last week, especially in Brazil, this was just about the number one issue people wanted me to address. I was being interviewed for half an hour by cameras and bloggers in Brazil, all of whom have to relate to these preachers or whatever, or what we’ve exported, I suppose. So I’m there giving my reasons why, but that’s it for me. I don’t know what else is being done.

I have a section of the prosperity gospel at the end, which is going to be optional. I don’t think I’m going to get there, but I stuck it on there just in case. What I have to say is right here in one of the first two chapters.

The Unfinished Task

The mission, in spite of all that, is not complete. All the nations have not been reached. We have unreached people and unreached peoples. I want to talk about this now. I’m going to make a biblical case for a certain viewpoint about what the Great Commission means — that is, what’s our goal? What’s the task set before us? The new shape of World Christianity and the amazing growth and spread of Christianity into the countries of the world does not mean that the mission the Lord gave us is complete.

Now, why is that? It’s not because there are individuals still unconverted. There are going to be individuals unconverted when Jesus splits the clouds and arrives and it’s over. And we know that from 2 Thessalonians and from Revelation, because they’re going to cry out for the rocks to fall on them, and they’re going to be consigned to fire according to 2 Thessalonians 1. So the fact that there are people yet unsaved is not why I say the Great Commission isn’t yet complete, because it’ll never be complete if that’s your definition.

But it’s because there are still nations (that is, peoples) who have not been reached with the gospel. These are nations in the sense of Cherokee Nation and Sioux Nation. I just choose those because we have a history in America of using the word nation that way. Most of the time we don’t use the word that way. Most of the time when we say “nation,” we mean Germany, England, Brazil, China, etc. That’s not what the Bible means by nation. The Bible means Cherokee Nation, Sioux Nation, Ojibwe Nation, Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, Edomites, Moabites, etc. The command of Jesus was not that all the countries be discipled. We have 209 plus countries and the gospel is in all of them. So we’re done? No, it’s not even in Jesus’s mind when he said, “Go make disciples of all the nations” that there would be 209 of these. That’s not what he meant by nations.

This is huge. I didn’t know this until I went to seminary and Ralph Winter taught a class. I just grew up thinning that. Nobody explained this to me this. We always talked about fields — home and foreign fields. That’s a geographic term. The Philippines is a field. Argentina is a field. And I just thought in terms of geographic, go-to places. That’s not what the Bible means when it talks about the Great Commission. So what’s the biblical evidence for this? That’s what we’re going to take a few minutes focusing on now.

All the Nations

The biblical evidence for understanding this phrase in Matthew 28:19 (panta ta ethnē, all the nations) as peoples or ethnolinguistic nations comes from this basic text:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:18–20).

That’s really part of it, which is what’s needed all over the world today. If you take Operation World and read it, you’ll see that. I have my little prayer bench and Operational World sits there on the floor beside it. Any day you open and read about almost any nation, right at the top of the need is leadership training, leadership training, leadership training. Because the gospel spreads way faster than the substance that’s needed to sustain the church. So it just goes haywire without right doctrine. Yet the gospel runs ahead. If you think that’s a new phenomenon, don’t you know that every single letter written in the New Testament was written because there was stupidity going on in the church? Error was in the church — doctrinal error and behavioral error. We wouldn’t have a new Testament unless the gospel spread faster than right doctrine.

That’s okay. It’s going to be that way. Evangelists are that way. I could name some but I’d get in trouble. They are sloppy in their doctrine and they save people like crazy. I’m just glad they do. I’m cleaning up behind them, which I’m happy to do. Because if the world depended on me to get itself saved, it would be weak. I’m a lousy evangelist. I’m thankful for every little email or letter or testimony or person in this church that tells me, “I got saved under your ministry.” That’s not the main testimony I get. We’re in this together. I’m not going to kill anybody for being sloppy in their theology, who save more sinners than I do, but I’m going to come in behind them and try to make it last and keep it on track.

Ethnic Groups

I want to know now what “all nations” means. What does that mean? Because then I’ll know what our task is. Is it done? When will it be done? This is a biblical argument for what it means, who are the panta ta ethnē. I’m going to give you half a dozen arguments.

The singular of this word (ethnē) nation never refers to an individual Gentile in the New Testament, but it always refers to an ethnic group. Panta ta ethnē occurs over 100 times in the Greek Old Testament and it never denotes individuals, but rather always denotes ethnic groups outside Israel, the Old Testament precursor of the Great Commission refers to panta ta ethnē in reference to the families of the earth.

Now this is important. Get this. I’m calling Genesis 12:1–3, the Old Testament precursor of the Great Commission. Genesis 12:13. And in this, when it gets to all the families here, it’s not panta ta ethnē; it’s families of the earth, but the Old Testament precursor of the commission refers to panta ta ethnē in reference to the families of the earth, that will be blessed through Abraham. Families or tribes is used in Genesis 12:3, but ethnē is used in the repetitions of this promise.

Everywhere else this occurs in the Old Testament, we see the phrase ethnē. So, that’s really relevant. I’ll show you those other texts, but here’s what this text says:

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2–3).

Now that’s what I’m saying is the precursor of the Great Commission. Because the way Paul uses it over in Galatians 3 is that through the Jews all the families (tribes) of the earth are going to be blessed. That’s the goal, touch every family or tribe.

Now look at what happens when you get this repeated. These three times in Genesis. Genesis 18:18 says:

Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations (panta ta ethnē) of the earth shall be blessed in him . . .

This is the same promise, different words. Genesis 22:18 says:

In your offspring shall all the nations (panta ta ehtnē) of the earth be blessed . . .

Genesis 26:4 says:

I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations (panta ta ethnē) of the earth shall be blessed . . .

So three times Genesis 12:3 is repeated and is never repeated with phulai (tribes); it’s always repeated with ethnē with that panta on the front. So I’m going to argue that this phrase that appears a hundred times in the Old Testament came to be a pretty stock phrase for peoples outside Israel that God means to reach with the Abrahamic covenant. He’s going to do it of course to the seed. Who’s the seed? Jesus is the seed. And anybody who’s in Jesus is a Jew, which is the only way anybody gets saved, by becoming Jews, that is, the seed of Abraham because to them belongs the promise to inherit the world.

So the reason we Christians, we Gentiles are saved just because we’re grafted into the olive tree (Romans 11), and the rich root of the olive tree, which is the Abrahamic covenant, is pouring saving grace through Jesus Christ into our lives. So we are the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise to reach the nations. And my point right here is simply that, that term in the Old Testament for getting to those nations is panta ta ethnē. Now the Old Testament abounds with hope. The reason I memorized Psalms 96 is to keep my heart stoked with hope about the nations and the globe.

Exhortations in Light of the Great Commission

I’m going to give you a whole dose of Psalms here. We’ll start with exhortations. We’ve got some exhortations and we’ve got some prayers. So here are exhortations that God’s glory be declared and praised among the nations. In other words, that the Abrahamic covenant really be fulfilled, that the precursor of the Great Commission really will happen someday.

Declare his glory among the nations,
     his marvelous works among all the peoples!
Notice the parallel that occurs also in Romans 15. Nations and peoples have an “S” on the wall up there is important. These are not countries. These are peoples.

Clap your hands, all peoples!
     Shout to God with loud songs of joy! (Psalm 47:1)

Bless our God oh, peoples
     let the sound of praise be heard (Psalm 66:8).

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
     make known his deeds among the peoples! (Psalm 105:1)

Praise the Lord, all nations!
     Extol him, all peoples! (Psalm 117:1)

That is a sampling of exhortations to the nations. This is world evangelism saying to the nation, “Come on, praise Yahweh. There’s no other way than to know the God of the covenant.”

Promises in Light of the Great Commission

Then there’s promises that the nations will one day worship the true God. “I will give you the nations for your inheritance,” the Son is told in Psalm 2:8. Psalm 86:8 says:

All the nations you have made shall come
     and worship before you, O Lord,
     and shall glorify your name (Psalm 86:9).

Yes they will. These are “wills” and “shalls.” I remember one of my favorite sermons by Charles Spurgeon where he said, “I love the wills and shalls of God.” Because there are just so many do’s and don’ts in our lives. Our hearts are always focused on doing stuff, and we need a loud, clear God in our face, saying, “I will, yes I will. I’ll get this done.” That’s what these are.

Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
     and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory (Psalm 102:15).

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious (Isaiah 11:10).

The Lord has bared his holy arm
     before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
     the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10).

I’ve got no beef with geographic ideas, okay? There’s a big article written recently by a fellow who was just tired of hearing about peoples without anything else. And the whole article was to argue that there are geographic terms in the Bible for spreading the gospel. God cares about places. And I said, “Okay, okay. I don’t want to overstate it.”

And nations shall come to your light,
     and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Those are the promises of the old Testament.

Prayers in Light of the Great Commission

Here are the third group prayers that God be praised among the nations:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
     and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
     your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy . . . (Psalm 67:1–4).

This is a prayer like, “Hallowed be thy name.” You understand what you’re saying, when you say, “Sanctified by your name”? You’re saying, “God, use me and all the church to bring the peoples of the earth to a port where they reverence you as holy.” That’s what you pray.

May all kings fall down before him,
     all nations serve him! (Psalm 72:10).

May his name endure forever,
     his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
     all nations call him blessed! (Psalm 72:17).

Repentance Preached to All the Nations

Now, continuing the argument. What I’ve done here is try to take the phrase panta ta ethnē, which has a hundred uses in the Old Testament, focus on Genesis 12:3, which is the most important text about the trajectory of what God’s going to do with the world, and then just show the enthusiasm of the Psalms for the nations of the world.

Now come into the New Testament on panta ta ethnē. In Luke 24 here, Jesus shows that his use of panta ta ethnē comes from the Old Testament context. I’m trying to make the connection now, that the way the Old Testament was using it is coming over in the mouth of Jesus. I’m going to get to Matthew 28:19, but here it’s Luke:

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (he finds something written in the Old Testament about what we’ve been talking about), and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations (panta ta ethnē), beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:45–47).

That’s in the Old Testament. Oh yeah it is, really, which means that when he uses that phrase, he’s thinking the way the Old Testament does, namely families and peoples, not individual Gentiles. Getting the Great Commission done does not mean primarily winning every individual to Christ, but reaching every one of these nations (panta ta ethnē), all of them. We have to get to all of them. We may not get to every individual, but we must get to all the ethnē as Genesis 12 understood it. So that’s Luke 24.

Fulfilling the Gospel

This is another argument now. How could Paul say that he had fulfilled the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19)? So all of this, right through Turkey, all of Asia Minor and Estonia, Paul says he fulfilled the gospel from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum. Literally, he says, “I fulfilled the gospel.” Some translations say “gospel ministry.” And he adds:

And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation . . . (Romans 15:20).

So where’s he going? Spain. Paul’s heading for Spain when he writes Romans, and he wants them to send him on his way. Now what in the world did he mean that he’s fulfilled the gospel? Like what’s Timothy supposed to do? Timothy was put as the pastor of Ephesus and Paul left him there. He said, “You do Ephesus for the rest of your life. You’re not going with me to Spain. You stay.” He became the pastor of Ephesus. Well, there’s no work. The gospel is fulfilled. Well, you obviously know that’s not the case because all those letters infer that there are lost people to be won in those areas, but Paul’s done. And that was huge for me. The name of this book comes from a sermon that I preached on that. It was Paul’s holy ambition to preach the gospel where it’s never been named.

My main argument with regard to missions in churches is, God forbid, if everybody does what Paul does. God forbid, if everybody has Paul’s holy ambition. My neighbor would be destitute if that were the case and yours would be too. Everybody would just up and leave. They go to a region where there’s no access to the gospel. You know there are people groups here who have no Christians like really close, alright. We’ve got our work cut out for us here in terms of cross-cultural missions, right within 200 yards. But goodness, they’re next door to a Christian church that’s pretty good. Whereas in Yemen, that’s not the case. What was Paul? And my answer is he was a missionary. We call them global partners now.

Everybody is not a missionary. I’ll never use that phrase. I know almost all pastors in America do. I’ll never do it. I’ll never say all of you are missionaries because I think when everybody’s a missionary, missionaries will stop appearing. You’re not. I’m going to use the word missionary or frontier missionary for what Paul was doing — “I’ve preached the gospel through all the urban centers of Jerusalem, Syria, Asia, Macedonia, and Acadia. And I’m finished because I planned the church in every one of those. And I have to find another place to do this.” That’s a missionary.

Or if you don’t want to shout and be too dogmatic, you can do what I really have done. I’ve distinguished between Paul-type missionaries and Timothy-type missionaries. The Paul type missionary is pushing, pushing, pushing outward to the unreached peoples of the world. For him it was Spain. He thought there was nothing going on in Spain, so he said, “I’m going.” Timothy grew up where? Anybody know where he grew up? It wasn’t an Ephesus. He grew up in Lystra. Paul found him in Lystra and he liked him. And he took him. He asked his mom and grandma, “Can have him. I’m taking him away.” And he took him on with his band of followers. And then he left him, planted him in Ephesus. That’s Timothy-type missions.

That would be like you becoming a pastor in Manila. Okay, if you want to call yourself a missionary, fine. But, come up with a word. I use the term Timothy-type missionary and Paul-type missionary, or you say frontier missionary, meaning you’re pushing out to the frontiers of where the church hasn’t been planted yet. And what I say about local churches like Bethlehem, I always want there to be a significant band of people who are like that. Everybody is not going to be like that, leaning towards the unreached all the time. Not everybody shouldn’t be like that. And we should respect each other. Others are leaning right into Ephesus, right into Ephesus. They say, “Can’t you see, Piper, that there’s 400,000 people who don’t go to church in these twin cities?” I’m not telling everybody to leave that alone, it’t why we’re here.

But this is really significant that Paul would say he has fulfilled the ministry to gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum. And the reason he can say it is because there are peoples who don’t have any church planted in their vicinity or in their group.

The Reach of the Atonement

The aim of the atonement is for all people. This is just another argument that the meaning of the Great Commission is not just to maximize the salvation of all the people in Ephesus, but rather to get to all the peoples in Spain and beyond. Here’s Revelation 5:9–10:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

So what did he achieve by his blood? Answer: He ransomed people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Our job is to get to those groups and preach the gospel and he will summon his own to himself. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of the Moravians, but I love this little anecdote. In Northern Europe, knowing that there were natives in the Caribbean who’d never heard the gospel, these wild-eyed, radical, wonderful Moravian missionaries would get on the boat and their families watching them leave. And that’s it, that’s it. They’re never coming back probably. And as the boat moves out of the Harbor, you know that great line they use: “May the lamb receive the reward of his suffering.”

It makes chills go up and down my back. This is this text. May the lamb receive the reward of his suffering. This is what he died for, to ransom people from every one of those tribes and languages and people and nations. Don’t get too picky about needing precisely, anthropologically, linguistically, culturally, to chop these up and figure out where one is and where’s the other. Let’s do the best research we can do to determine who they are and then just go for it. Because these all overlap. I tried in my book to give definitions for each one, but I wound up by saying they intertwine and overlap.

Therefore, the meaning of panta ta ethnē in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 — “Go make disciples of all nations” — is that all the peoples (or people groups) be reached and taught. These people groups correspond to naturally cohesive groupings with ethnic and language commonalities that set them off from other groups. This is why missions as the unique calling to cross from one of these to another with the gospel, is an essential mandate of the church.

Distinct Languages and Cultures

Here’s just a little example. The old way that I grew up with was thinking about the field of Nigeria. Everybody knows that Nigeria has borders. That’s Nigeria. We need missionaries to go to Nigeria. I mean, once upon a time, we did. There’s huge churches there now. But this is the reality. These little colored places say that there are over 520 distinct people groups each needing a church planting movement. That’s what all that represents right there, each one of those. So, if you think, “Oh, we’ve got missionaries in Nigeria,” well, cool. But there are 520 distinct languages and cultures and they don’t necessarily talk to each other.

Let me put in a little parenthesis here. There are a lot of people today saying that third-world missionaries can get it done and we don’t need to go. We just pay their way. It’s cheaper. But there are a lot of problems with that. I won’t go into all of them. I’ll just mention the one that’s relevant here. Take those 520 little groups right there and ask about how they relate to each other. The tribal hostilities may be such that they want to kill them rather than missionize them. And a missionary from Brazil will be way more effective there, and one from the Philippines, way more effective here than either of those from the other, even if there’s a little church movement or something. The dynamic of how God positions his emissaries, his ambassadors, is not simple. I just don’t buy the simplistic argument that geographic proximity means greater efficiency. It may not.

The other problem with it is that if there are Christians in the group who can evangelize the group because they already know the language, then they may be a reached people anyway. But if there is a group that doesn’t have any Christians in it, then you can’t talk about local evangelists doing the work that we need to get done because there’s no Christian there speaking that language.

Somebody has to learn the language, learn the culture, and cross over, whether it’s 20 miles or whatever. I see someone sitting back here, who spent a good bit of his life in Papua New Guinea. I think I read somewhere like almost 20 percent of the languages in the world are in Papua New Guinea. Well, Papua New Guinea is the size of Pennsylvania or something. I don’t know how big it is. It’s not a big country. How can that be? Answer: mountains. They don’t go anywhere. I mean, I was talking to Noël the other day about that, asking, “How did that happen?” How did it happen that in a little land you could have groups of 600 different languages within a day’s walk? I mean, I don’t know how that happened. It’s just incredible. But for missions, it’s incredibly challenging with languages and cultures.

Here’s the conclusion: Therefore, this mandate of missions to disciple all the peoples is not yet complete.

What Remains?

What’s left to do? Joshua Project is a helpful resource to keep abreast of the progress of the mission. Here’s what they say. I cut and pasted this. I think they don’t mind if I do that. Total people groups in the world, reached out and unreached, are about 16,000. Unreached groups are about 41.3 percent. And here, it’s graphically displayed. So here’s our task right here — 6,000 of those peoples are unreached. Now, let’s just talk for just a minute about the definition of unreached because it’s relevant.

The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria as being less than two percent evangelical Christian and less than 5 percent Christian adherence. That qualifies you as unreached. Here’s the reason for that definition. Students of the church have put their heads together to say, “It takes a certain level of critical mass in the church before they can, without the assistance of outsiders, take over the evangelization of their people group.” And this is where they’ve come down — about two percent evangelical and five percent Christian adherents. If there were a group like that and they were prepared and trained as well as they should be over there, they might be able to move forward.

The Joshua Project didn’t use the phrase “unengaged” back in the early 1980s. That phrase right here is very helpful. “Unengaged” and unreached” are not the same. The Joshua Project lists 1,138 peoples as unengaged — that is, there is no active effort underway to reach the people group. That means that 5,752 of the unreached peoples are presently being engaged, which is very encouraging to me. I mean, back in the early 1980s, that would not have been the case. Unreached and unengaged were almost the same. And we should thank God for some big major missionary groups that have strategically embraced unreached peoples. I went to one of these groups where they were all coming together.

I’m talking about Southern Baptist, YWAM, Wycliffe, Campus Crusade — these gigantic organizations that have, together, tens of thousands of missionaries around the world. They put their heads together and say, “What are the largest unengaged groups? And how many years will it take us to engage them?” And I love that. Just think, that’s not a very big number. I mean, why wouldn’t a thousand churches in America have a seminar like this. Call for teams that just get it done. Let’s get it done.

Now, getting it done, of course, means you’re going to give your life for this because these are the hardest places in the world. They don’t want you to come, and they’re going to kill you if you do come. So, it doesn’t change the Great Commission, does it? To make it more personal, 86 percent of the world’s Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists have never met a Christ follower. I wonder how true that is in the Twin Cities. There are 40,000 to 80,000 Somalis, though I don’t know the exact number, and all of them are Muslim of one stripe or another. Do they even know any Christians? When we walk back and forth, are we pausing to talk? Just trying to talk? That makes it a little more personal for me. So, the mission is not finished, and the Lord’s command remains in force and urgent.

Question and Answer

Is there anything at all that’s been triggered in your minds by anything we’ve said so far?

Is there an effort when two tribes or peoples are evangelized to bring them together because Jesus cares, according to John 17?

I think I see where you’re going, at least where I would be going if I asked that question. It’s the whole homogeneous unit principle, and whether or not targeting peoples is in fact missiologically contrary to the goal of having neither barbarian or Scythian, slave, free, male, or female. But they’re all one in Christ. Jesus Christ is all and in all. I think that targeting peoples is biblically permitted and probably mandated by implication, largely because of the language issue. If you don’t speak their language, they can’t understand you. If you say to an unreached people group, “You’re going to come over and be part of this group and learn their language,” you’re not, I don’t think, honoring the word language in Revelation 5:9, and you’re obviously making it very hard for yourself. And there are other issues besides language, but that’s the clearest cultural piece.

Here’s where I would go. Once the church is established in the Hutus and Tutsis, they shouldn’t kill each other, or something is wrong. I mean, let’s not be too quick to judge because we throw stones at Presbyterians and Methodists, and whatever. We have our own little ways to do this.

But what I’m saying is, merging culturally, I don’t think is necessarily implicit. Loving is. And love, over time, will break a lot of barriers. We have our issues in America on racial and ethnic issues, which is why I wrote Bloodlines. But I’m not about to say, there should be no such thing as ethnic cultural events like worship, maybe, or other things where that culture is that culture. But there certainly should be efforts to love, talk, respect, and partner together. And the forms of those, it seems to me, are many and endless. That’s my effort to get at the homogeneous thing. Homogeneous unit principle has validity at the front end, I think, in evangelism, and in an ongoing way for cultural respect. But there are seeds in the gospel that are pushing things toward one another in love. And I make a whole case in Bloodlines especially with regard to the issue of interethnic and interracial marriage.

That’s another whole issue, but there’s the bottom line cut issue, where rubber meets the road. If you don’t let my daughter marry your son, you’re probably not going to choose to go to the same church I do, because it just might happen. That issue is just right at the bottom. So, I think we’re moving towards that much intimacy, that much respect, and that much love so that that connectedness can happen.

I mean, just imagine the tribal tensions in the world. Mark Wtruck works over at DG and he travels a lot and gets out. When I did my little devotion at the national conference, he said, “John, I wish I could get this into the hands of all the third-world or majority world pastors.” It looks like a Black and White book for America, African-American and White issues. But really, it is the issue around the world — ethnic hostilities and ethnic disrespect. If anything’s going to blow this globe apart, it’s going to be that kind of anger and hostilities. And so, I think even though we target groups, the goal would be to move into the Hutus and to move into the Tutsis, and be so powerful in establishing Christ-like churches that they no longer feel the animosities but they begin to find ways to be friends and love. And who knows what unity could emerge there culturally?

Can you help us see where Paul and the others passed the torch to the next generation, especially with regard to the Great Commission?

Well, it’s sure clear where Jesus does: “As the Father sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). There are groups that deny the Great Commission being passed on. They’ll say, “It was given to the 11, and they did it. And now it’s done.” The preterist understanding of Revelation and the preterist understanding of Matthew 24 could go there quickly by saying that “this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations” was done by 70 AD. I don’t buy that interpretation. I even made notes here in case somebody asked that question too. Because BCS cares about this, right? Here’s my main argument for why the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) is still in force. It’s just the wording of it:

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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you . . . until 70 AD?

That’s not what it says. The promise and the commission are coextensive. That’s my argument. And the promise is till the end of the age. If you said that means Jewish age, I’d say, “No way.” But we’d have to do more exegesis. I mean, I don’t think there is such a thing as a Jewish age. This is very fruitful when you push on me like that to answer questions. But I think we should use these nine minutes to do something further.

Questions Crucial for Missions

This next unit is the supremacy of Christ as the conscious focus of all saving faith. Three questions are involved in that. And there’s a whole chapter on this in the book. Is there final eternal punishment of conscious torment? So, is there hell? That’s the first one. When I say “saving faith,” I mean, from hell and into heaven and eternal fellowship at God’s right hand where there’s pleasure forevermore.

Number two, is there any other way to be saved than through the work of Christ? This is different from asking the next question. I mean, is there a Buddhist and a Hindu way to be saved that doesn’t need the death of Jesus? There are people who say, “You need the death of Jesus, but you don’t need to have heard about it to be saved.” That’s not what this is saying. It’s saying, do you even need it? And the third question is, must a person hear the gospel in order to be saved? So, if a person dies, never having heard of the gospel, what becomes of him? Is conscious faith in Christ necessary for salvation? So, my goal in the next few minutes is to answer a couple of those. We’ll see how far we can get here in answering those questions.

The Question of Eternal Punishment

Here’s the answer to the first one. And this will be brief because this is a course on hell or eschatology, is there a final eternal punishment of conscious torment for those who are not saved? And the answer is, yes. This is from Revelation 13:8:

All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Keep that in mind. It says, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world.” So, if your name is not written, then you’re not restrained from worshiping the beast. And what happens? Here’s the next text. These are building on each other:

If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name (Revelation 14:9–10).

This is the strongest possible way to express eternal in the Greek language. It says “unto the ages of the ages, forever and ever.” Revelation 20:15 says:

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

I just picked those three texts because of that strong phrase. There’s a whole long chapter arguing for the reality of hell in Let the Nations Be Glad. And I think that’s very important because we will find that one of the motives, not the only one and not the ultimate one, is compassion. You should be moved by compassion that there are millions of people, or just somebody you know, who’s going to experience this torment forever and ever. So my answer to the first one is, yes.

The Question of the Atonement

Second, is there any other way to be saved than through the work of Jesus Christ? So, this is a different question than, do you need to hear about the work? I’m just arguing, is the work necessary for the salvation of any human being? And the answer is, no. There is no other way. Now, here’s a key passage. I remember when I was preaching through Romans years ago this gripped me. The universality of this argument gripped me. This is Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . .

Now I’m jumping to Romans 5:15:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ (being compared to Adam) abounded for many.

So Adam got the mess started, and it infects everybody and is universal. And Jesus comes in, starts a new humanity, and that’s the remedy for this one. You can see how universal this is. He’s thinking of old Adam — and that’s where everybody got sick — and then a new Adam comes in. He continues:

For as by the one man’s disobedience (Adam) the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience (Christ) the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

Now, that correlation in Romans 5:19 settles it for me. This globe, this humanity, this six billion people, are sin-sick and hell-bound because of what went wrong in one man, Adam, and then spread to everybody. Then Jesus comes into the world, not as a tribal deity, who says, “Well, I save Jews, and others can have Adam’s problem solved another way.” He comes and presents himself as the second Adam who is the solution to the first Adam’s fall. That’s a universal claim on where salvation comes from, which is why you get Acts 4:12:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Or consider 1 Timothy 2:5, which says:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . .

So, my answer to the second question, is there any other way to be saved than through the work of Christ? And the answer is, no. There’s no other work by which people can be saved, which leads to the last question for which we do not have time, and that’s okay. It’s a good place to stop. Must a person hear the gospel in order to be saved? That’s where we’re going to start tomorrow morning. And the answer to that is, yes. To make that case, it’s not as easy and it’s very disputed by some evangelicals. But we’ll work on it together.