|September - November 2015, Issue 81|
|Oh No! We Won't Go! | Praise & Prayer | 2016 Trip to S. Sudan|
God has always had a global perspective. Adam and Eve were told, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). After Satan brought sin into humanity, humankind rapidly sank into depravity. The LORD saw that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5 ESV [unless noted]), so God wiped out humanity by the Flood and started over again with Noah and family, who were given the same command (Gen 9:1). Citizens of Babel refused. “[L]et us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." (Gen. 11:4). So God compelled them to go “over the face of all the earth” by confusing their language (Gen. 11:8).
God’s global intention not only to subdue the earth, but to redeem humanity, is seen in the patriarch Abram. He was willing to go anywhere God sent him. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Heb 11:8). At that point God told him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). After being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac by faith, God said that in Abraham’s seed (who we know to be Jesus—Gal. 3:6), all the nations would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). God greatly blessed someone willing to go anywhere, and sacrifice anything, for Him.
God then began to work through His collective servant, the nation of Israel--not content with redeeming only the descendants of Abraham. "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isa 49:6).
But the Old Testament offers almost no evidence that Israel brought light to the Gentiles. They failed due to spiritual and consequent moral implosion. They could hardly speak of God’s glory, while denying it on mountaintops and under every green tree, serving Baal and Asherah. They actually lived beneath the moral level of nations they displaced, and incinerated their children for the Ammonite idol Molech (Eze 16; Jer. 32:35). They made surrounding nations look better. And what nation exports more moral filth than America?
Israel sang obedience. “Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples (Psa 96:2-3 NIV). But they didn’t go--like singing “I’m on the battlefield for my Lord,” or “Send the Light,” while avoiding anything dangerous for Jesus.
They failed also because of ethnocentrism—collective self-centeredness. They despised Gentiles. Hadn’t Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon punished them? One hated mission trip to Nineveh by Jonah is illustrative. God commanded Jonah, “Arise, go”. Jonah arose and ran in the opposite direction. After a fish vomited Jonah, God repeated, “Arise, go”. When Ninevites totally repented, Jonah became suicidal. God’s purposes don’t change. At least one Israelite went willingly. Isaiah volunteered to go for the Lord, without knowing where (Is. 6:8). Jeremiah had a ministry as “a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5-10). He didn’t want the job, but ended up going where God wanted.
Isaiah wrote of an end-time ingathering of the nations—“in the latter days” (Is. 2:2). Nations will come to God’s holy mountain. God will punish nations who don’t come (Zech 14:17). Jews might have reasoned that if the nations will someday come to Jerusalem, they didn’t have to go. We now know that in heaven every tribe, tongue and nation will be represented (Rev. 5:9-10). God will do this, but God uses means—people.
Jesus’ coming was pivotal. The devout Simeon, looking at baby Jesus, saw in Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32)—precisely what Israel had not been. Jesus’ earthly mission was explicitly to Israel, but there were a few exceptions1.
The New Covenant in Christ’s blood extended to Gentiles. Christians—mostly Gentile, are now the “seed” or children of Abraham, by whom God will bless all nations (Gal 3:7-9). Now Gentiles reach Gentiles. After Jesus’ resurrection, He gave the Commission to go to all ethnic groups (Matt 28:18-20; Lk 24:45-47). The “last days” began. When “the gospel of the kingdom [is] preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come (Mat 24:14 NIV). The era of the “last days” (Acts 2:17) was confirmed when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, empowering Christians to go anywhere (Acts 1:8).
In Acts 2, the Spirit came upon common Jews at Pentecost—a representative global missionary force. God sent Jews to Gentiles, but they preferred to stay in Jerusalem. Saul’s persecution of Christians in Jerusalem flushed them out. However, they still refused to evangelize Gentiles (Acts 8:19). Philip the evangelist went to Samaria, to half-Jews (Acts 8:4-14). Even Peter refused, because they were “unclean.” God had to send a special vision three times before Peter obeyed (Acts 10).
But even compelling evidence of God saving Gentiles through their speaking in tongues was not sufficient2. The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, guided by the Spirit, recognized that Gentile Christians did not have to become Jews first. Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) and the Twelve Apostles also obeyed. According to church historians, they went to India, Syria, Russia, Turkey, Persia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece and Mesopotamia. From the time Isaiah told Israel that they were to be a light to the Gentiles, it took about 800 years to obey.
Christianity grew from the 3,000 at Pentecost, through waves of persecutions, to becoming the state religion of the Roman Empire. It continued as such in the Western Empire until around 500 AD, and in the Eastern Roman Empire until about 1456 AD, when conquered by Muslims3. Between 800 AD and 1400 AD missionaries to non-Christian and unreached peoples averaged only 1,000 in a given year. In 1600 the number grew to 4,3004, to reach an estimated 540 million people5--about 1 missionary per quarter of a million people.
By 1800 the number of missionaries to non-Christian and unreached people rose to about one per 65,000 people6. Starting about then with William Carey in India, there were three modern missionary eras7. The first era was missions to the continental coastlines, the second--missions into the interiors of continents, the third--missions to specific ethnic groups within nations, which continues today.
Most American churches have the “come” model--to our worship service, to us. Fishers of men carefully go where the fish are. Some at the Westside housing project haven’t come to church for ten years and more. In 2013 only 69% of Americans claiming to be “born again” evangelized in the previous 12 months8. Have we shared the Gospel with the intent of leading the person to Christ in the last 12 months? In the USA we’ve lost 2.6 million evangelicals in the last 10 years, about a tenth of our most dedicated evangelists9.
In 2000 there were an estimated 306,000 missionaries going to already majority-”Christian” nations, 103,000 going to non-Christian nations, and only 10,250 going to frontier areas10. This imbalance is why we are not reaching the unreached. We need to focus upon the unreached, not upon already Christian nations, where nationals often can do the work better than Americans.
Friends and I have been able to locate about 215 African-Americans serving cross-culturally for at least two years, out of about 45 million African Americans. This represents just 151 units—a couple or single. Most Black missionaries report that their biggest challenge is raising support. One in Italy has under $20,000 per year of support. By comparison, globally about 400,000 missionaries serve foreign fields11.
Approximately 29% of the world population has never heard the Good News about Jesus--2.1 billion as of mid-201512. According to The Joshua Project, there are 6,570 unreached people groups13. In 1900 only 54% of the planet was reached, so the Church has progressed well, but by 2050, at the projected rate, 27% will still be unevangelized, or 2.6 billion, which is 500 million more unevangelized people than exist today. We will continue to lose ground unless we willingly go to the unevangelized, wherever they are.
Prayer and Praise
RMNI: (1 Prayer to implement our vision and mission (2 Pray for God to clearly lead our Board and provide new leadership for RMNI (Jim would continue serving under RMNI).
Workers: (1 Our expanded vision requires more workers locally and internationally to the least-reached. (2 Two Westside housing project workers have felt spiritual attack. We are down to 1-2 on the sidewalk each week in evangelism and discipleship, but many want New Testaments, Daily Bread booklets and job information. (3 The weekly Bible study is slowly growing, taught by Board member Jeremy. (4 Ask God for workers for the planned April 2016 ministry trip to S. Sudan. (5 Ask God to greatly bless the teaching ministry of Joe and his wife at three venues in India in September. (6 Wisdom for board chair Keith, planning travel to Central Asia in November—he’ll consider opportunities for RMNI. (7 Please pray for more Blacks to engage the least-reached locally and globally.
Projects: (1 For the time and wisdom to complete and analyze the African American missionary survey this fall (2 Wisdom for African projects for 2016 through Lookout Mtn. Presbyterian (3 Blessing upon the spiritual and educational ministry in the Juba, S. Sudan refugee camp and on the two chaplains there (both named James) (4 Pray for lasting peace in S. Sudan and for continued growth of the church in Juba and elsewhere.
Join Us in S. Sudan April 9-23, 2016
Join our tenth trip to South Sudan, working with established partners. As personnel are available, we offer seminars, medical services, evangelistic outreach and possibly building opportunities. Through partnership with U.S. churches, we evangelize, plant churches, develop ministry proposals, train Christian workers and encourage micro-economic development.
The fee is approximately $2,500, plus round-trip airfare to Entebbe, Uganda. Our agent provides discounted fares on quality airlines. Immunizations, visas, and outfitting are extra. We have had NO safety problems to date. 2 Tim. 1:7
RMNI is a MedicalMissions.com member
The Reconciliation Report is a publication of
Reconciliation Ministries Network, Inc.
Jim Sutherland, PhD, Director