I heard a minister recently talking about the rapture and trying to make the point that every prophecy necessary to the return of Christ has already been fulfilled. One of his points was that the Gospel has already been preached in all the world according to the promise of Jesus in Matt 24:14 (And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.), “Now” he said, “We’re just waiting for Jesus to come back.”
If you are one of those standing in line waiting for the rapture like a ride at Disney World, consider these statistics on world evangelism that I have collected from a variety of sources. As you read these keep in mind that in the United States there is 1 ordained minister for every 200 people. Yet…
– For every million unreached Muslims there are less than 3 missionaries.
– In Afghanistan there are 17 million people, 48,000 mosques…but not a single church.
– In Turkey there are 44 million people, but less then 200 Christians
– In India alone 500 million people have yet to hear the Gospel
– 30% of the world’s population (more than 2 billion people) have had virtually no exposure to the Gospel.
– The New Testament has been translated into the mother tongue of over 80% of the world’s population. However the remaining approximately 20% will require over 5,500 new translations.
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The word, “Nations” is “Ethne” in the Greek meaning ethnic people groups. Yet…
– There are an estimated 6,700 unreached or nearly unreached people groups.
– The countries with the most unreached people groups in descending order; India, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh.
– 98% of all unreached people groups are located in the “10/40 Window”.
THE GREAT COMMISSION IS STILL UNFULFILLED! Oswald Smith said, “We talk of the Second Coming; but half the world has never heard of the first.” Regardless if you are “pre-trib”, “post-trib”, “mid-trib” or some other “trib”, we must all confess that there is something desperately wrong with this type of doctrinal philosophy that makes us happy to escape with our own hides while the world burns and billions of people are lost. Where is the heart of Jesus in that? “…that none would perish, but that all would come to repentance.”
Here’s some food for thought; Jesus died more then 2,000 years ago. If it was God’s ultimate goal to rapture us all out of this “old god-forsaken world”, then why are we still here? What are we still waiting for? One person told me, “Jesus is building my mansion in heaven.” Really? It took him 6 days to create the entire cosmos, yet he’s been hung up with your “mansion” for 2,000 years? Not likely.
Heb. 10:12, 13 says, “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.” Since we are his hands and feet, then He must be waiting for…us. If He is waiting for us, and we are waiting for him, it would seem we are at an impasse. This is why Jesus told his disciples, “GO” into all the world and preach the Gospel. No more waiting and debating…just Go and PREACH.
“In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been” — Robert Moffat
Author’s note: This is the second article of a mini-series reviewing Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the first few chapters of this book. To read the first article in the series, click here.
Kenda Creasy Dean’s book Almost Christian covers five major findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion that may perhaps bring about a major change in the way many mainstream churches and/or parents approach youth ministry or parenting:
1. Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise don’t give it much thought.
2. Most U.S. teenagers mirror their parents’ religious faith.
3. Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world.
4. A minority of American teenagers–but a significant minority–say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives. These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers.
5. Many teenagers enact/espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religions–an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Some of my conclusions from reading these first few chapters in conjunction with my own personal experience are as follows: The problems that exist now are direct results of a culture of self-indulgence; a culture that equates physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort as something to be avoided at all costs. Christian vocabulary has been perverted: the word “Love” does not mean anything more than an exalted version of “Warm fuzzies all around,” “salvation” means that “all generally nice people go to heaven,” and the biggest “sin” is to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause discomfort any way, for any reason. A version of the larger American culture, which holds all of these views, has been adopted by many parents and churches (consciously or not).
Dean clearly highlights the source of the problem as a breakdown of the parents’ and congregations intentionally modeling radical faith in God and demonstration of the gospel to their children, and the failure to recognize that the goal of the gospel is beyond the individual.
We ‘teach’ young people baseball, but we ‘expose’ them to faith…we blithely assume that religious identity will happen by osmosis, emerging ‘when youth are ready’ (a confidence we generally lack when it comes to, say, algebra). We simply have not given teenagers the soul-strength to recognize, wrestle, and resist the symbiotes in our midst, probably because we lack [it] ourselves… Exposing adolescents to faith, as it turns out, is no substitute for teaching it to them…
By and large, Smith and Denton concluded, parents ‘get what they are’ religiously…Parents matter most when it comes to the religious formation of their children.
Although the child is still responsible for his/her own response to the gospel, and even in the cases where the parents are truly living radical lives and teaching their children to do the same may choose to diverge to the path of least resistance, families and communities that adopt an intentional way of living and teaching spiritual precepts will raise children who are much more able to talk articulately about what their faith means to them in their daily lives. It may be that many parents in their own lives, as well as the lives of their children, have bought into one of the central precepts of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is that the main goal in life is to avoid interpersonal friction. And, as Dean writes,
Spiritually sensitive youth often cause trouble in their communities (religious or secular) because of their alertness to the sacred. It is hard to imagine researchers, interviewing Jesus after he turned over the tables in the temple, ascribing the act to religious maturity–but in Christian theology it is a story of righteousness and divine purgation.”
Which of the prophets, including Jesus as the Son of God, was not hated and persecuted, even killed for following the Spirit of God, laying down their lives as their sacrifice of love and obedience to God, and out of desperate concern and passionate desire for the restoration of those who were opposing the will of God? How often did God send His prophets not to the ‘pagan’ nations, but to His own people, who were following Him with their lips, and not with their hearts? How is that different than today, where so many in our churches say, “I am a Christian,” and yet they do not have the transforming love of God gripping their hearts to lay down their lives in obedience to Christ? As Dean says,
It is in following Jesus that we learn to love Him; it is in participating in the mission of God that God decisively changes us into disciples.”
“The death of Dr. Ralph Winter marks the passing of a giant from the scene of missions,” said Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia, “and GFA owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his influence on our ministry.”
Dr. Winter, 84, who died Wednesday night of cancer, was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions and, later, William Carey International University.
“Most of all, he caused a paradigm shift in the focus of global missions,” Dr. Yohannan said.
“I don’t think there was anyone more significant in the 20th century world of missions or anyone who brought as much change to how missions were strategized than Ralph Winter.”
Dr. Yohannan explained that before Dr. Winter, the focus of missions was on reaching countries–“coloring in the map of individual political entities.”
“But Dr. Winter pointed out that when Matthew 24:14 says the Gospel will be preached ‘as a testimony to all nations,’ the Greek word for ‘nations’ is ‘ethnos,’ which means a distinct people group,” the GFA leader said. “It was a whole new paradigm of missions thinking! We all began to understand that missions needed to be specific and targeted to reach people groups who had never before heard the Gospel, regardless of what country they lived in. He created a whole world of fresh missions thinking.”
Greg Burnett, of the Zadok House of Prayer, described Dr. Winter as “… a hero in the faith [whose] impact on our understanding of biblical missions was profound. Ralph and Roberta (his wife) were ordinary people who sacrificed and loved in amazing ways. I bless the Lord for His grace and kindness in touching their lives and, through them, us as well.”
Below is a video of Ralph Winter discussing unreached people groups: [Link to Video]
“What is God’s intention for these people? What are you trying to see happen to them and to their societies, from the standpoint of God’s will?” These questions raised by Dr. Winter are key, whether we are discussing a people we travel “18,000 miles” to reach, or the people we are a part of where we currently reside. Let’s honor him by asking these questions of the people we are called to, and bringing about the change God desires to see.