What will it take to win the world to Christ?
The history of missions is the fascinating story of human struggles and adventure. The missionary saga is often interlaced with emotions, tragedy, romance and intrigue. Christianity is the world's largest religion. This has come about through the indefatigable efforts of missionaries who have changed the course of civilization.
"World Christianity," according to Leslie Newbigin, "is the result of the great missionary expansion of the last two centuries. That expansion... is one of the most remarkable facts of human history." But it is ignored or undervalued by society. The missionaries who have accomplished this have been driven by a sense of urgency and single-mindedness seldom seen even among the greatest patriots or crusaders.
Sometimes people ask, "What will it take to win the world to Christ?" He or she is usually thinking about winning individuals to Jesus. But our task is not to make everyone in the world a Christian, strange as that may sound. Our calling is to confront, to challenge, to bear witness to our faith. The mission is God's, not ours. But God chooses men and women for the service of His mission. The privilege, the full authority, and the obligation of mission always flows from the activity of God Himself. He calls us to do what He himself does. Mission in that sense is the continuation of His saving activity.
The individual is important to God, without a doubt. But we cannot merely focus upon the winning of individuals. We must make every effort to unlock the ethos of the group to which the individual belongs. Nearly fifty years ago, church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said astutely: "More and more we must dream in terms of winning groups, not merely individuals.... To be sure, in the last analysis, conversion must result in a new relation between the individual and his maker--in radiant, transformed lives.... Experience shows that it is much better if an entire natural group - a family, a village, a cast, a tribe - can come rapidly over into the faith. That gives reinforcement to the individual Christian and makes easier the Christianization of the entire life of a community."
The "AD 2000 Movement and Beyond" has adopted as its rallying cry: "A Church for Every People, and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000." Is this a realistic goal or merely a shibboleth? What is the meaning of this slogan?
"A church for every people" is the means to the end of getting "the Gospel to every person by the year 2000." The goal is to share Christ with every person. The means to that end requires that we reach every people group.
What is the meaning of "church?" It is not a single, symbolic congregation within a people. It is much more. It pertains to a church planting movement. How do we define "every people." Our task in missions is world-evangelization to the unreached. There is unequal access to the Gospel in the world. The bold and exciting task of missions is to penetrate the frontiers, i.e. to reach the 11,000 people groups without the Gospel. We must be concerned that no people group is without opportunity to hear, believe and receive the "Good News" in their own language.
Some 234,000 persons who are unevangelized hear the Gospel from 530 million Great Commission Christians everyday. But there is an increase of 258,000 unevangelized persons each day. It would seem that we are losing ground at the rate of 24,000 persons every day. But we must not dwell on the global population explosion as much as the conquering power of Christ's kingdom. We are quietly gaining a higher percentage of all the people on earth. The 530 million twice- born Christians belong to seven million evangelical congregations. This means that there are six hundred congregations for each of the 11,000 people groups! And many of these "nations" or peoples have already been adopted for missi on endeavor.
God has graciously opened to us a window of opportunity for completing the magnificent task He has given us. We are in the springtime of missions. As Believers we must seize this crucial moment boldly in joining the world-wide movement of "A Church for Every People, and the Gospel for Every Person by the year 2000."