1. What is the best approach?
First: Note that all of the communication tools mentioned above are of great value. It would be a mistake to assume that any one of them is THE answer to The Unfinished Task.
Second: Please dont think that all of the goal numbers are exact. They may be exact quotes from this or that document or scholar (based on someone elses guesses), but we are not yet close enough to completion to know all about the untouched populations.
Thirdly: neither does any ONE of these communication tools, nor do ALL OF THEM TOGETHER, assuredly constitute the goal of the Completion of the Great Commission by Gods definition, since no human being dare certify just exactly what God has in mind. (BUT! This does not mean we are not assuredly getting closer to the END every single day that goes bye.g. 20,000 more Christians in China every day, Christians there growing six times the general population growth rate, etc).
Finally, almost everyone would admit that each special method is aimed at assisting the church planting goals.
1. The best approach? The closer we get to completion the more we can see both the necessity and the distinct value of all of the different communication methods listed to the leftas well as a host of others.
Lets do a quick run down of the ones mentioned.
Satellite TV will jump forward as receptor dishes drop in cost. Right now out in the remotest mountain valleys of the lofty Himalayan mountains you can find TVs and video cassette recorders! Satellite dishes may become even more widespread than VCRs, since they dont wear out as easily, and tap into a much more extensive resource of programmingbut not in a lot of different languages.
Missionary radio today is an enormous, global force. Nothing comparable is to be found in the secular world! U.S. radio stations may broadcast at 50,000 watts. Missionary stations are commonly 500,000 watts. But precisely because of their size and range (getting into every country of the world), the big stations cannot feasibly focus in on thousands of different local groups the way even local radio can. Christians right now are probably broadcasting in 2,000 languages through their own local initiative, where permitted. The missionary radio stations reach beyond all barriers, but usually in trade languages spoken by far larger communities.
Film ministries are logical parallels to the burgeoning secular film houses which today are blaring cheap drama to hundreds of millions, especially in India, for example, which supports the worlds largest film industry. Campus Crusades valiant efforts have now shown the Jesus film to well over 300,000,000 people, and they are only hitting their stride, with 143 languages behind and about the same number to go. These are the languages spoken by a million or more people (and the number of such languages is gradually increasing as world population increases). Again, thousands of smaller communities must watch this film with a sound track in a trade language.
The printed page plunges us immediately into a stupendously larger world of diversity, simply because reaching that kind of diversity becomes feasible when so relatively innexpensive a tool of communication is employed. Yet, not very many human beings are literate. Perhaps more than half of the world will never directly read very much for itself, and with TV, the number of people, even in the U.S. who will ever become book readers is dwindling. However, the very existence of printed materials enables some members of a community to pass things on to others.
Note the fact that the 6,170 known languages (reported in Wycliffes newest, beautiful, 13th edition of the Ethnologue) are simply the known languages. What we do not yet know could easily swell this number greatly. Setting down verified data is not the same, nor perhaps even as valuable, as a careful estimate of the final figure, which could well be much higher.
On the other hand, the 6,170 known languages may often be the larger groups (e.g. more likely to be known), and Wycliffes Ethnologue reports only 827 of the 6,170 have definite translation needs! (Another 64 need revision, 220 have probable needs, 2,495 are possible needs etc.)
Audio Ministries, interestingly, employing as they do the ear gate, enjoy the most penetrating and emotional impact. The marvel of the cassette recorder (unlike radio broadcasting, which of course is also audio) is that cassettes are much more easily produced in the very most specific situations. Gospel Recordings has the record for any one organization of facilitating (through the cooperation of many other missions as well) the planting of the Gospel in some form in 4,410 language and cultural groups!
Personal contact. The oldest form of communication is the missionary, the concerned, loving person. This fact seems unnecessary to mention! But somehow Americans are great on gadget approaches to the most urgent and intimate of all messages, the Gospel!
Stop and think: the only thing necessary, for every tiny group on earth to hear the Gospel, is to have enough loving, caring missionaries to go around. That is the ultimate weapon. Church planting is difficult to accomplish without this, although all of the above methods are making helpful contributions to this goal.
2. Closure simply means finishing. And, depending on what you are trying to finish, closure can be closer or further away. It is urgent for all of the above means of communication to get to their particularly suited goal in order to contribute to the achievement of the final one in the list. All of the first five, their experts will tell you, are really focused on the planting of the church as the final result. This fact introduces the all-important concept of Unreached versus Reached peoples. Thankfully the most widely supported, substantial goal among mission leaders today is the achievement of the incarnation of the Gospel within a people, a nation, a tribe, a tongue. This is even the final goal of those who more often talk about degrees of evangelization than reaching peoples, (this is discussed further on page 3).
The whole purpose here is to make clear why it is that we have to deal with finer and finer sives as we get closer and closer to our goal.
Please dont thinkand dont let anyone else thinkthat there is any need to pit one of these methods, or one set of numbers here, AGAINST THE OTHER.
Our purpose is clearly the very opposite.
Most of important is to rejoice in how many different processes are going for us as we all seek together to complete the Great Commission!