Do we have to GO?

What will it take to GO? When will we look outside the synagogues of worship?

Acts 13: 47

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’

Gentiles have crowded the Synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. The Jews longed for such days and yet they now through jealousy become antagonistic towards Paul and his team. The main problem was that their message was providing easy access to God for the Gentiles.

In this pivotal moment, Paul could have used his own testimony from the Damascus Road where Christ appointed him as a witness to the Gentiles. He could have said ‘I was commanded to do this work.” He could have used the Great Commission of Jesus commanding the disciples to ‘go into all the world’. But he chooses carefully and he uses their Scriptures. He uses Isaiah 49:6 and says the Servant that they have all been waiting for commanded them to have a ministry and a Salvation message for the Gentiles and this Servant is Jesus. An Old Testament commandment that the Jewish listeners had not been following and were now opposing!

It was pivotal because this huge rejection would form in Pauls mind in particular the now moment. This is the moment he goes to the Gentile world.

Rejection often confirms mission.

I have seen many men and women who having gone through a season of rejection then realise that God was opening a door of mission to them, a quite beautiful moment.

Is the Church today any better than the Antioch Jews in that synagogue?

I believe that is a huge question.

Though unusual for me I want to include some statistics to help provoke your thinking. Each statistic has been chosen for that reason (I could have given ten times the amount). But ponder on each one and ask how far have we really come? Unfortunately these figures are largely from the US, they lead the way in their statistical research. But if you are in a western country then these figures apply to you.

1) There are 7.3 billion people in the world. (Joshua Project)

Of the 7.3 billion people in the world, 3 billion live among unreached people groups of the world and 1.6 billion are completely unevangelised. (Joshua Project; Barrett and Johnson 2001, 427)

2) In AD 100 there were 360 people for every believer. Now there are 7.3 people for every believer. In AD 100 there were 12 unreached people groups for every congregation of believers. Now there is 1 unreached people group for every 1000 congregations. (Winter et al., 3)

There are 16,562 people groups in the world. Of these people groups, 9,715 have been reached with the Gospel message. 6,847 people groups are still unreached with the Gospel. To be unreached means less than 2% Evangelical Christian, the sizable proportion thought to be needed to reach their own people. (Joshua Project).

90% of foreign missionaries work among already reached people groups. 10% work among unreached people groups. (Winter and Koch, 543)

3) In the last 40 years, over 1 billion people have died who have never heard of Jesus, and around 30 million people this year will perish without hearing the message of salvation. 70,000+ people die everyday in the unreached world without Jesus. (Baxter 2007, 12)

4) Of foreign mission funding: 87% goes for work among those already Christian. 12% for work among already evangelized, but Non-Christian. 1% for work among the unevangelized and unreached people. (Baxter 2007, 12)

Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves. (Barrett and Johnson 2001, 656)

5) 60% of unreached people groups live in countries closed to missionaries from North America. (The Traveling Team)

22 million internationals visit the US each year. Of these, some 630,000 are university students from 220 countries, 25% of which prohibit Christian missionaries. 80% of those students will return to their countries having never been invited to an American home. (The Traveling Team) 60% of international students come from the 10/40 window. (The Traveling Team)

There are 430,000 missionaries from all branches of Christendom. Only between 2 and 3% of these missionaries work among unreached peoples. (The Traveling Team)

6) US mission agencies have an annual budget of over $5.2 billion. (Weber and Welliver 2007, 13)

Indigenous missionaries do 90% of pioneer mission work, but only receive 10% of mission funding. Meanwhile foreign missionaries do 10% of pioneer mission work, but receive 90% of mission funding. (Finley 2004, 178 & 244)

And yet …..! There is good news happening …. Recently one Elim UK Church Pastor texted me to say that they will be giving just under £20,000 to missions this month! In the Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu world I am seeing hundreds of people come to Christ each year and many churches being planted in the strangest of places. So there is hope! Also …

7) One indigenous ministry surveyed the believers in the churches they planted and found that 80% had come to faith in Christ because they had seen a miraculous act of God or experienced an answer to prayer. That same indigenous ministry holds that their average missionary will plant 3 churches within the first 5 years on the field. (Chacko 2008, 138)

The New Testament is translated into the languages of 94% of the world’s population. (Johnstone and Mandryk 2005, 7)

Two of the largest Gospel radio broadcasters, Far East Broadcasting Company and Gospel for Asia, both receive around 1,000,000 listener responses each year. (Far East Broadcasting Company, 15; Gospel for Asia)

There have been 4.1 billion viewings of the Jesus Film, representing about 3 billion individuals. More than 99% of the world’s population could view the film in a language they know. (Johnstone and Mandryk 2005, 7)

In one year alone, Global Media Outreach, the internet outreach branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, reported over 10 million internet users came to faith in Christ through their websites. They also received close to 4 million emails. (Global Media Outreach)

In one month alone, Trans World Radio saw over 500,000 downloads in China of their online broadcasts. (Libby, 2)

I include point 7 just in case you think I am being too sombre! But the statistics are uncomfortable for the church in the West, maybe not just in the West either.

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’

What would Paul say to us today? What would Jesus say? What would Isaiah say?

Are we like the Jews of Antioch?

Do we need some rejection, some persecution for missions to be truly birthed in our lives and churches? Is that what it will take?

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