By Ryan Shaw
The reality of the fulfillment of the Great Commission has never been so close. Jesus’ vision of the Gospel of the Kingdom being proclaimed among every single ethnic people group is within grasp.
This phrase, “the Fulfillment of the Great Commission in this Generation” is catching on with many individuals, ministries and organizations. It is becoming a banner to rally around in terms of focusing our vision.
Yet to come to terms with it rightly, allowing us to be activated in it, requires some clarity. What is really meant (and not meant) by this phrase?
The fulfillment of the Great Commission centers around Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:14. In chapter 14, Jesus’ disciples asked Him what it would be like near the end of the present age, when He will return in glory.
Jesus depicts a period of great challenge to the body of Christ in that time frame. In the midst of this outlook He includes a crucial and clear verse about the timing of His return. “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
The word “nations” is not a suitable translation. The Greek term panta ta ethne is where we get our term “ethnic group.” Jesus was not saying the gospel must be proclaimed in every geo-political nation, but within every individual ethnic group that are within every nation.
Global statistics reveal about 16,000 distinct ethnic people groups in the world. You and I are part of a specific group which shares language, culture, traditions, etc. Of these 16,000, there are more than 6,000 designated as still “unreached” people groups around the world.
An unreached people group is defined as an ethnic people where the indigenous community of Bible-believing followers of Jesus lack adequate numbers and resources to evangelize and disciple the ethnic group at large. Believers are usually under 2% of the total population among their people.
Most unreached people groups are found within the 10/40 Window, a rectangular area encompassing much of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude.
Within the broader unreached category, we need to consider the present “unengaged” people groups. These are ethnic groups with populations of 25,000 or more, considered the neediest of the needy.
The term “unengaged” indicates that no ministry, church, or organization is yet engaging with them to make disciples and plant simple, indigenous, rapidly reproducing churches. There are no known believers and no churches among these ethnic groups.
The Bible is still not available in their local dialect. This reduces the number from 6,000 people groups to 533. For a listing of these people groups for consideration, see www.finishingthetask.com.
The fulfillment of the Great Commission means every unreached and unengaged people group provided a living “witness” of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to have a “witness?”
First, the presentation of the gospel is culturally relevant and understandable to the local people. The message is not perceived as a “foreign” concept. Instead a believer uses bridges from the local worldview to make the gospel culturally relevant to the hearer.
The gospel must also be made “incarnate” among them through living examples and witnesses to the power of Christ in the life of a believer.
Second, it includes a demonstration of power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) Paul’s message was not with words only but also with power, which verifies the authenticity of the message (Romans 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
This power may be external (healings, miracles, other signs or wonders) or internal (deep conviction, the authority of the words penetrating, revelation being given to an unbeliever regarding truth).
There is nowhere where the Bible teaches that the fulfillment of the Great Commission means all the world will be converted. This is not the goal of the Great Commission.
Scripture teaches it is fulfilled when God has gathered out of the world (every tribe, tongue, and ethnic group) a holy and blameless bride for eternal fellowship with His Son (Revelation 7:9).
This means every person having heard the gospel in a Spirit-empowered and culturally relevant way, providing a true “witness” to either choose or reject Jesus Christ. Some from every ethnic group will take Him as Savior and Lord.