By Russ Mitchell
Russ is field director for One Challenge (OC International) in Romania – www.oci.ro.
The Challenge of the Least Reached Peoples
In 1800, those who had never heard the Gospel were almost 75% of the globe’s population. By 1900 Because of missionary effort this percentage decreased to 50%. Today the percentage of those who have never heard is 29% (or three in ten) which is a major move forward.
Still this means about two billion people have not heard the Gospel message even one time! Per hour of ministry, the least reached peoples are the most responsive to the Good News. But only one out of ten foreign cross cultural missionaries work among least reached peoples, and only fifty cents from $100 of all Christian giving supports frontier mission work.
Theologian Carl Henry once said, “The Gospel is Good News only if it arrives in time.” For people who live in areas of the world that are least reached, the Good News is not arriving in time. Each day 66,000 people die without having the possibility of hearing a relevant presentation of the Good News.
Where are the least reached peoples? The 10/40 Window
Where do we find most of the least reached peoples today? The majority are found in a geographical zone called the 10/40 window. The 10/40 window is an imaginary belt between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north of the equator, and extending from Western Africa across the Middle East and Asia.
This part of the world is home to the majority of the world’s Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. 4.4 billion people live in this part of the world. 2.67 billion are least reached peoples.
How can they believe unless someone tells them?
From John 3:16 we know that God loves these people; he does not want them to perish, but to have eternal life. But in order for them to have eternal life, they must believe in Jesus. And in order for them to believe in Jesus, someone must tell them.
Here is the great challenge for those who believe in Jesus today. How do we mobilize ourselves to take the glorious message of John 3:16 to those who consider themselves Christians, but have not yet come to a personal faith in Jesus Christ? How do we persuade those who do not yet believe in Jesus to turn to him and be saved? And how do we take the Good News to those least reached peoples who have yet to hear about Jesus?
Enter the Harvest Force
One in three Christians – or one in ten people in the world — is considered a Great Commission Christian or, in other words, a part of the Harvest Force. Great Commission Christians are true believers who are aware of the implications of Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), who have accepted its personal challenge for their lives, and who seek to influence the Body of Christ to fulfill it.
Unfortunately 70% of the 707 million Great Commission Christians have never heard about the 2 billion least reached peoples of the world who have never heard about Jesus.
A New Wave of Message Bearers
Believers in the Global South are catching the missionary vision. Already half of the world missionary force is made up of believers from the Global South. In the next 15 to 20 years it is likely that China will send 50,000 new missionaries; the Philippines, 20,000; India, 40,000; South Korea, 30,000; Nigeria, 15,000; Latin America, 18,000.
While the missionary sending is increasing in the Global South, it is declining in the Global North. For example the number of foreign missionaries from North America decreased from 65,000 in 1988 to 35,000 in 2008 – 45%!
Having all this in view, the initiative of the Student Volunteer Movement 2 to raise up 100,000 new message bearers among the student generation to serve at least two years among the least reached peoples is highly strategic.
After all, when God looked at the world, he saw a serious problem: people perishing! His love motivated him to get personally involved. Should we not do the same?
Here I am. Send me!
In 1980 I was an engineering student at Penn State University. Our campus student fellowship was infected with a vision of God’s glory among the nations. We studied about God’s heart for the nations. We prayed. We met regularly to learn more about the world God loves.
As I began to discover how “rich” the United States was in Christian workers and the needs in other parts of the world, I offered my life to God like Isaiah did saying, “Here I am. Send me!”
Little did I realize where that commitment would take me. Six months later I enrolled in Bible College to prepare myself to be a message bearer in another culture. I served five years in the Dominican Republic.
After this I served a season on the church staff where I grew up, secretly looking forward to the time when my wife and I could go overseas again. The last thirteen years I have served in Romania working to catalyze a mission movement, mobilizing Romanian believers to serve among the least reached. All this came from the decision: “Here I am. Send me!”
But my story is not an isolated case. Over a period of ten years, literally hundreds of students from Penn State devoted their lives to serving Christ among the least reached. Some of these have become significant leaders in the world mission movement.
Now we better see how God was at work among us raising up a new generation of message bearers. I believe God wants to do the same among today’s student generation. Because when we understand God’s love for the world, we can not sit comfortably on the side lines. We have to get involved.
God so loved the world that He gave…What are you willing to give so that others can have eternal life?