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The Mission of God: The Task Remaining - Part I

Over 200 years ago, William Carey, a British missionary and Baptist minister, published an enquiry reflecting his recently acquired but strongly-held conviction that it was incumbent upon the Church to bring the Gospel to the heathen.

Fifty years later, and Hudson Taylor felt the weight of this burden for the many millions in the Chinese world. The China Inland Mission was born – and evolved into OMF. As the 19th Century was nearing an end, thousands of young believers rallied around the cry, "The evangelization of the world in this generation!" That was over 125 years ago.

A hundred years ago, C.T. Studd founded the Heart of Africa Mission, which became WEC as it spread beyond Africa. Then after two World Wars, we see movements born that include Christian radio, Bible translation agencies, and of course, Operation Mobilisation.

Accelerating Goal

In the intervening years between William Carey and today, literally hundreds of thousands of missionaries have served - in every country, with hundreds of agencies, and in thousands of languages. Just through the ministry of OM, millions of lives have been affected, countless thousands have found new life in Christ, and hundreds of other new ministries have been born.

And yet, when you take all the wonderful work done through OM, and add it to the hundreds of other mission agencies and parachurch ministries, and then add that to the labour of millions of congregations, we are still nowhere remotely near the evangelization of the world in our generation. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that we are further away than ever and that the goal is accelerating away from us with each passing year. More on that another time.

Something Infinitely Larger

Meanwhile, lives are being changed, communities are being transformed, good work is being done. But really, if it is only about the worthy causes of improving lives and communities and helping people, it could be left to Médecins Sans Frontiers, Habitat for Humanity, and the many other excellent humanitarian organisations. OM (and others like us) love to help people improve their quality of life and to fight against suffering and injustice.

But our core calling neither starts nor ends there. What we are about is something infinitely larger than community development, education, or primary health care. Jesus commissioned His disciples to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), and He is on record as saying that the gospel of the Kingdom would be preached as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come.

Well, the end hasn't come yet. So presumably, we still have work left to do. It's not even debatable that we have work left to do, but one could engage in a lively discussion about how much work we have left to do. If, according to the Great Commission that we missions folk talk about so readily, our job is to "go and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey all I have commanded you", then one could argue that we have barely begun to scratch the surface!

The Unreached

There are around 1.8 billion (and increasing) human beings still unevangelized. Over 6500 people groups are still unreached. And arguably, not a single nation has truly been taught to obey all that Jesus commanded. The task remaining remains staggering in scale.

So, what is the bottom line for OM? At what point could we say our work is complete? Of course, there are slogans and vision statements and mission statements. The reason OM exists is not because the GINI coefficient is too high, or because malaria continues to impact millions of lives. OM exists because the fullness of the good news of Jesus Christ is still beyond the reach of billions of people in thousands of distinct cultures. In the next article we'll dig a little deeper into the details of the task remaining. But for now here's a thought from the year 1912 to leave you with:
"This enterprise is not only the greatest that the world has ever known; it is also the most difficult of achievement. Let us not fall into the error of thinking that Christianizing the nations and bringing the world to the feet of our Lord is the task of a day or of a generation."

John P. Jones, The Modern Missionary Challenge
Thanks to Jason Mandryk, editor Operation World. This post is the first in an eight-part series examining
'The Mission of God'.


 

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