by Abigail Tackitt
A lot of Christain believers would agree that missions are a biblical principle, but as far as application and importance, a lot of questions and uncertainty arise. There are several statistics I will share, but while reading them, take a moment and allow the numbers to settle as reality instead of flying on without having a concept of the weight of them.
Today, there are roughly 7.67 billion people in the world, and they make up 17,094 people groups, which would be defined as people who know each other. Out of that vast number, 41.6% are unreached, which is 3.19 billion people. That is 7,143 people groups that have yet to receive access to the gospel. From the Joshua Project, the definition of unreached is that these people groups do not have enough believers to evangelize and reach their own people. Around 95% of these unreached people groups are found in an area of the world called the 10/40 window.
In the world, 2,123 people groups don’t have access to the Bible in their primary language. This means 160,652,000 individuals do not have any way to read scripture in their mother tongue. In Revelation 7:9, it says there will be representatives from every tribe, people, and tongue standing before the throne and before the Lamb. You would think with the statistics that I just mentioned that everyone would be going to these unreached and unengaged areas of the world to see this verse come to life, right?
Wrong. As of now, there is a great imbalance. What does that mean? Out of every 10 missionaries, only 1 is going to an unreached area. That means 9 out of every 10 actually goes to already reached places. In order to live more like Jesus and cast vision for long term cross-cultural workers we must realize “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” and “make it (our) ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest (we) build on someone else’s foundation”(Matthew 9:37-38 and Romans 15:20).
The reason vision casting is so important is found in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel will be proclaimed unto all the earth… and then the end will come.” We see that there is still work to be done and resources to be poured out and shared for others to know about Jesus. Yet American people are more likely to spend money on dog Halloween costumes then spend money on sending people to the unreached. There is an analogy about a man going down into a coal mine and how there is another person required to hold the rope. See there must be a sacrifice, not only of those going but those holding the rope as well. There will be blisters, and pain as the wear and tear of the sacrifice seems almost impossible to bear at times. One role is not more important than the other. Someone holding the rope and someone descending are both necessary.
This is not an invitation to an easy life, the cost is great. An American couple, who counted the cost and decided Jesus was worth it all, got back by ship after decades of missionary work in Africa. On the same boat was President Teddy Roosevelt coming back from a hunting trip in Africa. When the ship arrived in New York City, a band and motorcade with a crowd had gathered to receive the President. Music and loud applause greeted the politician as his motorcade whisked him away. Shandra Oakley writes about what happened next:
Then quietly with no fanfare, no attention, and no music, the missionary couple walked arm in arm down the gangplank, taking their first steps on American soil in over 30 years. After some silence, the husband turned to his wife and said, “Honey, it doesn’t seem right that after all these years we would have nobody to greet us while that man got such a grand reception.” The wife put her arms around her husband and gently reminded him, “But honey, we’re not home yet.”
Samuel Zwemer said “the history of missions is a history of answered prayers,” and prayers are being answered even today. May this be an encouragement to live more like Jesus and to cast vision for others to partner with what God is doing!