After weeks of praying with their church leaders, a couple were called to the front of the service to share their desire to serve as mission workers. The church were supportive, but one long-standing member wasn’t sure.
At the end of the meeting, he walked up to the them and glanced over his shoulder, “There’s an unreached tribe around the corner you know!” The ‘tribe’ he was referring to was a rough estate a few hundred yards away. A place with massive gospel needs was on their doorstep and they were thinking of moving abroad! Could that be right?
His comments raise an important issue: should we be prioritising global mission when the needs are so great right here at home? In many churches it isn’t that world mission is viewed as unimportant – it just isn’t a priority at the moment. This isn’t said outright, but our practice often reflects it. Global mission is treated as a niche ministry for the interested rather than a God-given responsibility for the whole church. When we are surrounded by so many genuine needs right where we are, it is easy to see how this can happen. However, I would like to suggest a few reasons why global mission ought to be prioritised in every church.
The Glory of God
Our vision for mission grows out of our vision of God. As John Stott famously said, “We must be global Christians because our God is a global God.” Our sovereign God is the one whose glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3). Our loving Saviour is the one who died, not only for our sins, but also the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Our risen King is the one with all authority in heaven and on earth, who commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-19).
If we limit our concerns to our own communities or countries, then we are stopping short of giving God the glory due his name. Jesus is no local, tribal deity. He is Lord of all. Above all else, the greatness of his glory should compel us to proclaim the gospel in all the earth.
“We must be global Christians because our God is a global God.”
The Reality of the Least Reached
The command to make disciples of all nations is clear, the task remains incomplete. Many peoples and places in the world remain unreached, that is to say, they are not only full of people who have never heard the gospel, but there isn’t even a local body of believers who can share it with them.
Take the Aimaq people of Afghanistan. In a population of over one and a half million, the percentage of evangelical Christians is currently 0.00%. They are one of 70 unreached people groups in that country alone. Looking at the global picture, there are thousands of people groups unreached with the gospel. As we address the needs of our own communities, let’s not forget the least reached peoples and places and address them with the same intentionality.
Many peoples and places in the world remain unreached, that is to say, they are not only full of people who have never heard the gospel, but there isn’t even a local body of believers who can share it with them.
The Joy of Pancakes
Engaging in mission is a bit like eating pancakes. You don’t line up the ingredients to eat one after the other – a couple of raw eggs, flour, and then maple syrup. The joy of eating pancakes only happens when the ingredients are taken together. Similarly, we are called to local and global mission simultaneously.
Consider the apostle Paul, who relentlessly threw himself into the work of proclaiming the gospel where Christ was not named, while also continuing in his care for churches. And dozens of mission workers and churches partnered with him in this.
Partnerships with cross-cultural mission workers continues to be one of the primary ways churches experience the joy of being part of God’s global mission. However this works out in practice in your congregation, we must all recognise our collective responsibility to declare his glory among the nations. What is the next step for you?