By Greg Crofford on Jul 2, 2010
Question: What are we doing to minister to the unreached people groups of the world?
-- Stephanie, 20, of Muncie, Indiana
Jesus had a heart for the lost. The parable of the Good Shepherd recounts the story of a shepherd with 100 sheep. When he discovered that one was missing, he left the 99 safely behind, then set out to rescue the lost lamb (Luke 15:1-7). This parable underscores the reaching heart of God, a Father who wishes that none would perish in their sin, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
In January 1989, this desire to cooperate with God’s plan for reaching the lost resulted in the first-ever Global Consultation on World Evangelization, held in Singapore. Over the next decade, the A.D. 2000 Movement (later named A.D. 2000 and Beyond) set the vision of “A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000.” While debatable end-times thinking motivated some involved, the movement did much to focus the energies of denominations and mission agencies on the “unreached” or “least reached.” The Joshua Project defines these as cultural groupings that are less than 2 percent “Evangelical” or less than 5 percent “Christian Adherent.” (For more information, see Dr. Howard Culbertson’s missions Web site: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/).
Where do the unreached peoples live? According to an article in World Watch (September 1, 2008), the year 2008 was the first in human history where more than half of the world’s population were city dwellers. While many unreached peoples live in remote areas, their youth are increasingly moving to the cities in search of work or education. Realizing this trend – and in harmony with Paul’s urban-centered strategy in the book of Acts – the Church of the Nazarene has focused its recent missionary efforts in large cities. Just as Paul first targeted Corinth or Ephesus as regional capitals, so we focus our initial efforts on key economic and cultural centers.
When young people encounter Christ in the city, they are often eager to share their newfound faith with relatives back home during holidays or breaks from school. In Africa, for example, these become times for rural showings of the JESUS film, or a youth soccer camp. In this way, the unreached are reached for Christ, the Kingdom of God grows, and we help fulfill the dream of “a church for every people.”
The A.D. 2000 and Beyond Movement highlighted the so-called “10-40 Window,” those countries between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude on the globe, where most unreached peoples live. In such places where open church planting is impossible, we are finding creative ways to reach the unreached, to realize the vision of the “gospel for every person.”
In our concern for the unreached living far away, we must not forget those who live nearby. Even in the United States there are many who have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel. How can we be “salt” and “light” to the unreached who live across the street?
Jesus will come at a time chosen by the Father (Matthew 24:36). Our job is simply to be busy with the task entrusted us, whether the Lord comes tomorrow or delays his return another thousand years. Reaching the unreached for Christ is our sacred task, and our great joy.
-- Greg Crofford, Ph.D., is the Director of the Institut Théologique Nazaréen. He and his wife, Amy, live in Nairobi, Kenya.
Photo by Don Gardner, Africa East Field Strategy Coordinator.