In preparing for a teaching on missions a few days ago, I came across some staggering statistics. According to the
Hartford research institute, there are approximately 320,000 evangelical churches in the United States. With the rate of church planting and church closings, this is a pretty good number. According to the Joshua project, which is a great resource for missionaries, there are now 7,050 unreached people groups in the world. What is an “unreached people” group? It is a community that cannot access the message of the gospel through a church, a translated Bible, or a missionary. 7,050 people groups can be found in about 237 countries. What this means is that 41.8% of the world’s population has never heard the gospel.
What does that mean to our generation?
If you think Jesus is coming back in the next 2-3 years, you seriously need to look at Matthew 24:14. Jesus says,
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The word “nations” here literally means “ethnos” or people group. If you believe this passage, then there is work to do.
What does that mean to our churches?
According to these conservative numbers, for every unreached people group, there are 45.19 churches in the US alone. The total count of church attenders in our 320,000 churches is estimated at 56 million people. So, if my math is correct, there are about 7,900 people in the American church for each people group who have yet to hear the gospel. I know the numbers are not always concrete, but I think they offer us a clear perspective.
So, you may ask, what do the 56 million American believers do besides reaching the unreached?
In America alone (in 2008), churches received $103 Billion dollars of charitable giving.
Where did all this money go? “85% of all church activity and funds are directed toward the internal operations of the congregation”. Only 2% went to overseas missions. (Source:http://www.tithing.com/blog/giving-statistics/)
What really shocks me is that of the 2% that goes into the “mission field,” less than one half of a percent actually goes to reach the 7,050 unreached people groups.
Now before you think this is a money problem, I assure you the problem goes deeper. Before you call up your church financial department and rant about the $100 you put in the offering last week, ask yourself, “What am I doing about the unreached?” Praying for them? Am I finding missionaries who truly are reaching the unreached? Are you making disciples to go into the nations? Or are you just playing the church game? Maybe you’re looking for another good Christian book to read and podcast to hear? Last night I told an audience that the most mismanaged part of a church’s budget is probably how a church gives to missions. This, I believe, is only a reflection of the heart of the American Christian.
What will you do about it?
Will you ponder missions over a $5.00 Starbucks coffee, and then resolve to pray about it when you occasionally remember this vast need later? When was the last time you cried out for the lost, the ones in your own city, to come to a knowledge of God’s salvation? Too busy? I know it’s everyone’s excuse. When was the last time that your lifestyle of prayer led you to step out and do something that was actually effective and life-changing for an unbeliever? The issue is not that people aren’t ready to receive God’s salvation. No, I believe it is that most Christians in America are practically concerned with comfortable Christian living rather than the eternal life of others.
What can you do now?
Go while you are here! Start living out the pattern of making disciples in your daily life. Don’t know what making a disciples looks like? It starts with this. Reach the lost in your community and start preparing your heart to go wherever the Holy Spirit will send you. If you can’t lead someone who speaks English to the Lord, your chances of effectiveness are slim in other countries. I got this from Mark Driscoll, and it really was a good “entrance ramp” to a missional mindset…
6 SIMPLE WAYS TO BE MISSIONAL
1. EAT WITH OTHER PEOPLE
We all eat three meals a day. That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission each week without adding anything new to your schedule. And meals are a powerful expression of welcome and community.
2. WORK IN PUBLIC PLACES
Hold meetings, prepare talks, and read in public spaces like cafés, pubs, and parks. It will naturally help you engage with the culture. For example, whose questions do you want to address in your Bible studies, those of professional exegetes, or those of the culture?
3. BE A REGULAR
Adopt a local café, pub, park, and shop, so you regularly visit and become known as a local. Imagine if everyone in your gospel community did this!
4. LEAVE THE HOUSE IN THE EVENINGS
It’s so easy after a long day on a dark evening to slump in front of the television or surf the Internet. Get out! Visit a friend. Take a cake to a neighbor. Attend a local group. Go to the cinema. Hang out in a café. Go for a walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter where as long as you go with gospel intentionality.
5. SERVE YOUR NEIGHBORS
Weed a neighbor’s garden. Help someone move. Put up a shelf. Volunteer with a local group. It could be one evening a week or one day a month. Try to do it with other members of your gospel community, so it becomes a common project. Then people will see your love for one another, and it will be easier to talk about Jesus.
6. SHARE YOUR PASSION
What do you enjoy? Find a local group that shares your passion. Be missional and have fun at the same time!