While there are many unreached people groups in the countries that fit into what is called the 10/40 window (see map), India poses the largest challenge. Here are some numbers to digest.
· Number of People Groups in India = 2,585
· Number of Unreached People groups = 2,311 or 89.4%
· Total population of India = 1,347,994,000
· Population of the Unreached People Groups = 1,293,515,000
· Largest Religion = Hinduism (80.9%)
· Population Professing Christianity = 2.1%
What would missionary to India, William Carey (1761 to 1834), say if he read these numbers (above)? The progress in reaching India with the gospel has been far less than it should be. What has hindered this progress and how can we promote movements of God that will rapidly get the gospel to these groups and establish disciples into self-sustaining, self-governing, and self-propagating churches? More money is not the answer. Neither is it more buildings, schools or hospitals. I agree with Rick Wood (Mission Frontiers); “sending tens of thousands of missionaries to India to “convert” people from any other religion to join the Christian church is not…a biblical plan” (May/June 2019).
What is needed and must be done is the awakening of the indigenous church to realize its responsibility to proclaim the gospel to their own. We have seen how the Western church model has become a stumbling block with its emphasis on money and buildings. It is time to return to God’s word and again observe the biblical model.
Anyone with a heart for those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ – not even heard His name – fulfilling the “Great Commission” seems like a goal we can never reach. As we look at the numbers today; 7098 unreached people groups and of that number, 269 are unengaged with a population over 500, we wonder how the task will be completed in our generation or the next.
We must begin with accepting the authority of Scripture. Without this principle embedded in our souls, there is no reason to aim at such a large task. With agreement in the authority of Scripture, we can accept that Matthew 24:14 will be accomplished; “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 timing is not the point. The fact that God is sending out workmen into these fields is the point we need to focus on. Do we have the heart for being sent?
Trying to gather enough resources together in not the issue either. What is need in the Church today is willing hearts. Listen to the intention of Paul’s heart: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). Paul was not saying that he would preach to all who had not heard, but it was his ambition and “earnest aspiration and goal.” He left the numbers and the “how” to God.
As we have proven in this ministry, God supplies what is needed as we set our hearts on following the biblical model and Paul’s method. There are around 800 churches in the world for every unreached people group. If only one or two churches in each 800 saw the need from God’s perspective, the task could be finished very quickly. What is your ambition?
As I indicated yesterday, Jonathan spent a day at an orphanage in Myanmar with children and young people, teaching them how to study the Bible. Sometimes we wonder how fruitful times like this are and whether the time was well spent. To give you an idea of the response to teaching them, Mary handed Jonathan a “thank you” note. Here is a partial unedited quote from her note:
“Thanks a lot for everything. Especially, you used simple words. So, we understand what you want to share God’s message. We must improve our listening. Thank you.
If you didn’t come to Myanmar (in Tamu at Sophia), I will not get this file (book), or hear good news. Sir Jonathan, I really want to tell you my enjoyments more. I have a new dream after we met. That is to become the best follower of God. Please can you help me by praying to God. Thanks.”
This reminded me of Jesus prayer to the Father in Matthew 11; “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.” (11:25–26).
Taking in the Word of God is best done by those with ‘child-like’ hearts.
Paul makes a very important observation about the Thessalonian believers regarding their love for each other. “Now concerning brotherly love, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). This is a principle that is often repeated in Scripture, but also overlook by the church.
We are seeing this principle in action in many places where God sends us. The following is a testimony of this taking place in Myanmar in the last week.
“First time these students were doing Lesson 6 (How to Study the Bible) in God’s Plan for His Disciples, we used John 3:16 as the text. Applications they made to this verse were: “I will go to my village and tell them that God is love, that He created everyone, and displayed that love by His Son dying on the cross. You should receive Him today.”
In 3 hours, God taught us what countless semesters of Bible college exposition couldn't. Incredible!
If you ever wanted to know what it means to be taught by God, I just witnessed it through tears at an orphanage. This was the first time they had ever done a study like this.”
Top the icing on this story, these students were children and young people at an orphanage. If they can grasp the four simple steps of Bible Study, anyone can who desires to learn.
Principle: OBSERVATION - MEDITATION – DISCUSSION - APPLICATION
We now come to the portion of the parable in Matthew 13:18-23 where Jesus refers to seed being sown into “good soil.” Unlike the heart that allows the “evil one” to snatch the seed away, or the rocky ground, or where the heart has allowed thorns, “good soil” receives the seed of God’s Word. Here is some important instruction from verse 23:
· The heart with “good soil…hears the word.” The condition of the heart must have times of quiet when it can listen. In our busy world, this is becoming more of a challenge. Hebrews 5:11 says that some who were immature had “become dull [slow or lazy] in hearing.” Paul makes the connection between the work of the Spirit and “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5). This is what I call ‘active hearing.’ We must not be passive in listening to what God is saying to us.
· The next point in verse 23 is that the heart understands what is being heard. There is only one way we can hear with understanding – only by the Spirit. Jesus promised that He would “teach us all things” (John 14:26). Jesus said that understanding comes to those who have child-like teachable hearts (Matthew 11:25). Hearing and understanding are bound together for those who receive “the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
· Through ‘active listening’ and Spirit given understanding, the seed of God’s Word will bear fruit. Jesus points out, the harvest varies from heart to heart. The question becomes whether I want my heart to produce “much fruit” so the Father is glorified (John 15:5-8).
As you examine your heart, what sort of hunger do you have for the Word. To the degree you want God’s Word to bear fruit in you is the degree you will be able to help others gain the same hunger.
As we continue to look at Matthew 13:18-23, we find there are two more problems that hinder hunger being created for the Word of God.
· The person that “has no root in [themselves].” There are several purposes for roots. One is for the plant to draw up water out of the earth that causes growth and refreshment. Jesus speaks of water to be like the Holy Spirit who provides life to our spiritual beings (John 7:37-39). The next purpose for roots is to draw nutrients from the soil that make the plant healthy and strong. As these two functions take place, the root system also grows so the plant is supported, and remains steady when adversity (“tribulation or persecution”) comes. Without roots into the Word of God, none of these essential patterns of growth and stability will take place. If there is hunger in the heart, all three will take place at the same time.
· If the seed is planted “among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (13:22). Where there is discontent with the circumstances God has placed us in, the “thorns” of this world cause deception and we are preoccupied with everything except the Word of God. We become busy with priorities we have placed before a quiet time with the Lord. If your life is like this, you will “prove unfruitful” and will struggle developing a hunger for Scripture.
Tomorrow we will turn a corner and see what creates hunger in the heart. If any of these issues addressed yesterday and today are present in your life, take time right now to allow the Spirit to cleanse out the obstacles and make way for an appetite for the Word that never stops.
As we watch God work in hearts around the world, we see a hunger for the Word of God in some places that is rare. What creates this hunger and how do we promote it in others?
The easy answer that most of us would give is that God creates the hunger, and this is true. But let’s dig deeper into this question and see if we can expose why there is not more hunger for reading and understanding the Scriptures than there is.
When Jesus told the parable of the sower, He made some important observations that we should use to examine our own hearts and measure the conditions where we are sowing the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15). The problem in this parable is not with the sower or the seed. The problem is found in the soil or heart of those who should receive the “word” or “seed.” Here is a short summary of three problems:
· The evil one is allowed to “snatch away what has been sown in [the] heart.” In other words, the priorities of the heart have not been placed on God’s Word and we allow it to be taken from us by things that we give higher priority to.
· When the seed falls along the “path” or “rocky ground,” there is a hardness that results from habits of the heart or unbiblical traditions. Inviting God the Spirit to work in us softens our hard hearts. The Lord says in Jeremiah 4:3; “Break up your fallow ground.”
There are more conditions to look at, but we will do that tomorrow. These three should cause us to examine our own hearts first to see why our hunger for the spiritual food of the Word is not as great as it should be. As we correct the problem in our hearts, we are better prepared to help others “Break up your fallow ground.” We will continue to study this subject tomorrow.
One of the greatest elements of missionary work is faith. Abraham, the first missionary, had this in his character so he could answer God’s call, leave “Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan” (Genesis 11:31) and follow God’s leading. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). That requires faith!
We often confine this type of faith to those missionaries who venture into remote places of the earth, learn a new language, and willing to face hardships and even death. But, what about many of us who are afraid to tell a neighbor, co-worker, or relatives about what Jesus has done for you. The same faith that Abraham exercised is needed for this. Also, the same obedience that was seen in Abraham is needed by each of us. The “Great Commission” is addressed to all believers.
“I love my life as a missionary, keeping myself on the front lines. The image in my mind is that God, my general, stands at the door when I go out every morning; and, knowing what the war is like, day after day he gives me his most powerful weapon: His Spirit. For this I am grateful. Clayton M. Christensen
You are on the front lines wherever you are. Trust God, as thousands since Abraham trusted Him, and watch how He will provide at the moment, courage and words by your faith.
“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray
earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”” (Matthew 9:37–38).
This instruction from Jesus is repeated in Luke 10:2 and with a slightly different approach in John 4:35-38. Notice that Jesus does not ask the disciples to pray for a bountiful harvest; it is already “plentiful.” God has made sure through His own work in people that there would be an amazing harvest of souls. What is needed in every generation is “laborers.” Why is it necessary to pray for more “laborers?” Here are some points to consider:
1. The laborer must know the heart of the “Lord of the harvest.”
2. The laborer must work in cooperation with the “Lord of the harvest.”
3. The laborer must be willing to go where he or she is sent by the “Lord of the harvest.”
4. The laborer must realize that what is harvested is there because the “Lord of the harvest” was working first to bring souls to the point of being harvested.
This humble attitude is reflected in a quote I found; “I am not reaping the harvest; I scarcely claim to be sowing the seed; I am hardly ploughing the soil; but I am gathering out the stones. That, too, is missionary work; let it be supported by loving sympathy and fervent prayer!” (Robert Bruce, Scottish missionary to the Iranian Muslims in the late 1800’s.
This quote reflects what we are finding in so many places. There is a sad void in understanding the biblical foundation for missions in the plan and purpose of God and therefore the vision for missions is short-sighted, blurry, or not even there. To clear the “stones,” get back to Scripture.
This blog is a continuation of the report from Nicaragua.
“Earlier one evening, we had a graduation for 25 brothers and sisters (see photo in yesterday’s blog) who had already completed GPHD in just three weeks! And what was so encouraging was that the leaders of the church had also finished GPHD and received their graduation certificates along with the others. No one is concerned about position or stature. They are all humbling themselves beneath the word of God and simply desiring to be with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
If I were to try and describe what I witnessed here in Nicaragua, I think of the saying from Hudson Taylor; “God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s supply.” When we are pursuing Christ through the Word by the power of His Spirit, He will establish and strengthen us (Rom 16:25). Let us pray for the next steps as we will be introducing God’s Plan for His Church soon.” “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages” (Romans 16:25.)
Printing of the Spanish book, God’s Plan for His Church, is in the process of being negotiated. Please pray with us as we plan for the next training event in Managua, Nicaragua. This is a very important step toward expanding the training in neighboring countries. As we talk to so many pastors in Spanish speaking churches, we hear of the same need; maturity on a biblical foundation.
Link To Our Old Blog: