The greatest command given to Christian’s is found in Matthew 28:19, where His followers are mandated to make “disciples of all nations.” These, some of the last words of Jesus on earth are known as the Great Commission. It is appropriate that the words are treated with their deserving weight as sharing the message of the gospel is a vital part of Christian discipleship.
This mandate has been adhered to since the early days of the church. The most famous Christian missionary was Paul, who completed several overseas and cross-land ventures to spread the news of the gospel. The evangelising vigour of the early church was so that in Acts 2:47 it says that “the Lord added daily to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In the coming years, thousands of Christian’s embarked on journeys to the unknown with the intention of converting ‘unreached people groups’- those without any constant Christian influence. As history tells us, for the most part, these journeys were done with the right intentions; some of the methods used are not above reproach.
So, over two thousand years on from Jesus’ words, how well has the Christian church gone at meeting the lofty task of reaching all nations?
Distressingly, about 51% of American Christian’s do not know what the Great Commission even says. Not a very promising beginning to our study!
As nations with sovereign borders did not exist in Jesus’ time, we can assume that when Jesus said, “all nations”, he was referring to ethnic groups. According to the Joshua Project, there are over 17 000 people groups in the world. Of these, approximately 7 000 people groups have had no Christian exposure. The enormity of this statistic may be understood by considering that, of the about 7.5 billion people on the earth, 3 billion people have yet to hear the Christian message! This statistic is challenging to perceive as a Christian in Australia, where at times, it seems that there is a Church on every street corner.
In 1990 the term ’10-40 window’ was created by missionary strategist Luis Bush to refer to the countries which have the least amount of Christian exposure and do not have a living Christian movement. This term describes the countries in the space between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator.
The countries in this area of the world are generally less educated, with higher rates of both poverty and illiteracy. Most people in this area do not even know a Christian. Of the countries involved, 23 are Muslim, 18 are Hindu, 6 are Buddhist, 2 have ethnic religions, and one country is non-religious. Several of these countries have no separation of church and state. In some of these countries, it is even deadly to be a Christian with many people facing persecution for practising their faith.
This term and the above assumptions about the area have been heralded by some as an overstatement. It is essential to consider that some of the nations in this area do have considerable Christian influence and that countries outside of this geographical region such as Indonesia may also not have a Christian voice. Additionally, some of the countries included in the zone are not impoverished or facing low rates of education.
Despite these considerations, the statistics speak volumes. 86% of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist do not know a Christian. This statistic is worrying as it emphasises just how small the Christian exposure is.
Approximately 1 600 language groups do not even have a translation of the Bible accessible to them. The obvious solution is to work on creating translations in these languages. This solution becomes complex when one considers that many of these language groups have oral rather than written histories. We must also recognise that the way that we experience and practice our faith will not be the same to other people depending on their past experiences. Billy Graham’s statement, “We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding” speaks to this sentiment beautifully- actions can speak louder than words.
Most alarmingly, only 3% of all missionaries work in this area! The region with arguably, the highest need in the world to hear the gospel.
There is, of course, much mission that can be done in your local area without the need to travel overseas. Even in Australia, there are still people who have not heard the life-altering message of Jesus. However, it is the Christian responsibility to take the word of God to all corners of the earth. It is not just preachers that are needed in the mission field; it is people willing to walk aside others and show them what it means to be a Christian and to live a changed life. This area needs people who are educators, health professionals and administrators and most of all, those who are compassionate.
The Christian is called to be an active follower. We grow in Christ by sharing with others. If we keep our faith to ourselves, without sharing it with others, then we are not fulfilling our mandate. It is vital to remember that Christianity is always just a generation away from dying off. More significant than that, we are called not only to spread the word but to make disciples who can spread the message to others. As Oswald J. Smith states “Any church not involved in the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.” We cannot be Christian without an active mission.
Perhaps you feel the calling on your heart to travel and to do so with an eternal purpose. There is a great need for God to be shared with those overseas. Isobel Kuhn, a missionary to China and Thailand powerfully said “I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelise all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who does not respond.” Listen to God’s call on your heart. Take in what He says. What we hear may scare us, or it may sound impossible, but God gives us the privilege of sharing His word, and if you do not listen to the call you feel now eventually, they may stop coming. Wherever it is He is calling you, travel in faith and go where He sends.
By Kira-leigh Josey
 “51% Of Churchgoers Don’t Know Of The Great Commission – Barna Group”, Barna Group, Last modified 2018, https://www.barna.com/research/half-churchgoers-not-heard-great-commission/.
 Joshua Project, “Has Everyone Heard? | Joshua Project”, Joshuaproject.Net, Last modified 2019, https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/has_everyone_heard.
 Matthew Boffey, “In Loving Honor: 12 Quotes On Evangelism From Billy Graham – Logostalk”, Logostalk, Last modified 2019, https://blog.logos.com/2018/02/loving-honor-12-quotes-evangelism-billy-graham/.
 “71 Famous Missionary Quotes – The Great Commission Call”, Growchurch.Net, Last modified 2019, https://growchurch.net/famous-missionary-quotes-the-great-commission.
 “What Is The Great Commission? | Jesus Film Project”, Jesusfilm.Org, Last modified 2017, https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/what-is-the-great-commission.html.