My Struggles with Traditional Missions – part 3

This is part 3 of this topic:

  • You can read part 1 HERE.
  • You can read part 2 HERE.
  • You can hear the sermon where I talked about some of these things HERE.

For ten years some things about traditional missions have bothered me
– at least my understanding of traditional missions. I'm not sure I
have the answers, but I struggle with several things. And I'm wide open
to being corrected on these issues…

Another question I have about missions…

3) Should we send missionaries to locations with Gospel penetration when there are so many without Gospel penetration?

There are 6000 people groups representing 2 billion people who have never heard of the Name of Jesus Christ. Should we be sending more missionaries to the most popular mission's locations when there are so many places with no Gospel witness?

I don't it is necessarily wrong (obviously) to send more missionaries to Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, or the Philippines. I just struggle to do so with so many places that need to be reached and we must figure out how to reach them. If mission's dollars were unlimited – I say we send as many as we can to as many places as we can. But since mission's dollars are limited – shouldn't we focus on those who have never heard?

Especially considering the following passages:

If people from every tribe, language, people and nation will be around the throne one day – I want our church to be a part of getting them there!

Also, if we are truly to be praying "even so come, Lord Jesus" and if he won't come (2nd coming) until the Gospel has been preached to every nation (Matthew 24:14) – then shouldn't that prayer cause us to focus on unreached people groups?

I don't feel dogmatic on this one either. I know we don't have to
choose between one or the other. But it sure seems to me that the scales
should be tilted with people and dollars toward unreached people groups.

What am I missing? How am I thinking wrongly on this? Help me see what I don't see.

  1. Hey Pastor David,

    I’ve been reading your posts and it’s exciting to see the focus on unreached people groups come up. That’s the focus at our missions agency –

    You may also want to check out Francis Chan’s book “Multiply” and the movement that him and David Platt are starting to push about the spread of the gospel through multiplication –

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Been reading your articles, and I have been struggling with the same questions for years. I have settled with each person is called to ministered and spread the word the way God wants them to. Some are called out and others are called to stay. Wisdom and common sense can be applied to all your questions BUT one should put it to prayer. Jesus also stated that we cannot lean on our own understanding. In my years of mistakes I have grown to realize that God does not want us to lean on our own understanding, for one reason: we screw up. We need to hear His voice and His leading, if we are really hearing it there is no questioning it. God says to seek wisdom from our mature people, and I have never been put in the corner for asking Him if I have really heard Him right.

  3. I have a somewhat-on-topic theological question. In regards to the passages from Revelation – it seems as though the second coming will not occur until every people group has been reached. But what about people groups that went “extinct” before they ever heard the gospel? I know that people often ask, “what happens to people who have never heard the name of Jesus?” in regards to eternal destination and whether or not it’s “fair” for them to go to Hell and often the answer is something related to Romans 1:19-20. So I guess my question is, if that idea (of people having the ability to know God through creation) applies to people groups that died off before ever hearing the name of Jesus, does it also apply to all the unreached people groups right now?

  4. Trevor –

    Here is my very brief answer. Revelation is our motive for getting to unreached people groups (as well as the promise that the Gospel will be preached to each nation), but I think Rev 5 7 is already happening because I believe that God takes babies who die – to heaven.

    So – for some tribes – that will be their only representation – include the ones who are instinct.

  5. I completely agree about prioritizing the unreached, but (as I’m sure you’re aware) the terms “unreached” and “reached” are not necessarily black-and-white distinctions.
    There has been a lot of evangelistic effort in the last several decades that has seemed to result in, to borrow your terminology, “more but not better” disciples, especially in places like Somalia and Rwanda where there were incredibly optimistic reports of people making “decisions for Christ” in droves but very little sign of lasting fruit in either individual lives or in society at large.
    So whether a people-group is actually “reached” or “unreached” is a question that might have to be researched a bit more deeply.
    But even for groups that are known to be “unreached” (i.e., no one has ever claimed to have “reached” them) it’s probably still a better idea to try to reach them in partnership with Christians who are culturally and/or geographically closer.
    If someone came to our church’s leadership and expressed a burden to share the gospel with unreached tribes on the Amazon, our first response would be to ask the Brazilian-Americans in our church if they are aware of similarly-burdened pastors over in Brazil with whom we could work on this kind of evangelistic effort in partnership.
    Excellent posts and important questions!

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