The Challenge of the Unfinished Task I: It Can Be Done
100 years ago, when confronted with the challenge of world evangelization
by the end of the century, words were spoken that "we despaired
of hope." Today, when confronted with the challenge of
world evangelization by the end of the century the words are spoken
"we are filled with hope."
D.L. Moody had expressed the conviction in the 1880's that, "It
can be done, it ought to be done, it must be done." Today,
as we look to the remaining five years of the decade of this century
we too say: "It can be done, it ought to be done, it must
John R. Stott, as editor for the Manila Manifesto, the unanimously
adopted expression of 3000 Christian leaders representing 170
countries gathered in Manila in July 1989, posed the question
at that time... "Now the year 2000 has become for many
a challenging milestone. Can we commit ourselves to evangelize
the world during the last decade of this millennium? There is
nothing magical about the date, yet should we not do our best
to reach this goal? Christ commands us to take the gospel to all
people. The task is urgent. We are determined to obey Him with
joy and hope."
And now this same expositor, theologian and statesman, editor
of the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 wrote last month these words:
"The AD 2000 and Beyond Movement has set itself the
double goal by the end of the millennium of a church for every
people, and the Gospel for every person. It has been statistically
demonstrated that world evangelization in these terms is attainable."
However, as we work toward these goals we must beware: 1)
not to exaggerate the facts, 2) that we oversimplify the
remaining task ahead of us, 3) that we fail to consider
the implications of the gospel and the kind of church that should
be established, 4) that we rely on human strategies rather
than the power of God, 5) that we fail to co-operate adequately
as the Body of Christ, 6) that we underestimate the human,
spiritual and financial cost involved in the task of reaching
the remaining unevangelized of this world in the short time ahead.
7) In fact, we understand that the very gates of Hell,
Satan with all of his demonic host, are standing against it."
With these valid cautions in mind let us explore why.
It can be done. here are seven reasons why:
- Because the Word of God says it. Jesus said:"I
will build my church and Gates of Hell will not overcome it."
(Mat. 16:18) "I looked and there before me was a great multitude
that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and
language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb."
(Rev. 7:9) "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge
of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab.
- Because a great portion of the unfinished task has already
been done. Current expectations state that by the year 2000,
over 95% of the population of the world, people from every culture
and language and country, will have access to the gospel through
a full or portion of Scripture in their own language, literature
distribution, radio transmission, audio recordings, through the
Jesus Film or through the preaching of an evangelist. By
one means or another the world will be exposed to the gospel.
In fact, it is not an "either, or" matter of accessibility
to the gospel but "both, and." What remains is but
a small portion. But the evidence continues far beyond merely
the extent of what's already been accomplished. We also observe
- A rapid acceleration of divine activity toward the
fulfillment of this goal. There is a divine superintending of
global events, such as the demise of communism and the failure
of secular humanism to satisfy the needs of man that suggest that
we are moving from an age of unbelief to an age of faith
as we approach the year 2000. Secular futurists tell us this.
The secular press tells us this. Through His people, God is accomplishing
the task more quickly than ever before. Patrick Johnstone, Chairman
of the Unreached Peoples Network assesses both aspects of the
goal of a church for every people and the gospel for every person
by the year 2000 when he writes: "There is cause for
much praise to God in progress over the past 200 years, and more
especially in the past 30 and cautious hope for the initial attainment
of our goals."
- A global Great Awakening related to a prayer movement
as we approach the year 2000, greatly surpassing anything in all
of Christian history, evidenced by the growing momentum of mass
prayer initiatives worldwide. Even though we do not all agree
on how we should pray we do agree that indeed we should
pray. From the many promises of God's Word in relation to answered
prayer an accelerator of divine initiative is likely the growing
prayer movement concentrating on world evangelization. After
all, it was J. Edwin Orr, the student of revival, who said: "When
God is about to do something new he sets His people a-praying?"
The title page of an article written in a recent edition of Christianity
Today, posed the following question: Is a Global Great
Awakening Just Around the Corner? The answer comes in
the first paragraph. "With millions of Christian believers
holding mass prayer rallies worldwide, scholars and prayer movement
leaders are asking whether this development foreshadows church
renewal on a global scale." The article cites, as
examples, prayer initiatives such as the Day to Change the
World held the 25th of June, 1994 with marches for Jesus in
170 countries and the October 1993 Praying Through the Window.
The article further proclaims that: "A prayer movement
that greatly surpasses anything, perhaps in all of Christian history,
is rapidly gaining momentum."
- The explosive growth of the Two Thirds World church in
this century has positioned the church around the world for
a major evangelistic thrust in the nineties. Stott said it: it
can be attained "not least because of the proliferation of
indigenous missions in Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific
rim of East Asia. These may under God take the Gospel to the ends
of the earth." Sixty six percent of the participants
of this meeting are from Asia, Africa and Latin America, yet seventy
five percent of the cost has been born by the developing world.
GCOWE is a rite of passage for the two-thirds world in joining
in full ownership of world evangelization.
- God has endowed the church with the spiritual manpower,
material resources and technology to complete the task of
world evangelization. The critical issue is the deployment of
these resources amongst the least evangelized. Consider the ministry
of just one evangelist who is the honorary chairman of this movement.
In March 1995 Billy Graham spoke the message beamed out of a Stadium
in San Juan, Puerto Rico to people living in 185 countries of
the world. An estimated more than one billion cumulative audience
will have heard the Gospel (not in one day as my article on the
Unfinished task reported). That means more people will have been
exposed to the gospel though the recent Global Mission project
of Billy Graham than the accumulated audience over all the years
of his ministry up to two years ago. That's the power of today's
technology used thru just one evangelist's credibility. The technology
exists today to penetrate every geographic and political barrier.
Satellite delivery of TV signals is now worldwide. CNN television
news demonstrates global saturation. The Christian Broadcasting
Network, enjoying many partnerships and strategic alliances now
produces and distributes innovative television programs in over
35 languages and 50 nations. This conference is being communicated
through electronic mail onto a World Wide Web being accessed by
Christianity Today On-Line, the Moody Radio network and many communication
media and other interested parties around the world. We need to
redeem the benefits of modern technology for Jesus.
Genuine partnerships and open cooperation are happening
as never before. It is now recognized that this is the best way
to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this last
decade of the millennium. Many church and mission leaders now
believe that genuine collaborative partnerships is the only way
to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the last five
years of this millennium. We believe that this is what God intends!
Conclusion: Today, nearly two thousand years after Christ
challenged his disciples with the Great Commission, the Church
which bears His name approaches a milestone many had only dreamed
of reaching. A goal which has ignited the hearts of missionaries
for centuries now stands within sight. As we stand at this mid-point
of this decade, we see "all that God has done" up to
this time to reach the unreached, seeing now the remainder of
the task yet before us. Let us work together to do all that we
can to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing in our time
to see "a church for every people and the gospel for every
person by the year 2000."
Part II: It Ought To Be Done
Welcome from Luis Bush