The Challenge of the Unfinished Task I: It Can Be Done

Luis Bush


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 be done."

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:

  1. 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. 2:14)
  2. 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 evidence of
  3. 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."
  4. 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."
  5. 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.
  6. 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