Gospel Access: The Great Misallocation
What if you learned that you have been grossly misallocating your efforts and investment dollars for the kingdom of God?
If Jesus gave us the Great Commission to reach all the people groups on earth with his Gospel, then why does our time, talent and investments end up mostly among those who have already heard the Gospel (and heard it many times)?
A wise mentor of mine put it like this: “why should anyone get to hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?”
America is Unreached?
I was talking with a friend the other day who said that a major American city was unreached with the Gospel. "Why are we focusing on the ends of the earth when we haven't been faithful to reach our own city?" Good point, right?
Clearly, my friend was making a point about how "unfinished" our job is of making disciples of each and every individual in his own city. But he, like many Christians, doesn’t know the difference between “unreached” and “unchurched”. These are basic terms of missiology that help us track our progress in fulfilling the Great Commission.
I wholeheartedly agree that followers of Jesus should be faithful to make disciples of Jesus in their jobs, at schools, in neighborhoods, etc. But if we stopped there, especially in today’s globalized age, I believe we would only be obedient to one half of Jesus' original command to us before he left.
Why “all peoples” or “all nations”
In Mark 16:15 Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” In Luke 24:47 we see Jesus’ end goal when he says, “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In Matthew 28:19, Jesus famously says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." Acts 1:8 underscores the geographical scope of the mission: "and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
These verses lead us to see that our mission isn't just local and global; we have a mission to both the “reached” and to the “least reached.”
But is there evidence that God really cares about reaching all the "ethne" (people groups) on the face of the earth? “Ethne” is the Greek word commonly translated as “nations” or “peoples” in the New Testament. Check out this list of scriptures where the word “nations” or “peoples” appears 87 times in the NIV alone. I was shocked the first time I learned how often God speaks about His glory among the nations (Isa 66:19; Ezek 37:21); how He blesses His people in order that they can be a blessing to all “nations” (Gen 12:1-2, Psa 72:17). In the book of Revelation, God paints the end goal of our mission in verses 5:9 and 7:9 by describing how all the “ethne” are gathered around the throne worshiping Him.
So how should we organize our efforts in order to realize this vision of reaching all nations? Missiologists have given us some terms that help us to prioritize the remaining people groups left before we have reached all nations. But first, let's look at two often-misunderstood terms.
Unreached vs. Unchurched
Joshua Project, an authoritative site analyzing the state of global evangelization, defines "Unreached" as follows:
"An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance." Previous definitions have held the specific thresholds of "less than 2% evangelical Christian and 5% professing Christian."
What my friend above was referring to was more like "Unchurched" people. Miriam Webster defines unchurched as "not belonging to or connected with a church." That is very, very different from "no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize..." The reality is that, in the United States, Americans regularly have access to Christian churches, outreaches, and the Gospel message whether they are seeking it or not. We are still a "significantly reached" nation. Most of the world is not. Let's unpack the “levels of reached” in the following scale.
The Progress Scale
To better see the various levels of global progress, Joshua Project created a Progress Scale, shown below. Note: These terms are focused on people groups, not countries. People groups are what Rev 5:9, and 7:9 are referring to, where "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" are represented, worshiping around the throne of God in Heaven.
Most of the work that we do for the King happens in superficially(3), partially(4), or significantly(5) reached areas of the world (as defined by the graph above).
Through this scale, we can easily see that an entire third of the world is in dire need of the Gospel. The highest global concentration of these minimally(2) and unreached(1) people groups live in what is called the 10/40 Window mostly where the red dots below show.
The window stretches from latitude N10 and N40, from Northwest Africa through to Southeast Asia, with the highest concentration of “UPGs” in India. In this window, you will find the 55 countries least-reached with the Gospel.
The Real Issue
Lack of access to the Gospel is the central issue at hand. We do not have a mandate to reach 100% of each people group. We do, however, have a mandate, from the mouth of Jesus himself, to reach every people group on earth. Paul writes, “How can they hear if no one preaches the Gospel?” (Romans 10:14). Paul also says in Romans 15:20, "My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else." Again Jesus highlights in Matthew 24:14 that, "this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all ethne (that's to all people groups), then the end will come."
If Jesus emphasizes the need for every people group to hear and respond to the Gospel, then why are we still sending 99% of our missions giving to places that are already partially or significantly reached? I think it's because most evangelical Christians do not see the jaw-dropping injustice before us.
The Greatest Injustice in Human History
We know of injustices of sexual exploitation, slave labor, abusing the poor, corruption from governments, and acts of terrorism. These products of the enemy run rampant in the least reached world because a greater injustice lives on in these areas.
What about the injustice of living in the bondage and oppression of the evil one, and never heard of the way out? How about living under the tyranny of ignorance and having never heard the truth about yourself, the world, or the God who made you and loves you? Jesus’ message was meant to transform these communities at the root of their broken relationships with God, self, others, and society at large.
Is this not this lack of Gospel access the greatest injustice we've ever faced?
When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, he told them to shake the dust off their feet and move on if people didn't respond to the Gospel. His point wasn't to ignore building the kingdom in Jerusalem, but it was to go and spread the message far and wide (eventually to gentiles) so that all can hear about Him and have a chance to respond to Him.
Today, our lack of prioritizing Gospel access means that 3.2 Billion people will grow up to be 80 years old and probably never hear the Gospel--even one time--in their own language and cultural context.
I don’t know about you, but that really bothers me. I can’t just carry on with life as normal, with impact investing as normal after hearing that.
With this knowledge, how now shall we live? What would Jesus think of how our portfolio of time, effort and finances are allocated in alignment with his mission to reach all peoples?
From Misallocation to Reallocation
This is why so many practitioners in the BAM (business as mission) and B4T (business for transformation) practitioners world care so deeply about where their business is located, and among who is being reached. Many traditional workers cannot even set foot in these places, let alone bring a tangible blessing of dignity and work that effectively reaches the people and blesses the community.
Ask yourself this question: what could be more strategic than taking the Gospel to these hardest, most spiritually and materially impoverished areas of the world; getting to see all the nations come to worship at God's feet forever? What if, for all eternity, you rejoiced with several people groups that you personally helped to reach by backing an entrepreneur who reached them?
In view of eternity, how much of your investment portfolio have you dedicated to reaching the remaining 7,410 unreached people groups with the Gospel? I suspect God may be prompting you to consider how your current portfolio might need to change in light of the remaining work in finishing our Great Commission task. While some may be called to direct 5% or 10% of their funds towards this "least-reached" categories, while others will double down and invest 50% or 75%, to reach the truly unreached with their capital.
We recommend downloading our B4T investment market study and see page 10 for the list of funds and events that focus on the unreached.
In our globalized society, I think God will expect more from us of how we faithfully participated in His Great Commission both locally and to the least reached. You'll have to be bold if you invest in these frontier markets. Your worship of God will most certainly be tested when real money can be lost for the sake of eternity.
But if Jesus is so worth it, then what do you really have to lose?
In case you missed the links above, here are some phenomenal resources that will greatly influence how you think of the Great Commission and Business 4 Transformation as well:
https://joshuaproject.net/ - Great source for unreached people group information and terms
http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats - Another great resource focused on mobilizing people to care about the unreached
https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/declare-his-glory-among-the-nations - John Piper sermon on his glory among the nations
https://bethanygu.edu/programs/enrichment/plan-discover-role-gods-plan/ - Free course from Bethany Global University on “God’s Plan”
https://www.ywam.org/get-involved-2/all-nations-verse-list/ - List of “All Nations” verses in the NIV from YWAM (youth with a mission)
https://businessasmission.com/what-is-bam/ - BAM Global Think Tank and many other resources about business as mission
https://www.openusa.net/learn-about-b4t/#terms - OPEN USA’s B4T services site with resources for business for transformation
http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats - Sobering statistics from the Traveling Team, a mobilizer for goers to the nations