by Stephen McQuoid
Stephen is the General Director of GLO.
All of us at one time or another have experienced a sense of being overwhelmed. Modern life carries with it so many responsibilities and sometimes the burden of all we need to do intimidates us. Imagine you are one of Jesus’ disciples. You come from the backwater of Galilee and have never travelled more than 150 miles from the place of your birth. You have little money, not much education, your opportunities in life are limited. Jesus says to you, “go make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). It is hard to imagine just how terrifying those words must have seemed to the followers of Jesus. With all their limitations, they were to take on the responsibility of world evangelisation – how overwhelming!
Today, we are well used to travel and we know a great deal more about our world than the early believers knew of theirs. However, the challenge of the Great Commission is as overwhelming for the Church today as it was for those early disciples. The numbers of people who need to hear the gospel are greater than ever. We also face huge conflicting world views that make gospel proclamation incredibly difficult. There is the world of Islam with all its diversity and complexity. Atheism is on the rise and increasingly militant and adversarial. Hinduism remains a religious colossus that blinds and binds, while the proliferation of other faiths, dogmas and cults prevents millions of people from seeing the truth of God’s love in Jesus. These barriers to the gospel would be deeply serious even without the need of a visa. Many places are closed to the gospel and the need for cultural adaptation as we reach out to other people groups is arguably greater than ever. We live in a post-truth world where trust needs to be established before our voices can even be heard. Add to that layers of doubt and suspicion due to the association of Christianity with colonialism or the West and doors begin to close in our faces even before conversations begin.
…the challenge of the Great Commission is as overwhelming for the Church today as it was for those early disciples.
Given the enormity of the task, we need to ask ourselves the question, ‘do we want to be obedient or not?’ Volumes have been written on mission and some have tried to find excuses for not being involved. However, Jesus told us to go and if we are serious about obedience to Him, we must go. Then, when we finally join the hosts in Heaven, we will celebrate Christ’s great achievement of redeeming people from every culture and tongue (Rev. 7:9). What does this mean for us now? What should mission in our day involve? The list is almost endless.
To All People
Central and Latin America have traditionally been strongholds for Catholicism and while evangelicalism has grown significantly, many still have no clear knowledge of what it means to be a Christian. Mexico has witnessed the growth of evangelicals, yet they remain a small minority, sometimes persecuted and often beset with doctrinal shallowness. Moreover, the challenge of crime, secularism, drugs and corruption present a great combination of obstacles for the gospel. Similarly, in Venezuela a more vibrant evangelicalism is challenged not just by social problems but an unstable political system, which means many languish in poverty despite the nation’s natural riches. The Americas contain spiritual power houses like the USA; however, only time will tell how long that will remain the case. Not least because many in the USA and Canada are becoming sceptical to the claims of Christ.
The growth of Christianity in Africa, especially over the past century, has been dramatic but mission activity is still needed there. Sub-Saharan Africa is a global spiritual hotspot with great need for theological education, leadership training and practical support for national workers to enable them to reach their own people and build strong churches. Jesus said, “the poor you will always have with you” (Mt. 26:11) and there is much poverty in Africa. Consequently, there is also great need to express the love of Christ through medical and educational work as well as the development of economic infrastructure. In the Islamic areas of North Africa, religious freedom is greatly restricted and the spiritual needs are so acute that the 10/40 window concept is as relevant now as the day the term was coined.
Among Asia’s teeming millions, India alone numbers more than 1.3 billion people. Many Asian countries have severe restrictions regarding mission activity, but in this dynamic part of the world the potential for friendship evangelism and the use of the internet, satellite TV and published resources is almost limitless. However, the need could not be overemphasised. Among Tajikistan’s 8 million people, there are only around a thousand or so believers, and restrictions designed to curb the influence of the Muslim majority also adversely affect the church.
China, with its vast population, communist ideology and growing global influence, is an area of both spiritual growth and enormous spiritual need. While China reaches out economically to the world it also detains more Christians that any other nation. Despite this, the church is strong and growing. Carefully thought out and planned mission work will pay dividends. More complex is North Korea with its repressive regime. This so-called ‘hermit kingdom’ is economically backward and culturally isolated. There is no easy access to North Korea’s imprisoned millions. Great creativity and courage are needed for the gospel to break through.
The Middle East
In this troubled part of the world, it is hard to imagine what solutions could be found for the tragedies of Syria or the Yemen. It is equally hard to see how the gospel could penetrate into Saudi Arabia, which lies at the very heart of Islam. Recent tensions between the Saudis and Turkey have exposed the naked ambition of both countries to take a lead role in the Islamic world. Turkey is more open to Western influence and more closely aligned with the West politically. Despite this, no mission activity is allowed. The church, although small, is growing but faces significant issues requiring sensitivity.
Egypt and Iran are two other Islamic states in desperate need of mission input. Egypt allows some freedoms for her Christian minority, yet discrimination against and the persecution of Christians remains the norm. Iran too persecutes Christians while its Shiite leadership battle against Sunni dominance. Nevertheless, disillusionment with the Islamic revolution along with the remarkable work of God have meant that a greater number of Iranians than ever before are coming to know Christ. They need support, both within Iran and among the Iranian diaspora.
While freedom of religion is widespread throughout Europe, it is among the most spiritually needy parts of the world. Indeed, statistically speaking, you would be more likely to come across an evangelical Christian on the streets of Qatar than you would in Luxembourg. The spiritual needs of Europe are immense. Among the 62 million people in France, there are ten times more Muslims than evangelicals and secularism is the default position. As religious freedom still exists, mission can be conducted throughout Europe and short-term mission teams are one of the ways in which this is achieved. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for friendship evangelism where trust is built through long-term relationships.
There has never been a time in all of human history where so many people have been so mobile, not just for economic reasons but also because of war, famine and civil unrest. The opportunities for work among displaced people are as great as the challenge. Gospel workers are needed to bring good news to a world on the move.
While freedom of religion is widespread throughout Europe, it is among the most spiritually needy parts of the world.
The harvest is plentiful but there is an urgent need for mission workers (Mt. 9:37). We need to fervently pray for the needs of our world, be willing to respond to the call of Jesus and prepared to be sent into the fields to bring in the Harvest.