106 End of the Age: The Greatest Commission of All Time

Part 6 of a Bible study course on the End Times – for small group or individual study

(Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Contemporary fulfilment: the Gospel quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire, which to contemporaries was the known “world” at that time. The Book of Acts documents this explosive movement.[1]

Modern fulfilment: The incredible movement that Jesus started was a huge endorsement of His ministry, and must have been exciting beyond measure to have been involved in, as well as very challenging. But it is only in our time, when the whole extent of the world is known, and communication and travel to all parts of it are now possible, that Jesus’ words could be finally fulfilled. The Gospel going out to all the world is the most important sign that we are nearing the end of the age. It’s important to realise that “nations” in this verse does not just mean modern political nations. The Greek word used is ethne which could better be translated as “people groups” or “tribes”. For example, India has over 2000 “people groups” with their own ethnicity, language and culture.

Church Planting Movements (CPM’S) – the Indian experience

There are many ways the Gospel is reaching all the nations today. The most effective of these is the growth of church planting movements (“CPM’s”) since the early 1990’s. A CPM is a rapidly growing network of small house churches or church groups which multiply to impact an area or population segment in a short span of time. One of the most remarkable is the massive CPM in India facilitated by my friend Victor Choudhrie. He started training CPM workers in 1992, beginning in northern India, mainly with uneducated rural women, who proved to be extremely effecting in starting small churches in villages when the teaching was kept simple, and non-biblical teaching weeded out. The movement expanded and multiplied far beyond the expectations of any conventional missionary strategy. When I became involved in 2009, on the day of Pentecost of that year, the CPM workers baptised 300,000 new believers in different parts of India in one day!

The Great Commission (Mat 24:14; 28:18-20): summary of progress (Mandryk, 2016)

The following summary was delivered at the Third Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (Mandryk, 2016).  In 2017, Christianity is the most globally dispersed and culturally diverse religion of all the religions. There are 2.3 billion people identifying as Christian in 38,000 denominations. In every single country there are groups of believers meeting. There are expressions of Christianity in more languages, more geographical places and more ethnicities than ever before. For the last 100 years approximately one person out of three in the world identifies as a Christian.

Christians living in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, as a percentage of all Christians:

1960 – 29%                2017 – 78%          2020 – 80%

Proportion of the world’s population evangelical Christian:

1960 – 3%                  2017 – 8% – This is a huge change.

Proportion of the World’s population who have never heard the Gospel

1960 – 50%                 2017 – 29% This is real progress.                         

Proportion of Christians evangelical: 2017 – 1 in 4

Research gives an accurate picture

Only in 1990’s did an accurate picture of the Great Commission task ahead emerge through research. Complete views of all ethnic and language groups, together with their progress in evangelisation, their existing religion, and to what degree they have been exposed to the Gospel, have been compiled in the new resources.  Patrick Johnstone started Operation World, and David Barrett researched the World Christian Encyclopaedia. This information allowed the Joshua Project, and other similar initiatives, to be launched. We know where the church is, where it needs to go, and what it needs to do. This information is fuel for prayer, and also planning effective strategy.

More planning and collaboration is happening across the many missions organisations. The complexity of the task requires it, but also there is more willingness and desire to collaborate amongst missionaries and missions agencies. More prayer movements and prayer initiatives are starting all the time across the global church. For example a monthly “one million strong” gathering meets monthly in Nigeria.

More new believers than ever before in the last 25 years

During the last 25 years more people have become Christians than at any time in history. Much growth has happened in the context of suffering and persecution.

Of the 16000 ethno-linguistic people-groups in the world, only 600-650 are unreached or have no group focussed on them with a mission strategy.

Missionaries sent from all nations

Missionaries are no longer all from the UK or the US, or other Western countries. It used to be said that missionaries were “from the West to the Rest”. But now missionaries are being sent “from everywhere to everywhere”; A modern term is “polycentric mission” – there are multiple centres of mission sending and receiving missionaries. Many places that were targeted by former generations of missionaries are now sending missionaries out. Nations in this bracket include India, Nigeria, China, Brazil, Philippines, Ethiopia and others. Some are now sending missionaries to the places that originally sent missionaries to them. For example the Miso people of North-East India have sent missionaries to Wales. Over 100 years ago, it was Wales that sent the original missionaries that led many Miso people to Jesus. Now it is Wales that has the spiritual problems, so Miso’s are being sent to them.

At this stage in world evangelism, missions planners are seeking God for strategy to reach the remaining people groups and see them saturated with the Gospel, believing the promise of the Bible: Isaiah 11:9  For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea. We have many difficulties to overcome, and many issues to think through.  For instance, what difference does urbanisation make to our plans? To what extent do we need to adjust our plans to take account an ageing population, another widespread trend? We are urged on by the hugely successful house church networks in India to have a “completion mentality” towards the Great Commission. For the first time in history, it is actually feasible to reach the whole world for Christ.

Questions

 

  1. Describe two features of a church planting movement (“CPM”).
  2. How many people in the world identify themselves as Christians? Approximately what proportion of the world’s population does this represent?
  3. Is the percentage of the world’s Christians living in Africa, Asia and South America going up or down? Why do you think that may be?
  4. What percentage of the world’s Christians are “evangelical”, that is, they believe a person needs to individually believe in Jesus to be saved? What percentage of the general world population are evangelical? Has that increased or decreased in the last 50 years?
  5. Which country does the “1 million strong” prayer gathering take place?
  6. What percentage of the world’s population have never heard the Gospel? What was that percentage in 1960?
  7. What is an “ethno-linguistic people group”? How many of them are there in the world? Of that total, about how many are unreached with the Gospel?
  8. How many denominations are there in the world approximately?
  9. How is the world’s missionary force different today from what it was like in 1950?
  10. What are some population trends to take account of when strategizing for mission?
  11. Can you recite Isaiah 11:9? (If not, please memorise it) 
  12. Where did the Miso people of India send missionaries recently? Why?
  13. What research resources became available in the 1990’s to help strategize for missions?
  14. Name a requirement for successful mission?
  15. What does this great increase in world mission mean in terms of Matthew 24?
  16. How do you feel about the world mission commanded by Jesus?
  17. How are you involved in the undertaking of world mission? Create or develop your personal plan for involvement and discuss with your group or friends.
  18. What are you going to do differently now you have this understanding of world mission?


[1] Acts 6:1; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24