Jesus’ final instruction to His followers was to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). We know from reading the book of Acts that the disciples did just that. After the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they began to proclaim God’s message boldly (Acts 2:4). God gave them supernatural ability to speak in other languages so that people from many foreign lands heard the good news (Acts 2:6). Those people believed and then took God’s message of salvation back to their homelands, and the gospel spread.
Despite attacks throughout history to obliterate Christianity, the message of the gospel continues to spread as lives are transformed by the love of Jesus. Missionaries have left everything to travel into difficult regions to bring the good news to the natives there. Through personal evangelism, radio, television, the internet, literature, and many other means, people around the world are hearing of Jesus’ salvation and responding. We hear of Muslims in closed countries receiving visions and dreams wherein Jesus appears to them and they are convinced of His identity as the Son of God. Yet, as the world’s population expands, so does the number of unreached people. Despite the efforts of the church, millions of people have still never heard about Jesus. In fact, some areas of the world that used to have a strong Christian presence, such as Turkey and North Africa, are now strongholds of false religion.
One reason that much of the world remains unevangelized is due to the remoteness of some people groups. Explorers are still discovering tribal peoples and villages so far off the map that no one knew of their existence. Relative to that, some people groups speak languages that missionaries have not yet deciphered, so communication with them is nearly impossible. Still other tribes and nations are so hostile to outsiders or Christians that reaching them is dangerous. Many have tried to evangelize such groups and lost their lives in the process, and the country’s borders have only grown tighter.
Yet another reason much of the world remains unevangelized is the apathy among many Christians in Western cultures. The words of James may apply to those of us who are wealthy compared to the rest of the world: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. . . . You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence …” (James 5:1–5).
Those are harsh words to our ears, but we should examine ourselves to see if they apply to our attitudes about our own resources. Jesus taught that we must “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). In other words, we must use our resources in this world to advance God’s work; the result will be more people in heaven.
Do we see our money as our own to spend on our pleasures? Or as provision from God to be used under His guidance? Do we consider our time ours to do with as we please? Or as a gift from God to spend in pursuit of His will? Do we think of our talents as things to be leveraged solely for personal gain? Or do we view them as gifts from God to be used as He wills? Do we consider the poor and those of impoverished nations when deciding how to spend our resources? Has God called us to foreign missions but we’re resisting? Has He called us to support a specific missionary or ministry in prayer, yet we often forget them? Are we good stewards of the provisions God has given us, and are we careful to use them as He intends? Are we seeking His kingdom first and participating in the spread of the gospel in the way He has called us to in our life situation? One reason so many people have not heard the gospel is that God’s people refuse to take the gospel to them. Let us not become so accustomed to the gospel that we fail to desire to see it spread and do what we can to work toward that end.
In Matthew 11:21–24 Jesus addresses cities where He had just preached and performed miracles, yet they had refused to believe in Him: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” This seems to say that God will hold us responsible for the opportunities we’ve been given (Matthew 10:14–15). Since God is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11), we can trust that He will do what is right when the unreached people stand before Him on judgment day. However, we will also give an account of whether or not we were obedient to His command to tell them about Him (Matthew 12:36; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Every Christian has many opportunities to help solve the problem of unevangelized people. As your situation allows, you can do one or more of the following:
• Give to mission organizations.
• Support impoverished children through any number of charitable organizations that meet the physical and spiritual needs of children around the world.
• Ask the Lord if He would have you become a full-time missionary.
• Take a short-term mission trip to an unreached area. By assessing people’s needs firsthand, we are often fueled with passion to reach them. Many thriving organizations began when one person saw a need.
• If you have language skills, become a Bible translator.
• Stop making excuses because of fear or laziness. If God is calling you, He will sustain you.
• Assess your own talents, gifts, and resources to see what might be useful in spreading the gospel to unreached people. (Examples: pilot’s license, organizational skills, monetary wealth, mechanical expertise, medical knowledge, etc.)
When He ascended to heaven, Jesus entrusted His message to a handful of people. He could have traveled farther than He did during His earthly ministry. He could have made the missionary journeys that Paul made. He could have sent angels to preach the gospel everywhere. But He did none of those things. Instead, He entrusted the most important message in the world to a few fallible people. Yet that message has changed the world because those Spirit-filled people were willing to give their all. When every person who claims to follow Christ is also willing to give all, we can lessen the problem of unevangelized people to the glory of God.