THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
(Text translated from English to French by Paul Decius, doctoral student in theology)

INTRODUCTION

 

Jesus gives each believer an important commission, that of the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). The Greek expression that translates this order is  : panta ta ethne, which means "  ethnicity or ethnic groups " including pagans. In fact, from the birth of the early Church, the disciples worked hard to promote the Great Commission and spread the message of Christ. Many mission organizations, across different countries, have worked strategically to spread the gospel to every corner of planet Earth. As a result, many people have been touched by the word of God, which contributes to the flourishing of the Kingdom of God. However, although many men of God are engaged in the task of evangelization, it must be recognized that there are still a large number of people who have not yet had the chance to hear the message of the word. of God. By the way, there are about eleven thousand unreached ethnic groups currently living in different parts of the world[1].

 

An unreached group of people can be defined as an ethnic group in which there is no indigenous community of believers with a sufficient number of leaders and adequate resources to support and ensure the creation of churches capable of make disciples of Jesus Christ[2]. Seen in this light, it is understandable that although the message of the Gospel has been spread in various parts of the world over the years, there are currently many ethnic groups waiting to be evangelized. This article will first analyze the true mission of the Church according to the Great Commission. Secondly, he will argue and demonstrate that the Church is not fulfilling its mission sufficiently, because there are many groups of people who are not yet touched by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, he will propose a strategic method by which the Church can effectively accomplish its mission.

 

The true mission of the Church

 

The true mission of the church is to carry the gospel message to all nations. In fact, the assignment of this task to the church is supported and supported by several fundamental biblical references. In fact, Jesus gave us a mandatory mission, through the Great Commission. We are called not only to train disciples, but also to inculcate in them all that He has taught us (Mat 28:18-20). Also, it should be noted that this injunction is followed by a great promise, namely : that He will always be with us, His disciples, throughout our journey, in order to provide us the help necessary for the accomplishment of this mission. So, being assured that the presence of the Lord will always be there with us, we must cast off all fear and all idea of failure. Those who are called to become true disciples of the Lord should be motivated to defend their prerogatives of the Great Commission. In fact, the preaching of the gospel to the non-Christian world, including unreachable groups of people, is the true task of the Church and which Christians must carry out with enthusiasm and determination. In the same vein, Kopitske (1990)[3] argues that winning souls for Christ, through evangelism, should be the main rule that governs the life of every Christian. In fact, our love for God should be central to our motivation in fulfilling this mandate. Jesus Himself, before ascending to heaven, declared that the disciples will receive the Holy Spirit, then they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Also, in his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul states that God has called His servants to work in different ministries for the perfecting of the saints and the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).

 

Additionally, it is important to note that the mission of the church was designed at the time God established His covenant with Abram (Genesis 12:3). In fact, mission is God's perfect plan for the spiritual emancipation of mankind. Viewed in this light, during the World Missionary Conference in Willingen, Germany, in 1952, an important agreement to advance “cooperation and unity” in the mission of the Church was reached. They emphasized that: “The missionary movement of which we are a part has its source in the Triune God Himself. By the depth of his love for us, the Father sent us his only begotten Son to reconcile all things to himself, so that by his Spirit we might become one in him with the Father in that perfect love which is nature itself. of God”[4]. Throughout the Bible, we can see God's will to redeem his people and undo the effects of sin each time they fall. Also, it is important to note that God always uses men according to His choice to accomplish His redemptive plan. Indeed, from the Garden of Eden down to the present day, God's redemptive plan for mankind does not vary because of its absolute nature. Accordingly, God always relies on selected and willing individuals to accomplish His purpose. In fact, the task of the Church, as stated earlier, presupposes the responsibility of every Christian to spread the message of the Gospel to every corner of planet Earth. The power to accomplish this task is given by Jesus Christ and directed by the Holy Spirit.

 

By the way, let us recall that the mandate of the Great Commission was given for all nations, all countries and all groups of people. To this effect, Winter affirms that the Greek expression, panta ta ethne, used in this context, means all the countries or several groups of countries[5]. Therefore, the great commission that Jesus entrusted to all Christians is to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ in all nations. Indeed, we must ask ourselves this question : does the Church succeed in sharing the Good News effectively ? In other words, have all nations been touched by the gospel message ? Were all groups of people reached? To answer these questions, consider some statistical data for several unreached people groups around the world.

 

Unreached Peoples

 

An unreached people group can be defined as an ethnic group in which there is no indigenous community of believers with sufficient numbers of leaders and adequate resources to support and ensure the establishment of churches. likely to form disciples of Jesus Christ[6]. Currently, there are several groups of people, throughout the world, who have never been touched by the message of the word of the Lord. In fact, the total number of groups of people who have never been touched by the word of God is monumental. In reality, statistical data differs as to the actual number of groups of people who have never been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.   According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the number of groups of individuals who have never been affected is estimated at a total of 27,000 while others claim that the actual number of groups of people who have never been touched is 16,000[7]. So, we can assume that the approximate number of groups of people who have never been affected in the world is between 16,000 and 27,000. These groups of individuals who have never been affected are spreading in various parts of the world with the greatest concentration in the 10/40 window area, approximately 8,738 clusters of unreached individuals[8]. In fact, experts in the region describe the 10/40 window as the area between 10° and 40° north latitude, running from West Africa to East Asia[9]. It is also called the resistant belt, which includes the world's largest population of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Obviously, this geographical area is so called because of the real challenge that any evangelistic initiative must face. According to revised statistical information, the population of 10/40 would have an estimated population of 4.65 billion people, and other countries, such as Indonesia, are currently included.[10]

 

The 10/40 Window is also called Satan's fortress for various reasons. First, many regional experts point to the 10/40 window as the center of the majority of unevangelized countries in the world. Unevangelized countries, similar to groups of people who have never been reached, can be defined as those who do not know the gospel or who have only a minimal knowledge of the word of God without the means to respond to it successfully. Second, the 10/40 window is essentially poor. In other words, this region has the majority of the poor or the poorest in the world[11]. In fact, it must be recognized that poverty can be seen as a potential constraint to the spread of the Gospel in a particular area. On the other hand, it should be noted that the area of the 10/40 window is biblically and historically significant. Some believe that the Garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel spoken of in the Bible were located in an area in the center of what is now called the 10/40 window[12]. Thus, it can be said that it is imperative that the Church of Christ focus its talents and resources on reaching and educating these people. Not only is this region part of biblical history, but God has a special plan of salvation for them, as for all other nations and ethnic groups. Indeed, the journey to bring the gospel to these people could be dangerous and there may be potential challenges to overcome, but the Church should not panic or give up on its mission of evangelization.

 

An unfinished mission

 

Considering the statistical data on unreached people groups around the world, it can be said in no uncertain terms that the church is not fulfilling its mission adequately. Thus, knowing that the true mission of the Church consists in bringing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to every creature, we realize that the Church does not yet manage to accomplish satisfactorily this great task entrusted to her. From this perspective, Corbett was right to state that : "God enters into a perpetual covenant with the world He has created, always seeking to restore order out of disorder and to extract the good from the bad”[13]. Indeed, the following important question may rightly be asked : Why are there so many unreached people groups throughout the world when the Church has been in existence for more than two a thousand years ? Have we devoted necessary resources and tremendous effort to fulfilling the Great Commission ? Also, have we targeted the right group of people? Of course, the data available on the various groups of people around the world can effectively demonstrate the existence of a strategic problem within the Church in carrying out its task. Therefore, it can be said that the Church has not completely accomplished its task of spreading the message of the Lord to the four corners of the world. In this same vein, Erickson adds that the gospel must be at the center of the mission of the church[14]. Thus, seeing that the Church fails to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations, including all people groups throughout the world, it is evident that its mission is far from being accomplished as the Lord l 'has ordered.

 

Potential Challenges

From the outset, it must be recognized that unreached people groups are, indeed, the greatest challenge to the Church in her mission to evangelize the nations.  In reality, evangelizing unbelievers or people with different beliefs can be seen as a tall order. Moreover, the geopolitical system and the national religion can also be considered as major obstacles. For example, consider China, which according to the Joshua Project, is currently ranked as the second country, after India, with the highest number of unreached people groups[15]. The Chinese population, it is said, has a total of 511 people groups of which 427 are listed as unreached people groups. Remember that Buddhism is the main religion of China. The most recent missionary activities on Chinese territory will allow us to believe that China is a country refractory to Christianity.

 

In addition, to these above-mentioned challenges, joins in non-believers their perception of Christianity. Therefore, analyzing the Chinese representation of Christianity, Thomas Wang and Sharon Chan argue in their article entitled "Christian witness to the Chinese people", that "the invasion of the West in past centuries has sown doubt among the Chinese with regard to Christianity. Perhaps the greatest missionary problem facing us today is how to resolve these unfortunate and deeply rooted misunderstandings”[16]. Besides the perception noted above, the absence of universal means of communication could present another form of obstruction to the propagation of the Gospel in certain countries. For example, if one wanted to reach the Achang who form an ethnic group in China, a shortage of written materials in their Achang language would present a major problem.   The Achang, discussed above, are an unreached ethnic group located near Yunan, near the Myanmar border and the Chinese city of Rui'an. Its population is estimated at 30,000 people[17].

 

Obviously, there are still many problems that need to be solved. With the development of a good strategy, some of these real problems can be solved effectively. In fact, since an ethnic group has a common language and culture, it can be assumed that the propagation of the Gospel in an ethnic group can be done without encountering communication problems. In short, linguistic and cultural differences are set aside.   So this fact basically needs to be taken into consideration when formulating a strategic plan to reach this group of people. Also, we must consider a negotiation approach that would eliminate any apparent bitterness and facilitate the effective propagation of the redemptive message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, a particular missionary must prove that Christianity is based on love and that this love must be demonstrated by actions.

 

Indeed, it must be recognized that the greatest obstacle that can prevent the transmission of the gospel message to all unreached people groups in the world is the refusal to act. Which is a willingness to show a passive attitude towards lost souls in every corner of the planet. In summary, how could the Church be more operational and effective in carrying out its mandate? The answer is simple. Along with genuine determination, advocating the right strategy is believed to be vital in targeting and winning unreached peoples for the Kingdom of God. Implementing a good strategy will allow the Church to effectively reach peoples who are considered today as unreached peoples. In fact, genuine followers of Jesus Christ within the local church must cultivate a real passion for evangelizing the lost world.

 

THE STRATEGY

 

An effective strategy is important to the success of any initiative to bring the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to unreached people groups. Thus, in their book Planning Strategies for World Evangelization, Edward Dayton and David Fraser declare: “As Christians, a strategy prompts us to seek the purpose of God and the will of the Holy Spirit. What is God's desire? How can we comply with His call ?”[18]. In this sense, we agree with the aforementioned authors in affirming that a considerable strategy is one of the essential and necessary keys to effectively reaching and evangelizing any group of people. It can further be said that, in accordance with the above statement, any unplanned evangelistic mission is prone to failure. commitment and determination. In addition, you must have a specific goal to achieve.

 

Another important part of strategic planning is the selection of core values. McRaney says it best when he writes, “All churches and other organizations should have core values that guide their accomplishments ; and, an understanding of these values is essential to developing high-performing ministries ”[19]. Core ministry values are biblically anchored in the Great Commission, the mandate of evangelism.

 

Education must be seen as another important factor in the strategic operation to bring the gospel to unreached peoples. Recognizing this reality, Barna argues that the church should strive to form zealous and mature disciples, capable of generating other disciples to facilitate the process of multiplication.[20] In fact, education is one of the mandatory components of the mandate of the Great Commission. In other words, education is an important key in discipleship ministry. The church should bring forth and train genuine disciples capable of perpetuating themselves by forming other disciples everywhere, in all nations. It is imperative that the Church have schools of ministry, in order to effectively prepare young men and women to become true leaders in spreading the gospel and winning souls for Christ.

 

Indeed, we must also ask ourselves this important question: what is the most effective method to use in the development of a strategy to reach the groups of people who are not yet touched in the world by the message of the Gospel? ? By the way, it can be said that the modality of evangelism to reach these individuals varies according to the country or the group of people. Each nation or group of people has its own culture, its own language, its preconceived beliefs, its social, economic and historical context. Therefore, an effective evangelistic method must be based on careful study of the target population. To do this, a method of evangelism that has already had a positive impact on an unreached people group could not necessarily be applied to any other unreached people group with a similar background.

 

Consider the Achang, who are among the unreached people groups. The latter, who live between the Myanmar border and the Chinese town of Rui'an, have no written or literary language. Thus, translating the Holy Bible in written form into the Achang language would be considered a very complex task. Fortunately, based on people's culture and customs, they verbally pass on important traditions from one generation to another.[21] Therefore, it can be concluded that one of the most effective means of conveying the message of the Gospel to this group of people who are the Achang, is through the telling of Bible stories in audio and audiovisual format. In fact, taking into account the characteristics of the oral language and the tradition of this group of people to communicate face to face, it will be more effective to present audiovisual materials that will make the biblical stories more dynamic and interesting. For example, contemporary audio production of the Bible that recounts the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should attract Achangs.

 

One can consider the previously mentioned challenges and prepare oneself, in order to face them. To deal effectively with potential resentment, Wang and Chan offer the following solution: "The constant service approach seeks to work outside of church structures by involving and empowering Christian professionals and business people in China. These individuals make significant professional and economic contributions to the country, while regularly rubbing shoulders with their Chinese counterparts. It is expected that this continuous service approach will ultimately affect the attitudes of government leaders, which will instil more hope and confidence in Christianity”[22]. In fact, this is missionary advice given for the country as a whole, but it can also be applied to specific unreached people groups, such as the Achang. In general, evangelism crusades can be very effective because they create the atmosphere necessary for sharing the gospel message. Of course, this approach has been used in the past by other missionary leaders, such as William Carey in India, and has proven effective[23]. Imbued with the importance of evangelism crusades, Earley and Wheeler add : “Evangelism movements are combinations of simple acts of thoughtfulness and deliberate sharing of the gospel. The task of evangelization presupposes the voluntary sharing of the Word of God by putting love into action »[24].

 

Indeed, it is believed that a similar strategy and method of evangelism can be applied to evangelize various unreached people groups in areas of the 10/40 Window, and elsewhere in the world. Once this approach has been applied successfully, appropriate church planting activities should be implemented. Missionary groups can begin by establishing house churches for the purpose of educating and training new converts, so they can become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

CONCLUSION

 

In summary, it should be noted that the Church has an enormous responsibility. This obligation anchored in the authority conferred by the mandate of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to bring the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations and peoples. Tremendous efforts have been made to carry the message of the Lord to many nations throughout the world. However, there are still many groups of individuals who are not yet affected in many countries around the world. Therefore, based on the available statistical data that counts the various unreached or neglected people groups in the world, it can reasonably be said that the Church is not fulfilling its mission to carry the message to all nations and to all groups. Notwithstanding some apparent challenges, there is a strong belief that the Church could, with strength and conviction, do better in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. At the end of our reflection, it is important to note that the Church has not yet succeeded in discovering the methods of evangelism which would enable it to target and evangelize successfully these groups of unreached people throughout the world. Recognizing this reality, it is suggested that research into an effective evangelistic strategy and ameliorative methods that can bring the gospel of the Lord to the various present unreached people groups in the world is needed.

 

​Raynold Milfort, M. Div,

Liberty University

 

​ ____________________________________________________________________
*Quotes are in English. Translations from English to French are by Paul Décius, student at the University of Ottawa.
 

[1] Joshua Project - http://www.joshuaproject.net/links.php. Accessed September 9, 2013.

[2] House2Havest - http://www.house2harvest.org/research_upg.html. Accessed September 9, 2013.

[3] Harley L. Kopitske, “The Master Plan of Discipleship.” Concordia Journal (Oct, 1990), 16, no 4,424.

 

[4] Johannes Gerhardus Jacob Swart; Hagley, Scott J; Ogren John; Love, Mark, Toward a Mission Theology of Participation, Missiology (Jan, 2009), 37, no 1, 76.

 

[5] Ralph Winter; Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives On the World Christian Movement (Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 2009), 135.

 

[6] House2Havest - http://www.house2harvest.org/research_upg.html. Accessed September 9, 2013.

 

[7] Joshua Project

 

[8] Ibid.

 

[9] Ibid.

 

[10] Ibid.

 

[11] Ibid.

 

[12] Joshua Project

 

[13] Corbett, Ian D, The Theology of Mission in Contemporary Practice.  Anglican Theological Review (Wint. 2010), 92, no 1, p 119.

 

[14] Millar J. Erickson, Christian theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 1069.

 

[15] Joshua Project - http://www.joshuaproject.net/links.php. Accessed September 9, 2013.

 

[16] Winter, Ralph and Steven C. Hawthorne, 587.

 

[17] Joshua Project.

 

[18] Winter, Ralph and Steven C. Hawthorne, 577.

 

[19] Will McRaney, “Values-driven Leadership: Discovering and developing Your Core Values for Ministry.” Theological Educator (Fall 1997), no. 56, 135.

 

[20] George Barna, Growing True Disciples. (Colorado Spring, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2001), 32.

 

[21] Joshua Project

 

[22] Winter, 587.

 

[23] Ibid, 568-571.

 

[24] Dave Earley and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2010), 151.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Colorado Springs, CO: Water Brook Press, 2001.

Corbett, Ian. The Theology of Mission in Contemporary Practice. Anglican Theology Review 92 No 1 Wint 2010.

Dolan, Ronald E., Andrea M. Savada and Robert L. Worden. China: a country study. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1988

 

Early, Dave and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010.

 

Erickson, Millar J. Christian theology, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.

 

Garrison, David. Church Planting Movements: International Mission Board. Richmond, VA: Southern Baptist Convention. Date?

 

Kopitske, Harley L. “The Master Plan of Discipleship.” Concordia Journal 16 no 4 (O 1990): 424-425

 

McRaney, Will, “Values-driven Leadership: Discovering and developing Your Core Values for Ministry.” Theological Educator (Fall 1997), no. 56, 135.

 

Moreau, Scott A., Gary R. Corwin and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Academic Survey. Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker

 

Academic, 2004. Book titles should be in italics.

 

Swart, Johannes Gerhardus Jacob; Hagley, Scott J; Ogren John; Love, Mark. Toward a Mission Theology of Participation, Missiology 37 no 1 Jan 2009.

 

Winter, Ralph and Steven C. Hawthorne. Perspective on the World Christian Movement: A Reader 4th ed. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009.

 

Ethnologue- http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=acn.

 

Forum- http://www.forum-intl.net/find_a_bible/?Language=acn

 

Global Recordings- http://globalrecordings.net/en/program/c22510

 

House2Harvest- http://www.house2harvest.org/research_upg.html. 

 

Joshua Project- http://www.joshuaproject.net/links.php

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