For as long as I have been involved in missions, I have been writing "reality checks." It seems to be hard-coded into personality. I'm a strong INTJ on the Myers-Briggs, a 5 on the Enneagram. Whenever I hear an inspiring vision or speech, I naturally gravitate toward a "yeah, but..."
When I began working with the *World Christian Encyclopedia* in 1995, as the World Wide Web and e-mail lists were just getting under way, we launched an e-mail newsletter called the "Monday Morning Reality Check." Each Monday's issue was a small nugget that pointed out a current trend (e.g. growth in Christianity, or in world evangelization) vs. an inspiring would-be goal.
Today, some 25 years later, I am working with Beyond and the 24:14 Network. The broader goal of this coalition is to see a disciple-making movement (DMM) team engaging "every people and place" by 2025. That's just 5 years away. Can the goal be met?
First off, it's not easily defined--and I'm the one partially responsible for researching and measuring it, so I have to give this reality-check to myself.
About the easiest thing we have to measure is *world regions*. We can generally agree on that: 22 of them. Beyond that, things get murky. Even something as simple as "number of countries" isn't simple: the UN recognizes 193 countries and 2 observer states. In my database, there are 243 "country" entities, all of which have populations in the UN population database. Don't get me started about provinces, districts, or people groups. The best we can do is come up with "a" list (which I have) and measure against that.
Then, there's getting the actual data. If a team is engaging a particular place (let alone a people group in a place), they won't always tell me or you. Some just don't have the time to send in reports. For others, it's security issues. In many places, I have to resort to guesses based on second hand reports, and follow up over time to try to learn more.
For some places, I just can't imagine we will be able to have teams in place in the next 5 years. They are just too hostile. They are too closed. And then, sometimes, I go to a conference and someone tells me about work in one of those "just too hostile, too closed" places. Those pieces of data upend my certainties and make me wonder about all those little blank cells in my spreadsheets.
Ironically, I now have to give a reality-check to my reality-check. All of the data I have is "floor, not ceiling": it represents the minimum of what is presently going on. We know more is going on. We just don't know who or where.
Will we reach all the places and all the peoples by 2025? If I'm brutally honest, I don't think we will be in every last place and every last people group. Even if we are, just because a team is there doesn't mean everyone in the place/people has access to the Gospel. I confess to a bit of cynicism.
Right now we know of over 1,000 movements, with over 73 million believers in them. They aren't clumped in one part of the world. They can be found in every UN region. 73 million people is 1% of the world's population. Out of 254 people group clusters listed by Joshua Project, over 199 are engaged. Out of 8,607 districts known to be less than 2% Christian, we know of at least 246 that are engaged. Out of 684 provinces that are less than 2% Christian, at least 87 (more than 10%) are engaged. Out of 25 countries that are less than 2% Christian, 21 are engaged.
Movements are broadly distributed and aimed passionately at those with no access. So while we might not "make it" across that initial "starting line" by 2025, I believe it's reasonable and rational--far more than just wishful thinking--to believe we could be very close.
Just how close, I don't know yet. I hope we'll know, and know soon, but I have to confess this reality: some things, in some levels of detail, we will never know, and we have to live with that.