My good friend Paul Eshleman (a dear soul with an extreme passion for the lost and unreached peoples of the world) has done an amazing thing with Finishing the Task.
He’s gotten people to grapple with the problem of “getting to 1.”
A lot of people do nothing about the unreached, the unevangelized, the unengaged–the ones who have never heard. Finishing the Task has been about the process of engagement–of making sure that every people group in the world has at least one team.
They’re down to the “final 2,000 people groups.”
That’s a thrilling thing. It provides a sense of closure.
But closure, while thrilling, is also dangerous. Paul would no doubt absolutely be the first to agree with me on this (he has in the past).
This phase of “Finishing the Task” is not really “the task is finished”: all the church has really done is “finish getting to 1.”
Now, that’s important, because an engagement team means there will be someone among that people group, telling the Gospel to them, and telling their story to others back at home.
The peoples of the world will no longer be “unseen” because there will be people among them (for as long as they last–and missionary attrition is a problem).
But we should not think that closure is done – that Jesus will be coming back – that the Great Commission is finished – just because every group has a team.
One team among a people group of millions is engagement but it is not adequate engagement. There is still more to be done.
The Global Church Growth Outlook I’ve been working on explores this in detail: a dozen provinces, representing over a half billion people, where less than 1% are Christians. There is inadequate engagement, and no realistic scenario in which those provinces are more than 5% Christian in the next generation.
Finishing this round of engagement is closure on one chapter. We must successfully complete this task, and then we must successfully open the next. We must not only engage, we must see the group sustainably reached.
Closure is not a single moment in time. It is a state of being that must be sustained through generations.
The missionary task, like the life of discipleship, is a journey, not a one-time event.