At the start of the year, it’s time once again for my annual comment on what mission needs: more workers.
The Status of Global Mission 2016 isn’t out yet, but the situation hasn’t changed dramatically since 2015.
Then, there were at most 2.4 billion Christians in the world (and some would argue far fewer). There are at least 4.9 billion non-Christians (who would say they definitely, positively, are not Christians–they are something else). Of those, at least 2.1 billion have little or no access to the Gospel–meaning they will never hear the Good News once in their lifetimes. (This is a conservative estimate. The IMB estimates far more.)
Roughly 86% of all non-Christians (the 4.9 billion) do not personally know a believer. This is because about half of Christians live in countries that are more than 80% Christian – or, to put it another way, half of Christians live in places where most are Christian – they are concentrated.
When most non-Christians do not personally know a believer, it’s hard for them to hear the Gospel in a way that can’t be ignored. Yes, we can pump out television, Internet ads, Gideon Bibles in hotels, tracts in various places, and what have you – but the Gospel travels best through a life lived out in front of someone. So we need workers.
The best kind of witness is a person who speaks my language, knows my culture, understands my idioms, works the same kind of job as me, lives in the same kind of home as me–where the Gospel has “put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” That’s why, obviously, “indigenous missionaries” or “national workers” are important.
The end result of the foreign missionary effort should be a planted church that fields national workers. But in a lot of places there are no Christians. Hence no churches, no national workers. We need foreign workers to start the process.
At a broad stroke, 86% of 4.9 billion people is 4.1 billion. One strategy team (2 to 3 people) can effectively engage 100,000 people with a movement strategy that raises up ‘national workers’ using a disciples-make-disciples-who-make-disciples approach.
4.1 billion divided into 100,000 chunks (to use round numbers) is 41,000 teams, or about 120,000 missionaries.
I’m not saying they all have to come from America, obviously. But the biggest challenge we face, to see the world reached, is mobilization for engagement–recruiting people who will pick up, move to a neighborhood where the Gospel is not, and put down roots there and live out life in front of people.
We must get better at advocating for those places, at recruiting people, at sending them, at sustaining them, at networking and encouraging them. Because until more non-Christians at the very least know a believer, this job won’t get done.