What happens when you hear these words: long-term commitment?
If you’re like many of us, your response might range anywhere from slight apprehension to outright panic. We have grown up hearing messages that make us believe we are destined for greatness, and we should never settle for less than the best. Therefore, we develop a core value of keeping our options open.
We don't want ordinary, mundane lives…which is a good thing. We are highly adaptable. We thrive on new. New ideas, new ways of doing things, new experiences and new innovations mark our age. We want significance in our relationships and life’s work. As such, we are loathe to commit to something that may not result in both success and significance.
It’s ironic. One of our greatest strengths, the refusal to settle, also exposes the Achilles’ heel of our age: we’re afraid to commit. We commit to ideas, perhaps, but to stake our lives on a permanent course is another matter entirely.
What if we choose wrongly?
What if we were meant for something else? What if we are missing out on something better that God meant for us? And the fact that we are Christians can almost make it worse. Sometimes we lack pure, hard data points because of the spiritual dimension in our lives.
In our desire to make the right choice—no, the perfect choice—we often find ourselves paralyzed. We continue to dream rather than act, because so long as we’re dreaming we don’t have to suffer the consequences of wrong choices. The reality however, is that inaction has consequences as well.
6,400 and 3,100
Today, there are still over 6,400 unreached people groups in the world. These aren’t people who are lost and don’t know the Lord. These are 6,400 entire cultures with almost no access to the gospel, to people who know their language and can share the hope of Christ with them.
Worse still, are the unengaged. 3,100 ethnic groups are not only unreached, they are unengaged. This means there is no one who is actively laboring to learn their language, to understand how to incarnate the gospel in their culture, seeking to make Christ known among them. We want to see that reality change.
There are great agencies dedicated to taking the gospel to the unreached: Pioneers, Frontiers, Wycliffe, United World Mission, Avant, Crossworld, Every Ethne, Operation Mobilization, and US Center for World Mission/Perspectives to name just a few. Get connected with these organizations to find the one that fits best with the path God's calling you to tread.
Never the Same
Perhaps the path God has for you will be like that of Don and Carol Richardson. The Sawi were headhunters and cannibals when the Richardsons arrived in their village with their seven-month-old boy Steve. They brought a message that would change the tribe forever.
This short film takes a look at their legacy 50 years later:
My Friend Rick
There are also others on the same path, but earlier in the process, like Rick. I met with him last week as he shared about he and his wife’s ministry. They chose to go to a hard place in Western Africa with no known believers. They are the only foreigners in their city. They moved there with their family, offered development and other aid to the people in their community and sought to be Christ to them.
The village elders came to him one day and announced: “We have been watching you. We think you are a godly man and we would like to invite you to participate in our community and our community events.”
This happened after eight years there. Eight years before being invited to one community event! It was another three years before the elders gave their approval to start sharing oral stories of the Bible. But today, and for the first time in the history of the world, there are believers who live in this people group. One day, they will stand before the throne of God and join with a great multitude, including the small throng of us at Urbana.
Will You Make it Your Ambition?
The reality of the unreached and unengaged is that it will take time, perseverance, and sacrifice for them to hear, understand, and embrace the gospel. It will mean commitment. I’m reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who said,
I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’
Romans 15, verses 20-21
I love that Paul said that he made it his ambition to target the unreached. Would you consider doing the same? Don't be paralyzed if you don't know what it will all look like. Your responsibility is to ask the Lord what the next step is and obey it, trusting him for future steps.
We know from the picture of Revelation 7:9 that God will bring in some from every tribe, tongue and people before his throne. The question is: will you be a part of it? Can you see you there, bringing mercy and compassion, justice and truth, healing and hope? We can.
Joe G. is the current Vice-President of Mobilization for Pioneers. Previously, he and his wife served on a church-planting team in Afghanistan where he and his family hope to return.