The harvest is plentiful
January 4, 1974 – Up until then I was a typical seventeen year old without much room in my heart for God and certainly no use for the institutional church. I was drifting through my last year of high school. Life had been pretty much in neutral until I met a co-worker who was a Christian, a real Christian. We started talking about Christ together. I started reading the New Testament and hanging around people that I sensed were true believers. That January, in a small church, after listening to a sermon of which the topic is long forgotten, the Holy Spirit’s conviction fell on me. At that moment the testimonies of my believing friends, amplified by the stirring, earth shaking words of Jesus and the apostles in the scriptures, finally came home to roost. I surrendered my life to Christ.
I shudder to think of what might have happened if there were no believing friends to minister to me and if the scriptures weren’t in my language and available to me. Would I have come to Christ? I was confronted with very specific revelation and I responded to that in repentance and faith. But what if I had been born into a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist family—like the two billion people in the world who have been raised in exactly those kinds of homes?
In Romans 10:14, Paul asks three powerful questions:
- How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
- And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
- And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
The simplicity of this verse is palpable: A follower of Jesus shares the Good News, and the hearer hopefully believes the message and calls on the name of the Lord. If the hearer does so in faith then new life comes.
Amazingly, in our digital world where it seems all information is just a keystroke away, there are many, many people who live and die without ever hearing a clear presentation about Jesus. I could have easily been one of them! It pains me just to think what my life would have been without Christ.
Engaging Our World
Eight months into my new life in Christ, in August of 1974, I felt the definite call of God on my life for ministry. Less than a year later I knew that this was actually a call to missionary service.
I changed colleges, enrolling in Bethany Global University to prepare to be a missionary. I married into a missionary family (extended family members have served long term in at least ten different countries). My wife and I became church planters in Asia and lived there for fifteen years.
We’re now on the sending side of missions. I travel extensively. I help prepare missionaries in many places around the globe. I’m associated with 280 missionary training schools that prepare and send workers into some of the toughest, most challenging places in the world. It’s a great privilege and a great joy to see the advance of God’s Kingdom through them.
But I also see many evidences of Satan’s grip on territories and people. It’s one thing to read statistics on the 6,000 or so people groups that barely have any missionaries, that lack the Word of God in their own language, that live in spiritual poverty (and many times in deep physical poverty as well). It’s another thing to see these things up close, and I do that almost every month as I travel outside of the U.S. to meet with partners. We focus on ways to bring down the gates of hell and open the door for unreached peoples to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Rolling Out Engage-500
The plight of the unreached is why Bethany and its partners have adopted Engage500, our goal of engaging a total of 500 unreached people groups by the year 2020. We are already in 269 people groups and we rejoice in that. It has taken the last twenty years for us to reach this level of impact. But to add at least 231 more unreached peoples in just the next five years? That’s a stretching goal to be certain! What drives the need to go all-out to engage these peoples is the realization that such a large portion of the world’s population remains unreached or under-reached.
Appealing for Action
I came to Christ because I had access to the life-transforming message of the Gospel, but there are so many who don’t have that access. Jesus tasked the Church to bring the Gospel to all people. He has given us the resources to do so. He has all authority to make it happen. We can do this! This is the time to be moved to action so the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed in every remaining unreached people group.