What is the Great Imbalance? Why does it matter for Christians around the world? In this session of Secret Church 21, Pastor David Platt calls us to consider how we think about missions funding in light of unreached people groups around the world. There are around 8 billion people on earth, of those over three billion are unreached, meaning they have zero access to the gospel.
Most of them will be born, live and die without ever hearing about Jesus. That’s around 40% of the world’s population. Every single people group can be put in one of two categories: reached or unreached. The Great Commission involves taking the number of unreached people groups to zero. Of these missions resources—people and money already specifically set aside for missions to the nations— only 1% of the money and 3% of the missionaries go to unreached people in the world. That means 99% of our missions money and 97% of our missionaries are going to people who already have the gospel. This is the Great Imbalance.
- Four Truths
- Three Problems
- Two Conclusions
- One Prayer
Mariah (Emcee): Please let all of us come together to the Lord in prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your goodness and love for us. Thank You for times like this when You are bringing Your people together. These is Your people, this is Your church and we love You very much, because You loved us first. You sent Your only Son for the salvation of souls. That’s why we are saved and why we are Your children today.
Lord, it’s with this motivation that we come into Your presence, asking that You will open our hearts, minds and understanding to discover, see new ways and gain new vision through what You have put in the heart of Your servant, Pastor David Platt. As he shares with all of us, please guide us in the right direction according to Your will.
We know Your will is the salvation of souls. We thank You that You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, all power and dominion and authority in heaven and on earth, so that every nation, every people, will worship Him. We know this is true and will be fulfilled according to Your will. Today we are gathered together according to Your will. Your goal is to open the eyes of Your people. Widen our hearts and minds so we can have new initiative to go forward with new love to every nation and people group who have not yet been reached with the gospel.
Heavenly Father, please, as You guide your servant today, as You guide all of us who are now praying to You, may we intercede on behalf of the nations—people with different languages and different ways of life. We are asking for Your guidance and that the Holy Spirit will anoint our speakers and everyone will pray and share in this time today. Anoint our ears and hearts. We worship You will all our spirits and with all our strength. We love You because You loved us first and You called us to be Your children.
Holy Spirit, guide us in the right direction. As the people in this gathering today have trusted You, Lord Jesus, we know we are praying according to Your will. This is the confidence we have in You, that if we ask for something according to Your will, You will listen to our prayers and will answer what we are asking You. We are very grateful that You answer our prayers. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
David Platt: Let me add my welcome to Secret Church. It is so good to be together tonight from every state in the United States—and far beyond the United States. Countries like Cambodia, Zambia, Peru, Indonesia and many, many others. One of the things I love most about Secret Church is this dynamic of being in thousands of different places, literally around the world, all joined together, hearing from God’s Word at the same time. And praying to God as we have times in prayer together tonight, with one voice representing thousands of people around the world, with one heart.
We remember brothers and sisters around the world who gather together in secret, in undisclosed locations, at the risk of their lives. Part of the way we pray for them and identify with them is by remembering them. It’s what Hebrews 13 tells us to do. It’s so good to be together. We knew that this year we weren’t going to be able to pack a room full of people, in light of various restrictions still in place, so we decided just to lean in and go really different. We’re involving people tonight from a variety of places, sharing, praying from around the world. I really can’t express in words how exhilarated I am about what lies ahead in the next few hours.
Now if you’ve been part of Secret Church before, there are going to be a few things different— which I hope will be helpful—including three main sessions instead of four. As you see how long this first session goes, you might think, “We’re going to have four of these?” No, we’ll only have three of these. If this is your first time, I’m particularly glad you’re here. I invite you to press in. It’s going to be unique, long and, I pray, a good night that a lot of people have been praying will bring about a tectonic shift in the way we view our lives, families, churches and the world around us. I know that talking about a tectonic shift sounds bold and dramatic.
But I don’t say that because I have any confidence in any that come from me; I say it because I have total confidence in the power of God’s Word to bring about that kind of change in our minds, hearts, lives, families and churches. Hopefully you have our study guide in hand, or electronically, that is filled with God’s Word that we’re going to hear tonight. At the same time we’re going to get a glimpse of the world, I hope, in a whole new way.
From the very beginning, I want us to start with God’s Word—language straight from the mouth of Jesus. I actually want to invite us to speak God’s Word out loud together. Just speak this first passage— Matthew 28:18-20—known as the Great Commission. So if you’re alone, if you’re with a couple other people, with a lot of different people, it doesn’t matter. Just think of God hearing us all saying His Word out loud, at the same time in all these places where we’re gathered. I want us to read Matthew 28:18-20. Let’s read it out loud together right now:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
O God, teach us right now, by Your Spirit how to obey this commission, this command, that You’ve given us. Open our eyes in fresh ways in the next few minutes, few hours, in ways that will bring about any needed shift in our lives, thoughts, desires, actions, plans, dreams, families and in our churches—for Your glory in the world, we pray, in total dependence on Your Spirit. Please lead us by Your Spirit tonight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Just imagine hearing Jesus saying the words we just read together, then watching Him rise up. First it looks like He’s levitating, but then He just keeps going all the way up into heaven, right before your eyes. It’s no wonder these words were singed onto the hearts of those disciples. I’m guessing these words are common to many of us, particularly those who may have been followers of Christ for any length of time. They’re known across the church as the Great Commission.
The central question I want to ask tonight is: what if we, in our day, are actually missing the point of what Jesus said on that day? What if we’re missing the essence of what He told us to do? Or even worse, what if we, unknowingly, even with the best of motives and intentions, are actually working against what Jesus just said in our lives and families and churches in the world? You ask, “What do you mean?” That leads us right into Session One.
We’re going to unpack four truths over this first session that will then lead us to three problems we must address in our day, in our lives, families and churches, if we’re going to actually obey what Jesus said. Those three problems will lead us to two conclusions and one prayer for our lives, specifically for the rest of our time tonight. So, are you ready? Let’s start with four truths that are summarized in Matthew 28:18-20, but are throughout the Bible, from beginning to end.
Four Truths that relate to the Great Imbalance
Truth #1 – The ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory.
Every word in that sentence matters. I love all that’s represented in every single word here. The ultimate purpose of God—that’s a big statement. What is God about? Don’t you want to know the answer to that question? What is God about? God is about bringing people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. Let’s unpack what we’re saying here. God creates all people in all nations in His image to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. This is why God creates people.
This is what God says. Acts 17:26-27: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” God creates all people. He’s the Author of creation (Genesis 1). He breathes life into every creature (Genesis 2:7). You have breath right now because God is giving it to you. At this moment, God is the One sustaining your lungs and heart. He’s not just doing that for you; He’s doing that right now for a world population of about 7.75 billion people. Right now, God is giving every single one of us breath, Isaiah 42:5 says. All people in all nations.
At the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 10), we see different people in different nations. Psalms 67 talks about nations and peoples. Jesus chooses that same word in what we just read together: “Go and make disciples of all…” what? All nations. Now, the word Jesus uses for “nations” here is ethne. It’s a Greek word from which we get the word “ethnic” groups, or sometimes called people groups.
This is so significant to realize from the start of tonight. When God talks about nations in His Word, He’s not talking about geopolitical entities, like we might think of the 200+ nations or countries today in the United Nations. That’s not the way Jesus and the Bible talk about nations. Instead, Jesus and the Bible are talking about ethnic groups or people groups—groups of people that share a common language and cultural characteristics.
This makes sense, right? Many of us live in the United States, but there are multitudes of ethnicities in our one nation. I live in Metro Washington D.C. I have the pure joy of pastoring a church with multitudes of ethnicities in our church family. The same is true for other nations. So when the Bible says “nations,” don’t think United States or India or Japan, or 200 other countries. Instead, think over 17,000 distinct people groups in the world. That’s the best estimate anthropological and biblical scholars give for distinct people groups in the world that could be included in the Bible’s reference to nations.
The point here from the start is that God creates every person in every nation—every single ethnic people group—in His image and as a reflection of Who He is. It is an awesome thought, straight from Genesis 1:26-28, that men and women from every nation, from every ethnicity, every people group, all together reflect the image of God. No one is superior to the other. No one is inferior to the other. All are made in God’s image.
I think about Hashera in Afghanistan. Her people group is Pashtun, the largest people group in Afghanistan. Her close-knit tribe live by code, protecting one another’s honor and showing generous hospitality. She works hard for her family, day in and day out, in the barren mountainous region where they live.
I think about Tahile in Somalia who lives in the capital, Mogadishu. It’s a port city just north of equator on the Indian Ocean. Many of the men he knows have left Somalia, but he stayed, convinced this is the best way he can care for his parents, his wife and his children.
I think about Amir and Aleah in Yemen, an older brother and younger sister. They still possess childlike zeal for life, even though they live in the middle of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now, surrounded by war and conflict they were born into. That’s all they know. Their parents are struggling daily to find any food for them.
So why has God created each of these individual people, in each of these ethnic groups? God has created every single one of them, including you and me, Hashera, Tahile, Amir and Aleah—all to enjoy Him.
- Psalms 67:4 says, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.” So God has created all the people, all the nations, for gladness, for joy in Him—and specifically for joy in exalting Him.
- Psalms 67:5 says, “Let the peoples…”—the nations, the people groups—“…praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” God creates all people in all nations in His image to enjoy Him and exalt Him in all of His glory. This is what God is about.
- Psalms 46:10 says, “I am God. I will be exalted among the nations.”
- Psalms 96:1-3, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”
What is God’s glory? Picture the sum of Who He is and all the marvelous works He does among all the peoples, all the nations, in all the earth. The ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all the nations—including you and me, Hashera from Afghanistan, Tahile from Somalia, Amir and Aleah from Yemen, plus men, women and children from 17,000 distinct people groups in the world—all to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. This is what God is about. This is why God creates all people in all nations.
The Bible and all of history testify to the fact that all people in all nations, including you and me and every other person among 7.75 billion people—all people in all nations—have sinned against God and fallen short of His glory. That’s straight from Romans 3:23 and is evident from the very beginning of the Bible. Genesis 3:1 says,
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” This is the entrance of sin into the world. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. This is the first picture of sin we see in the world.
What we see here in this story marks the stories of 7.75 billion people in the world, including you and me. All people in all nations have done what we have just seen here. We have questioned God’s word, assuming we are wiser than God Himself. All people in all nations have denied God’s goodness, believing that we know better than God what is good for our lives. All people in all nations have rebelled against God’s authority. Just think about it. Everything in all creation—the stars, wind, waves, trees, mountains—responds in obedience to the Creator’s bidding. Only the people made in the image of God have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.”
This leads to the consequences of sin on earth. God made it very clear in Genesis 2: the consequence of sin would be death. That’s exactly what plays out in Genesis 3. Romans 5:12 tells us that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” For the first time in Genesis 3:16-19, then throughout history thereafter, we see spiritual enmity and evil. We see the effects of spiritual rebellion against God. At the same time, we see physical toil and trouble, physical pain in work and bearing children—the very things that were designed by God to be blessing. So we see spiritual consequences and physical consequences of sin.
Hold on to that in your mind as we walk through more tonight. There are spiritual consequences and physical consequences that lead to relational consequences, conflict with one another as men and women made in the image of God. And ultimately it all leads to condemnation before God, as men and women are cast out of the Garden of Eden.
These consequences of sin on earth lead to consequences of sin in eternity. I’ll describe this as twofold. First, it leads to eventual physical death here. Keep in mind that physical death was not part of God’s original design. Physical death like we see and experience in this world was a result of the very beginning of sin in the world. It’s so sobering to read the Bible, just five chapters in, and see the result of sin—right after we read a recounting of God giving life to men and women. We see over and over again one refrain: “And he died… And he died… And he died…” Throughout Genesis 5, sin resulted in eventual physical death here, and sin results in eternal spiritual death in hell.
Fast forward to the end of the Bible, we see all people standing before God as Judge, but all people who have not trusted in Jesus as their life are thrown into an eternal lake of fire. We’ll talk about that more as the night goes on, but the message of the Bible is clear. All people in all nations have sinned against God, so all people will physically die here on this earth and all people deserve eternal spiritual death in hell.
Yet here is the good news—the gospel: God so loved the world that He gave His Son to redeem (Ephesians 1:7-10), restore (Acts 3:19-21) and reconcile (Colossians 1:21-23) people from all nations to Himself for eternal life. Let’s unpack that:
- God so loved the world… God is love. God loves the whole world, including all 7.75 billion people in it. God loves them all. He knows them all and loves them all. Second Peter 3:9 says God wishes that all would trust in His love for them.
- God so loved the world that He gave His Son, Jesus, as a ransom for all. God gave Jesus to redeem. That word means to pay the price for. God sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins, so that we might be restored to God and to the life God has created us for. God sent Jesus to reconcile people from all nations to Himself.
Revelation 5:9-10 talks about Jesus: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Do you see it? Jesus died to ransom people, to redeem people, for God, from every tribe, language, people and nation for eternal life, so they can be with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth.
Here’s the reality. Mark it down and bank your life on this. God’s ultimate purpose will one day be fulfilled. People from all nations will enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory for all of eternity.
Look at Revelation 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Do you see it? Then keep going, about two-thirds of the way through this passage:
Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Yes. All people, from all nations, enjoying and exalting God in all of His glory. Look at the last chapter of the Bible—Revelation 22. It’s the first time we see the Tree of Life since man and woman were cast out of the Garden in Genesis 3—and now it’s back. Watch this:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
We will see His face. Who’s the “we” here? It’s men and women from every tribe, language, people and nation. They will see His face and enjoy His light forever and ever. This is the greatest news in the world.
I think we would be remiss if we didn’t just pause at this point, pray and thank Jesus for being slain for us and by His blood making the way for men and women in every group of people in the world to be ransomed, redeemed and restored to Him forever. Let’s pray and thank God? I want to invite Cyrus to lead us in prayer, thanking God for His grace and mercy in our lives in the world.
Cyrus: In light of what we just heard from the Word of God, please join me in prayer. Lord Jesus, thank You for dying for us, dying to ransom people from every people group in the world. Give us a passion for spreading this news to all people. You sustained us. You saved us. You will be the One to receive glory for all the great things You have done. We want to remind ourselves on a regular basis of the ultimate purpose of every Christian in every church, which is to enjoy and exalt You, O God, in all Your glories, among all nations.
When You walked this earth more than 2,000 years ago, You healed the man who was demon possessed. You told him to go home to his friends and family to tell them what great things the Lord had done for him and how You had compassion on him. Out of gratitude, this man went home and told his people. He even went to ten additional cities to share what You have done for him, then many people marveled at what You did for him.
O Father, Your ultimate purpose has always been to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt You in all Your glory. We were created in Your image. All people in all nations have sinned and fallen short of Your glory, according to Romans 3:23. All people in all nations have willfully rebelled against Your authority, O God. The wages for sin is death, according to Romans 6:23.
Lord Jesus, You took upon Yourself the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross of Calvary. You desire to reconcile all people from all nations to You, O God. You love us and desire to have a meaningful relationship with us. Jesus, You said in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Please forgive us for being complacent with this message. Empower us through the Holy Spirit, Father, to be faithful and take this good news to all peoples, to all nations. To You be honor and glory forever and ever, in Jesus’ matchless name we pray. Amen.
David: That’s truth number one: the ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory.
Truth #2 – The ultimate purpose of every Christian and church is to enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory among all the nations.
If truth #1 is the ultimate purpose of God, then truth number two naturally follows. The ultimate purpose of every Christian and church is to enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory among all the nations. If God’s purpose is for people to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory, then it’s without question God’s purpose for your life and my life, and it’s without question God’s purpose for His church, His people. The purpose of our lives—your life, my life, our community together as the church—is to enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory among all of the nations. Let this soak in.
What we’re talking about here in this second truth is the purpose of your life. See it in Scripture; don’t take my word for this. See this and rejoice over this in Scripture, because this is quite a purpose to live for. To enjoy God in all of His glory? Sign me up! God? The most beautiful, glorious, magnificent, awesome, supreme, satisfying Being in all the earth has created me to enjoy Him? Yes!
Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” That’s where I want to be. That’s where I want to live. Isn’t that where you want to be? Why would you want to be anywhere else?
Psalm 27:4 states, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” I love looking at my wife in all of her beauty, but she’s nowhere near as beautiful as God. Life is found in gazing upon God and seeking God.
Don’t settle for lesser things than this in your life. Don’t settle for anything less than Psalm 63:1-8:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you.
There is no one like God. No one in this world, nothing in this world is like God. Don’t seek the things of this world for satisfaction in your life.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.” Are you boasting in your wisdom, your intellectual accomplishments? Are you boasting in your riches, power or your strength? You’re missing the point. “But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”
This is why the greatest commandment is what it is. Keep in mind in all this, God loves us so much more than we can fathom, more than we could ever deserve. We deserve condemnation before God, yet God loves us, which means if God loves us, then every commandment He gives us is for our good. God never gives us commands to make us miserable. God loves us and gives us commands to make us happy.
So what’s the first and greatest commandment? If you want to be happy, if you want to have life to the fullest, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). You have been created to enjoy God, to find your deepest happiness in the enjoyment of God in all of His glory and to exalt God in all of His glory among all of the nations. This is throughout the Bible, from the very beginning.
So now we’ve thought about Genesis 3 and Genesis 5, but keep going to Genesis 12:1-3. This is where God says to Abraham, “I’m going to bless you in so many ways, so that through you My blessing might spread to all peoples, to all the families of the earth. They’ll all be blessed through you.” God is saying to His people there, “You will enjoy Me and My blessing, and as you enjoy My blessing, you will spread My blessing—the enjoyment of Me—among all the families, all the peoples of the earth.” We do that so they might all know “that I am the Lord” Exodus 14:4. Do you see that? God blesses His people for their good and for His glory.
Look at the phrase in Psalm 106:8: “He saved them for his name’s sake.” God saved them so that they might enjoy Him through His salvation, so they might exalt Him among the nations. This theme runs throughout the entire Bible, from cover to cover. Here are just a few examples.
Deuteronomy 4:5-8. Why did God give His people His Word? He gave it to them for their good and for His glory, that they would experience His goodness as they walked according to it. Then when they followed His Word and experienced life in Him, the nations would see the goodness and the glory of God in them.
Psalm 67:1-7 sums it up. Talk about grace, mercy and blessing! Don’t you want God’s face shining on you? Why does He bless us?
That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
See the picture here. God is gracious to His people for His glory among all peoples. It couldn’t be any clearer in God’s Word. And it continues.
God says this to His people in Ezekiel 36:22-23, where He’s recounting how He’s going to bless them and save them:
It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
Did you hear that? God literally says to His people, “When I bless you, when I work among you, I’m not doing it ultimately for your sake. It’s for My sake among the nations. Are you seeing this? God is ultimately God-centered. God does what He does ultimately for His own glory. God exalts Himself.
Now, does it rub you wrong in any way that God exalts Himself? God is God-centered, self centered, God exalts Himself? If that rubs you wrong in any way, then I would ask who else would you rather Him exalt? You? Me? This person? That person? No. At any point, if God were to exalt someone or something else, He would no longer be the God Who is worthy of all exaltation—and He is. He’s God. Of course He exalts Himself. There’s no one else worthy of exaltation but God, among all the nations.
So this is not just a New Testament Great Commission thing. I hope you’re seeing that this is throughout the Old Testament. Look at Zechariah 8:22: “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.” Throughout the Old Testament, God is talking about bringing all the peoples, all the nations, to Himself. Which is why, when you get to the New Testament, God comes in the flesh in Jesus, Jesus dies on a cross for sinners, He rises from the grave.
Then what does He say in Luke 24:46-47? “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” Yes! Then He tells them the Holy Spirit is going to come to all who trust in Jesus. Talk about enjoying God! He puts His very presence, His Holy Spirit, inside you and me when we put our trust in Jesus to redeem, restore and reconcile us to God. Just think about it. For everyone who has trusted in Jesus, you have the presence of God in you, with you, leading you, guiding you, never leaving you alone, no matter what life brings.
Why? Why would He be so gracious to us? It’s so that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It’s so that you and I, as we enjoy God, will exalt God in all His glory to the ends of the earth. This is why we live. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Why do you drink orange juice and eat Pop Tarts in the morning? You do it to the glory of God. Everything, everything, everything you do, you do it all to exalt God among all the nations.
In Galatians 1:15-16, Paul says, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” Why was God pleased to reveal Jesus to you, Paul? You were persecuting Christians. You didn’t deserve God’s love. Why was God pleased to save you? Look at what it says, “…in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles,” among the nations. Paul says, “God saved me to enjoy His pleasure and exalt His glory among all the nations.”
We’ve already seen in Revelation 21 that this is where all of history is headed. If you look at heaven, it’s described as a city where there is no need for the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb Jesus Christ. By His light, the nations will walk and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day. There will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and honor of all the nations.
Here’s the deal. If the ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory, if that is what God is orchestrating right now and throughout history, if you are a child of God, then wouldn’t it make sense that you would have the same purpose as God has? God is going this way, but you’re not going to go that way? You’re going to go another way? That would make no sense. If you’re a child of God, you’re living for what God is living for.
So let me just ask, right where you’re sitting now, what is the purpose of your life? Stop and soak this in. What is the purpose of your life? Why are you breathing right now? What’s it all about? What are you about? Why do you get up in the morning or go to work? Why do you do anything you do—your thoughts, desires, actions, life? What’s your family about? What’s the church about? Based on all we’ve just seen, the answer is exactly the same for every true follower of Jesus—every Christian. Many people say they believe in Jesus. Big deal; even the demons believe in Jesus. I’m talking about every single true follower of Jesus. The purpose of our lives, according to the Word of God, is to enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory among all the nations.
So here’s the deal. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story at Secret Church before, although I know I’ve told it before many times, because it’s a significant part of my story. I remember when I was in graduate school, doing theological training and I started seeing what we’re seeing in God’s Word. I started learning about God’s passion for His glory among all the nations. At the same time, I started learning about the state of the world, what we’re going to see in a few minutes. There are many different nations and people groups that have not been reached by the gospel yet. I started thinking, “Well, if the purpose of my life is to enjoy and exalt God’s glory in all the nations, and there are many nations and people groups where the gospel has not gone, then it’s a no brainer. I need to become a missionary to another nation.”
Heather, my wife, and I started praying through that for our future. One day, Jerry Rankin, the president of an international mission organization, came to our campus. His name is. I was asked to take him to breakfast. I thought, “Ah, this is my chance to share with him what God’s been putting on my heart and on Heather’s heart. This is our chance to go.” So I talked with Heather the night before and told her who I was taking to breakfast. I said, “I think I’m going to tell him we’re ready to go to another nation. Is that okay with you?” She said, “It’s okay with me.” So we prayed.
The next morning I went off to breakfast with great anticipation, sat down for breakfast with Dr. Rankin and started pouring out my heart. I said, “Dr. Rankin, I see in God’s Word that the purpose of my life is to glorify God among all nations. I see the needs among the nations. So my wife and I are ready to go. How do we go?” He looked back at me for about 60 seconds and encouraged me in what I had just said to him. Then for the rest of breakfast, he talked with me about the need for pastors to work in the church for the spread of the gospel to nations that have not been reached with it.
I was so confused. I went home that day. Heather was all excited, thinking, “Where are we going to go? How did it go?” Then I told her, “I think the president of the IMB just talked me out of becoming a missionary.” Heather’s face dropped, like I had disappointed her, like I’d failed the interview and ruined our chances of going to the nations as missionaries.
Looking back, I am so thankful for that breakfast conversation that day, because Dr. Rankin put a category in my mind that I don’t think was there before. I don’t know why it wasn’t there. Apparently there is a type of person who is zealous to glorify God among all the nations, but who doesn’t become a missionary. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Well, of course there’s a category like that—someone who’s zealous to glorify God among all the nations, but doesn’t become a missionary. That’s called a Christian.” Right?
Are missionaries the only people who are zealous to live for the purpose of God, to glorify God among all the nations? Where’s that in the Bible? We’ve just seen from cover to cover in the Bible, from beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation, that all of God’s people are created to enjoy and exalt God in all His glory among all the nations. This is for all of us. We’ve just talked about how every Christian has the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, inside of them. The Spirit of Jesus wants the world for Jesus.
So do you have the Spirit of Jesus in you? Then you want the world for Jesus. This is what it means to be a Christian. God help us. We have taken the ultimate purpose of God in the world and made it an optional program for a select few Christians in the church. That is totally unbiblical. The spread of God’s glory among all nations is not an optional program for a few Christians in the church. The spread of God’s glory among all nations is the ultimate purpose for which every Christian has breath. It’s why you’re breathing right now. This is why you’re alive. Every child, student, adult, senior adult—whoever you are—you were created to enjoy God and exalt God in all of His glory among all the nations.
If this is God’s purpose for your life, but it’s not what you would say is your purpose for your life, then whose purpose needs to change? The ultimate purpose of every Christian, in every church, in every group of Christians is to enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory among all of the nations. This is why the church exists. Your life has a global purpose by the design of God. Your church has a global purpose by the design of God. That’s truth number two. So based on that, let’s keep going.
Truth #3 – God’s plan for accomplishing this purpose is the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is disciples of Jesus making disciples and multiplying churches among all the nations It is God’s plan for all people and all nations to enjoy and exalt Him. It’s why Jesus started His ministry by saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). From the very beginning, to follow Jesus was to focus on enjoying Him and leading other people to enjoy Him, which is why Jesus ends His ministry with that same focus we read earlier: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
It makes sense, right? Think about it. How do we enjoy and exalt God practically? How do we glorify God? How do we exalt God? The answer is we glorify and exalt God, enjoying God by growing as disciples of Jesus, right? The more you and I look like Jesus in our lives, the more we enjoy and exalt Jesus in our lives. The more we think like Jesus, desire like Jesus, speak like Jesus, serve like Jesus, love like Jesus, the more we glorify Jesus.
Second Corinthians 3:18 gives us a powerful principle. The more we look to Jesus, the more we will look like Jesus. In John 3:30, the more we emulate Jesus, the more we exalt Jesus. Jesus, God’s Son, will receive more glory in our lives the more we become like Him. So we enjoy, exalt and glorify God by growing as disciples of Jesus, and we glorify God by making disciples of Jesus—so it’s not just about us.
Think about it. The more other people are enjoying and exalting Jesus in their lives, then the more the glory of God is spreading in the world which is what we want. It’s what we live for. We live to exalt God in all His glory among all the nations which means we want to see disciples of Jesus saved by Jesus, transformed by Jesus, in all of the nations, enjoying and exalting Him. That is the Great Commission.
So follow this. The Great Commission is not a comfortable call for most Christians to come, be baptized and sit in one location, which is what we have turned it into in so many of our lives and in so many of our churches. Biblically, the Great Commission is a costly command for all Christians to go, baptize and make disciples of all the nations. We are not just disciples of Jesus; we are disciple makers. Every follower of Jesus is a fisher for men (Matthew 4:19-20). Every disciple of Jesus makes disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). This is not an optional call for a few. This is an essential command for every follower of Jesus.
I’ve put in your study guide a quick overview of disciple making. We could spend easily a whole Secret Church right here. We’re going to go steps further beyond this tonight, but if you were to ask me— in short, in sort of firehose content— “What does the Bible mean by making disciples?” here’s the answer I would give. According to the Bible, making disciples means we share the Word. We go and proclaim the good news of Who God is and how God saves. We speak about the gospel as we live according to the gospel. Obviously we can’t make disciples of Jesus if we don’t share the good news about Jesus, if we don’t introduce people to Jesus and lead people to become followers of Jesus. Going, evangelizing, sharing the gospel is the first step in disciple making. It’s where disciple making starts, but not where it stops.
We show the Word, baptizing them, Jesus says, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, it’s leading people to profess faith in Jesus publicly through baptism as a part of His church. According to the Bible, baptism symbolizes identification with the person of Christ and inclusion in the body of Christ. It’s the initial step a follower of Jesus takes to publicly identify with Him and His church, where we share life together in Christ in the church.
We show the world a picture of the gospel. The world needs to see a demonstration of Christ that accompanies our explanation of Christ. Not just in the moment of baptism, but this must be evident in our lives, right? So this means disciple making involves showing people what the life of Jesus looks like in action. Think about it this way. If you lead somebody to faith in Jesus this week, how is that new believer going to learn to follow Jesus next week? How is that new believer going to learn to pray? This is disciple making. You just show them how to pray. How is that new believer going to learn to read and understand the Bible? You show them how to study the Bible. How is that new believer going to learn to follow Jesus? You show them how Jesus transforms your life. This is making disciples.
At this point we start to realize, “Well, if I’m going to show somebody else how to pray, I actually need to know how to pray. If I’m going to show somebody else how to study the Bible, then I need to know how to study the Bible. If I’m going to show somebody else how to follow Jesus in every facet of their life, then I need to be following Jesus in every facet of my life.” This is where we realize God has this whole thing rigged.
We are devoted to the process of disciple making for others’ growth in Christ. So in making disciples, we’re helping other people experience life to the full in Jesus. At the same time, we are dependent on the process of disciple making for our own growth in Christ. In other words, if you want to keep growing in your relationship with Jesus, then you need to have other people whom you are showing how to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
I am convinced that every single Christian will plateau in your spiritual growth, if you are not serious about making disciples, because your spiritual growth will still only be about you and you’ll be missing out on the very purpose for which God has saved you and created you to thrive in. This is the purpose for which God has saved you. It’s the key to what we’re talking about, growing in Him, leading others to grow in Him, so that you and they might enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory.
It’s living for the glory of God in others’ lives, by sharing the Word with them, showing the Word to them teaching them the Word. So Jesus says in Matthew 28, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That goes all the way back to the picture in Deuteronomy 6 where God told His people to talk about His Word and commands, all the time, wherever they go, day and night, Their conversations are to be saturated with the Word. This means that disciple makers don’t just receive the Word; we reproduce the Word. Whatever we learn from the Word, we pass on to others.
The illustration I like to give is from the first time I went to Sudan. At that point it was just Sudan; there was no South Sudan. It was a war-torn country and Christians were being persecuted. I remember sitting in a mud hut with some persecuted believers, teaching them God’s Word. The whole time I taught them, I hardly ever saw their faces. It wasn’t because they were sleeping or distracted; it was because they were writing down everything I said. They said, “We want to take everything we learn from the Word, translate it into our tribes’ languages and teach it in our tribes.” So they were listening, not just to receive, but to reproduce.
On Sundays, in your church, listening to the Word, are you listening to receive or to reproduce? What about your quiet time every day? If all you’re thinking is, “What can I get out of this?” then you’re still living in the mud and mire of self-centered Christianity. So, yes, receive from God’s Word, then reproduce. It’s not just for you.
I remember asking at the very end of a sermon one day, “Is God’s Word going to stop with you or spread through you?” The next week, a 20-something-year-old guy came up to me and said, “Pastor, that line really got to me.” He started pulling up his sleeve to show me a new tattoo he had gotten on his arm that week, “Will the Word stop with me or spread through me?”
I’m not saying you should tattoo that on your skin, but do imprint the message it on your heart. God’s Word is too good not to pass on. We are all commanded to teach other people how to follow Jesus. It’s not just talking about the gift of teaching in the church—yes, some people are specifically gifted to teach in the church as a whole—but all of us are called to pass on God’s Word to others, helping them follow Jesus. This means that, as Christians, we must all know the essentials of following Jesus. Then we must model, teach and reproduce those essentials of following Jesus.
Here’s the way I would put it. Imagine you were to lead someone to a relationship with Jesus this week. If you did that, what would be your plan for helping, showing and teaching them how to follow Jesus next week? If you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to do that, why not? You’re basically either saying you’re not planning to lead anybody to follow Jesus; or you’re saying, if you do lead somebody to follow Jesus, you’re expecting somebody else to teach them how to follow Jesus. But Jesus has called you to make disciples by going, sharing the Word, baptizing, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us, teaching the Word and serving all the nations of the world.
So that’s the fourth component of disciple making in the Great Commission: we serve the world. We do all of this with God’s Word in the world. Are we discipling or disinfecting Christians? Disinfecting isolates a Christian in a spiritual safety deposit box called the church building, teaching him or her to be good. Unfortunately the church is often good at isolating Christians in a spiritual bubble called a church building, then teaching them to avoid the world. That results in decent church members with little impact on eternity, ultimately disobedience to God’s command to reach the entire world and in the end, wasted lives. In a sense, we ignore the entire commission Jesus has given us on this earth.
In case you think I’m overstating this, how many Christians go year after year after year after year without leading anyone else to follow Jesus? We actually think we’re doing good in the church by avoiding the world, when in reality we’re missing God’s call on our lives to make disciples of Jesus in the world. Disciple making is totally different. Discipling propels a Christian into the world, to risk his or her life for the sake of others. What does this result in? Disciples of Jesus with significant impact on eternity, obedient to God’s command to reach the entire world and living abundant lives. This is what we were created for.
God, help each of us experience the life You’ve designed for us to live, instead of settling for so much less.
How can we make disciples of all nations?
The critical question we must constantly ask as followers of Jesus in the church is, “How can we most faithfully and fruitfully make disciples of all nations in each one of our lives and together in our churches?” Let’s stop coasting through business as usual in the church. Let’s stop and ask, individually and together, “How can we more faithfully and fruitfully make disciples of all the nations?” knowing the inevitable fruit of making disciples among all the nations is to multiply churches among all nations.
Just think. As we make more and more disciples, we gather those disciples into churches that are making disciples and multiplying into more churches. This is the story of the New Testament.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).
This was the founding of the church at Antioch. Right after this, we see the church at Antioch sending out Saul and Barnabas (Acts 13), who then make disciples and multiply churches in new places like Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. Think of each of those churches as an outpost of God’s Kingdom and a display of God’s glory.
I love Ephesians 1:3 which describes how these new Christians were coming together in new churches. They were new, powerful displays of God’s glory in a place where people previously didn’t even know about Jesus. As disciples were made and churches were multiplied in new places, more and more people in more and more places were enjoying God and exalting God. This was Jesus’ plan: make disciples, multiply churches, doing this from place to place to place until all the nations, all the peoples, have been reached.
God’s purpose is for all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. His plan for the accomplishment of that purpose is the Great Commission—disciples of Jesus making disciples and multiplying churches among all the nations. That leads to our fourth and final truth.
Truth #4 – The Great Commission is a specific command to make disciples among all the nations.
This Great Commission is not a general command to make disciples among as many people as possible; the Great Commission is a specific command to make disciples among all the nations. Now, I hope this truth sounds obvious, based on what we’ve already seen in the Bible. But I want to make sure this is clear, because this is the crux of the three problems we’re about to look at. So let’s make sure we all soak in this truth.
The Great Commission is not a general command to make disciples among as many people as possible. Jesus didn’t say, “Go and make a lot of disciples,” or “Go and make as many disciples as possible.” That’s not what Jesus said. Instead, the Great Commission is a specific command to make disciples among all the nations. These are Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19: “Go…and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus did not die generally for a lot of people in the world; Jesus died specifically for people from every people group—from every tribe, language, people and nation (Revelation 5:9). This is why Jesus did not command His church to go generally to a lot of people in the world; Jesus commanded the church to go specifically to every people group in the world.
Romans 15:17-25 so powerfully illustrates this point. Paul is writing from Corinth, after he’s planted a variety of churches in the region around Corinth. He says about two-thirds of the way through this passage,
Since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while (Romans 15:23- 24).
Did you hear that? Paul just said, “I have no more room for work in these regions.” What did that mean? Does that mean everyone was a Christian there? No, not at all. Did that mean there wasn’t more gospel work to be done there? No, not at all. There was much work to be done. But there were Christians and churches there doing that work. But in Spain, where Paul was trying to go when he wrote this, there were no Christians and no churches. He knew that Jesus had told His church to go to all the nations, people groups and places where the gospel had not gone, so he kept pressing on.
Why? Why go to new places when there are still non-Christians who don’t believe the gospel in the places we’ve already been? Because Jesus did not just say, “Make as many disciples as possible.” He said, “Make disciples of all the nations. Keep moving on to places and people groups where disciples haven’t been made and churches haven’t been multiplied.” Why? Because, back to truth number one, the ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all the nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. And the plan for accomplishing this purpose, truth number three, is the Great Commission.
The Great Commission will be complete when disciples have been made and churches have been multiplied among every people group. Truth number two is what every Christian and church should be living for. So now you’re starting to see all these truths come together.
Three Problems Relating to the Great Imbalance
When you take these four truths, looking at the world, the church and specifically our lives and our days there are then three problems to address.
Problem #1 – Billions of people are unreached
Over three billion people in over 7,000 people groups are currently unreached by the gospel and on a road that leads to an eternal hell without ever hearing how they can go to heaven.
That’s a loaded sentence and a major problem in every way, so let’s just unpack it bit by bit. Over three billion people in over 7,000 people groups are currently unreached by the gospel. What does that word “unreached” mean? Well, unreached does not just mean that people are lost. Anybody who doesn’t have faith in Jesus is lost, regardless of where they are in the world. People are just as lost in the United States as they are in Afghanistan. There is no difference when it comes to lostness.
There are a lot of churches and millions of followers of Jesus, by God’s grace, in the United States, but there are very few churches and very few followers of Jesus in Afghanistan which means that people in Afghanistan don’t have people around them who can share the gospel with them. That’s what it means to be unreached. Unreached means that people don’t have access to the gospel. It’s not that they can’t hear, or have heard the gospel and chose not to believe it. It’s that they can’t even hear it because no one around them knows it.
Here’s the technical definition of unreached: Unreached peoples and places are those among whom Jesus is largely unknown and the church in that place is relatively insufficient to make Jesus known in its broader population without outside help. So practically this means that unless something changes, unreached people will be born, they will live and they will die without ever hearing the gospel.
This is the kind of people the Bible is talking about in the book of Romans when it says, “How can people believe in Jesus if they don’t hear about Him?” It’s why Paul says in the book of Romans, “I’m moving on from these regions where churches have been planted and Christians are living and working, 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 15:20-21).
So two millennia after Paul wrote these words, about three billion people—men, women, kids— have been or are being born, they’re living and dying, but they have never and are not now hearing the good news of how Jesus has died on the cross to save all who trust in Him from their sins. This immediately leads to the critical question what happens to people who die without ever hearing the gospel? What happens to over three billion people who, if nothing changes, don’t hear the gospel before they die? That’s a really important question, isn’t it? That’s more important than how your stocks are doing, how your team’s going to do this next year or where your next vacation is going to be.
God, wake us up to ask hard questions that really matter for real people forever. It’s hard to even imagine three billion people.
So just think about faces we’ve already seen like Hashera in Afghanistan, Tahile in Somalia, Amir and Aleah in Yemen. We’re talking about three billion people like them. Unfortunately, most people in the church are not even asking this question about these three billion people, not even worried about them, not concerned at all about them or their eternity; they’re concerned about all kinds of other things in this world, but not them. Not three billion of them. Or they’ve asked this question about these three billion people and what happens to them if they never hear the gospel before they die, but they’ve been given an unbiblical answer.
I heard a pastor of a really large church near my hometown make this statement not long ago: “God is loving, so assuming people genuinely try to do good or please God with their lives, they will go to heaven.” Is that what the Bible teaches? Let’s see what the Bible teaches. Let’s ask God, “What happens to people who never hear about Jesus?” Here’s the answer.
Remember Romans 15? We just read how Paul wrote that book of the Bible to get the Christians there to help him get the gospel to unreached people in Spain. In Romans we learn about why they needed to work together to get the gospel to unreached people in Spain. This Bible book teaches exactly the opposite of what that pastor—a prominent pastor near my hometown—was saying. The book of Romans teaches very clearly that all people have knowledge of God.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God… (Romans 1:18-21.)
So all people everywhere have knowledge of God, no matter where they live. Now, not all people say they believe in God. That leads to this second reality we see in Romans: all people reject God.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1:21–23).
So the whole picture here is that they’ve rejected God. This is the reality of sin in every person’s heart. It’s in my heart, in your heart, in every person around the world. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). We’ve turned from God’s ways to our own ways (Romans 3:12), from God’s truth to our thoughts. Which then leads to a third reality: there are no innocent people in the world.
These initial verses in Romans are some of the most sobering in all of Scripture, from Romans 1:18 to 2:16, where Paul talks about the sinfulness of the Gentiles. From Romans 2:17 to 3:8, he talks about the sinfulness of the Jews. Then he comes to this conclusion in Romans 3:10-18:
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In other words, all people are guilty of sin before God. Here’s why this point is so important. This question is most often asked this way: “What happens to the innocent man, woman or child in this remote part of the world who has never heard the gospel when they die?” If you were to ask me that question, I would say—based on the Bible—without question, those people go to heaven.
“Even though they’ve never heard the gospel?” Without question, that innocent man, woman or child would go to heaven without ever hearing the gospel, because they have no need for the gospel. They’re innocent of sin. They don’t need to hear about how Jesus died for their sin if they have no sin. They’ll go straight to heaven because they have no sin.
The only problem is those people don’t exist in the world. There is no innocent man, woman or child in the world. All have sinned against God. Do you see how biased the question is from the start? It is biased toward us and away from God, as if God is the unjust one who allows innocent people to go to hell? The reality is, it’s not true. There are no innocent people in the world just waiting to hear the gospel. There are guilty people all over the world. That’s why they need to hear the gospel, the good news of God’s love for them. This leads to a fourth reality: all people are condemned for rejecting God. Romans 3:19-20 says:
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
So not only are all people guilty, but there’s no amount of good we can do to overcome our guilt. All people are condemned for rejecting God. This is true, regardless of whether or not people have heard the gospel. This is really significant because many professing Christians think like that pastor I mentioned. I would say the majority of pastors in America are teaching that if certain people never hear the gospel, then God will let them into heaven. After all, God is loving. Not every man has a chance to hear.
Absolutely, God is loving, but think about this with me for a moment. I’ve met a lot of these people all around the world—men, women and kids who have never heard the gospel. If it’s true that they will go to heaven precisely because they’ve never heard the gospel, almost like it’s a pass into heaven, then what’s the worst thing we could do for their eternal state? Go and tell them the gospel, right? Think about it. If that’s true, then 100% of unreached people are going to heaven, even before we get there with the gospel. But then when we came with the good news, they might go to hell? “Thanks a lot. Just stay comfortable where you live. Don’t come to us.”
Just think about somebody you might meet in the world who’s never heard of Jesus. If you think that person is going to heaven precisely because they’ve never heard the truth about Jesus, what are you going to say to them? “Well, if you haven’t heard about Him, don’t let anybody tell you about Him. If somebody mentions Jesus’ name, just put your fingers in your ears and go running away.” Why? “Because you’re better off in eternity without hearing about Him.” That totally undercuts everything the Bible teaches or we believe. The Bible is clear. Regardless of whether or not someone has heard the gospel, they stand guilty before God in sin, so they deserve eternal separation from Him.
I picture Paul in tears at this point in the book of Romans, writing about our depravity and condemnation. Then he picks up the pen and writes about how God has made a way of salvation for sinners, beginning in Romans 3:21:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).
Yes! God loves us and made a way for all of us to be saved from our sin. God has sent His Son Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Jesus has taken our payment for our sin upon Himself on a cross. He died and rose from the grave so that anyone in any nation, no matter who you are or what you have done, a way of salvation has been made for you by God. And that way is faith in Jesus. That way is not you working your way to God; it’s trusting in what God has done to make His way to you.
This leads to this sixth reality that the Bible clearly teaches: people cannot come to God apart from faith in Jesus. Paul writes this in Romans 3:27-30:
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
People all over the world can be saved from sin by faith in Jesus. And that brings us back to our question: how can people put their faith in Jesus if they’ve never heard of Jesus? That’s the exact question Paul poses in Romans 10:13-16:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
The picture here is crystal clear. People can’t put their faith in Jesus if they never hear about Jesus. If they can’t put their faith in Jesus, they can’t be saved from their sin. So get the picture. Over three billion people who can’t go to heaven if they don’t hear about the One Who makes heaven possible. And it’s simple logic. They won’t hear unless somebody tells them.
This is the last reality I want to show you in Romans. We’ve seen it over and over again tonight. It just makes sense: Jesus commands His church to make the gospel known among all people in all people groups. Let me show you this. Look at the verbs in Romans 10 we just read, but in reverse. As you do, you will see God’s plan for making the gospel known in all nations:
- It starts with Jesus sending followers.
- What do those followers do? Followers preach. They proclaim the gospel.
- When they proclaim the gospel, what happens? People hear. Unless we’re presenting the gospel to a wall, people will hear.
- When they hear, hearers believe. Now, obviously not everybody who hears will believe. We know that. But this gospel has power to save.
- And we know the end of the story. We know that every tribe and language and people and nation will be gathered around the throne of God, singing His praises in the end. This means you can go to any people group in the world today, proclaim this gospel, and you know somebody’s going to believe. When they believe, believers call on the name of the Lord, then those who call on the name of the Lord are saved.
Now, look back at that plan and ask where’s the only place this plan can break down? Will those who call on the name of the Lord be saved? Absolutely. Will those who believe, call? Yes. Will those who hear, believe? As we said, not all will, but some will—guaranteed. When followers of Jesus proclaim the gospel, will people hear? Yes. Unless we’re talking to a wall, they’ll hear. Is Jesus still sending His followers? Is He taking a generation off? I don’t think so. Jesus is still sending His followers.
The only potential breakdown in this whole plan is when His followers—those who have the gospel—choose not to go and proclaim the gospel to people who haven’t heard it. When followers of Jesus refuse to keep pressing on and proclaiming the gospel in places where it hasn’t gone.
When people say, “Well, surely God has other ways. He’s working in dreams and visions.” Absolutely. God works in all kinds of way, including dreams and visions. But you won’t find one verse in the book of Acts where the Jesus sends followers Followers preach People hear Hearers believe Believers call on the Lord Those who call are saved gospel is going forward without a follower of Jesus proclaiming it. Could God use other means? Sure He could. He’s the almighty God of the universe. He could write the book of Romans in the sky tonight, then just like that, everybody would be reached. But He’s not doing that. Do you know why? Because He’s chosen to use you and me. And if we don’t go, they won’t hear.
Church, we are Plan A for the spread of the gospel to all the nations; there is no Plan B. So to bring it all back, we have a clear commission. We have been commanded, not just to answer this question with the Bible, but to alleviate this question with our lives, to give our lives to finishing the commission Jesus has entrusted to us (Acts 20:24). If we’re going to finish this commission, we need to open our eyes to the problem.
There are over three billion people in over 7,000 people groups who are currently unreached by the gospel. Many of them, like Hashera, Tahile, Amir and Aleah, who are living in the middle of unimaginable earthly suffering. If something doesn’t change, they’ll go from that to an eternity of neverending suffering. This is a problem.
If that was the only problem, it would be one thing. But let’s take this one step deeper, to problem two.
Problem #2 –The way churches spend their money creates the great imbalance
Churches are spending approximately 99% of our missions resources in places that are already reached with the gospel. Put another way, churches are spending approximately 1% of our missions resources among the three billion people in 7,000 people groups who haven’t heard the gospel.
That’s a lot to take in, but I want us to soak this in, letting this take root in our minds and our hearts, as Christians in churches in a world where over three billion people have not heard the gospel and are on a road that leads to an eternal hell. So this second problem is why we’ve called this Secret Church “The Great Imbalance,” in light of the Great Commission. I want to pause and ask Mariah to give us a quick overview of what the Great Imbalance means, then I want to come back to these booklets and unpack it, letting it soak in to our minds and hearts.
Mariah: So when we use the phrase, “The Great Imbalance,” what are we talking about? Let’s start with the basics. The Great Commission. When the resurrected Christ stood on the side of a mountain in Galilee and said, “Go, make disciples of all nations,” it wasn’t a suggestion; it was a commandment. Jesus even promised that before He comes back, we will accomplish His commission. So we’re talking about the most important mission in the world.
Today on planet earth, there are 7.75 billion people; of those over three billion are unreached, meaning they have zero access to the gospel. Most of them will be born, live and die without ever hearing about Jesus. That’s around 40% of the world’s population. We break the whole population down into people groups that share language, culture, tribe, etc. Every single people group can be put in one of two categories: reached or unreached. The Great Commission involves taking the number of unreached people groups to zero.
Now, in order to accomplish any task, it takes determination, a plan and resources, but this is where you’ll find the Great Imbalance. Today there are hundreds of millions of Christ followers in the world, people who understand and want the Great Commission to be accomplished. That’s you, me and every Bible-believing church you’ve ever heard of. These believers donate hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars to their churches around the world. This money goes to pay for things like electricity, food, water, staff, missions—even things like hand bells. I mean.
Of the hundreds of billions of dollars given to these Bible-believing churches, roughly $47 billion is already allocated to missions to the nations. But we don’t just give money. Around 400,000 people are working as missionaries to the nations.
Now here’s where it all starts to fall apart. Remember our two groups: reached and unreached? Of these missions resources—people and money already specifically set aside for missions to the nations— only 1% of the money and 3% of the missionaries go to unreached people in the world. That means 99% of our missions money and 97% of our missionaries are going to people who already have the gospel. This is the Great Imbalance.
With the world’s population growing at the rate it is now, every day we’re losing more ground than we gain. This is why the global church needs a new perspective on how and where we spend our resources if we want to truly obey the Great Commission.
David: You just saw and heard about this Great Imbalance. Let this soak in. Let’s recap, to make sure we’re all on the same page. The world population is approximately 7.75 billion people of which over three billion are unreached with the gospel. That’s about 40% of the world’s population. We don’t have time tonight to go into where all these numbers come from, but there are talented people in the missions world who live in these numbers, including some of our staff at Radical. They could spend hours telling you how we come to these numbers, if you want to know.
Now, in terms of people groups, the Joshua Project—whom Radical has partnered with on many of these numbers—tracks unreached people groups. They identify over 17,000 distinct people groups in the world, people who share a common language and cultural characteristics. Out of these 17,000+ people groups, over 7,000 are classified as unreached.
We’ve already seen those numbers about the unreached, but now, put them together with these numbers about the church we just heard. The number of missionaries sent from churches to other nations today is approximately 400,000, Christians who are classified as missionaries who have moved somewhere else for the spread of the gospel. But what is the percentage of those missionaries who are working among unreached people? The answer to that question is approximately 3%. That’s 11,000 or 12,000 missionaries going to the unreached and over 380,000 going to the reached.
I want to be very careful and clear here. I want to honor all the men and women who have moved their lives and families to minister in all kinds of places around the world. Praise God for His grace in them! We honor them as the church, wherever they’re serving now, as well as others who will go to reached places in the future. At the same time, surely more than 3% of missionaries in the church should go to the over three billion people who have never heard the gospel. At some point, this needs to shift in a major way if we actually want to make disciples of all the nations.
That’s the missionaries. Now let’s think about the money. We’re talking here about giving to missions, not just giving to the church altogether. Giving in the church altogether is in the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that go toward church buildings, church staffs and church programs—all kinds of things within the church.
Now we want to specifically talk about giving to missions to work in other nations. The amount of giving to missions by Christians in churches is approximately $47 billion every year.
The percentage of that missions giving that’s going to the unreached is approximately 1%. In other words, when Christians and churches give to missions today, we’re giving 99% of our resources to places where the gospel has already gone. That’s a lot to take in.
Look at this map with me. This map pictures the world in terms of reached and unreached. The green areas of this map are the places in the world that are classified as reached by the gospel. Now, keep in mind this obviously doesn’t mean everybody in the green areas is a follower of Jesus. We know there are millions of people in those parts of the world, including the United States, who are not followers of Jesus. But by God’s grace, there are churches and Christians in these places.
The yellow areas on this map are the places in the world that are classified as minimally reached. That means there is a weaker or struggling church in those places, but there is at least some gospel access.
Then the red areas are the places in the world that are classified as unreached, meaning there’s little to no gospel access among people in those places. That’s where the three billion people in 7,000 people groups predominantly live. That is the Great Imbalance. The church is sending 99% of our money and 97% of our missionaries mainly to areas that are green, some to areas that are yellow, but not to areas that are red those who are unreached by the gospel.
To take this even one step further, as if this isn’t enough, follow this. What all this means is, problem number three.
Problem #3 – The number of unreached people is higher now than ever before and will continue to increase until Christians and churches decide to change how we use our resources.
That’s a big statement.
Let’s think about why this is true. The world population is increasing, including the population among unreached peoples and places. The current rate of missions spending and giving is nowhere close to keeping up with the population increases, particularly among unreached peoples and places. This means that unless something changes—tectonic changes—more people than ever before in history will go to hell without ever hearing how to go to heaven.
Two Conclusions relating to The Great Imbalance
Are we getting this? I want to make sure we’re understanding this Great Imbalance by looking at these two conclusions.
Conclusion #1 – If we are going to obey the Great Commission, we must rectify the Great Imbalance.
Brothers and sisters, here’s why this is important for all of us. The purpose of God is to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all His glory. This should be the purpose of our lives and our churches. If we do not rectify the Great Imbalance, we will disobey the Great Commission as the people of God in our day, disregard the ultimate purpose of God in the world and miss the ultimate purpose of our lives.
Brothers and sisters, as carefully as I can possibly say it, I would change this wording around to say, “We are disobeying the Great Commission in our day. We are right now disregarding the purpose of God in the world. And we are missing the ultimate purpose of our lives.” We’re missing the whole point of what Jesus told us before He ascended into heaven. We’re ignoring the whole purpose for which He died on the cross, and spurning the commission for which He has called us to live.
That’s one conclusion and it leads to the second. This conclusion is what this night is all about. This night is not just about uncovering problems; this night is about being part of the solution.
Conclusion #2 – You and your church have a unique and significant part to play in rectifying the Great Imbalance, obeying the Great Commission and achieving the ultimate purpose of God in the world.
I wish I could look you in the eye and just say this as personally as possible. In an Esther-like way, God has put you and me in this time, in this place, with greater opportunities than ever before, to reach more people than ever before—if only we will take it.
I think about the reach of technology, the ease of travel, globalization, urbanization of the world, the unprecedented wealth in the world that God has entrusted to us, particularly those of us who are in the West. We have opportunities like never before in the history of the world to rectify this Great Imbalance, to obey this Great Commission and see the great purpose of God become a reality.
Here’s the deal. We say this all the time in Secret Church. We don’t want to just hear God’s Word during these few hours; we want to respond to it. We’re going to spend the rest of tonight thinking about what this means for each of our lives, each of our families and each of our churches. Together, in all these thousands of places, where all of us are gathered around the world, we’re going to do something a little different.
We usually take up a Secret Church offering later in the night that goes 100% to work around the world, but tonight I want to set this offering up now in a way that we’re able to give all night long. Here’s what I want to invite us to give to. Radical is establishing a training center in the heart of the unreached world that will be designed to help rectify this Great Imbalance. It will be a training center for missionaries who are going to the most unreached people in the hardest to reach places in the world.
Part of what makes this training center unique is it will be located in one of those places. For security reasons I’m not going to say exactly where it is, but just picture the heart of the unreached. We want to be part of training front line, Seal Team Six type missionaries there. We want to bring in indigenous and oftentimes persecuted brothers and sisters who live and work among the hardest to reach, to train, equip, encourage and support them, then send them back out.
In other words, this is one way—among many others that we’re going to talk about in the next two sessions—that we can play a part in rectifying this Great Imbalance. I just want to set the stage for that, encouraging and challenging us to give along these lines throughout the night. Mariah will tell you more about the details in a minute. Then on a much bigger picture level, here’s what I want us to close with one big prayer.
One prayer – God, please use this night to bring about a tectonic shift in the way we view the purpose of our lives and churches in this world.
So to put everything we’ve walked through in a pretty full, heavy session to start off the night, I want us to pray together.
God, please use this night to bring about a tectonic shift in the way we view the purpose of our lives and our churches in this world, for each of us, every single one of us. Not just missionaries, not just people with this or that amount of money, but all of us. Each one of us have been created by God, called, commissioned by Jesus Himself. Each one of us is to play a part in the accomplishment of God’s ultimate purpose in the world: enjoying and exalting His glory among all the nations.
Here’s what I want to invite us to do as we close out this first session. We’ve heard a lot from God’s Word, I pray accurately and fully. Now I want us to have some time to pray according to His Word, together, in all the places where we are gathered. Maybe you’re alone, but I want you to spend some time in prayer just between you and God. If you’re with a small group of people, do this together. If you’re in a larger group, you can get into smaller groups.
I want us just to spend a few minutes, so don’t jump to a break early. Don’t think, “Okay, this session is over.” It’s not over yet. We would be missing the whole point if we hear all these things and don’t let them sit in our hearts before God, crying out to Him based on His Word. There are going to be some prayer prompts on the screen. Pray according to what God has said in His Word, what we’ve just walked through over these last few minutes. Let’s ask God together to bring about a needed tectonic shift in our lives, in our families and in our churches. Let’s call out to God with one voice and one heart, alone or in a small group, for Him to do whatever He desires to do in our lives.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come before you in humility and feeling overwhelmed by the reality that at this moment there are billions of people that are dying without having had the opportunity to hear and respond to your Word of Truth. People that, like us, who have been created to have an eternal relationship with you. People, like us, who are prisoners and dead in their sins, and that will remain dead if they never get the opportunity to hear that Christ died for them. To give them forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and freedom.
Father, it is very clear from your Word that you have given your people, your children, the mandate to go and proclaim the gospel, and to make disciples in all the nations of those who have not yet heard. Father, we thank you for those who throughout history have responded in obedience to this commandment. But today, Father, we have an enormous burden as we realize that there is a still great imbalance between those who have not heard and the efforts of your church. Father, we want to ask you that you will powerfully move us tonight.
Lord, allow your church to be willing and open to recalibrate its understanding, help us to rectify our efforts, and help to redirect the resources that you have given us. Father, we are begging you to act powerfully and produce a tectonic shift among us, that you will transform and redirect the current trajectory of your church. Father, we are begging that you will change the percentages and that you would increase the 1%. Father, that we would hear your Spirit calling us to shift our trajectory and change it.
Father, we know we cannot do this on our own. We need you to transform us in our minds, our attitudes, and our actions. So, we ask you tonight to continue using your Word to produce a change that truly redirects your church to where you are working. Father, ask these things in the precious name of Jesus and we trust that you will act powerfully. Amen.
Session 1 Discussion Questions
1. As we think about the purpose of our lives and our churches, why is it important to begin with God’s purpose for all that he has made?
2. In light of Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), why is it important for us to see that the word “nations” is a reference to people groups rather than the nearly 200 countries in the world today?
3. All people have been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). How should this truth affect our view of the church’s mission?
4. What kind of motivation does the book of Revelation give us for the church’s mission among all nations? (Hint: see the ethnic makeup of those who have been redeemed in Revelation 5:9)
5. Why is it good news that God seeks his own glory in all that he does?
6. How will the church’s mission suffer if we do not see God as supremely beautiful and glorious?
7. What’s wrong with the idea that God only began caring about the nations in the New Testament? What are some Old Testament passages you would use to support your answer?
8. Why isn’t a strong desire to evangelize necessarily an indication that you should be a missionary?
9. What’s wrong with the idea that the Great Commission is primarily for pastors and missionaries?
10. Given your life circumstances, what does “making disciples” look like practically for you?
11. What are some truths we should emphasize as we teach people what it means to follow Christ?
12. Why is it critical that we see the church as central to the Great Commission? Why must making disciples among all nations result in multiplying churches among all nations?
13. What is the difference between being “unreached” and being “lost”? Why is this distinction important for the church’s mission?
14. How can the unreached stand guilty before God if they’ve never heard the gospel? How does our view of the spiritual state of the unreached affect the church’s mission? 15. In your own words, what is the Great Imbalance? How might God be leading you and your church to address the Great Imbalance?