Great Commission Statistics that Should Concern Us

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Editor’s Note: The following excerpt is adapted from David Platt’s teaching during Secret Church 21, “The Great Imbalance.”

The ultimate purpose of God is to bring people from all nations to enjoy and exalt Him in all of His glory. The plan for accomplishing this purpose is the Great Commission, and the Great Commission will be complete when disciples have been made and churches have been multiplied among every people group. And that’s what every Christian and church should be living for.

But here’s the problem . . . or, more specifically, three problems.

  1.     Over 3 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 even hearing how they can go to heaven.

The term “unreached” does not just mean that people are lost. Unreached means that people don’t have access to the gospel. It’s not that they It’s not that they can hear or have heard the gospel, and they choose not to believe it; it’s that they can’t even hear it because no one around them knows it. Here’s a technical definition of the unreached:

Unreached peoples and places are those among whom Jesus is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Jesus known in its broader population without outside help

Practically, unless something changes, this means unreached people will be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel. This is the kind of people the Bible is talking about in Romans 10:14 when Paul asks (rhetorically) how people can believe in Jesus if they don’t hear about him. It’s why Paul moved on from those regions where churches had been planted and Christians were 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). 

  1.     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 3 billion people in 7,000 people groups who haven’t heard the gospel.

The world population is approximately 7.75 billion people, and only 3 billion of those people—about 40%—are considered unreached. Or, to state it in terms of people groups, over 7,000 of the world’s 17,000 people groups are classified as unreached.

In terms of missionaries sent out, approximately 400,000 Christians are classified as missionaries. Someone is considered a missionary (for the sake of these statistics) if they have moved somewhere else for the spread of the gospel. Out of those 400,000 only 11–12,000—about 3%—are going to unreached peoples.  

That doesn’t mean that those who serve among reached peoples are not worth honoring, but surely more than 3% of missionaries in the church should go to the over 3 billion people who never hear the gospel.

The fact that so few of our financial resources and missionaries are sent to the unreached is what is known as the Great Imbalance.

  1.     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. 

While that’s a big statement, think about why we know it’s true. The world population is increasing, including the population among unreached peoples and places. The current rate of missions sending and giving is nowhere close to keeping up with population increases, particularly among unreached peoples and places. This means that, unless something changes, more people than ever before in history will go to hell without ever hearing how to go to heaven.

If we are going to obey the Great Commission, the Great Imbalance needs to be rectified.  

–To learn more about the Great Imbalance or to register for Secret Church 21, go here.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.
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