Unreached People: Not a Missions Problem - Radical

Unreached People: Not a Missions Problem

Over 3 billion people in the world today have little or no access to the gospel—we refer to them as the unreached. It’s easy to look at this staggering number of unreached people and label it as a missions problem, but this is a problem that actually runs deeper. This is a discipleship problem. In this message from David Platt based on Matthew 28:18–20 and Revelation 7:9–10, David Platt helps us see the massive number of unreached people as a discipleship problem. Every follower of Christ should desire to obey Jesus, and this obedience involves living our lives and using our resources for the sake of making disciples among every people group on the planet.

This message was given at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Before we dive into the Word, I would just say it’s pure joy to get up early in the morning and come to Southeastern Seminary. I am so thankful for this place. I am so thankful for Dr. Akin, for numerous faculty and staff here who are friends of mine and have had profound influence in my life, including my spiritual father in ministry, Jim Shaddix. So I love the faculty, staff and students of this school, and I’m honored to be back here today. 

If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does—I invite you to open with me to Matthew 28, although I hope you have this passage memorized. As a heads up, I don’t intend to do an exposition of this entire passage. Instead, I intend to focus on three words and their development over the rest of the New Testament. Through these words, I hope to lift your eyes to people and places far from where we are right now in the world, which is admittedly hard for us to do, for many reasons. One, we have a lot going on in our lives and families. In just this room, how many of us are walking through something in our lives or families right now that’s really heavy? Maybe even to the point of being hard to get up some mornings. Without going into details, I would just say I’m there. 

Then we have a lot going on in our churches, communities, schools. How many of us are walking through challenges in school, studies, church, community, that feel overwhelming? I’m guessing that’s a lot of us too. Which means it’s hard, in the day to day, to lift our eyes to people and places far from our lives, families, churches and communities—our world right around us. So I want to encourage you, amidst all of those needs, to praise God that you have the gospel. The gospel is good. The grace of God is sufficient for every single need in your life, your family, your church and your community. 

Over the next few minutes, I want to lift your eyes to over three billion people in the world who right now don’t have this gospel, who are walking through the same hurts and heartaches—in many ways deeper hurts and heartaches—but they don’t have the gospel. They’ve never heard the good news of who Jesus is and how much he loves them.

So we’re not talking about people who have heard of Jesus and rejected him. We’re talking about the more than three billion people who have not even heard of him and who currently don’t have access to the good news about him. They don’t have one Christian or one church near them who can share the gospel with them. We call them ‘unreached.’

Here’s the other reason I think this is hard, and will be hard to hear in the next few minutes. As soon as I mention unreached people in the world, we immediately think about missions and missionaries. We put this conversation in a category of a missions sermon. We do this subtly, almost unknowingly, in a way that allows us to excuse ourselves from its implications. This kind of thinking is not good for us and ultimately this kind of thinking is damning to the nations. I want you to think about this with me. 

During the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization in 1974—almost 50 years ago—a man named Ralph Winter trumpeted the need for focus on unreached people groups. In the 50 years since that, we have talked about unreached people, researched unreached people, held innumerable conferences on unreached people, turned entire mission organizations upside down to focus on unreached people. Yet 50 years later, there are more unreached people in the world today than when all of that started. Do you realize this? There are more unreached people in the world today than 50 years ago. And there are more unreached people in the world today than ever before in history. This is happening on our watch. World population is increasing, including the number of unreached people, and the church is nowhere close to keeping up with what it will take to reach them. This should clue us in that maybe something is seriously wrong with the way we’re thinking and talking about missions; about the way we are doing it. 

Here is a map that I hope you’re familiar with. The green areas in this map represent areas in the world that are reached by the gospel. Obviously it doesn’t mean that everybody in those places is a Christian. We know that. But these are places where the gospel has gone, where Christians live, where churches have been planted, where the gospel is able to spread. People have access to the gospel in these green areas. 

The yellow areas represent places in the world that are less reached by the gospel. Usually it’s going in one of two directions. Either there used to be a lot of gospel access in those places, but the church’s influence has weakened and there’s less gospel access. So you see parts of Europe like that. Or it’s going the other way. Maybe the gospel has more recently gone there, but it’s still a weak church with relatively little gospel access around it.

Then you have the red areas in the world, which is where the more unreached people in the world live. No map like this is perfect, but that area represents approximately 3.2 billion people. Practically what this means is if you live in one of these red areas, the likelihood is you’ll be born, you’ll live and you’ll die yet never even hear the gospel.

Remember, this is why we should not say, “I don’t know why we’re talking about unreached people around the world; there are unreached people in my office, in my neighborhood.” Those people are not unreached. You ask, “How do you know?” Because they’re in your office or your neighborhood. They have access to the gospel. Through you! People are not unreached here. People are lost here in North Carolina, in Metro Washington, DC, just like they are in Saudi Arabia or Somalia. The difference is there are Christians and churches in North Carolina and Metro Washington, DC. There are not Christians and churches in most parts of Saudi Arabia or Somalia. As a result, if you live in a place like that in the red, the likelihood is you’ll be born, you’ll live and you’ll die without ever even hearing the gospel. Do we feel the weight of what this means? 

We’re talking about three billion people, just like you and me, who are being born, living and dying without ever hearing the gospel. We know from God’s Word that they cannot be saved from their sin if they don’t hear the gospel. Romans 10 tells us, “Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of Christ.” They won’t hear the word of Christ if somebody doesn’t go and share it with them.

We, as the church of Jesus Christ, in our day, on our watch, are practically ignoring them. I believe this is true anecdotally. Most Christians have not prayed for unreached people this week in your time alone with the Lord. Most Christians may not even know about unreached people in the world. If they do know about them, they don’t really think about them. 

We don’t talk about them a lot in most churches. We don’t pray for them in our church gatherings. We don’t give resources to reach them. Only a tiny percentage of Christians consider going to them. That’s not just anecdotal. There’s data that makes this clear. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Well, where’s our treasure? As Christians in our country, we spend most of our treasure on ourselves. We give a small percentage of our treasure to churches or ministries—and most of that we spend on making the church comfortable for ourselves. Then a small percentage of what we give to churches and ministries goes to a line item we call “missions.” But did you know—this is speaking broadly—out of the amount U.S. churches give to missions, approximately 98-99% of that money actually goes to green areas in the world. Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Europe, even parts of Asia. We give to missions, then in the name of missions we ignore the people who most need the gospel. 

We’ve created a whole church culture that’s content to practically ignore three billion people who never heard gospel. We’re content to focus on our lives, our families, our churches—where we have the gospel—while we throw relative pennies, sending a small number of people to those who’ve never heard the gospel. Then  we celebrate that as missions. 

I do want to be really careful and clear here. I praise God specifically for the IMB and all that goes to the unreached through the IMB. I praise God for all the missionaries, brothers and sisters I know and love, who are serving with the IMB. At the same time, I’m convinced that the way we have talked—and I include myself in this—about missions has contributed to this problem. Because the reality of unreached people is not ultimately a missions problem. The reality of unreached people is ultimately a discipleship problem. 

Three billion people in the world are unreached by the gospel still, not because we don’t have enough missionaries. Three billion people in the world are unreached by the gospel today because we don’t have enough Christians who are actually following Jesus. Another way to put this is what unreached people need are not hundreds or thousands more missionaries working to get the gospel to them. Unreached people need hundreds of thousands—millions upon millions of Christians—working to get the gospel to them. Do you see the difference? 

The church of Jesus Christ must wake up and realize this is what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to be a disciple maker for the nations. The church of Jesus Christ and every Christian in it needs to realize we’re all here for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Until we wake up and realize this, more and more people—multitudes more—will plunge into everlasting suffering without ever even hearing of the One who gives eternal life. We need a total reorientation in our day around what it means to follow Jesus in this world. 

Let me show you this—straight from the mouth of Jesus—through the story of the church in the Bible. We know these were Jesus’ last words to his disciples in the book of Matthew: “All authority on heaven and 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.” Of all nations—panta ta ethne—of all the ethnic groups. Not nations like we think of geopolitical entities, countries today. He’s talking about all the ethnic groups of the world: tribes, languages, peoples. The Berbers of Morocco. The Fulani of Nigeria. The Pashtun of Afghanistan. And on and on and on. Thousands of them. Some say there are over 11,000 distinct people groups in the world; others say over 16,000 distinct people groups in the world. And Jesus said, “Make disciples of all of them.” That’s not a general command to make disciples among a lot of people. That’s a specific command to make disciples among all the peoples and places in the world. 

Then in Mark 16:15 (yes, I realize there’s debate about its inclusion in the book of Mark), these words certainly echo Matthew 28. Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Then Luke 24:45-47 says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘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, beginning from Jerusalem.” Do you see this? This is part of the essence of the gospel itself. This is good news for all the nations that must be proclaimed to all of them. 

Luke picks this up in Acts 1:8 with what Jesus says to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus made it clear, “My disciples will all—every one of them—have supernatural power to be disciple makers among the nations, among all the peoples and places, to the ends of the earth.” 

This then leads to the whole story of the church in the book of Acts. We know the gospel spreads in Jerusalem for the first seven chapters of Acts. Stephen is stoned, which then leads to what? A scattering of disciples into where? Judea and Samaria. Look at Acts 8:1 and 8:4: “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Do you see that? The gospel spreads to Judea and Samaria, not through a special group of missionaries, but through everyday Christians proclaiming the word wherever they go in Judea and Samaria. 

This then leads to Acts 11:19 where we read, “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.” There they are, scattering, spreading the word because this is what Christians do. They were scattering, speaking the word to all these different people—specifically to no one except Jews—until “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.” Do you see it? Now the word is spreading to the nations beyond the Jewish people, then Hellenists—Greeks—believed and turned to the Lord. This was happening through Christians preaching Jesus. 

Then what happens in Antioch, just a couple of chapters later in Acts 13?

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God…

Yes, here in Acts 13, God specifically called Paul and Barnabas to go out from Antioch, but the narrative is clearly written to show us the whole church was involved in this thing. What happened as a result? Well, this is the story of the church. They left Antioch and went down to Cyprus. Once they got there, they proclaimed the word, they made disciples and they gathered them together in a church. Then they moved on up to Pisidia Antioch in the north, down to Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and all these places. Everywhere they went, they were making disciples and gathering them together in churches—new places, new people coming to know Christ. Then they went back to Antioch in Acts 14, where they were encouraging the church there.

Next you have the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15, then in Acts 16 you have another journey. This time there’s a little conflict in the church, so now we have two missionary teams. Paul takes Silas with him, and they pick up Timothy along the way. They go to some of the same places they’ve been before, where they’re encouraging the church. 

What happens in Acts 16:6-10? Paul starts to go in one direction but the Spirit stops him. He starts going in another direction but the Spirit stops him. He has a vision from a man in Macedonia saying, “Come over here and help us.” So he concludes, “God is calling us to go to more places where the gospel has not gone yet.” So they go up into Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, down into Athens, Corinth, Ephesus—all these places we recognize from the New Testament. They’re making disciples and planting churches in all these places. New people, new places. The church is pressing on where the gospel has not gone before. 

Then they head down to encourage the church in Jerusalem and back up to Antioch. That sets the stage for a third journey, again leaving from Antioch. But you’ll notice on this third journey, Paul doesn’t cover any new territory. He’s just encouraging the same people, until he gets to Corinth. Then he writes a letter to whom? Not the Corinthians because he’s in Corinth. He doesn’t have to write a letter to them because he’s with them. He writes Romans from there. 

New Testament professors are really discouraged right now. “Why Romans when he’s in Corinth?” Well, I’m glad you asked. This is a glorious picture of the gospel, but is it just for that? No. It’s more than that. It’s more than just a glorious picture of the gospel. He says, “I’m on my way.” Look at the end of Romans. He tells us why he wrote the letter: “I’m on my way down to Jerusalem with an offering I’m taking there, then once I take the offering there for these starving saints in Jerusalem, I’m coming to you.” Why write Romans? Why is he coming to them at this point? Well, look at what he says in Romans 15:

19 From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you

Paul is at Corinth and he’s headed to Jerusalem. He says, “After I go there, I’m coming to you in Rome. But my goal is not to stop in Rome. I’m coming to you in Rome because I need you to help me get to Spain.” Why Spain? Because there’s no gospel in Spain. There aren’t Christians and churches in Spain. And Paul knows the command of Jesus is to keep pressing on where the gospel has not gone. He says a pretty outlandish statement: “Since I no longer have any room for work in these regions.”

Are you serious? No work to be done there? He’s in Corinth, for crying out loud. The place is messed up. There’s so much need for work there. 

What’s Paul saying? He’s saying, “The gospel is there. There are churches there. There are Christians there.” We as the body of Christ don’t have the option of staying in places where the gospel has gone. We’ve got to keep pressing on, working together to get the gospel where it has not gone. We want to go where Christ has not been named, so those who’ve never been told of him will see, so those who have never heard will understand. That’s what the command is that we’ve been given. Are you seeing this? 

The great commission from Jesus was not a general command to just make a lot of disciples in the world. It was a specific command to make disciples among all the nations, all the peoples, all the places. 

This is not a perfect illustration, but I do think it’s helpful. You know the difference between a hurricane and a tornado. A hurricane hits a large swath of land and everything in its path. A tornado is much more selective. It can come through and hit one house but not the house right next to it; it can hit one neighborhood but not the neighborhood right next to it. Well, imagine a tornado comes through a particular region and totally ravages this community right here. Then it keeps going and ravages another community here. Then it keeps going and does the same thing with a community over here. Imagine you’re head of rescue operations on the ground. You and your team get to this first community, then you realize there are more needs in that other community than you can even begin to address. You’re not going to be able to rescue everybody here, so you start thinking, “Well, if I send some of our team there, it’s going to take them time to travel. I don’t know how they’re going to get there. There will be challenges, but that’s time when we could be rescuing people here.” Then you think about another community way over there that was hit by a tornado. Not only will it take more time to get there, but you hear the people in that community, well, some of those folks will try to keep you from rescuing them; they will kill your team if you try to send rescue there.

So, just using common sense, what do you do? You stay right here and work to rescue as many people as possible. The only reason you would split up and send some here and some over there is if your commanding officer says, “I want people rescued from every single community.” When he says that, you don’t have the option of just focusing here. No, you need to focus on all the areas. Now you’re thinking, “Okay, who’s going to stay here? Who is going to the second community? Who is going to risk their lives to go over there to that third town?”

This is Paul saying, “We’ve got to keep pressing on where the gospel has not gone.” It’s not tolerable to Paul that there are people who have not heard the name and the truth about Jesus. It’s not tolerable to Christians for that to be the case in the world. We work together to change that.

This is where the New Testament ends. Paul makes it to Rome, although not the way he planned. He makes it to Rome in chains and for all we know he never got to Spain. The story of Acts ends there. But we have John, at the end of the Bible, exiled on an island, and what does he write as part of his last words to Christians? See this in 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!”

In other words, church, don’t take your eyes off this vision. All the nations, all the tribes, all the peoples, all the languages. Keep working! Keep working, all of you, until the gospel goes to all of them; until they’re all singing this song. Is it not the clear message of the Bible that every follower of Jesus is to live with this vision in mind? That every follower of Jesus is to scatter into this world, wherever the Holy Spirit leads, making disciples who make disciples? Until all the nations, tribes, peoples and languages are brought into the kingdom.

So why are we not doing this today? Why is this goal not consuming us today? Why are we saying, with three billion unreached people in the world, “We’ll send a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, missionaries to them”? 

By the way, we’re doing this in a narrow, predominantly white, Western, wealthy model of sending them. Again, to be clear, that’s not intended to denigrate what God has done and is doing right now in the world. But surely more is needed than what this kind of model can support. Surely, there’s a better, fuller answer to this—and there is. There’s a biblical answer to this. 

We all need to start following Jesus for the sake of his name among all the nations. We all need to realize this is why we have breath, to pray like Jesus taught us to pray. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name in all the earth, among all the peoples. Cause your name to be known and enjoyed and exalted as holy among the Berber, among the Fulani, among the Pashtun and thousands of other people groups who don’t know the name of Jesus right now.” This is how not just a few people pray; this is how Christians should pray. This is how churches should pray. We should gather together to plead for more workers to go into the harvest field, for salvation to go to the ends of the earth. 

Is the spread of the gospel and the glory of God among specific unreached people groups and places in the world a constant part of your prayer life, a constant part of your family’s prayer life? If not, let today be the day that changes for you. Let your Christianity change to revolve around praying for what God has called us to pray for and told us is the ultimate goal in all of history. Become an intercessor for the nations because you’re a follower of the Intercessor for the nations. 

Then to the extent God gives you influence and leadership in his church, lead his people to pray for the nations. As we pray, let’s put our treasure toward the nations. God help us. We live in one of the wealthiest societies ever to exist on planet earth. Let’s not waste it on earthly pleasures that are all going to burn up. Let’s spend our resources on eternal treasure that will never, ever, ever end.

Personally, in our churches, alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in the red who are doing this work, let’s make this our Christianity. We’re praying like this. We’re giving like this. We’re going like this. We’re making disciples of the nations, starting right where we live. We are disciple makers for the nations in our spheres of influence. Every disciple a disciple maker for Jesus.

God, deliver us from a spectator mentality in the church. Raise up businessmen and women, teachers, engineers, factory workers, entrepreneurs, work-at-home moms and dads who are all disciple makers for the nations wherever we live. This means, by the way, that we don’t just make disciples and grow churches filled with people who look like us. Let us not be content with the segregation of churches in our country by the color of our skin when we’ve been given this clear command to cross ethnic and racial boundaries with the blood of Jesus Christ. 

God, open our eyes specifically to how you’re sovereignly bringing the nations to us. 

God is bringing people from these red area to our front doors. Yet—I want to step carefully here too, having pastored for years now in Metro DC—why is it that, statistically speaking, evangelical Christians are the most resistant to people coming to our country from red nations in the world? What do we want more: the preservation of our nation or the proclamation of the gospel and the glory of our God among all the nations? What is driving us? God has brought people who have never heard the gospel right outside our front doors? Let’s step fully into the opportunity God has given us right where we live, then wherever he leads us. 

This is where we realize that there are more unreached people today than ever before in history. There are more opportunities to reach them than ever before in history. Do you realize the time and place we are living in right now? Paul never could have imagined this. It took him how long to travel from one city to the next, by boat, and it didn’t always go very well? He never could have fathomed a machine that could pick you up and take you through the air just about anywhere in the world in a day. He’d be like, “Are you serious? It will take you through the sky?” Yes. We can do that. 

How long did it take him to write a letter, or dictate it, have it sent, be delivered, have people hear it, respond to it, then send a response back? He never could have fathomed a world in which we can communicate with people just about anywhere on the planet, in real time, in multiple languages, through a device in our pockets. “You can do all that from right there?” It’s amazing! We haven’t even gotten into goggles yet and everything else that’s coming. Think of the opportunities we have—travel, technology, urbanization. 

Do we realize that just two centuries ago, a tiny percentage of the world lived in cities? Now in over half the world, God has brought the peoples to cities, to places where the gospel is able to spread from the cities to all kinds of different places like never before. Urbanization. Globalization of today’s marketplace. Opportunities for work around the world. Opportunities we have from the church in our country for people in red countries. Do we realize this?

There are people in red areas who will pay Christians to come spread the gospel. Now, they don’t know they’re paying you for that purpose, but that’s the point. Just go get a job and be a Christian, be a disciple maker for the nations—not by leaving your job, but by leveraging your job. Realize all the opportunities we have—short-term, mid-term, long-term. Go to the red nations through more opportunities than ever before in history. Get the gospel to them. 

What are we going to do with this? Let’s steward it to the fullest in our lives. Let’s raise our kids to steward this to the fullest. Let’s tell kids about unreached people in the world, telling them that’s what they are made for rather than coasting down a nice Christian version of the American dream. “No, you’re made for so much more than that. You’re made for the glory of God among the nations. You’re going to be able to get degrees that will open doors for the spread of the gospel among the nations. Let’s think through—what does that look like in your life. Let’s pray.” This is the kind of Christianity we want our kids to grow up in, where their heart beats for the spread of Jesus’ fame among all the peoples of the world.

Have you seen the 17 or 18-year-old Mormon, high school graduate? She’s on iPhone video, reading a letter that’s telling her where she’s going to spend the next two years of her life on mission. She reads it and gets to the point where it says she’s going. She’s shaking with nervous excitement. She’s smiling. She reads where she’s going and the camera pans out on this iPhone video. All her friends and family are there. They start jumping up and down, rejoicing with her, celebrating. She’s going to spend the next two years spreading a false gospel that condemns. There’s a whole culture that’s built to celebrate that. 

When I spend time on college campuses and talk with Christian students about the opportunities among the nations, one of the most prevalent things I hear is, “My Christian parents would not be supportive of that.” This is what I mean by we need a total reorientation of what it means to be followers of Jesus. We’re disciple makers for the nations. That’s who we are. So let’s be finished and done with a brand of Christianity that turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to three billion people who have not even heard the gospel. Brothers and sisters, if they’re going to be reached, it’s not going to be because we changed our approach to missions. It’s going to be because we changed our approach to discipleship. It’s going to be because we realize Christianity is actually living to be a disciple maker for the nations. It’s believing that God has not saved any one of his children to sideline them in the accomplishment of his ultimate purpose in the world. It’s believing that the grace of Jesus Christ isn’t just for people like us, with all we have going on in our lives and our families and our churches. It’s believing the gospel we hold dear is for all the peoples of the world, so we reorient our entire lives, our families, our churches—we reorient the entire Christian faith—around the enjoyment and exaltation of Jesus Christ in all his glory among all the nations. And we see this, not as missions; we see this as following Jesus. 

So I want to leave us with two questions; one that’s focused on you personally and one that’s focused on your leadership in the church.  

First for you personally. What needs to change in your life in order for you to be a disciple maker for all the nations? What needs to change in your prayer life? What needs to change in your usage of treasure? Your priorities? Your perspectives? How is God calling you to be a disciple maker for all the nations, right where you live, right now? Wherever he might lead, through opportunities you have, is He calling you to go short term, mid-term, long term to the red nations? Let me just put it out there. Our churches won’t go to the nations if their leaders aren’t showing them what it looks like to be disciple makers for the nations. So what needs to change personally in you?

Then second, as you steward the leadership position and opportunities God has entrusted to you, what needs to change in your leadership in order to mobilize disciple makers for all the nations? Whatever influence God has given you in his church, how can you steward that influence to mobilize, equip, raise up, encourage, activate and unleash disciple makers for all the nations? 

I’ll give you just a moment to prayerfully reflect on these questions, and I’ll pray for us. 

O God, we praise you for the privilege of being reached with the gospel. We praise you for the hope we have amidst the hurts and heartaches of this world. We praise you, Jesus. We love you, Jesus. We praise you for the invitation in your command to make disciples of all the nations, to join with you in what you are doing for the spread of this hope to people right around us and far from us. God, we pray that you would turn the tide in our day, on our watch. We pray that you would mobilize us, as your church, Jesus—all your church —to do what you have commanded us all to do. 

We don’t want to miss out on this invitation, this mission. So help us, we pray, in each of our lives and in the leadership positions you put us in. Spend us however you desire for the spread of your love, Lord Jesus, among all the peoples of the earth in all the places in the earth. 

We pray for your blessing on those who are living and working among the red nations, some who have moved there, some who live there. God, bless them. Cause the gospel to spread through them today. Bring Berber and Pashtun and Fulani men, women and children to yourself. God, we pray that you would awaken hundreds of thousands, millions more, to join them in that effort. All for the glory of your name we pray. Amen.

Observation (What does the passage say?)

  • What type of writing is this text?
    (Law? Poetry or Wisdom? History? A letter? Narrative? Gospels? Apocalyptic?)
  • Are there any clues about the circumstances under which this text was originally written?
  • Are there any major sub-sections or breaks in the text that might help the reader understand the focus of the passage?
  • Who is involved in the passage and what do you notice about the specific participants?
  • What actions and events are taking place? What words or themes stand out to you and why?
  • Was there anything about the passage/message that didn’t make sense to you?

Interpretation (What does the passage mean?)

  • How does this text relate to other parts of the Scriptures
    (e.g., the surrounding chapters, book, Testament, or Bible)?
  • What does this passage teach us about God? About Jesus?
  • How does this passage relate to the gospel?
  • How can we sum up the main truth of this passage in our own words?
  • How did this truth impact the hearers in their day?

Application (How can I apply this to passage to my life?)

  • What challenged you the most from this week’s passage? What encouraged you the most?
  • Head: How does this passage change my understanding of the Lord? (How does this impact what I think?)
  • Heart: How does this passage correct my understanding of who I am to the Lord? (How should this impact my affections and what I feel?)
  • Hands: How should this change the way I view and relate to others and the world? (How does this impact what I should do?)
  • What is one action I can take this week to respond in surrender and obedience to the Lord?

[Note: some questions have been adapted from One to One Bible Reading by David Helm]

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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