Unreached and Unengaged

Matthew 28:16-19a

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. 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….

Many of us have heard these verses often throughout our lives, specifically: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” But what does this really mean? Is this a task we can complete? Is there a particular focus in mind? These are significant questions to be answered, for they will greatly impact our focus within the local church.

These are the very last words of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus had just died and rose from the dead, and is providing his last words to His disciples before ascending into heaven. All eleven now come to the mountain. They all worshipped Jesus, however, some doubted. Really? This is the climax of the gospel. Jesus is literally standing in front of them in His resurrected body after they watched him be brutally crucified. They have been following this man for three years and he has told them over and over that he is going to die, but will rise in three days. He has expounded on the Kingdom of God, He has healed every disease, He has cast out demons, and has even raised people from the dead.

Now He is standing before them, and they still are not yet convinced that He is all that He says He is. Could this not have been incredibly frustrating for Jesus, especially in this moment? Jesus has done everything possible to prepare them, and yet some of them seem to be failing. And this is the moment that Jesus is about to leave them, sending them out to the rest of the world to be His very witnesses. So what is Jesus going to say now?

Jesus begins with: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. You cannot hear a more sweeping authoritative statement. Jesus has faced the depths of God’s wrath, the strongest blows of Satan, and He has been exalted in complete authority over all things. From the movement of the planets in the solar system to subatomic particles we cannot see with the naked eye – Jesus has complete authority over all of it. And this is the foundation the disciples now stand upon. This is the grounding for their feet as they face the difficulties ahead.

Now, Jesus knows about some of their doubt. How is he going to address them regarding this? How concerning is this to Jesus? In this context, Jesus isn’t at all worried. And that’s very good news for us. For we are filled with doubts, frailties, shortcomings, and weaknesses. Namely, just like the eleven disciples, we are sinners in a fallen and broken world. So Jesus decides that He isn’t going to concern himself with these failings, rather, He is going to launch them and unleash them into the world.

He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”. When he says “therefore,” he means, “with the knowledge of my complete authority here’s what I want from you”. With the foundation of his authority, he calls the disciples to “Go”. There is an active thrust here. Clearly as the early church unfolds He doesn’t expect all of them to be full-time cross-cultural missionaries. However, each one of them is being called to play an active role in fulfilling His command.

Jesus isn’t calling us to simply make disciples of whomever, though of course he does. But Jesus says something very particular here. He calls us to make disciples of “all nations”. The Greek behind “nation” is ethne. It is where we get our English word for ethnicity or ethnic groups. Jesus isn’t referring to geo-political states, those didn’t exist yet. The witness of Scripture comes back to people groups. One place we see this is in Revelation 7:9 where, in the throne room, people from every “tongue, tribe, people, and language.” Not one of these will miss out on the blessing of Christ to the world.

Chad is a geo-political country located in North-Central Africa. Within Chad, there are hundreds of people groups. When one of those groups has a flourishing church, there are still hundreds of others that still need the penetration of the gospel into their own language and culture.

The task before us is defined largely by Unreached People Groups and Unengaged People Groups. When a a people group is Unreached, it means that they have very little access to the the gospel. The key term is their level of access. If a people group’s Christian population is 2% or less of the entire population, they are usually classified as an Unreached People Group. They will likely still need outside help and support in order to see the gospel penetrate their people group.

Within the category of Unreached is a subcategory called Unengaged. This refers to people groups that have zero access to the gospel. They have no believers, no Scripture, and no one who has successfully engaged them with the gospel. Within their culture, there is zero access to the gospel apart from a divine work of God.

How many people in the world are Unreached and Unengaged? It is estimated that 30% of the world still has zero access to the gospel. This is over 2 billion people. Just over 1 out of every 4 people in the world have never heard the good news, and have no access to hear the good news. They will live their entire lives without a chance to hear and believe.

This is the task at hand for the Church. We are each called to play some kind of active role in taking the gospel to every people group on the globe. For two thousand years, the church has been striving to complete this Great Commission that Jesus commanded. The job is yet unfinished. As the church, we are called to play an active role. So the question isn’t, “should my church be involved with Unreached and Unengaged People Groups?” Rather, it is “How will my church be involved?”

This 5 minute video by Global Frontier Missions does a fantastic job breaking down the world into Unreached and Unengaged, and explaining what that global church is doing to reach them.

Categories: Topics in Theology