by William Judson
What is the role of the church in the Great Commission? Her role is to go out in the power of the Spirit, in the name of Christ, for the glory of the Father to make disciples of all ethnic groups in the world. Jesus, having been given all authority, promises to be with us as we seek to make disciples (converts) among all the nations. But that raises the question: to whom do we go? Do we go to those who already have access to the gospel, a church on every corner? Are the people in our offices and worksites “unreached?” To understand these questions, we need to go to the Scriptures.
The Great Commission is given to us in Matthew 28. Jesus sends us out in his name, to proclaim his death and resurrection. We see this authority and power manifested in the book of Acts. Specifically in Acts 1:8, Jesus recommissions those gathered by telling them that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. As Acts unfolds we see the apostles going into every town, proclaiming and reasoning with the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah and that he has risen. This proclamation results in persecution, which serves as God’s catalyst to send out workers into his harvest of the nations (Acts 11:19; Matt. 9:37-38).
God’s plan has always been for the nations. From his covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15; 17) to the Great Commission (Matt. 28; Acts 1:8), from Peter’s vision in Acts 10 to the return of Christ (Rev 5; 7). God is seeking to glorify himself among all peoples, tribes, and languages. God has promised that there will be a people from every tribe, language, and nation that will confess that Jesus is Lord and that the Father raised him from the dead. So we go to those who have never heard.
The unreached and unengaged are those with little to no access to the gospel. To bring their utter plight into view I want to paraphrase something I heard David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, say at a conference. He said, “If every Christian in the world were to go out and share the gospel with every person they knew, and that by God’s grace every person truly repented and believed, and then they told every person they knew, and so on, there would still be 2.9 billion unreached and unengaged peoples in the world.” Currently, there are 2.9 billion people in the world who are not giving the glory due to God. There are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world, most of whom, if we’re honest, aren’t Christians. But within that group, about 40%, have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have no access to the Scriptures or a local church. They have probably never met a Christian. They stand condemned before God unless they repent and believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.
In Romans 10, Paul states: “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” As a church, we need faithful senders and faithful goers. We need those to be sent to those who have never heard. We need one another to reach the unreached. We need one another to accomplish Matthew 28 and Romans 15:20. Our aim should be to reach those where Christ has not been named until we have no more work left in this world.
William Judson is a member of FCC.