FIRST-PERSON: 'How are they to hear?'
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Most of us are very familiar with the words of Paul in chapter 10 of Romans, "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:13-15a ESV).
Paul is concerned that every person in every people group might hear the Gospel. He shared John's vision. "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 …" (Revelation 7:9, ESV).
Scripture clearly tells us that someone is to be sent to every tribe and nation and language and people in order that they might hear the Gospel and have opportunity to call on Jesus, to believe and to be saved. The most fundamental element of the missionary task is to take the Gospel to those who have not yet had the opportunity to hear and believe.
A few years ago we thought the Gospel might be accessible to every people group by 2010. However, as we approach the end of 2010, we are still far from that goal. More than 6,400 people groups still have no access to the beautiful truth of Jesus Christ. They languish in their sin without the knowledge that there is forgiveness, that there is hope, that there is a God who loves them.
They await the words of salvation yet have no idea what they are waiting for.
The Bible is not available in their language. In most cases there is no church to be found in the places where most members of that people group live. In other cases there may be a church, but not a church where their language is spoken or their culture understood. There are no Christian radio or television broadcasts in their language. The Gospel simply is not accessible to them. No one has preached the Gospel to them.
The goal of every people group having the Gospel available is not our goal -- it is God's goal.
"The Lord is ... patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). But we are not there yet!
It is God's desire that every people should have the Gospel. His Word promises that there will be believers from among every people group. It is our responsibility as His followers to obediently be about the task of fulfilling that desire and seeing that promise accomplished.
To be satisfied with anything less is unthinkable.
Our focus must not be on the multitudes of people who have come to the Lord in recent years, or on the thousands of new churches started, or even on the hundreds of people groups who have received the Gospel for the first time. Rather, like Paul, we must forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.
Our focus must be on the task that remains -- the untold millions of people in thousands of people groups to whom we have yet to take the words of life. They now live a hopeless life, lost in their sin, on their way to an eternity in hell. They are desperately waiting for the truth that gives an opportunity to believe and to experience abundant life here and for eternity.
We are not there yet. We must press forward, in His strength, that all may know.
Clyde Meador is interim president of the International Mission Board.