Last year we lost two great soldiers of the cross, Parker Henderson, 50 years in Thailand and Trinidad and Doyle Gilliam, 40 years in Malawi and Zimbabwe. It makes me think of Paul’s wise words to give “respect for whom respect is due, honor for whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). A generation of great missionaries is moving on. Many of them went out to the mission field from 1945-1960.
I wonder who will take their place?
The Lord’s summons still stands to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19,20).
And no, beloved, we have not completed the job.
- Go to all Nations: More explicitly, the Lord tells us to go to every ethnic group. The word ethna suggests more than just entering a country, it suggests reaching every group, language, and tribe therein. There are 197 nations in the world (according to the UN). Can we even name them? How many have a church? And even when we reach a nation, have we reached every ethnic group in it?
- Make Disciples: Not just pew warmers. Not just perpetual babes in Christ, but mature, dedicated followers of Jesus. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24). Making disciples includes “teaching them to obey all things” (Matthew 28:20). We don’t dunk them and dump them. We develop them, ground them in the faith, bring them to maturity. That’s mission work! Disciples are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
There are 7.6 billion people on our planet as I write these words. In numerical terms that’s 7,600,000,000. If one were to travel 7.6 billion miles, one would circle the earth 305,209 times. The truth that presses on my heart is that only a very small fraction of those will live with the Lord for eternity. God help us to begin to roll this number back just a little bit.