Beyond: Into My World (1) - Blessed to Bless

Next Step Discipleship, pp. 153–160

by David Daniels on

Books 14 min read
Genesis 12:3 Psalm 67:1–2 2 Corinthians 1:3–5

…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Genesis 12:3

God’s heart is for people…all people.

God so loved the world that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save the world. His plan, from the beginning, was not to bless a specific group of people only, but for His blessings to them to flow through them to the nations. When the Lord made His covenant promise to Abram, the benefits were not only for his descendants, but so that “all peoples on earth” would be blessed through them (Genesis 12:3).

This global mission theme is threaded throughout Scripture. God said that He would unleash his power against Pharaoh, so that His “name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). His people Israel were to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6)—mediators to bring the godless everywhere to God. After crossing the Jordan, God’s people set up a memorial “so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful” (Joshua 4:24) and, while living in their land, they were to welcome the alien and stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19).

When the ark of God was brought into Jerusalem, David prayed,

Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (1 Chronicles 16:23-24)

Similarly, Solomon prayed at the temple dedication “that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you” (1 Kings 8:43). The psalmist declares, “proclaim among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 9:11) and, “I will praise you among the nations, O LORD” (Psalm 18:49) and,

The desert tribes will bow before him
    and his enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
    will bring tribute to him;
       the kings of Sheba and Seba
    will present him gifts.
All kings will bow down to him
    and all nations will serve him. (Psalm 72:9-11)

The prophets looked forward to the ultimate Kingdom rule of God. Through Isaiah, the Lord announced that He would make Himself known among the Gentiles:

I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66:9)

And through Malachi, He spoke His eternal purpose:

My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 1:11)

When Jesus was born, angels announced the good news that would be “for all the people” (Luke 2:10), and when Jesus was presented in the temple, Simeon rejoiced, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” (Luke 2:30-31).

Jesus commanded believers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and to the early church, He charged that they would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Paul declared that the Gospel was “first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16) and then came full circle to the Abrahamic Covenant when he wrote, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (Galatians 3:8). Finally, John envisioned a multitude “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Remarkably, these are but a handful among many Scriptures that affirm that God’s goal has always been to reveal His glory among all people. This has been His mission throughout all of history. And, this is the mission God has given His church.

Unreached But Not Unreachable
Unfortunately, though this is God’s Great Commission, there are still many people who have yet to hear the Gospel of Jesus. The “nations” or “peoples” in the Bible refer to the unique people groups scattered across the world. At Babel, languages were confused because of the sinful pride of people (Genesis 11:1-9), and since then, about 13,000 unique ethno-linguistic groups have emerged. In the last 2000 years, approximately 70% of those groups have been “reached” with the Gospel. That is, at least 2% of their population is Christian— a viable witness able to evangelize their own people.

This means that 30% of the world’s population—4000 people groups or about 3 billion people—is “unreached.” They have never heard the Gospel of Jesus and there are no missionaries or churches among them. The great majority of these unreached people (95%) live in the 10/40 Window, the region between 10° and 40° north of the equator. This includes much of China, India, the Middle East and North Africa—people such as the 357,000 Kanuri/Yerwa people in South Sudan, the 132,000 Darzada people in Pakistan, the 3800 Madasi Kuruva people in India and the 200 Samre people in Cambodia.

Imagine so many people, not people who have rejected Jesus, but who have not even heard His name! These people represent the church’s present mission in the world. In Romans 10:14-15, Paul asks, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” For all the nations to hear, the church must go to them.

However, though the need is urgent, many churches continue to focus much of their mission on those who have already been reached with the Gospel. For example, in the United States, 95 cents of every dollar collected for ministry stays in the country. Four and one-half cents is directed to missionary efforts around the world, but this money is directed to those who have already been reached. Only one-half of one cent is directed to reaching unreached people.

Among all churches in the world, only 10% of missionary efforts are directed to unreached people. Of the 430,000 missionaries around the world, only 2-3% of them are ministering among unreached people, and 40% of the global church’s work is taking place within 10 of the most oversaturated countries on the planet. In 100 AD, there were 12 unreached people groups for each young congregation. But, today, there are 1,000 congregations worldwide for each unreached group. It is quite possible to go BEYOND and finish the task.

Reaching the World Beyond
Every church, no matter what its economic resource, geographic region or denominational affiliation, has a gospel mandate to go BEYOND into the world. And, if a church is committed to fulfilling the Great Commission, God will surely honor its desire by making its obedience possible. I’ve seen this firsthand.

In 2012, I traveled with several pastors to Cuba in order to train church leaders. In one location, an American Missions Pastor preached a sermon urging those present to make missions the goal of their churches. Given the political and economic limitations of the Cuban church, we expected their missionary work to be relatively small. However, at the end of the sermon, the group introduced a missionary couple who had been raising support to go to South America and was ready to depart. We saw firsthand that no church is too poor or too restricted to go into the world.

But, where should God’s people focus their efforts? What is the most strategic mission?

Generally speaking, global mission must include two prongs: proclamation and demonstration. In His ministry, Jesus did both. His Gospel came with both word and deed. He preached the Good News and then proved the Gospel with good works. These equal and complimentary sides of mission look like this:

Proclamation    Demonstration
Revelation         Compassion
Good News       Good Works
Preach               Serve
Speak                Act   
Tell                    Show
Pronounce        Prove

Gospel proclamation means that we unapologetically promote the truth of Jesus Christ as Messiah to the world. We must counter false gospels and preach the true Gospel (see chapter 2) by extending the Word of God into every region of the world. Such ministries include Bible translation, evangelistic crusades, door-to-door evangelism, showing the Jesus Film, or using an event to attract an audience who will be open to hearing about Jesus. One missionary friend invites American Christians to perform western dances in the city squares of Spain. These “festivals” are significant family events that include personal testimonies and a clear Gospel presentation as their central feature. Hundreds of people in Spain have begun personal relationships with Jesus Christ as result.

Several years ago, I was invited to teach a parenting conference offered to people who had enrolled their children in a private school in China. The school was operated by a Christian mission, but families were not required to be Christians for their children to attend. The parenting conference was biblically-oriented and the Gospel was clearly presented. In this way, helping mothers and fathers was secondary to the greater goal of proclaiming Jesus.

Every year, a small group from our church travels to another region of the United States to share the Gospel of Jesus with Mormons who have arrived to celebrate an annual festival. The great majority of attendees are thoroughly entrenched in Mormonism, which doesn’t teach the true Gospel of Jesus and salvation by grace alone. Our missionaries weave in and out of the crowds, starting conversations with strangers, hoping to engage attendees with the truth and proclaim Jesus as the only way to God.

There is no substitute for speaking the truth of Jesus where He has not been announced (Romans 1:16, 15:20). In every missionary effort, the church must announce the problem of sin and death and the salvation of Jesus Christ by grace through faith. People cannot be saved unless they hear the Gospel proclaimed.

Gospel demonstration prepares the way for and validates Gospel proclamation. Jesus told His people to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Likewise, Peter commanded, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). Whereas hypocrisy—an inconsistency between personal profession and practice—is one of the greatest deterrents to the Gospel, the church that lives what it believes can be one of the most compelling witnesses.

To demonstrate the Gospel is to live the character of the Gospel: showing grace, forgiveness, sacrifice, service, humility, love, compassion, generosity and blessing to others. It means that Christians live out the blessings of God to others (see Genesis 12:3, Psalm 67:1-2).

Paul describes this “overflow” of blessing in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Gospel demonstration may express itself in many ways: caring for orphans or widows, repairing homes, providing disaster relief, offering a medical clinic among the poor, constructing a water well, or helping college students learn English, just to name a few. Each initiative meets a specific human need in order to prepare hearts for Jesus. As one missionary explained, “No one hears the Gospel on an empty stomach.”

In his 1997 book, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, Rodney Stark observes that the early church gained a credible hearing because of the compassionate way it demonstrated the ethic of the Gospel by meeting physical needs. He notes,

[The] rise to dominance of Christianity in the Roman Empire was greatly facilitated by the smallpox and measles epidemics which hit the Empire in 165 and 251 and killed between 1/4 and 1/3 of the population. While the just and the unjust alike died, the pagan religions, in the persons of their priests, fled the scene, concerned only for self-preservation. The philosophers, too, sat around musing abstractly about the decline of Virtue in an elderly world. People shunned sick relatives and friends, leaving them to die alone and unmourned. Meanwhile, the Christians invested themselves in caring for the sick and dying–even at the cost of themselves getting sick and dying. As well, Christianity provided, via the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the hope of living with Christ forever, a far better foundation for seeing life as meaningful even amidst the horror of the epidemics. While the pagans reacted in sheer terror or prattling acceptance, the Christians lived a life amidst death that powerfully illustrated the superiority of their Faith. Christian nursing of the sick, in turn, greatly aided survival rates during the plagues. The pagans saw a difference in the religions, and many of them wanted what the Christian Faith had to offer. Such a testimony is a significant reason why Christianity triumphed in the ancient world. Its culture was simply superior to that of the pagans.

In the context of this crisis, it was as important for the church to show the Gospel as to speak it.

In 2010, I served with a team of dentists who traveled to Ethiopia to offer their professional services to people in several regions. Over the course of a week, they cleaned teeth, filled cavities and performed extractions on hundreds of people. As patients waited for care, our team shared the story of how God meets all of our needs through His Son, Jesus.

Another team returned to that country and began a partnership with an orphan care ministry to support the work of a church in one region. The team also worked with that church to offer a free health clinic to people in the community. And, learning about the need for a water well in a nearby town, they agreed to adopt this project as a tangible way to meet human need.

Gospel proclamation and Gospel demonstration go hand in hand. To share good news without good works may lack compassion. To do good works without verbally sharing the Good News falls short of the purpose of mission, meeting people’s temporal, physical needs without addressing their eternal, spiritual needs. The missional disciple must always remember that “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17).

To read the next section of this chapter, see Beyond: Into My World (2) - Missional Strategies.

About the Author

Dr. David Daniels (D. Min. Dallas Theological Seminary, M. Div. Denver Seminary) is Lead Pastor of Central Bible Church and author of Next Step Church, Next Step Discipleship, Next Step JournalWonder, and An Unexpected King.