Thayne Thompson and I recently returned from a very full and fruitful week of meetings with our extended family of Friends from across North America. Representatives from Evangelical Friends Church-North America (EFC-NA) and our mission-sending agency, Evangelical Friends Mission (EFM), gathered at Twin Rocks camp on the Oregon coast to pray and plan together in our corporate pursuit of a common mission as we seek to mobilize Evangelical Friends to “fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.”
I am happy to report that the leadership of EFC-NA and EFM is more unified and passionate in our commitment to our shared mission than at any time in my tenure as an EFC-MAYM superintendent. Because we are all “on the same page,” we are able to devote our undivided attention to the implementation of our Lord’s call to prayerfully identify and deploy new workers for his harvest field, and to provide ongoing support and encouragement for our current workers as well.
One of the realities from this past week that resonates most deeply in my heart and mind is the fact that there are still so many, many people in the world who have yet to hear the good news of the gospel. Our missionaries consistently testify to this fact, as they often have the privilege of introducing Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and others to Jesus … for the very first time!
Having traveled to more than 20 countries on 5 different continents, I have experienced this same phenomenon myself. The first time it happened, during a visit to rural India some 20 years ago, I was both stunned and inspired. I will never forget the looks on the beautiful faces of the precious men, women and children who received the message that day, and I will never forget the change in their countenance as I watched many of them respond so eagerly. There is no greater privilege in this world than to share the gospel with those who have never heard the name of Jesus!
And yet missiologists tell us that there are still way too many who have yet to hear:
- According to the Joshua Project, there are still as many as 7,000 “unreached” people groups in the world today (no indigenous community of believing Christians able to evangelize them).
- Recent data from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention suggests that as many as 3,000 of these ethnic groups are completely “unengaged” as well (no known active, on site church planting effort underway and few, if any, known believers).
- Wycliffe Bible Translators reports that about 1,600 of these people groups have no portion of the Scriptures available in their native language. This is complicated by the fact that an estimated 1 billion adults in the world are illiterate, and most of these are living among the largest concentration of unreached people groups.
- Operation World summarizes the situation by stating the sobering fact that 1/4 of the world’s population (2 billion people) have not yet had the good news presented to them in a way they could appreciate and meaningfully respond to on a personal level.
So what does all of this mean for you and me and our extended family of Friends here in Mid America? It means that our labor is not in vain, and that our sacrificial investments in the work of disciple making and church planting among unreached people here at home and around the world are bearing beautiful fruit for the Kingdom. It also means that we have much, much more work to do, and it must begin on our knees:
“When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Matthew 9:36-38).
I have made it my habit to pray this “harvest prayer” of Jesus on a daily basis for many years now, and I invite you to join me. In the process, I pray that that each and every one of us will be moved with Christ-like compassion to find our place in the Lord’s harvest field, in response to our own prayers. And I pray that we will we do so with a renewed sense of Christ-like urgency, eagerly anticipating that great and glorious day when the Great Commission is finally and fully completed, and we take our place among “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … wearing white robes and … holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
– David O. Williams, Lead Superintendent