What culture are you from? What language do you speak? How were you raised? What makes your culture and society unique and distinctive? If we were to completely set aside national boundaries, there are 9,808 different cultural groups in the world. That means there are nearly ten thousand distinct groups with their own shared history, their own language, their own set of values, and their own social mores. Which of those groups do you find yourself in? Has it been reached with the gospel?
According to the Lausanne Conference and the Joshua Project a cultural group is considered “unreached” if less than 5% of the people within that culture consider themselves Christians of any type and less than 2% of the population are evangelical Christians. By these numbers about 40%, or 4,065, of the cultural groups in our world are unreached. They do not have a large enough Christian presence to make a significant impact on the culture. On this planet about 3.1 billion people have not received an adequate presentation of the gospel. These are the “mountains” that need to be told.
When Jesus came to this earth, His choice to be born in Bethlehem was not random. Palestine was and is the crossroads for the world. Just a decade before His birth a hundred kilometers away, a port called Caesarea was built. This port was the connection point for the silk road and the Roman Empire. Right in Jesus backyard was a strategic hub that could quickly and easily spread the news of His movement from Spain to China. Not only that, but the culture Jesus chose to be a part of was one that already had a diaspora which had infiltrated into many cities and cultures far and wide in both directions (three directions if you include heading south into Egypt and Ethiopia). There was no better time and place for the effective rapid dispersion of His name throughout the early world.
I know a man named John who was from New York City before becoming a missionary to China. He once told me of a time he was traveling north out of the city along the Hudson River. I don’t remember if there was some competition or if it was just the right season for fishing but he said that on the bank of that river fishermen were literally lined up shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes there were two rows of men because they couldn’t all crowd in on the edge. Around the world there are thousands of streams that will go an entire year without being visited by a single angler. There are millions, no billions, of fish that will swim safely their entire lifetimes without ever catching even a distant sight of a worm on a hook. Yet here these guys were wasting countless resources of time and money all to compete for the same few fish along one small stretch of a crowded river.
Are we guilty of doing the same thing? Do the angels in heaven shake their heads at the foolishness of countless fishers of men all crowded into one small area wasting countless spiritual resources so we can compete for the same few fish? Like my friend John, I truly believe that there are people currently living in America that God has called to reach Americans. Also like my friend John, I also firmly believe that a vast majority of the Christians living in America are missing their calling. God is a lot smarter than a bunch of Hudson River fishermen. He is a lot more strategic than that. This means that there are a large number of people living in America either disobeying the call of God on their life or with lives so cluttered with other noise that God’s voice has been completely drowned out.
I have heard from multiple people and sources that the underground persecuted church in China has committed to send out one million missionaries to other lands and cultures. The churches in Korea and the Philippines have also set a goal of sending out a hundred thousand missionaries each. I regularly interact with two culture groups representing 73 million people (of which 0.01 percent are Christian and 0.00 percent Evangelical). Among these groups there are already more Korean missionaries than American and it would be a pretty safe bet to say that within the next decade there will be more Chinese than American and Korean combined. Even in my own limited reach I have seen a noticeable increase of both these two groups. Why do you think the Chinese church is hearing a call that the American church is not? Is it because God is not speaking or because we are not hearing? Could it be possible that we have become so caught up in the giving and getting of the holiday season that we have forgotten that Christmas, and Christianity, is really all about going because He came?
As Christmas approaches may we all hear the call to go that Christ left us with and which applies to each and every follower of Him. Over this coming year may we stop clustering in one crowded corner of our world and spread out so that we can more effectively spread the good news of His coming. May we tune out the noise that clutters our lives so that we can more clearly hear the direction He is pointing us to walk. May we live out this song and His commission that commands us to go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.