“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” – Matthew 9:36-38
We will begin with a brief description of our present reality: The harvest is more plentiful than ever, the door of opportunity is open wider than ever, and the workers are as few as ever.1 These facts are undeniable.
At this present time, there are over seven billion people living on this planet. By the year 2025, the population is predicted to surpass 8 billion. Of the current population, less than 8% consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians.2 Presently, the world’s population can be divided into an estimated 16,787 people groups, of which 6,947 are still considered unreached. This adds up to a total of more than 2.8 billion individuals who are currently out of range of the gospel.3 There is also an estimated seven thousand languages and countless dialects in the world. Of these languages more than two thousand are without the Scriptures.4
These figures are devastating, and yet the problem becomes even more acute when we realize that in many of the reached areas of the world, Christians languish for a lack of biblical knowledge resulting in doctrinal and ethical error, syncretism,5 and worldliness. As in the days of Nehemiah, those who would seek to build up the wall and extend it must fight on all sides. Not only are there thousands of unreached people groups that are dying without the gospel, but there are just as many reached people groups that are languishing in immaturity and are in need of being better instructed in the gospel.
The world and the church’s needs are greater than ever, and yet so are the opportunities. The stage is set for possibly the greatest advancement in missions that the church has ever known. Political upheavals have opened the door to countries that were previously closed, and all the great “isms” of secular man have fallen under the weight of their own error. Humanism has left our world disillusioned and cynical. Secular thought has left it soulless and empty. Materialism has left both the “haves” and the “have-nots” equally miserable and constantly at war. Sexual libertarianism has raped the individual of human dignity, exiled beauty, and driven a knife through the heart of innocence. Finally, the current revival of paganism has left men praying to rocks, hugging trees, and killing babies. The enlightenment of the twentieth century, which was to bring peace and prosperity to mankind, has spawned more ignorance, poverty, immorality, and violence, than any scholar could have predicted, or any prophet could have foretold.
It is a day to do great things, and yet the church seems uninstructed, distracted, and impotent. We stand at the open door of great opportunity, but do we have the will and strength to enter through that door? Like Jonathan will we cross over into battle to see what the Lord will do for us, believing that He is not restrained to save by many or by few.6 Or like King Hezekiah will we only lament that “children have come to birth and there is no strength to deliver?”7 The world is ripe for the gospel, but will we meet the challenge? This is not a time for small hearts, timid spirits, and uninstructed minds. As the prophet Isaiah admonished the fearful King Hezekiah, we must trust in the God who rules the nations.8 We must pray to the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers into His harvest.9 We must be willing, even anxious to sacrifice, either in going or sending and supporting those who go!
Man’s war against the truth has devastated the world, and yet the greater the darkness, the greater the opportunity for the light to shine forth distinctly and purely. In the midst of a hostile first century scenario, we are afforded the opportunity to live like first century Christians and to turn the world right side up.10 However, the Scriptures make it clear that only “the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”11 The questions confronting any who would go to the mission field are, “Do I possess such a knowledge of God? Is it a reality in my life? Can I communicate it to others?”
The great need in global missions cannot be exaggerated. There is much to be done and little time to do it. Nevertheless, the need that is before us must not drive us to pragmatism, but to the Scriptures and prayer. The solution will not be found in the heart or mind of man, but through a careful exegesis of the biblical text and our adherence to the truth that is found there. To find the answer for all that afflicts the modern missionary movement we must not look forward in order to discover something new, but we must look backward to rediscover something old—the eternal truths of God’s immutable Word. If the reader learns anything from this treatise, let it be that the Scriptures are sufficient so that every mission endeavor and every missionary “may be adequate, equipped for every good work”12 in the Great Commission. To seek for any help outside of the Scriptures is to build the foundation of our missionary endeavors upon the sand.13 In spite of all our earnestness and a plethora of missionary activity, the Day will reveal that little has been accomplished for the kingdom and we have been unfaithful servants. However, if we hold tenaciously to the Scriptures and conform our doctrine and mission methodology to what is written, then we can have confidence on that Great Day that we have been wise master builders.14
- Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2
- Operation World, p.1, 3
- Joshua Project
- Operation World, p.1
- Syncretism refers to the merging of distinct and often contradictory religious and cultural ideas. Example: The merging of Buddhistic or Islamic teaching with orthodox Christianity, or the entrance of secular philosophy or pop culture into the church.
- I Samuel 14:6
- II Kings 19:3; Isaiah 37:3
- II Kings 19:6, 20ff
- Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2
- Acts 17:6 – “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (KJV).
- Daniel 11:32
- II Timothy 3:16-17
- Matthew 7:26-27
- I Corinthians 3:10
Paul is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society and currently serves as its missions director. He also ministered as a missionary in Peru for ten years. He has preached hundreds of sermons and has authored a dozen published works. Paul lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife Charo and their four children: Ian, Evan, Rowan, and Bronwyn.More By Paul David Washer