Friday, November 18, 2011

A Witness to All the Nations (Ralph Winter)

I talk about the "unreached" a lot. It is something I am very passionate about.

Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14). A close look at the end of this verse says a lot about what we should watch for and work toward in this age. Jesus says that before the end comes, there will be “a witness to all the nations.” The “nations” Jesus was referring to are not countries or nation-states. The wording He chose (the Greek word ethne) points to the ethnicities, the languages and the extended families which constitute the peoples of the earth. Who are these peoples? Jesus did not provide a list of the peoples. He did not define the idea of peoples with precise detail. What matters most is not that the peoples can be definitively identified and counted, but that God has given us a task that can be completed. By “witness” Jesus meant that the “gospel of Ethnolinguistic Peoples by Language of the Same Area the kingdom” will be proclaimed in open view throughout entire communities. The gospel of the kingdom is Christ prevailing over evil, liberating people so that they can live obediently and freely under His lordship and blessing. God wants a persuasive display of that kingdom victory exhibited in every people. What better exhibit of God’s kingdom than a community of people who are living under Christ’s authority? That’s why we should aim at obedient disciplemaking fellowships of believers within every people. While not the only way to glorify God, nothing puts Christ’s lordship on display like a community of people dedicated to following Him and effectively pushing back against the dominion of darkness.

Matthew 24:14 makes it clear that we must make it our first priority to see that every people has a living testimony of the gospel of the kingdom.

What is needed in every people group is for the gospel to begin moving throughout the group with such compelling, life-giving power that the resulting churches can themselves finish spreading the gospel to every person. Good but lesser goals may delay or distract us. Evangelism among street vendors or students might lead to discipleship groups for personal growth and even evangelism. But why stop short of anything less than a burgeoning movement of Christ-followers characterized by whole families? Why not expect that God is well able and willing to attract to His Son a substantial movement that will spread rapidly, spontaneously and thoroughly within whole peoples?

We have done our basic mission job when individuals within the society (even those outside of the church) acknowledge that the movement belongs to their society. Only when this level of cultural adaptation is achieved will the dynamic, life-changing love of Jesus become available to move freely throughout the people group. Donald McGavran referred to one form of missiological breakthrough as “people movements to Christ.” We can hold this goal as the minimal achievement within every people in order to give a realistic opportunity for everyone in that people group to say “yes” to Jesus Christ and His kingdom, without adding cultural barriers to the already steep spiritual demands of the gospel. Jesus commissioned us to accomplish nothing less. We should settle for nothing less.

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