“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
It is easy to predict the future of the missionary enterprise: it will be successful! “I will build my Church,” Jesus assures us. And, “This Gospel…shall be proclaimed in all the world for a witness and then the end will come” (Matthew 16:18; 24:14). The only questions are who will do it and when will it be done? The Church will do it, but in what generation? I predict that this generation will not complete the task. Unless, of course, God surprises us with an unprecedented intervention.
He has done that twice in the past. Who would have predicted the end of the Soviet strangle-hold on hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century? And consider China – where communism still reigns. A report from a Chinese government agency, which has never admitted more than ten million Christians, conceded there are 63 million! God did it twice, so let us pray he will do it again — in those countries still and for the worlds of Islam and Hinduism.
There may be an even greater divine intervention needed however: revival among Christians. Without it, we will never mobilize the task force necessary to complete the job. Yet, some say we are nearing completion of the task. They point out that there is now one Bible-believing Christian for every seven non-Christians. Such is the optimism of statistical percentages. There are two problems with this. Without a radical change of values among believers, the “one” isn’t going to reach the “seven.” But the even greater error is talking percentages without dealing with the absolute numbers of those still alienated from the Father. The population explosion is so great that, in spite of unprecedented spiritual harvest, more lost people are now living than have lived and died throughout recorded human history. And half of these, at least, live outside the reach of a witnessing church. Thus without special divine intervention we cannot be optimistic about finishing the task anytime soon.
But we are called to faithfulness whatever the situation, and there are certain trends in missionary ministry that can be predicted. The emphasis on reaching the unreached and starting churches among them will continue and increase.
I applaud the emphasis on short term service and “tent-making” ministry. If God’s people utilize these two approaches with wisdom, not expecting of them that which they cannot produce and safeguarding short-termers and tentmakers from frustration and failure, they prove to be instruments in the hands of the Lord of the harvest.
Never has there been a time for greater pessimism – the task is impossibly great and the laborers woefully inadequate. But never has there been a time for greater optimism – the resources are here and God is moving in unprecedented ways. Let us cry out to him for other incredible interventions, including the movement of his Spirit in our own lives and churches.