2010 August

This is post #6 in a series on developing a new missiology.

Some of you, upon reading my last post, Callsourcing the Mission, might have disagreed with my proposal that we use a crowdsourced report of God’s calling, rather than people group taxonomies, as a foundation for our missiology. You may have seen some shortcomings of my theory, some holes in my logic. I’d like to address the concerns that I anticipate, and you’re welcome to post others in the comments section below.

“We can’t depend on God’s calling on people’s lives because they are lazy, disobedient, and stupid. They won’t hear do what God tells them to do, and they couldn’t possibly figure out how to do it correctly.”

This is the same argument that professionals have used for centuries to justify their attempts to control, coerce, and manipulate. Don’t get me wrong, people are lazy, disobedient, and stupid. But God continues to use us, His people, as the means to accomplish His purposes in the world. He gives us everything we need to accomplish what He’s told us to do. Can we mess it up? Yes, we often do. I believe that the church needs to be educated about and mobilized to missions. But I also believe that God “gets it right” through His people. He doesn’t speak only to the educated or the informed. If the church isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, there are really only two options: either they are being disobedient to God, or He is not calling them to do what you think He is.

“Before anyone hears the gospel twice, Unreached People Groups have the right to hear it once.”

At first, this perspective sounds like compassion. People deserve to hear about Jesus, right? If some people aren’t going to respond, shouldn’t we stop wasting our time (shake the dust off our feet and all that)? But who are we to assume that anyone has heard the gospel presented in a way that they can understand and respond to, unless we’ve spent the time to dwell among them and demonstrate the power of the message? Statistics show that Western Europeans who come to faith do so after hearing the gospel message seven different times. Leaving after we’re pretty sure they’ve heard it once is irresponsible.

Furthermore, does anyone have the “right” to hear the gospel? Of course this is the most important thing– more serious than any matter of life and death– but a “right?” Humanity does not deserve to be saved, not even to hear about the hope of salvation. When we prioritize one group over the other, we begin with our strategy rather than with God’s direction, which often runs contrary to human wisdom and logic.  Remember when Jesus told his disciples not to talk to anyone along the way as they headed out on mission? Remember when God pared down Gideon’s army to far too few to win the battle? Remember when Paul was prevented from going into several unreached regions and redirected by the Spirit to “reached” places?

“Resources are limited. A mission agency has to set some strategic parameters in order to be good stewards of what they’ve been given.”

So your organization wants to focus on unreached people groups in the 10/40 Window. Praise God for His direction. That calling to you may be God’s salvation for these peoples. But now you’ve got to raise the support and find the personnel to go live among them. How will you do it? Awareness? Guilt? What happens if God isn’t raising anyone up to go to the people to whom you’ve narrowed it down?

To the average person in the pew, a people group is a people group. Unless, of course, there is some connection. Maybe a group of them live in your housing addition. Maybe you work with some who immigrated here a generation ago. Let’s not forget that God is orchestrating His global activity. If we value effectiveness, engagement of people with whom we already have relationships should take precedence over cold-calling people we don’t know.

“So you’re okay with unreached peoples going to hell?”

No! This has to be the most frustrating argument against, well, anything. Would that salvation would come to all people! Yet missions strategy means making decisions about where to go and where to allocate resources. Sending missionaries to each and every people group is neither the most efficient nor the most expeditious way to “reached” all the “unreached.”

I am NOT saying that missions should focus on the harvest fields. I’m not saying that missions should focus on the unreached. I’m saying we should let God show us what to do by leading us step-by-step.

There is a difference between a direction and a destination. Typically, the church will hear clearly from God concerning a direction, and then assume the destination. “If God is calling some of us to UPGs, then He must want us to reach every last one of them so He can return.” Three steps ahead of God is never a safe place to be.

“If we leave people to do what they feel called to do, they will all end up in the easy places.”

Though the perspective has become commonly held in Western missions, God did not tell us to “Go and reach the unreached people groups.” If He had, it would make sense to consider it a “calling” on the whole church, and we really wouldn’t need a whole lot more in the way of guidance or direction from Him. But Jesus deliberately left the bit about Him being with us always in the Great Commission. He continues to call people to places that are not in the “10/40 Window.” Surely that would not be the case if He clearly wanted us to focus on that part of the world.

“People need to do research to see what unreached people groups are out there.”

Let’s not forget, the concept of the UPG is relatively new, and while we could reasonably read it into scripture, I don’t think we should assume that Jesus, Paul, Luke, or John saw the world and mission in this light.

That small people group in the highlands of China? The cannibals along the Amazon? Sure, they’re obscure, distant, and hard-to access for you. But to someone else, these are next-door neighbors. For more on this one, look for my next post, “A Global Wave.”

This is post #5 in a series on developing a new missiology.

Human-sized hamster ball. Dunkin’ Donuts locations. Double Rainbow.  At any given point in time, web analytics can show us what topics are “trending” in social media. An uptick in Google searches might indicate breaking news or a YouTube video going viral. Twitter trends give a real-time glimpse into what people are talking about right now. The value of this data is immense; marketers know what audiences are looking for, and social influence can be tracked through hyperlinks and re-tweets. The information isn’t limited to a single source, it pours in from the crowd.

Likewise, people are tapping into the collective knowledge and skill of their social networks to make things happen. Social websites invite user-generated content, which builds community ownership and grows the pool of participants through virtual connections. Open source software is the ever-evolving product of volunteers working together. Product development ideas are “crowdsourced” to (mostly) anonymous contributors who are compensated only in the pleasure of the work.

This should be our model for missions.

Throughout scripture, God uses “calling” to let His people know where He’s at work and how they can be part of it. The itinerary of Paul’s missionary journeys was determined on the fly by the Holy Spirit. God’s direction for an individual, confirmed by his local church, should be our model for selecting and sending missionaries. Say God is calling white, middle-class suburbanites by the dozens to “evangelized” Mexico. There is no better place for them to go, and no better place for us to send them, than to Mexico. The advent of their calling (again, confirmed by their sending churches,) should serve as an indicator of God’s activity in the world.

There are different types of “calling.” We usually think of calling as that which God plants in us and builds internally until we can’t help but do something about it (we often refer to it as a “passion”). This kind of “call” is often quite specific, and can usually be traced to a time when we clearly heard from God. You know, like “Jonah, go to Ninevah” or “Steve, move to Thailand.” Paul once had a dream of a man from Macedonia begging him to go there, and other times, the Holy Spirit “prevented” him from going where he thought he should.

Of course, not everyone gets explicit directions from heaven. Sometimes, God uses external influences to give us direction. The chance to do something important, something of eternal value. The joy of serving where gifts, skills, and ministry intersect. The pleas of the oppressed, the plight of the neglected.  These are the needs and opportunities that move us to action. These “calls” may be more general, but they’re no less significant for mobilization to God’s global mission.

I propose that we build a new missiology based on “callsourcing” our strategy. If unreached people groups in certain regions of the world “trend” in our collective consciousness and prayers, that’s God leading us. If our next-door neighbors make us aware of the spiritual need in their home countries, that’s the Holy Spirit giving us direction. We, the church, can know the will of God for our missionary efforts by listening to His call.

The resulting direction would be vastly superior to our categories and statistics. “Callsourcing” forces us to start with utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for guidance and leadership. Jesus instructs His disciples in this vary matter in Luke 10, when He sends them out on a mission trip. He gave them no objective criteria for strategic planning other than the Spirit. He tells them that they’ll know where to go and with whom to speak by blessing people. If their blessing “returned” to them, they were to move on. This spiritual guidance should be the foundation for our every missionary turn.

Reliance on the calling would build ownership in the mission. Rather than say, “If you want to be involved, we’ll find a place for you,” we would mobilize people by asking them to weigh in on what they see God doing among the nations. The line between the professionals and supporters would be erased. Unity, not resources, would be our commonality.

Certainly, there would be some objections to Callsourcing as the foundation of our missiology. What if nobody is called to certain places in the world? What if everyone wants to live on the beaches of Barcelona or in the alpine Switzerland? Can we trust the ignorant masses to “get the job done?” In my next post, I’ll examine these and more.

This is post #4 in a series on developing a new missiology.

In my last post, I summarized the origins of the current popular understanding of missions. People group thinking, as I call it, hasn’t been all bad. But neither has it been all good. This, I suspect, is due in large part to the fact that is isn’t entirely biblical.

For starters, the concept of “people groups” is easily read into scripture, but may not be explicitly found there. Sure, one can make a case that when Jesus told His disciples to go to “all nations,” He really meant “all ethno-linguistic people groups.” But did Luke mean the same when he wrote about Pentecost in Acts 2:5, saying that there were “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” present? Surely not.

When Paul and Barnabas were sent out by their church, (First Baptist, Antioch, naturally) Acts 13 says that they were sent by the Holy Spirit “for the special work” to which He had called them. There was no mention of people groups or um, reaching anyone. Their strategy was to follow the Spirit’s leadership. As they were led, they proclaimed the good news. Even after they shifted their focus from Jews to gentiles (again, per the Spirit’s direction), their strategy never resembled the “adopt an unreached people group” approach so common today.

My point is that “all nations” is not necessarily a firm foundation on which to base our missiology. Other than Greeks and Jews, there is little evidence that Paul and the other apostles used the concept to organize their missionary endeavors. Furthermore, if people group thinking is based on a “new” understanding of the ancient Greek, (and far be it from me to disagree with John Piper… but), it’s one that ignores the reality of a dynamic, changing social structures. The reality is that people groups die out, merge, and emerge all the time. More and more, formerly “reached” groups are falling back into the “unreached” category. Unfortunately, people group thinking doesn’t have room for anything but a static world.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people groups are a great way for us to organize our missionary efforts. I agree that different peoples need different kids of ministry and communication. The concept certainly isn’t anti-biblical, but it isn’t explicitly biblical. We put people groups into categories of “reached” and “unreached”– categories not found in scripture. Furthermore, the professionalization of missions has led to the development of complex taxonomies that measure “reachedess,” “receptivity,” and “degrees of evangelization.” Jesus concluded the Commission with the promise to be with us always, but we really don’t need Him because we’ve got it all figured out.

So the missions community is busy trying to convince people that no, God isn’t calling them to South America or to Western Europe, and are they sure God didn’t mean Indonesia? We talk about “engaging” people groups as though they were squares on a chess board just waiting to be occupied by the missionaries we move about like pawns. We allocate resources to the “hard places” because we expect God to work there, nevermind where He may, actually be leading us to go.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of people group missiology is that it replaces the Great Commission mandate to “make disciples” of the nations with “reaching” them. This subtle difference has has widespread ramifications. Now, we talk about missions as though the goal was to “reach” people or to “finish” the Great Commission. The mission is not to “reach unreached people groups,” it’s to “make disciples of all nations.”

The truth is that our responsibility to go does not end. Not when the last people group is “reached.” Not when every city has “enough” believers to take responsibility for their own. Not when everyone has had a “chance” to hear. No, our calling is to nothing less that ongoing, radical obedience to the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, it’s not our job to determine what course of action will bring God “the most glory.” God has lets us know what He want from us, and it’s not measurable, finishable, or easily managed. He wants us to obey Him. When His leadership contradicts our strategies, I say we should go with God.

To be clear– I appreciate the work of the missiologists and practitioners who have gone before. I don’t in any way claim to know more than they. But the Unreached People Group philosophy held by groups like the Joshua Project and others isn’t the only way to understand missions. In fact, I think there is a better and more biblical way.

NEXT: If not Unreached People Groups, then how should we go about doing missions? What is the mission, and how might we organize ourselves for obedience? My solution? Callsourcing.

This is post #3 in a series on developing a new missiology.

My previous post was about “what missions can learn from the missional movement.” In this post, I’d like to tackle the vocabulary of missions. What are we saying?

It used to be the number salvations. Fifty years ago, missions was all about the harvest. Who could argue the validity of a ministry that was producing fruit? This, unfortunately, led to a “whatever works” pragmatism that . Missionaries and evangelists the world over took to circus-tent preachertainment in attempts to draw the largest crowds and get the greatest number of “conversions.” Thank you. Yes, I see that hand.

In the 1970s, a new crop of missio-sociologists sprang up. Ralph Winter, Donald McGavran, and his successor at Fuller Seminary, C. Peter Wagner. looked no only at the practical aspects of getting people to say a prayer, but also the social implications of evangelization. These were practitioners, each had spent significant time on the mission field, and knew first-hand that numbers didn’t tell the whole story. They knew that people around the world organized themselves into ethnolinguistic people groups that often disregarded geopolitical borders. It didn’t make sense, Winter said at the historic Lausanne Conference on World Mission (1974), to send missionaries to a country. There may be hundreds, even thousands of unique people groups within the borders of any given country, and focusing all our resources on the few responsive people groups was done at the expense of work among others. Not all conversion numbers, then, were equal. Missions needed to focus on unreached people groups.

Before the modern missions movement, missionaries would first teach the people of a tribe or village to speak and read the missionary’s language in order to communicate the gospel. The Moravians, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor changed that. These missionaries devoted their lives to learning indigenous languages and translating the scriptures. But this was done to “win more converts,” not out of any belief that God was somehow brought more glory by worship in a diversity of languages and cultural expressions. Winter, McGavran, and Wagner developed a people group missiology that saw culture not as a tool for the effective conversion of the heathen, but as a thing to be converted as people came to Christ.

An entire missiology of people groups was developed. This perspective traced the mission mandate back to Creation, God’s covenant with Abraham, and later with Moses. It focused on the redemption of people in their indigenous cultures, seeing value in different perspectives and styles of worship. People group missiology interpreted the ancient Greek words, “all nations” in Matthew 28:19 as meaning “all people groups.” The missionary task was therefore defined as, “To reach all unreached people groups.

If all of this doesn’t sound all that radical to you, it’s probably because the missiology of Winter, et. al has becomes so prevalent. For two-hundred years (since William Carey) By the mid nineties, every major missions sending organization had adopted people group thinking and reorganized their missions strategies around it. Instead of relying on high numbers of conversions to justify their work and solicit support, missions agencies talked about the number of people groups that had yet to hear the gospel, and how they were gaining on the completion of the task of “reaching” them all.

The influence of people group thinking didn’t end with missiology. A compatible eschatology was developed around Matthew 24:14, (“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”) holding that Jesus will not return until we “reach” the last unreached people group. Ecclesiology was reorganized around people groups; it wasn’t enough to have a vital church nearby, each people group needed its own worship gathering. Church planters now focus on specific target ethnic/affinity/subculture groups rather than planting a church per town or neighborhood. Youth ministry, evangelism, Christian education, and research have all be heavily influenced by this perspective. In short, people group thinking has revolutionized Christianity.

All this to set the stage for my next post, Missiospeak. I’ll take a look at specific words we use to talk about missions, and the impact of those words on how we understand and do missions. Tell a friend. Stay tuned.

This is post #2 in a series on developing a new missiology.

Over the course of about ten years, the church has seen a huge shift in thinking. As western culture moved away from identifying itself as “christian,” young(er) leaders started to explore new, more appropriate expressions of church in a post-everything context. Some questioned popular methodologies. Others questioned common theological language. Others still questioned everything– from the voracity of church history to the doctrines of atonement to the existence of hell. At the heart of this questioning was the desire for a Christianity that made sense in today’s world.

For the most part, this conversation took place without the benefit of input from experienced international missionaries, who were either too busy with their work on the mission field to participate or too tightly linked to traditional structures to have any credibility with those who were driving the discussion. Either way, church leaders were centering their lives and ministries around the missio dei. They developed their strategies by reverse-engineering what didn’t work with the attractional model of church (and didn’t do much in the way of studying the global missions movement). Much of this shift in thinking had to do with the relationship between the church (believers) and the unbelievers around it.

Our new missiology has the most to learn from the missional church in these three areas: evangelism, social action, and cultural engagement. Evangelism, long modeled after cold-call sales and interruption marketing strategies, was re-framed. The emphasis was taken off the dissemination of information and put on the influence of personal relationships. Social action, once seen as an avenue for (or distraction from) gospel proclamation, was valued as redemptive in deed and became valued as an expression of Christian love. Culture, previously seen as something the church needed to isolate and protect itself from, became the context for gospel incarnation.

In the traditional missions mindset, the missionary is seen as the bringer of the gospel to otherwise uninformed peoples. Evangelism is seen as the goal of all missionary activity, and, in the name of efficiency effectiveness, reduced to the simple proclamation of the gospel message. The missional church has pointed out that the means affects the message, and that the gospel out of context is no gospel at all. Redemptive relationships become the channel of gospel communication and demonstration. Missional approaches take advantage of existing social structures, transforming them into indigenous churches.

On the international mission field, social action is often seen as superfluous to the spreading of the gospel. Necessary for access to many closed countries, some missions organizations treat social ministries as distractions from real missionary activities like evangelism and church planting. Missional leaders see it otherwise. They understand that service to those outside the church is a vital part of our faith; an act of worship and obedience in which every believer must take part. People don’t come to faith without hearing the good news, but our stance against injustice is an indispensable part of being a disciple of Jesus whether or not we get a chance to lay out the “plan of salvation.”

Since the days of Hudson Taylor, missionaries have understood the importance of local culture to missionary activity. Yet most missionaries see their cultural obligation as limited to learning language and (maybe) eating local fare. Missional practitioners understand that every culture carries some memory of the Creator God, and therefore retain bridges to communication of the gospel. Cultural immersion, then, is required for incarnation of the gospel. Our role is to live in such a way that when people look at our lives and hear our words, they can truly see the implications of the gospel for their own lives. Missional missionaries don’t fight against culture, they use it to build raised beds of good soil for church planting.

Missionaries everywhere should read The Forgotten Ways, a textbook of sorts on missional living. As I’ll explore in future posts, a more missional approach to international missions would radically change the way we see God’s activity in the world and how we, the church, fit into it.

NEXT: What Are We Saying? A Look At Our Missions Vocabulary.

I’m calling for a new missiology. The current popular one is neither biblical nor helpful. So let’s work through a new one. Of course, by “new” here I mean “old” in the sense of directly founded in scripture, but “new” in that it makes sense for today’s globalized experience. To that end, I’m starting a series of posts in which I hope to identify those places where our current missiology might come up short and suggest some new ways to think and talk about mission that might be more helpful to everyone involved in the conversation.

Firstly, we need to take into account the tremendous impact of the missional church conversation. Churches around the world have begun to see themselves as intentionally-placed examples of the gospel in context. The shift in thinking away from programmatic evangelism and outreach to incarnational approaches to ministry needs to inform our understanding of global missions.

Secondly, our vocabulary must change. The words we use have meaning, but we don’t always get to determine those meanings. We must, therefore, find new ways to talk about some of the same things: people who know Jesus moving across barriers of culture and distance to proclaim the gospel in word and deed. In upcoming posts, I’ll review come of the current missions vocabulary and propose some new ways to talk about mission that communicate better and leave out some of the baggage of modernistic taxonomy.

Thirdly, we need to adjust our perspective. So often, the conversation centers around things that seem incredibly important to us, but trivial to God. Statistics and percentages. Resources and need. Categories and strategy. Opportunities and chance. A few years ago I wrote a post on the idea that no one should hear the gospel twice while some have yet to hear it even once. Quite simply, this is not a biblical idea, and it has ruinous implications for our understanding of our part in God’s global mission. Soon, I’ll post further about this and other problems with our perspective on global mission.

Finally, we need to develop our scriptural literacy when it comes to missions. What does the Bible say about our role in the world and our part in His redemptive activity among its peoples? Have we extrapolated, inferred, deduced, and applied ourselves into bad missiology?

Finally, I want to make one thing clear: I am not so proud (or stupid) to think that I know better than prominent theologians or missiologists. I understand that some people are threatened and offended by questions and disagreements. I believe questions will only help us find better ways to talk about mission. I don’t have any special insight that everyone heretofore has missed. I’m just a practitioner who loves the church and has a strong desire to her obedient on God’s global mission. Any ideas posted here are probably not original to me and likely better said elsewhere. I value the discussion and appreciate the opportunity to think through what God work among humanity.

NEXT: Missional… Missionaries?

4835-004-7fa69dae-5254012Is New England the new “American missional frontier?” Vermont pastor Jared Wilson thinks so. He writes about it in a recent post on the Resurgence. Wilson points to statistics showing that the Northeastern U.S. is the least churched region in the country, and that existing churches are not thriving. “New Englanders have little desire for anything to do with Christianity or church,” he writes. “Even those who have it have little opportunity to explore it.”

I agree with Jared. And my friend David Phillips. We need to focus more attention and resources on church planting efforts in New England. For too long, the Northeast has been neglected.

I’m fascinated by how familiar Jared’s post sounds, so similar to posts I wrote here while I was in Western Europe. More and more, there are places like Europe and New England that have returned from Christian influence to the status of “unreached.” This isn’t a case of “my people group is loster than yours,” it’s a heartfelt call to action by someone who God has called to service.

To be sure, chasing the least-reached regions of the United States is like trying to put out flareups after a wildfire. The west coast, the southwest, the east- each are defined by their sins ans spiritual strongholds. Vegas rife with debauchery. Seattle stricken with irresponsibility. San Francisco overrun with homosexuality. Boston filled with post-Catholic angst. The Bible Belt rife with cultural Christianity and political moralism. All of these places need the freedom that is only found in Christ.

What we’re seeing is the rise of a new category of missions. Some missionaries focus on unreached people groups. But God is raising up faithful people who recognize that “reached” isn’t a permanent status. Just as the gospel comes to a people through the obedience of some, it can soon be forgotten through the disobedience of others.

Surely some would say, “New England! The birthplace of the Great Awakening? They’ve had their chance!” To them I would ask, is our task to give everyone a chance to hear, or to proclaim the gospel where it is not proclaimed and cross cultures as we’re led by the Spirit? In the present age, unreached people groups are constantly emerging.

christian_tattoo3_jj_t_w600_h1200-3056620It used to be that there was a certain type of person who got a tattoo. Sailors, bikers, convicts. Tough guys in sleeveless shirts sported tattoos that depicted manly, outlaw rebel stuff like mermaids, warships, and skulls.

But the type has changed. These days, everyone– from pastors to soccer moms– seems to be inked. Tribal swirls, Celtic knots, and (“The guy at the tattoo place said it meant love”) Chinese characters have become common sights in almost any social circle.

Tattoos are a personal thing. Even those that are publicly displayed carry deep meaning. They commemorate the passing of the old and mark the beginning of the new. Symbols are used to mark identification with someone or something (fraternity Greek, armed forces, “I love ______ forever.”). The ink can be a celebration of the survival of an ordeal (cancer, war, rape, natural disaster), a declaration of resolve. Tattoos help people mourn, remember, and mark milestones. Something about the unique, artistic, painful (not to mention permanent) act of getting a tattoo, makes getting one unlike any other human ritual.

And that’s what it is. A deeply personal, often spiritual ritual. The process of getting a tattoo, painful and private, is a powerful experience. The tattoo artist makes herself vulnerable by suggesting a design and by assuming the risk of permanently marking the client’s body. The client, on the other hand, exposes his body to a stranger wielding electric needles filled with permanent ink. The artist is a medium– opening up a channel of memory, emotion, and expression.

Move over pastors, tattoo artists are the new priests.

If you ever get the chance to watch someone get a tattoo, do it (if you don’t have any of those kind of friends, one of the tattoo parlor reality show on TV will do.) Watch the timid resolution of the client as he enters the shop. Nobody (sober) walks into a tattoo parlor by accident. Listen to the explanation of why he wants a tattoo and where he wants it placed on his body. Often people have thought through it enough to apply symbolism to ever aspect of the experience. “I came in today because it’s my birthday.” “I ship out next week.” “She died four years ago today.”

People come out of the tattoo parlor with an emotional high. The endorphins (from the pain) mix with the rush (from the magnitude of the permanence) and the power of the memory to create the euphoria of having connected with an artist who understood well enough to depict the emotion graphically. For the rest of his natural life, the wearer has something to illustrate something that defines his life.

This is powerful religion. It requires great commitment, financial cost, artistic expression, physical suffering (or at least discomfort), and it publicly marks a person for life. How does that compare with what your church promotes?

“Therefore go and provide access to the gospel for all unreached people groups, engaging them them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. If you get your strategy right, I’ll be right there beside you until you finish the task.”

This is not the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. It is, however, our much-improved interpretation of those final earthly instructions Jesus gave to His disciples and (therefore) to the church. You’ll notice quite a bit of jargon in there, but don’t be alarmed, It all makes sense to us, and we’re the professionals. We’ve made some slight modifications to the wording in order to help make the our obedience in the matter much more organized and easily measured; two things that certainly matter to Jesus. He clearly didn’t have time to expound on His instructions, (what with His impending ascension into heaven and all), so we’ve added some vital details.

He said “I have the authority, so make disciples.” What He obviously meant was “engage” them. Get at least one person to adopt each group, and you can check them off your list. The bit about “all nations?” Time and social sciences have demonstrated that people are organized into static, measurable “people groups” that we need to reach in order to fulfill the Commission. We know where the unreached ones are. If only we had enough people or enough money, we could engage them all right here and now.

“Make disciples” is clearly a euphemism for “provide them with access to the gospel,” isn’t it? If we can just get the Bible (the most gospely parts, of course) translated into words, pictures, or dramatic re-enactments that the people will understand, we’ll be well on our way. After all, “God’s word will not return void,” right? Incarnation isn’t necessary, information is the key.

Sure Jesus is with us, but only if we’re on the front lines, driving back lostness. It’s fine if you want to live in South America, just don’t call yourself a missionary. We reached them already. Now it’s on them to compete with the Mormons, atheists, and Mary-worshipers. There are enough Christians there already– if we do it for them, they’ll never be as mature as we are (spiritually, I mean).

So we’re missions-minded people, engaging people groups and providing access to the gospel. We can do it. If not, why would Jesus have commanded us to go? If the task isn’t finishable, it could, like, go on forever. If you really want Jesus to come back, you should adopt an unengaged, unreached people group today.