Distracted From the Mission
Earlier this year, and a little late to the party, I was made aware of an incredible milestone the Church has accomplished. In the fall of 2020, Bible translators worldwide celebrated that the entire Bible was now in 700 different languages right in the middle of the pandemic. To make this statistic even more incredible, in the early ’90s, just thirty years ago, there were only 350! This rapid acceleration is attributed chiefly to significantly improved technology and intentional collaboration between several translation ministries such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, Pioneer Bible Translators, and many others. What an accomplishment!
On a side note, the new NASB 2020 is now available. I first heard about this when a friend asked me what I thought about it and then proceeded with their opinion. It made me smile and a little annoyed in light of the 700 different languages milestone of which I was now aware. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to update language. There’s a reason most English speakers are not reading out of the KJV anymore. But in my heart, I didn’t care how many English translations there are when there are millions without a single translation in their native language. To some degree, it seems like we get distracted from the mission. Molehill… Mountain.
Change In Perspective
This Spring, I had the privilege to go through the Perspectives course at a local church in Loveland, CO. Perspectives On The World Christian Movement began as an educational course designed to inform and activate the Body of Christ towards God’s heart for the nations. As they put it, “God has a “world-sized” role for every Christian in His global purpose. Whether people go to distant countries or stay at home is a secondary issue. The primary issue is what most people are hungry to discover: a vision to live a life of purpose. Discovering that vision makes this course valuable, and perhaps crucial, for any Christian.”
The Great Commission is straightforward, “go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus even says in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel “will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Whatever your interpretation or eschatology, there seems to be a connection between reaching the unreached and the end of days, between our obedience to the Great Commission and the second coming of Jesus. Yet, our enemy will do everything he can to prevent us from this task. We get distracted from the mission and focus inward. We easily omit ‘the nations’ and get distracted from the mission to focus solely on our own lives, churches, and agendas.
Omitting the Nations
Take Psalm 46:10 for example. Everyone knows the first part of that verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s mostly about us, right? Our focus is on God calming us down when we’re stressed out or overwhelmed. But the rest of that same verse puts things in greater perspective, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth!” Too easily we get distracted by what is right in front of us. Even within a church planting mindset, we can become focused only on our “Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria
Jesus says in Acts 1:8 that we will be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We regularly adapt our understanding of this to mean our immediate geography. If you’re planting in Denver, that is your ‘Jerusalem.’ Colorado would be your ‘Judea.’ Perhaps your ‘Samaria’ would be America. And then to the ends of the Earth. While this thinking makes some sense as you look to distribute the resources of the local church, we can easily miss the heart of God for the nations in everything we do. Once the gospel left Samaria, the goal was the nations. It shouldn’t be an either/or conversation when it comes to local vs. global outreach. It’s both/and. Don’t get distracted from the mission.
Suppose our preaching, teaching, mission, and vision omits “the nations” from day one of our new church plants. In that case, we’re gravely misrepresenting the Great Commission and the heart of the Father. Since the blessing of Abraham in Genesis 12, God’s heart has been to set apart a people to bless the nations. It’s our great calling that we communicate the heart of God to His people. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4. Yes, that starts with our neighbor across the street, but it extends to the ends of the Earth.
The Task Remaining
In May of ’21, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of The Bible in our nation’s capital. Amidst the overwhelming amount of awe-inspiring content, the Illuminations display of Bible translation was, to me, the most powerful. It stands as a testament to the incredible work and sacrifice that has been given in the last 2,000 years of global missions. It also gives us hope, and an unprecedented excitement, to know that this is the first generation in history in which this task could be completed!
As I mentioned before, half of the 700 translations of scripture have come in the last 30 years! According to Wycliffe statistics posted at the end of 2020, 700 languages in our world now have access to the entire Bible. Another 1,500+ languages have a completed New Testament, and another 1,100+ languages have a few sections or stories. Even with this incredible work completed, there are still nearly 4,000 known languages (mainly in the Aisa Pacific and Africa) with no translation of scripture.
It seems overwhelming, but Bible translators worldwide are projecting this work will be completed before 2050. Many of which believe it will be 2030!
The Goal of Church Planting
The goal of church planting is global domination for the Kingdom. God’s heart for the nations echos from the blessing of Abraham in Genesis 12 through the end of Revelation. Even though church planters all begin in one specific time and place, the goal remains. We should instill in the hearts of our people a passion for the nations and train them to multiply toward that end.
How you choose and invest in your missional outreach matters. Our enemy constantly and creatively will get us distracted from the mission. While we can’t do everything, we can play our part in advancing the freedom-giving, chain-breaking message of the Kingdom Gospel. It’s been said that the only reason missions exists is because worship doesn’t. Let’s not get distracted from the mission. We live to bring glory to the Father and lead others to do the same as we make disciples who make disciples by planting churches that plant churches.