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This post was written by Tee Akindele on September 6, 2010
Posted Under: ministry,Mission Watch

The imperative of breaking new grounds

Strategizing to take the good news about Christ and his salvation to places where it has never been heard, the most unreached places and peoples of the world, should be a crucial guiding factor in all missionary activity. Even the Apostle, Paul, said that he would rather preach Christ where He hasn’t been named at all rather than where He is already known(Rom 15:20).

I find the work(research, analysis) of Justin Long, of ‘The Network for Strategic Missions, quite remarkable on this subject. You would think the situation is quite well defined, all the mission agencies should just work on mobilizing more and more people to these un-worked fields. Hmmm? I thought so too.

While looking for material to read on missionary work recently, I came across an old post by David Sherbrooke on The Network for Strategic Missions blog, I think I find in it many key insights to what is happening with regards to our actual progress with taking the Gospel to the remaining Unreached People Groups of the world. The article titled ‘How new missionaries choose their country of service: do we need a change?‘ examines reasons why far less than 10%(actually 2% is quoted) of serving missionaries go to places that are regarded to be unreached, while at least 90% serve and continue to be sent to places where the church is already established.

David Sherbrooke thinks that overt self-consciousness on the part of  prospective missionaries(which he terms “The Zeal for Me”) is a major problem, in his words:

Trying to seek our own self fulfillment, a spin-off of modern psychology, is contrary to the most basic concept Jesus taught His disciples. “He knew that the only path to true fulfillment lay in denying self. The only way to find truly abundant life is to throw your life away for Jesus’ sake.” The vast majority of new missionaries today simply go where they want to serve, and do what they want to do adding to the masses, today still ninety percent, serving in already reached peoples. “The biggest hindrance to the missionary task is self. Self that refuses to die. Self that refuses to sacrifice. Self that refuses to give. Self that refuses to go.” I would add to this: self that refuses to go where few if any missionaries are serving.

Then he went on to give cogent reasons why ‘Most New Missionaries End Up Serving In Well Evangelized Countries Rather than Unreached People Groups?’… And wow that was really enlightening, if I could summarise it here I would have, though it’s a long read but it’s very well worth your time to read the original article.

This beautiful article contains many balanced pointers to positive approaches and the way forward. I also went through the thread of discussion that followed as readers, including serving missionaries and Justin Long himself, shed more light on the existing situation and shared more ideas. One commenter which I find particularly remarkable was Thomas Johnson, a missionary in francophone Africa who brought in another perspective by a related issue to the discussion. I guess another great part of this article, is the wealth of references cited in the endnotes.

Here is the link again. Enjoy! How new missionaries choose their country of service: do we need a change?

The bottom line is that, if the great commission is going to be accomplished, we all need to leave our comfort zones and doing our own thing, and begin to go and cater for those dangerous, undesirable places where the gospel is needed and lacked most. Probably enough analysis to start with has been done, the problem and the solution stare us in the face, but where now are the people who will go!

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