News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Amid gains on mission fields ‘overwhelming lostness’ remains

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The last few months have been a time of heady celebration. As the new year unfolded, so did reports of unbelievable advance in our Great Commission task. There were 451,301 new believers baptized on mission fields around the world last year — a 24 percent increase over those reported the previous year. The 6,525 new churches started represented a 37 percent increase over the year before.

Many of these new churches — and a large number of the 3,682 new mission points — were among people groups gaining access to the gospel for the first time. We praise God for these manifestations of his providence and power — and for allowing us to join him at work around the world.

It would be easy to take pride in this success, but impressive statistical reports can divert our focus from the challenge of the unfinished task. Our rejoicing in the harvest is tempered by the overwhelming lostness that defines our world.

Sociological research and information systems have given us a handle on the task, but they also have confronted us with a powerful reminder of those who still have no access to the gospel. Our database continues to highlight hundreds of people groups that have not yet been engaged with a witness that would enable them to come to saving faith in Christ.

How many billions have not yet had an opportunity to experience God’s saving grace? How many multitudes will die and enter a Christless eternity before we reach them with the gospel?

What about the people of Bhutan, for example? In this little landlocked country north of India and east of Nepal, thousands are hidden in mountain valleys, isolated from the outside world. They have never heard of our Savior and his love for them.

Locked in a stranglehold of Buddhist culture, no citizen of the country can enroll in school, buy land, open a business, get married or own a home without pledging adherence to the Buddhist faith and making a commitment to propagate it. Quite a deterrent to conversion! How can the gospel penetrate this forbidden country?

Is Bhutan beyond the reach of God’s love? Were those who live there overlooked when the blood of Christ flowed from Calvary’s cross? Were they not included in that mandate of our Lord when he told us to disciple the nations? How do we reach the unreached when the barriers are so formidable?

God, who is sovereign over the nations, said in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession” (NASB). There is no political, cultural or religious barrier that can prevent the prayers of God’s people from penetrating the strongholds of Satan and lifting them to the throne of God.

Each year, Southern Baptists are challenged to join, on Pentecost weekend, in a day of prayer and fasting for an unreached people group that is closed to any other strategy.

Remarkable breakthroughs have occurred among the North Koreans, the Kurds, the Persians in Iran and others because of united prayers.

Perhaps you have never heard of Bhutan. The nation is insignificant in global affairs. But by what criteria should they be denied access to the good news of eternal life? How long must they remain in bondage to the darkness of their land? Will you join me and others in fasting and praying from 6 p.m. on Friday, June 1, to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, for the people of Bhutan?

We rejoice in the reports of harvest and victory all over the world. But when we ask, “What’s it all about?” we know it’s not about what has been accomplished, but what remains to be done. It’s still about lostness.
Rankin is president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, at www.imb.org.

    About the Author

  • Jerry Rankin