RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The world is increasingly saturated with — and homogenized by — mass media and globalization.
So all those sermons about the millions of people who’ve never even heard of the Christ of Christmas can’t be accurate anymore, can they?
Ask Brazilian soccer great Pelé, possibly the most famous person now alive. A reporter recently suggested to him that the whole world had heard of three things: Jesus, Coca-Cola and Pelé. The legendary athlete responded:
“I remember going to a small island off the coast of Japan once, and everyone knew who I was. But, as most of the inhabitants were Buddhists, not all of them had heard of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are large parts of the world where Jesus Christ is not so well-known.”
Would that the church as a whole understood the extent of the unfinished task of world evangelization as clearly as Pelé does. You don’t have to go to an isolated island to find people who’ve never heard of Jesus or seen a Bible. You don’t even have to leave the United States.
That’s why Christians in unevangelized lands are working intensively to get the Word out — literally. They’re engaging in mass seed sowing — spreading the gospel among large numbers of people through print, audio, video and other media, in addition to personal evangelism — to help start church-planting movements.
“Every church-planting movement is accompanied by abundant sowing of the gospel,” observes one mission strategist. “The law of the harvest applies well: If you sow abundantly you will also reap abundantly” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Some of the gospel seeds fall on hard ground, but some find fertile soil. Nurturing (discipleship, leadership training, church planting) comes next, but without the Word implanted in hungry hearts, there will be no young plants to nurture.
Hungry hearts abound in China, to cite an enormous example.
A volunteer Christian teacher wept as she recalled the most moving moment of her summer at a Chinese university: One of her adult students asked her for permission just to touch her Bible. The teacher had never imagined someone could be so hungry for the Word of God.
Despite the wildfire growth of Christians, who now number as high as 85 million, China’s population includes more lost people — at least 1.2 billion — than any other nation. It includes the majority Han Chinese — the world’s largest ethnic people group — and more than 450 ethnic minorities. It also includes hundreds of virtually unreached cities and countless towns and villages waiting to hear about Christ.
“There is a great spiritual vacuum in China among the people,” says a Christian worker. “There are great opportunities right now to share the gospel, but they need to see that God is the God of all peoples and that Christ is the Savior of all men. China is in a massive struggle between the forces of light and darkness. The church is growing at a rate of 1 million per month, yet the birthrate is 1.7 million per month!”
And 20,000 people die each day, most without ever understanding the love God has for each of them.
Bible distribution can’t keep pace with China’s Christian growth — much less the staggering number of lost people. Even using a much more conservative estimate of 600,000 new believers a month, or 7.2 million annually, “there is still a chronic Bible shortage among Christians,” says another worker. “Bibles for evangelism are in very short supply and are generally unavailable for non-Christians.”
The solution: quiet but widespread delivery of many, many more Bibles, Bible portions, tracts, “Jesus” films and other “gospel containers,” bolstered by Internet evangelism/training, storying and other evangelism methods. Hungry souls must be fed.
Visiting an unreached village recently, a Christian was teaching the Bible using stories and pictures when a villager suddenly began shouting, “Everything he says is true!” The man accepted Christ, and most of the other villagers quickly followed suit.
About the same time, another worker carried Christian materials into a community for distribution. Initially concerned he might be questioned by authorities, his concern shifted when eager people began grabbing for the materials. He thought someone might be injured in the scuffle.
Recounting the experience, the worker said, “Everywhere we went and told people about Jesus, they would believe and receive him.”
The light of the Word will shine everywhere in China’s darkness — if Christians can get it there.
Watch video of former SBC President James Merritt at China’s Great Wall
People group teams in East Asia: http://www.peopleteams.org/EA.htm.