The task is too big
August 17 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The task is too big | Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

The task is too big

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor The last frontier of missions, it has been said, is collaboration. In many parts of the world, mission efforts are working to cross that frontier. A variety of denominational and independent mission-sending agencies are learning to move past provincialism and to work together in the daunting task of spreading the gospel to the unreached peoples of our world. Why? Because the task is too big for any group to tackle it alone.

And because the task is too important to let minor differences stand in the way of major efforts in evangelism.

This was a message I heard again and again on a recent study tour of mission work in Southeast Asia. It is a message that needs to be proclaimed from the housetops.

In 1971, I was introduced to "World A" as a BSU summer missionary in Semarang, Indonesia. "World A" is a descriptive term for the quarter of the world's population that has never heard about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. No one called it "World A" then, but anyone involved in missions knew it was a world in need of the gospel.

Thirty years later I had the rare opportunity of returning to that part of the world in the company of seven other interested Baptists, including Keith Parks, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB) and retired Global Missions Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

We visited four different countries and six major cities, along with forays into outlying towns and villages.

We experienced populations devoted to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, animism and ancestor worship in various combinations and syncretistic forms.

We visited with local pastors, national mission leaders and representatives of several independent mission agencies, as well as CBF and IMB missionaries.

Again and again we heard about the staggering needs of "World A" and the large number of identified people groups that have yet to hear the gospel, or to have access to any portion of the Bible in their own language. We learned from a missionary linguist just how much time and effort is involved in learning a new language, creating an alphabet capable of putting it in written form, translating scripture into that language, and then teaching villagers, many of whom are illiterate, to read it.

And there is much to do. Within a 300-mile radius of Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, researchers have catalogued some 360 known languages or distinctive dialects, and the number is growing. Most of those groups still have no scriptures in their own language.

The task is immense, and it is growing. Mission strategists began giving serious attention and unprecedented focus to unreached people groups in the early 1990's, but their number has continued to rise because mission efforts are not keeping up with world population growth.

And, despite a growing emphasis on unreached people groups, missions expenditures devoted to World A are still a very small fraction of total church giving. Statistics suggest that less than one tenth of one percent of all church income is used to bring light into the darkest parts of our world.

Missions spending directed to World A is growing, and that is good.

Cooperation between different "Great Commission Christian" groups is also growing, and that is good.

The task demands that believers learn to sacrifice not only their time and money, but also their pride and provincialism. Missionaries on the ground understand this. Churches and denominational bodies, steeped in tradition, have been slower to catch on.

Christians in general and Baptists in particular are learning new lessons and making new progress in collaborative outreach efforts, but we can do better.

We must do better: The task is too big for anything less than our best.

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8/17/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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