It was almost noon, when I and two friends found ourselves touring a neighborhood of one of the big cities in our division with over one million inhabitants, in the pursuit for mission opportunities. Few minutes into our short tour, we were baffled as the people on the streets, their dress code, worship places, street names, religious flags and even the atmosphere of the place could not reconcile the existence of such a community in a country that boasts of being predominantly Christian. It then brought to life the idea that the nations, the unreached could be in the next office, on the other side of the street, my next door neighbor, the person seated next to me on the taxi, bus, train and on the plane. Yet, often times we associate the unreached with people with a different country, someone who could only be reached by a missionary that would need to leave his/her physical place and travel across seas to a mission field. However, in a global town as the world is today, the other nation could be the person seated next to you.
For centuries of Christian Missions, we dwelt more on one aspect of the great commission, the going and nations, defining the mission field by space, thus mission became synonymous of leaving physical space and traveling. More recently, however, many have taken the time to redirect the attention of church members, clergy and leadership, in general, to the main focus of the commission, that of making disciples, based on exegesis and language studies. However, few have taken the time of looking into the objects of this mandate, those who should be made disciples, of all ‘nations.’ And while this can be interpreted as nations as we have them today and call them countries, the understanding that nations were not configured, at the time of the commissioning, as they are today, mandates a different meaning for the objects of our mission. A revisiting of our mission filed becomes vital for the accomplishment of the Great commission.
A careful word and bible study will demonstrate that the word nation denotes ‘people group,’ a group of people living together and sharing a culture regardless rather than physical boundaries. And in the Hebrew mind, people groups that did not observe the commands of the God of Israel. It is not about making disciples of Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Malagasis, etc., rather of people groups, people of a different culture. The great commission, urges us to engage in cross-cultural mission, making disciples of people from all cultural backgrounds, those who view and interprete reality differently from us. Those who eat, dress, look, speak, and believe differently from us. It becomes therefore a must, for the accomplishment of our God given mission, that church members, local and organizational church leaders, partner to intentionally impact and disciple the more than 5.5 million people who have not heard about Jesus, most of the times because of cultural noise in our gospel communication not sensitive to their worldview. Most subscribe to the world religions and a considerable portion is made of those who do not identify themselves with a specific religion. They live in countries where 80 to 90% of the population is Christian, some are neighbors of our churches, institutions, and members that we take it for granted that they are reached territories. And 100 Million more who claim to be Christians but subscribe to worldviews incongruous to the observance of what Jesus has commanded. This is why the church through the Adventist Mission Office, offers materials, awareness and training to empower every church member to accomplish his/her part in witnessing to people of all nations and other world religions, not only Christians, especially in an age when such nations share the same, home, gatherings, city, street, school, university, workplace, etc.
By Silas Muabsa
Associate Executive Secretary: Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division