“Global Conversations” – Imbalanced
A few weeks ago we hauled a piano into our house. There were five of us – two on one end and three on the other. Imagine a sixth guy joining the three – and then another, and another, until finally there were six guys on one end and two on the other.
What does imbalance look like?
- 60% of all Christians live in the global South (we used to talk of this as the 3rd world), but they hold only 17% of all Christian financial resources
- The top 10 missionary-sending countries are home to only 32% of the world’s church members, but they send almost 73% of all missionaries
- 73% of all non-Christians live in 10 countries, but these countries receive only 9% of all missionaries*
Each one of these points could be pressed and prodded. I suspect there’s a relationship between the first two – it takes money, after all, to send missionaries internationally. And the third begs the explanation that some of these ten countries deny missionary access. And so on. Disparity can be explained.
But if only 9% of all international missionaries are going into the least-reached countries, where are the rest going? Here’s the reality: Most missionaries go to mostly-Christian countries.
Some really smart folks with the Southern Baptists, the Joshua Project, and even Gordon Conwell Seminary have invested good parts of their lives trying to figure out how many unbelievers and unreached people there are, exactly. The unreached are not unbelievers who’ve rejected the gospel – they’re unreached, they haven’t ever heard. The math can get quite fuzzy. The Baptists find the most at almost 4 billion; others find anywhere down to 2 billion. However you slice, dice, or define it, we’re talking about a lot of unreached people. They haven’t rejected the gospel – they’ve never heard it! – and it doesn’t look promising that they’ll be hearing it anytime soon.
About 70 years ago a Canadian named Oswald Smith posed the question, “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once?” Proves you don’t need to be a big name to give a good line. Like a statistic, it can probably be picked apart and parsed away. I think it’s worth pondering and praying over. Make it personal.
There’s lots of room around the piano and it feels crowded at this end, sometime.
*Statistics from Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020; put out by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary, June 2013
CTS Missionary in Residence, 2012-2014