At a roadside café in Nepal, a university-educated, Nepali man asked, “Jesus? No, never heard of him. What does that God do?”
How can an educated man not know who Jesus is? It’s quite easy. Over 2 billion people on earth have had no exposure to Jesus Christ. 86% of the world’s Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists and Hindus do not know one Christian.
Why, after 2000 years, have we still not completed the privileged task of taking the Gospel to all the world, every nook and cranny?
Many reasons exist. We will quickly mention five obstacles, then focus on a sixth barrier that we believe has the simplest, yet most challenging solution.
Barriers to the Gospel:
1. Geography – Many of the least reached people reside in rugged mountains, barren deserts, or remote jungles. Others are hidden within dense urban populations. The people are simply hard to reach physically.
2. Political Restrictions – Some nations greatly restrict the freedom of their citizens to communicate and learn about other belief systems, which could challenge the majority belief.
3. Family Honor – Cultures that place supreme value on protecting the good reputation or name of the family can restrict Gospel access and expansion. Tight social pressure often suffocates potential seekers of truth, and the fear of ostracism and communal rejection holds back many.
4. Language – The Church, the Bible, and many resources exist among most large language blocks. However, smaller language groups have fewer people who speak their language and consequently much less Gospel exposure.
5. Spiritual Strongholds – We “battle not against flesh and blood.” Satan desires to hold hostage as many people as possible, trapping entire groups in a complex web of interrelated bondages. These could include: fear, shame, guilt, pressure, immorality, abuse, addictions, or a host of other strongholds.
Obviously, those are all large barriers. Yet in reality, most of us can do very little to address issues of geography, politics, and family honor. The sixth barrier we consider to be both the largest obstacle and yet the one most easily remedied. Are you ready for it? You might have guessed it…
6. The Church (aka Followers of Jesus) – What should be God’s greatest tool to reach the world, can often be a stumbling block – Christians. Even you. Even us.
Because this obstacle is so personal and practical, and because we can actually do something about it, we will attempt to unpack it a little in the following paragraphs. Please know that this is not a condemnation of the Bride of Christ, but a recognition that so much more can be done to share the mind and heart of Jesus the Groom.
Even as the Apostle Paul rejoiced and suffered in a Philippian jail, he stated part of this barrier. “For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). The other day this verse struck us deeply. It caused us to pause, reflect, repent, and beg God to help us understand his interests and live for His purposes and not our own.
What are some of the ways we demonstrate we do not have concern for Jesus’ interests? Here are a few:
⦁ Ignorance/Misdirected Focus
The Church continues to spend over 99% of its global resources on Christianized areas of the world, leaving minimal resources directed towards the unreached world, among 2 billion people who have never heard the Good News. On the individual level, personal pursuits, technology, relationships, or entertainment can both occupy our minds and keep us unaware, all the while preventing us from considering Jesus’ interest.
⦁ Lack of Leadership
Jesus led his disciples to “Open/Lift up your eyes” (John 4:35). Yet believers in multiple churches remain unaware to what God is doing in the world. Such eye-opening leadership often requires more than a 3-minute testimony on Sunday morning, or annual Mission Emphasis Week for one week out of fifty-two. When the leadership does not recognize God’s heart for the nations and bring it regularly before the people, they limit exposure to what God is doing and how a congregation can get involved.
(Note: We remember when news broke recently about Christians, even children, being crucified and killed by ISIS. At worship that Sunday, we thought, “Certainly some leader will mention global events.” But in that gathering not a word was mentioned. You would have thought everything was perfect in the world – locally and globally.) Leadership can guide the Church to discover both timeless principles and current relevance. Indeed, leaders who recognize and share Jesus’ interest can lead the Church to overcome many barriers.
This one hurts Jesus…just not caring. The apathetic person misses out on Jesus’ heart by living without emotion or sensitivity (a-pathos). This type of perspective can seek to justify their lack of activity and heart by phrases like, “I wasn’t ‘called’ to missions/ministry.” But what they mean is, “Therefore, I don’t really want to think about or be concerned for lost people or tragic events.” We praise God that Jesus was not apathetic, but demonstrated the full range of human emotion, even to the point of suffering and death.
⦁ Idols of Safety and Comfort
Most of us can find ourselves here at times. As humans, we may crave security, yet God calls us to risk, to danger, and to sacrifice as we partner with him in driving back darkness. Walking by faith pleases God, and can even result in the miraculous, but that is definitely not a comfortable place. Then again, it is hard to walk on water if we refuse to “get out of the boat.”
Spending the vast majority on ourselves, our children, and our “upgraded improvements.” What does our budget say about our priorities, our generosity, the people we care about? In the meanwhile kids die of malnutrition, thousands perish today never hearing the Good News, and millions are exploited, abandoned, and separated from a life of meaning that comes only in Jesus.
So back to the idea – How much do we care about the interests of Jesus? Enough to give financially until it hurts? Enough to pray, “I’m going unless you tell me to stay.” Enough to allow your life to be interrupted, redirected, and re-shaped for the sake of Jesus’ name flooding the world – specifically among the least reached, regardless of geography, language, political regimes, family honor, and spiritual strongholds.
Currently, we are asking God to show us where our interests supersede God’s interests, or where they don’t line up. We truly want to finish our lives so that Jesus looks at us and says, “You shared my heart. You cared for what I care about. Good job, my faithful servant and friend.”
As a two-part reflective question, pause and consider, maybe even write your answers down…
1. What are Jesus’ interests?
2. What are not Jesus’ interests?