John Piper writes in his biography on Adoniram Judson,
Patrick Johnstone says in Operation World that only in the 1990s did we get a reasonably complete listing of the world’s peoples. For the first time we can see clearly what is left to be done. There are about 12,000 ethnolinguistic peoples in the world. About 3,500 of these have, on average, 1.2% Christian populations—about 20 million of the 1.7 billion people, using the broadest, nominal definition of Christian. Most of these least reached 3,500 peoples are in the 10/40 window and are religiously unsympathetic to Christian missions. That means that that we must go to these peoples with the gospel, and it will be dangerous and costly. Some of us and some of our children will be killed (John Piper, Adoniram Judson: How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!, 6-7).
The need is mind-boggling in scope. So the question remains, “who will go?”
I came across this statement from John Piper on missionaries who go where the gospel is not preached. Well said.
My aim here is to celebrate the immeasurably important work of missionaries. There is nothing like it in the world. Nothing can replace it. Oh, what a rare band—what a rare breed—of human beings are the pioneer missionaries who say with the apostle Paul, ‘I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand”” (Rom.15:20-21). The One whom the nations have never heard of, the One they will see when we tell them, is Jesus. In spite of all their sinfulness and ordinariness, there are no people more to be admired and encouraged than the missionaries who share this holy ambition (John Piper, Jesus: The Only Way to God: Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2010], 12-13).
I’m enjoying What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert (author of What is the Gospel?). They offer a clear and concise statement on what mission looks like in Acts. While this statement needs elaboration (and they do develop it), it provides a helpful calibration of what the church’s mission does and doesn’t include in Acts. Insofar as this statement accurately reflects the scope and nature of mission in Acts, it helps us better understand what defines the church’s mission in the 21st century.
The book of Acts is especially important because in it we can actually see the scope and nature of the earliest Christian mission. If you are looking for a picture of the early church giving itself to creation care, plans for societal renewal, and strategies to serve the community in Jesus’ name, you won’t find them in Acts. But if you are looking for preaching, teaching, and the centrality of the Word, this is your book. The story of Acts is the story of the earliest Christians’ efforts to carry out the commission given to them in Acts 1:8 (Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011], 49).
On occasion, I read a missionary biography to my kids before bed. They’ve grown to enjoy these brief biographical accounts. I found them on wholesomewords.org. This website contains Missionary Hero stories for children. They are excerpts from Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know by Julia H. Johnston.
In Adoniram Judson’s life story, we are told that he lived with one question in mind . . .
At ten this boy studied Latin and Greek, and at sixteen he went to Brown University, from which he was graduated, as valedictorian of his class, when he was nineteen. He was a great student, loving study, and ambitious to do and be something very grand and great indeed. Two years after this, he became a Christian, and then came a great longing to be a minister, and he studied diligently with this end in view. There was one question which this splendid young man asked about everything, and this was, “Is it pleasing to God?” He put this question in several places in his room so that he would be sure to see and remember it.
So after reading Judson’s story, we printed out pages for our kids with this question on it and 1 Corinthians 10:31 right under it. Each of them has this question posted on the wall by their bed. Our desire is that we cultivate in them a desire to fulfill their chief end in life, which is to live lives pleasing to the One for whom they exist (1 Corinthians 8:6). Here’s a copy of what we provided to our children in case you want to have this worthy question before you too.