In the annals of famous last words, few are as pervasive, inclusive and pumped full of promise as the mandate Jesus gives his disciples (including you and me!) in Acts 1.8, “. . .you’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
It’s both a charge and a promise, a nudge and an assurance. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus followers from all over will take the good news everywhere to everyone.
It’s an echo of the covenant God cut with Abraham so long ago, “I will bless you. . .and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Has the promise been kept? Yes, in many places, in many ways for many peoples. But also no. It has yet to become reality for others.
Good friends of mine are investing prayer, money, and copious cogitation in the development of a list of Muslim peoples who’ve yet to experience that witness for the first time or who are currently without it.
Their term is unengaged. The technical definition is something like, “no one is on the ground, speaking the local language, working toward reproducing discipleship movements.”
As the list nears completion, they estimate around 500 Muslim people groups fit that definition. 500 groups, ranging from thousands to tens of millions in size, among whom no witnesses have yet to begin the work.
Babies are born and grandmas die. Pandemics are fought and wars are lost. Tears are shed and laughter shared. All without the first witness to the cosmos-shifting good news that God came, lived, died and rose again.
500 of these groups. What are we going to do? What does God want us to do? What about me? What about you?