Scattered to Gather
Updated: Feb 28
Andrew Scott, president of OM USA in a recent webinar, said,
There are over 3 billion people in the world today who will be born to live and die without ever seeing the gospel lived out in front of them. They will never be able to see the life of Jesus followers lived out in their context. And they will never hear the gospel explained to them in their context. What is more dreading is that the number 3 billion is growing by over 60,000 every day. And here is the shocking reality, the total number of workers send among the 3 billion is only 13,000. It's pretty easy for us to do the math and find that we face a colossal scalability issue.
If all our mission models, approaches and strategies are sending only 13,000 workers for the 3 billion + 60,000 every day, we are only moving backwards and not forward in reaching the unreached. There must be another way to scale up the number of people to reach the 3+ billion people.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave His disciples the blueprint for what was to come. The Spirit of God would ignite and empower his people, and they would become witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. But interestingly, the Church remained in the comfortable confines of Jerusalem. In fact, it was not until Acts 8, with the great persecution of the Church, that things changed.
Acts 8:1: "At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles".
Then comes the epic one-sentence declaration found in Acts 8:4: "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went...".
God used the trial of persecution to get the Church moving! Sometimes in life, good things can come out of unpleasant circumstances. Could you imagine what the disciples experienced when they were forced to leave Jerusalem? They had to relocate their families and find a new place to live. They had to find a job to support their families. Some people are great at adapting to new challenges, while others are miserable when facing such changes. Whatever the early disciples' comfort zones were, what is most striking is that, wherever they got scattered, they scattered God's word. They shared God's word both to Jews and Greeks in Phoenicia, Cyprus, Cyrene and Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:19). As a result, a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
The incredible reality of this new movement is that the apostles do not lead it - they are in Jerusalem. It was led by anonymous men and women who shared the word wherever they went. The Antioch church was not born from the evangelistic ministry of some famous apostle or evangelist. It was the Church of the ordinary people.
When we study the New Testament and early church history, the ordinary believer did more to spread the gospel than people like the Apostle Paul. Both were important. But the gospel spread further and faster through the lives of ordinary believers than it did through other means. I believe the future of the Church belongs to ordinary men and women who are willing to scatter God's word on the move.
How will we access 80% of the world's population who live in countries where overt missionary activity is severely restricted or illegal? Rather than seeing this as a threat, we believe it represents one of the greatest opportunities in mission history – the mass mobilization of ordinary men and women who are willing to be scattered. God is looking for professionals as ambassadors of Christ to the marketplaces of the world where people have little to no access to the gospel of the kingdom. There is a place for engineers, teachers, medical personnel, mechanics, chefs, consultants, etc., in global mission. Can you believe that 90% of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists have never met a Jesus follower? Your education, skills and training are not a hindrance for God to use you in reaching the nations. You can be a difference-maker.
One of my friends who served as pastor for many years in Canada is now preparing to go to one of the largest cities in South Asia. He has previously served in the majority world as a pastor, but this time, he is not going in as a pastor but as the spouse of a marketplace professional. They are invited into the country as professionals while they have the opportunity to live out their missional life in a city that is predominantly closed to the gospel. Isn’t that amazing?
Seven out of 10 people will be living in cities by 2050. This massive migration of people from rural to urban brings enormous opportunities for global mission. When you think of a city, there are many different opportunities for people to find jobs in various sectors of society versus a small rural setting. Cities act as a giant melting pot of different cultures and ethnic groups. Often, we think of the least reached ethnic groups as living in one place, but now we have people worldwide coming from those least-reached places to the cities. So, the opportunity to reach out to the least reached in the cities is enormous.
54% of companies worldwide cannot find the talent they need. And that number is growing every day. What does that mean for us in global mission? We believe God is using this global talent crisis as an opportunity for the people of God to reach the unreached people groups in places that are closed to the gospel. Could this be the Roman roads of today where people can go in with these jobs to the least reached parts of the world? While they fulfill the real needs in society, they can access these places to bring the gospel.
A global survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper says 8 out of 10 millennials want to take their job overseas. We have a massive opportunity to engage the millennials who are Jesus followers to go overseas not just for their job but also to fit their life into God's grand and glorious purpose to see His glory known among the nations.
The opportunities are there; the doors are wide open, we don't have to climb in windows, we don't have to go in through back doors, and we don't have to create holes in borders. We go in with invitations from the country to come in with our value-add jobs, which will allow us to bring the kingdom of God into those places that are closed to the gospel.
I don't pretend to know what God is up to with the pandemic. But one thing I know that He is not surprised by the coronavirus. He is sovereign, and He can use any disruption or persecution for the expansion of His kingdom. In many ways, today, we feel scattered like the first-century Church. I don't want to compare the pandemic to persecution, but I wonder if He is using the pandemic trial to push His Church out of the pews to be His witnesses in the world.
To explore more on Marketplace global mission opportunities:
Paterson, Ross. The Antioch Factor. England, Sovereign World Ltd., 2000.
Scott, Andrew. Work + Mission Webinar: What's Going on in the World Today. Scatter Global, February 11, 2021. Webinar.