To the Ends of the Earth: Reaching the Ignored and Unreached

I remember the feeling of kissing my wife goodbye as I boarded my flight for an extended stay in a remote area of Northeast India. There was a sense of despair, wonder, and well, fear. I planned to shadow a pioneering and indigenous church planter in the farthest corner of the world from where I lived. It’s a 12.5 time zone difference. I was going to the ends of the earth.

This phrase “the ends of the earth” has been used since ancient times. It refers to going somewhere completely other, completely different, than where we are from. Jesus uses it in the book of Acts. Here’s how the story goes.

“Then [Jesus’ disciples] gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:6–8 NIV). 

There is a movement here outward from Jerusalem to their wider province, to their neighboring (foreign) province—and then all the way to the ends of the earth. This is the mission of the church, as spelled out by Jesus.

Yet, there are over 3,000 people groups without missionaries. It’s estimated that 99.7% of the church’s resources—it’s missional activities and financial support—is dedicated to areas where the church is already present. Only 0.3% of resources are dedicated to where the church is not present. I simply cannot live in a world with statistics like this and call myself Christian, unless I do something about it.

When I went to the ends of the earth, I did so because of a desire to learn, to see, to feel—to understand what God was doing in the far corners of the world. I had heard that it was like the book of Acts. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands, coming to Christ. The ignored, the unreached, the outcast, the lowest of the caste system in India—these people were leaving their oppressive religious systems for the freedom of Jesus. And the Holy Spirit was moving.

I was also there because I’m the CEO and Founder of an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. It’s called Jesus’ Economy, because that’s what God has called us to do—to create an economy that represents Jesus himself. We’re each day asking Jesus to use us to create a new spiritual and physical economy for those that need it most. We’re combining economic development—through microfinance, business training, and an online fair trade shop—with indigenous church planting efforts, while meeting basic needs. Our one goal: renew communities with the whole gospel, with the gospel that answers both the hunger of the stomach, the needs of a community, and preaches eternal salvation through Jesus.

In Bihar, India where Jesus’ Economy is working to bring the gospel to the unreached, there are 101 Million people who have never heard Jesus’ name. This is why I’ve dedicated my life to this effort—with my wife and I selling our house, nearly everything we own, leaving a great job, and committing ourselves to this cause.

When I was in India, I saw that the gospel was going forth but it needed assistance. It needs funding, yes. But it also needed innovative solutions, such as microfinance and connecting businesses to international markets through an online store. I also witnessed that deeper and more intensive discipleship was needed—that we needed to design programs and training specifically for areas where the gospel has not been preached before.

In much of India, the caste system controls entire way of life. For generations upon generations, people are told they are only allowed to have one occupation, live in one place (or at least place of society), and be one thing. If you’re born a leather worker, that’s what you are. If you’re born a share cropper, that’s what you are. If you’re born a mason, that’s what you are. If you’re born as an “untouchable” (a dalit), the lowest of the castes, that’s what you are. You’re nothing.

I saw how the gospel changed these peoples lives. How it gave them hope where there was none. And I couldn’t help but commit my life to helping. The Holy Spirit was moving and I was lucky to be part of it. 

The work Christ gave us to do is far from done. But the Holy Spirit is on the move.

Jesus desired to instill a deep belief in the power of the gospel in us—a renewing hope. We’re meant for more than mere activities. We’re meant for pioneering activities that bring his gospel to the unreached. If only we would listen and act. Here’s what happens after Jesus gives his command to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth:

“After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9–11 NIV).

And this is my plea to you today. Why do we stand here waiting? We should be moving forward with an urgency for the gospel.

 

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John Barry
John Barry

Author

CEO, President, and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the author/coauthor of 12 books and General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary.



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