When Jesus told his disciples in Luke 10:2 that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few he was making a statement of fact. His encouragement was to pray for more harvesters and when he later delivered the great commission in Matthew 28, the marching orders for followers of Christ and his church became clear: Jesus came to seek and save the lost and his plan to accomplish the task was built on the development of disciples who make disciples. Out of this disciple making milieu churches naturally form. God gets the glory and the kingdom of Jesus expands. The simple creed, to know God and make him known, stands as a summary of the message of the Bible and the life purpose of any Christian.
As we cast our gaze back through church history we see the story of a church stumbling forward in this endeavor, sometimes embracing it wholeheartedly, sometimes distracted and faltering, sometimes accomplishing it through the divine push of the Spirit of God. The very first generation of Christians was laser focused on making disciples. They proclaimed the gospel boldly and God added to their numbers steadily (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14, 42; 6:7). Outside of Philip however, few ventured beyond the walls of Jerusalem. And then, with the martyrdom of Stephen, God seems to have given His church a divine push and a ragtag collection of relatively new Christians soon scattered across the refugee road and “preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). The church, a family of ordinary, unschooled men and women living on the fringe of society, turned the Roman world upside down.
Each successive generation has had to discover their own role in obeying the great commission. At times the church has remained true to the core missionary task and at other times the church has turned inward, succumbed to the distracting lure of political power or simply capitulated to the ways of the world. Always there was a remnant and that remnant continued to follow Jesus into the harvest among those who had not yet heard. As the world grew and changed, the church adapted with it. New technologies and innovations opened up new opportunities to carry the gospel forward. The printing press allowed for the mass printing of Bibles and gospel tracts. The steam engine carried missionaries further, faster. The radio opened up the door to broadcasting the good news into the places Christian workers weren’t allowed.
Missiologist Doug Birdsall observed that, “The Great Commission is for every church in every culture in every generation. There are no exclusions. But . . . every church in every culture in every generation must determine the way in which they respond to this responsibility -- in a way that is appropriate to time and context.” Philip the Evangelist thought about his role in completing the great commission in completely different ways than Hudson Taylor did 1800 years later when he boarded a ship to China. And when Jim Elliot and Nate Saint dropped a bucket on a string out of a circling plane over the Amazon jungle they too innovated in order to take the gospel forward.
Today our world has changed in extraordinary ways. Globalization has led to the migrations of people across the globe in unprecedented numbers and now people groups once hidden in far away lands are living down the street. Technology has opened up doors of communication that never before existed. Where the printing press gave rise to the gospel tract, the internet has opened doors to place gospel messages on the smartphones in the hands of men and women who have never met a follower of Christ.
We can all agree that the Internet is a double edged sword carrying in its networks unimaginable power for both good and evil. And yet our redeemer God has led His church to utilize this new technology for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Mission agencies around the world are using social media marketing tools in order to connect with the hidden seekers scattered throughout every region, people group and religion.
One group serving in a Muslim majority country saw all in person connections shut down because of Covid in early 2020. After catching their breath and mourning the loss of ministry as they knew it, they began to run Facebook ads throughout the region. Within a few months they had engaged in more gospel conversations and seen more people come to faith than in the previous years they’d been in the country. Two young teenage girls who had been secret believers for over a year responded to one of those ads and for the first time were connected with other followers of Christ.
But it’s not only missionaries and professionals who are able to do this kind of work. Today, with a little coaching and some simple training, any follower of Christ with an Internet connection can begin building relationships with the unreached in the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and tribal worlds – the church unleashed into the global harvest, partnering in the great commission as never before, being the answer to Jesus’ prayer for more harvesters.
A retired teacher in a small town in the Midwest heard about Crescent Project and the Embassy ministry and was soon connecting with English teachers through a Facebook group for teachers in the Middle East. She now regularly texts and calls with a handful of new friends - all of them are Muslim. She is the first true Christian any of them has met and she is praying for them daily, sharing regular testimonies of God’s faithfulness and, with two of these dear teachers, they have begun reading the Bible together.
A college student in London was watching a live soccer match on Youtube when he noticed that many of the people adding comments on the live chat were Hindi names. He began to interact and was able to connect with two new Hindu friends from East Asia - in a live chat on Youtube while watching a soccer match. Who knows where God will lead these young men as they begin to ask questions and hear about the good news from a twenty year old Brit.
Another Embassy volunteer was pleasantly surprised to find out that the young Iranian woman with whom she’d connected on a language learning app had recently become a Christian. A sister in Christ from Brazil had already been connecting with her, shared the gospel and led her to faith. In what the Embassy volunteer would say was one of the most powerful zoom calls of her life, these three sisters gathered together to share testimonies, read the Bible, worship and pray together.
God is on the move. He has always been on the move and has never missed an opportunity to redeem new technologies and innovations. Over 5 billion people in the world, if asked today, would say that they are not a Christian. 3.3 billion of those are a part of unreached people groups, ethnic groups without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church. Many of them have never met a follower of Christ, have never read a Bible and have never been in a church. We must continue to raise up and send missionaries into these least reached regions of our planet - we must do so and we must send more.
But for those of us who are not going, we too can be a part of Christ’s harvest force. It will take a tenacious curiosity and teamwork and the expertise of those among us familiar with these new technologies. More than anything, like always, we’ll need to be faithful. Faithful like the two dear sisters who are vision impaired who have joined the Embassy team. Faithful like the many seventy and eighty year olds and the university students who are reaching out online and meeting Muslims. They too are a part of the Embassy ministry.
At Crescent Project, we would love to give you the training and the onramps to begin to reach out, connect with and share the love of Jesus with Muslims. There are other great organizations who can help you get started as well. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few - join with me in praying for the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into those harvest fields.
Organizations that can help you get started reaching out online:
The E2E Community