And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).
This is the great commission that Jesus gave His followers:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
The meaning of the word nations in both passages is explained in this video.
Since the 1800s incredible strides have been made to preach the Gospel to all people groups.
The 1800s – “The Great Century”
It (the 19th century) has been described by church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette as “the great century” in church history. He says, “Never before had Christianity, or any religion, been introduced to so many different peoples and cultures.” “Never before in a period of equal length had Christianity or any other religion penetrated for the first time as large an area as it had in the nineteenth century.” “Never before had so many hundreds of thousands contributed voluntarily of their means to assist the spread of Christianity or any other religion.” The nineteenth century was the greatest one thus far in the history of Christianity in terms of its extent and its effect upon mankind.1
1. Quoted in Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America, second edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), 157
Trends to reach people groups
Bruce McDowell writes that: In 1800 only about 2000 of the nearly 13,000 distinct ethno-linguistic peoples in the countries of the world had been reached with the gospel. From 1850 onwards the proportion of non-Caucasian Christians in the world has grown rapidly. By 1900 over 4100 of these people groups had received the gospel. This was a massive effort through a renewed vision and interest in seeing the gospel go to the ends of the earth.
1900 – Present
Radio, TV, satellite, cellular, and the internet become tools to spread the Gospel. The Joshua Project reports that: “Over three billion people are now on the Internet! Well over one million new people get connected every day! Remarkably, the second most popular search topic on the internet is ‘spiritual and religious’ related information.”
Global Mission Trends
The Joshua Project reports that:
- An average of 160,000 a day hear the message of redemption in Christ for the first time. Every hour, over 1,600 people decide to follow Jesus Christ.
- In 1800, those who had never heard the Gospel were almost 75% of the globe’s population. Today the percentage of those who have not heard is about 28%; a major move forward. However that means almost two billion people have not heard the Gospel message even one time!
The Joshua Project also reports that:
- An average of 3,500 new churches open every week around the world.
- Evangelicals numbered 89 million (2.9%) in 1960, but by 2010 they were 546 million (7.9%)!
The Gospel continues to spread rapidly throughout the world as evidenced in the following geographical areas.
The Middle East
Muslims are coming to faith in Christ at an unprecedented pace despite intense persecution of those who leave Islam. Missions organizations say radio, television, and internet based ministries have been the key. “Probably in the last 15 years,” says one agency, “more Muslims have come to faith in Christ than in the past 15 centuries of Islam. (Source)
More Jews have embraced Jesus / Yeshua as Messiah since 1967 when the Jews took control of Jerusalem than in all the years between 100 AD and 1967. (Source)
More Iranians came to Christ between 1980 and 2010 than the previous 1,000 years combined. (Source)
In the twentieth century, Christianity in Africa exploded from an estimated population of eight or nine million in 1900 (8 to 9%) to some 335 million in 2000 (45%), marking a shift in the “center of gravity of Christianity” from the West to Latin America, parts of Asia and Africa. (Source)
20,000 new African believers every day. 3% Christian in 1900, today Africa is more than 50% Christian in some countries. The church in Africa is growing 4x faster than the general population. SubSahara Africa is becoming a sending base for missionaries to Islamic North Africa. (Source)
At the turn of the 20th century, Christianity was virtually nonexistent in many parts of Africa but is now the faith of the majority, as the following table demonstrates:
Just after the WWI, an Anglican diocese was established in Lagos in Nigeria. Ninety-one years later, it has become the largest active Protestant church body in the world. Much of the growth of the Anglican Church of Nigeria occurred during the last two decades… Every Sunday, the Church of Nigeria gathers 20 million people in worship of Jesus Christ. Despite its largeness, Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola sees the Church of Nigeria growing to half the population of the country. Nigeria has over 150 million people. (Source)
From 2 million in 1960 to 51.2 million in 2010, now one of the largest evangelical populations in the world. Over 100 mission agencies have emerged, sending over 2,000 Brazilian missionaries to 85 countries. (Source)
Many of Nagaland’s three million people confess Jesus as Lord. The Nagaland church recently vowed to send out 10,000 new missionaries to India and beyond. Those once unreached are now becoming senders. (Source)
In the early 1980s there were only 75 known Nepali believers. Today there are an estimated 850,000 believers. From almost no churches 20 years ago to nearly 10,000 churches and house fellowships today. (Source)
In 1950, when China closed to missionaries, there were about one million Chinese believers. Today some estimate over 75 million believers and over 10,000 new Christians in China every day! There are more followers of Christ in China than in North America. (Source)
China is now the Bible-printing capital of the world. Amity Press, owned by the communist government, has now printed more than 50 million Bibles in 75 languages from Slovak to Swahili to Braille, exporting them to more than 60 countries. Are the Bibles sold in China itself? Yes, anyone can buy a Bible—but only through one of the state-authorized Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches. (Source)
State of the World / The Task Remaining
These maps illustrate the task still remaining:
- Progress of the Gospel by people group
- Interactive People Groups in Google Maps
- Evangelical Christianity in 10/40 window – percent change 1990-2010
This animated map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Every frame is one year in the last 2000 years of the Great Commission. It does not show only nations that have declared Christianity to be the national religion, or even areas where professing Christians are the majority of the population. It shows everywhere the Gospel has been preached, where churches and Christian gravestones first show external evidence of that work, and where churches and Bibles are accessible today.
Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. In focusing on Christianity, it doesn’t show the geographic dispersion of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or others. Islam is on the map, but only those areas where Islam has dominated at a political level, instituting Sharia Law and persecuting Christians. We have highlighted these areas for the same reason that we show the Roman, Mongol, and Communist conquests: to provide context and demonstrate the effect that extreme persecution has had on Christianity.
So just how close are we to fulfilling the Great Commission?
Great Commission fulfilled by 2026?
Billy Graham’s Decision magazine, November, 2011:
…At meetings in Orlando, Fla., organized by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, it was announced that the world could be only 10 or 15 years away from seeing the Great Commission fulfilled. In other words, it is possible that every people group on Earth will have had the Gospel preached to them and some portion of Scripture translated into their language. To hear this announcement was astounding.
We are now seeing the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation ever witnessed by the Church. Currently, Bible translation is actively under way in over 2,250 languages. (Source)
Wycliffe Bible Translators and Vision 2025
In 1999, our leaders realized that at the speed we were going, it would be at least 2150 before a Bible translation could be started for every language that needed one… Our leaders committed that we would do everything we could to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. (Source)
At a Wycliffe Bible translators conference held just before Thanksgiving, 2016 it was stated that at least portions of the Bible will be translated into every known language within 8 years! That’s 2024!
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)
Great Multitude Saved
The Apostle John sees a great multitude that no one can count standing before God (Revelation 7:9-14)! Based on the description, these have called out to Jesus Christ for salvation and received eternal life! John is told that this vast multitude came out of great tribulation which would be from the second half of the 70th week of years until Jesus returns.
The Ultimate Fulfillment of the Great Commission
Jesus Christ gave His followers the responsibility to take the Gospel to all nations or people groups, and we must be obedient to that command. Just before Jesus returns an angel will proclaim the Gospel from heaven to give all people another opportunity to turn to God.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6-7)
Since we are this close to fulfilling the Great Commission, what should our response be as followers of Jesus Christ? First, it should have an impact on how we live within the church. Second, it should stir within us a desire to be obedient to Jesus Christ and use every resource at our disposal to take the Gospel to every people group as quickly as possible in this generation!
[Seeing] then [that] all these things shall be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:11-12)
The Joshua Project is a research initiative seeking to highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ. Accurate, updated ethnic people group information is critical for understanding and completing the Great Commission.
Operation World (OW) is widely regarded as the definitive volume of prayer information about the world and is the recipient of the ECPA Gold Medallion Award for Excellence in Evangelical Christian Literature.
We at Global Frontier Missions believe the movement of people (diaspora missions) in today’s world is a great opportunity to help in the fulfill the Great Commission.