Core Vision

What Will it Take to Fulfill the Great Commission?

What Will it Take to Fulfill the Great Commission?

– By Stan Parks –

In his final instructions to his disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus laid out an amazing plan for all his disciples – both then and now.

We go in the Name having all authority – in heaven and on earth. We receive the power of the Holy Spirit as we go – to the people in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria (“enemies” nearby) and ends of the earth.  Jesus calls us to make disciples of all ethnē, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything he commanded. And he is always with us. 

What will it take to fulfill the Great Commission? In seeking to grasp the “remaining task,” we use terms like “unreached,” “unevangelized,” “unengaged,” and “least-reached.”

We often use these words interchangeably. This can be quite dangerous, as they do not mean the same thing, and we may not mean the same thing when we use them. 

“Unreached” was originally defined in a meeting of missiologists held in Chicago shortly after the whole idea of unreached peoples became popular. It was defined as, “a people group lacking a church that can evangelize the group to its borders without cross-cultural assistance.” 

“Unevangelized” as generally used, was defined in the World Christian Encyclopedia as a mathematical equation for estimating the number of people within a people group that would have access to the gospel at least once in their lifetime. It is a quantification of the number of people who have access to the gospel. A group can be, for example, 30% evangelized, which means researchers estimate 30% have heard the gospel and 70% have not. It is not a statement about the quality of the local church or its ability to finish the task on its own.

“Unengaged” was created by Finishing the Task and defined as a people group lacking a team with a church planting strategy. If a group of several million people has a team of two or three that has “engaged” it with a church planting strategy, it is “engaged” (but almost certainly underserved). Finishing the Task maintains the unengaged list, derived from other lists.

“Least-reached” is a generic term referring to the core of the remaining task. It does not have a specific definition, and is often used when no specific definition is desired.

What is the Task?

The 24:14 goal is to be part of the generation that fulfills the Great Commission. And we think the best way fulfill the Great Commission (making disciples of every people group) is through Kingdom movements in every people and place. 

All of these terms – unevangelized, unreached, unengaged, least reached – are helpful in different ways. Yet they can be confusing and even counterproductive, depending on how they are used. 

We want to see everyone evangelized but not just evangelized. In other words, it is not enough that everyone hear the gospel. We know that disciples will be made “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9, NIV).

We want to see every people group reached – to have a church strong enough to evangelize its own people. But that is not all we want. Joshua Project says that a reached group has 2% evangelical Christians. This means they estimate that those 2% can share the good news with the remaining 98%. That is an important step, but we are not satisfied if just 2% of a people become followers of Jesus.  

We want to see every group engaged but not just engaged. Would you want your city of five or ten million people to have just two workers serving to bring the gospel? 

The original language of the Great Commission makes clear the one central command in these verses: to make disciples (mathēteusate). Not just individual disciples, but discipling ethnē – entire ethnic groups. The other verbs (“go,” “baptizing,” “teaching”) support the main command – to disciple all ethnē.

The Greek word ethnos (singular of ethnē) is defined as “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people.” Revelation 7:9 rounds out the picture of the ethnē (“nations”) who will be reached, adding three more descriptive terms: tribes, peoples, and languages – various groups with common identities. 

The Lausanne 1982 people group definition says: “For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”

How do we disciple a whole nation, tribe, people, language? 

We see an example in Acts 19:10, which says all the Jews and Greeks in the province of Asia (15 million people!) “heard the word of the Lord” in two years. In Romans 15 (verses 19-23) Paul states that from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum there was no place left for his pioneering work. 

So what will it take to fulfill the Great Commission? Certainly only God can judge when the Great Commission is finally “fulfilled.” Yet the goal seems to be making disciples of a critical mass of people in each ethnos, resulting in churches. Disciples living out God’s kingdom – inside and outside the church – transforming their communities and continually bringing more people into His kingdom. 

Kingdom Movement Engagements

This is why those who have made the 24:14 commitment focus on seeing kingdom movement engagements. We recognize that only a movement of multiplying disciples, churches and leaders can disciple entire communities, language groups, cities, and nations. 

Too often in missions we have only asked: “What can I do?” We need to ask instead: “What must be done?” to fulfill our part in the Great Commission. 

We can’t afford to just say, “I will go and try to win some people to the Lord and start some churches.” We need to ask: “What will it take to see this one ethnos or these multiple ethnē discipled?”

In a challenging unreached region of multiple countries, a mission team served in many places and they saw 220 churches started in three years. This is very good, especially in light of their difficult and sometimes hostile contexts. But this team had a vision to see the entire region discipled. 

Their question was: “What will it take to disciple our region in this generation?” The answer was that a solid start (a start – not an end) would require 10,000 churches. So 220 churches in three years was not enough! 

God showed them that to reach their region would require multiple streams of rapidly reproducing churches. They were willing to change everything. When God sent them CPM trainers, they searched the Scriptures and prayed and made some radical changes. As of today, God has started 7,000+ churches in that region. 

An Asian pastor had planted 12 churches in 14 years. This was good, but it was not changing the status of lostness in his region. God has given him and his fellow laborers a vision to be a part of seeing all North India reached. They began the hard work of unlearning traditional patterns and learning more biblical strategies. Today 36,000 churches have been started. And that is only the start of what God has called them to. 

In another part of the unreached world God has started a cascade of movements from one language group into seven other language groups and five megacities. They have seen 10-13 million people baptized in 25 years but that is not their focus. When asked how he feels about these millions of new believers, one of their leaders said, “I don’t focus on all those saved. I focus on those we have failed to reach – the millions still living in darkness because we have not done what needs to be done.”  

A mark of these movements is that one person or a team of people accept a God-sized vision. To see an entire region of multiple countries filled with the Kingdom of God. To see an entire unreached people group – of eight million, or 14 million or three million – reached, such that everybody has a chance to respond to the gospel. They ask: “What must happen?” not “What can we do?” As a result they fit God’s patterns and are filled with His power. They play a part in birthing reproducing churches that begin to disciple and transform their groups. 

The initial 24:14 goal of movement engagements in every unreached people and place is not the finish line. It is just a starting line for every people and place (i.e. the groups of people in that place). We can’t finish the task among every group until the task has been started among every group.

To see Kingdom Movements in every people and place, we can’t rely on just choosing strategies and methods. We need to be ready and committed to pursuing the same dynamics God gave the early church. What will it take to see the gospel proclaimed as a testimony to all the ethnē (Matthew 24:14)? 

Stan Parks Ph.D. serves the 24:14 Coalition (Facilitation Team), Beyond (VP Global Strategies), and Ethne (Leadership Team).  He is a trainer and coach for a variety of CPMs globally and has lived and served among the unreached since 1994.

This material first appeared on pages 139-144, 147 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or from Amazon.

{1) The next 7 paragraphs are excerpted and edited from
is-not-unengaged/. See this article for more information on these terms.
(2) As described in “The 24:14 Vision”: 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, pp. 2-3.
(3) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition, 2000. Revised and
edited by Frederick William Danker, based on Walter Bauer and previous English editions by W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich,
and F.W. Danker. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, p. 276.
(4) It’s not easy to count and document a number this large, thus the estimated range.

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