“Abdo,” I said, “you know Sudan is under Sharia law, right?”
Grinning from ear to ear, he replied, “Yes.”
“Abdo,” I tried again, “you know they won’t be happy about you making disciples and planting churches.” His smile seemed to widen as he replied, “Yes.”
He wasn’t getting it. So, I leveled with him.
“They might kill you.”
His eyes softened. His smile never wavered.
Abdo opened nine disciple-making training centers in Sudan. He’s equipping 126 local believers to share the good news and plant churches in their predominantly Muslim communities. Abdo knows the risks. He knows it could cost him his life. Yet, he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done; the job Jesus entrusted his followers with 2000 years ago when he commanded us to make disciples of all nations and people groups.
The disciples were the first to tackle the task, and what a tremendous job they did. They witnessed firsthand the radical obedience of Jesus as he perfectly accomplished each assignment set before him, until his last breath. It was his turn, and Jesus could not have done a better job in doing the will of his Father. So, when he rose from the dead and commissioned these men to make disciples of all nations, they obeyed.
It was their turn.
They made the most of it. The disciples couldn’t and wouldn’t stop talking about Jesus. If you threw them in jail, they’d worship behind bars and then plant a church in the jailkeeper’s home. If you stoned them, they’d either walk into heaven’s throne room and meet Jesus, or they’d go to the next town and plant Jesus. It didn’t matter what you did to them; they couldn’t be stopped.
The disciples didn’t have many resources, nor were they overly qualified — can you believe that they didn’t have seminaries or salaries? They had no degrees or denominations. There were no computers or committees. They had no airplanes or automobiles. No social media. No sacred cows. No worship bands or ministry brands. They had no Bibles, buildings, boards, bylaws or business meetings.
Here’s what they did have:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to take the gospel to all nations.
What a phenomenal job they did.
They had their turn.
Now, it’s our turn.
It’s our turn to take the gospel to the rest of the world. And it’s a big, lost world.
According to The Joshua Project, there are more than 7000 unreached people groups (less than 2% evangelical Christian) and 1200 unengaged, unreached people groups (less than 2% evangelical Christian and no known active church planting underway) in the world today. That’s 41% of the earth’s population, nearly 3 billion people, who live in areas with little to no access to the gospel. That means they’ve likely never seen a Bible, never met a Christian, never experienced church and have no hope of hearing about Jesus. Nearly every two seconds, one of these precious people die, doomed to spend an eternity separated from God, not because they rejected Jesus — but because no one ever told them who he is. What a tragedy.
In 2000 years, we have yet to accomplish for the love of God what companies like Coca-Cola have accomplished for the love of money. I’ve been to a lot of remote villages, and do you know what they all have? Coke. They may not have roads, but they have Coke. Do you know what they don’t have? Jesus.
If Coke can get its product to the most remote places on earth, shouldn’t we be able to get the gospel to everyone, everywhere?
Together, with partners like Converge, I believe we can.
Converge and The Timothy Initiative empower local believers in some of the least-reached areas of the world to make disciples and plant churches.
The results are astounding. Together, we’ve planted more than 5000 churches with 100,000 new believers who are reaching their communities for Christ. These new believers come from 100 unreached people groups and 20 unengaged, unreached people groups.
Revelation 7:9 says that there will be “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,” worshipping before the throne. These new believers are some of the very first representatives from their tribes — we believe the first of many — to join that multitude in praising our Savior.
It’s incredible how the Lord has used this partnership to advance his Kingdom.
But the task isn’t finished yet. We can’t hold back or slow down while so many have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
We need to devote ourselves to prayer.
We need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to be obedient to the Great Commission.
He told us what to do.
How will we respond?
Will we obey?
Will we be like Abdo, who is willing to give his life so that others can hear about Jesus?
Will we be like Ram, who insists on sharing the gospel, even as his nation threatens fines and imprisonment?
Will we be like David, who endured torture and went to prison for his faith, yet won’t stop preaching the Word of God?
They are willing to do whatever it takes to get the gospel to every people and every place.
It’s our turn now. Together, we can fulfill the Great Commission.
David Nelms, Founder & President, The Timothy Initiative
David Nelms serves as founder and president of The Timothy Initiative (TTI). He casts vision and gives direction to TTI as it impacts the world for Christ. He is a former senior pastor and had success in growing three churches in Maryland, Iowa and Florida. He has been a trustee on the board of Luther Rice Seminary and has taught all over the world. He received a Master of Arts degree from Moody Bible Institute, a Master of Divinity from Luther Rice University and his Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice University.