This is an excerpt of the message given at The World Missions Summit 3.
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:3-14, NKJV)
Mission history refers to the 1800s as the Great Century. Building on William Carey’s foundation to reach the coastlands, men like Hudson Taylor, CT Studd, and John Patton went to inland China, inland Africa, and the islands of the sea, searching for the peoples and places beyond.
Something happened in the 1900s, the Pentecostal Century, something wonderful, something prophesied, something birthed by a collective desperation for our heavenly home. It exploded the growth of the Church around the world.
Enlightenment brought darkness. Industry manufactured weapons of war. Education ushered in arrogance. Commerce fueled slavery. Every advance of man corrupted. Every promise turned to a nightmare. The world was not improving. All the wisdom, might, and effort of humanity proved incapable of bringing peace, hope, joy, or love.
A longing grew and burst in the heart of men and women: “This world is not our home, we’re just a passing through.” This is not where we belong, and God’s people fixed their eyes with one hope, one prayer alone: “Jesus, would you come? Please take us home.”As they waited, their attention was drawn to the one clarification Scripture gives about timing: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
There were other indicators – earthquakes, famines, signs in heaven above, the beginning of sorrows – but the clearest requirement for the end game is the global declaration to every ethno-linguistic people that Jesus alone is Savior, that Jesus is Lord of every people, and that in Jesus’ return alone is the ultimate redemption of all things.
We now stand at the start of a new millennium. We are not the first to dream of closure. Yet the Scripture has not changed, nor has its mandate been accomplished. We have seen more war, bondage, injustice, economic oppression, racial divides, abuses of human dignity, perversion of culture, violation of creation, corruption of institutions than ever before. More sobering and troubling yet, we still strive with indwelling sin.
There yet remains one blessed hope. There is still one precious and priceless priority. There is yet the promise of empowerment, and these are in the context of “the gospel of the Kingdom being preached in all the world to every people, and then the end shall come.” But in order for the gospel to be preached among every people, in order for the end to come, we must surrender.
1) WE MUST SURRENDER THE IDEA THAT THE PEOPLES OF THIS WORLD WILL BE WON BY ANYTHING OTHER THAN PREACHING.
The verb preached comes from the Greek word kerysso. It means the verbal announcing, the spoken proclamation, the audible heralding of a message.
In Acts 6, the Apostles say, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. We will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (vv. 2, 4).
Stephen is chosen and as a result “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied…. Stephen full of grace and power was doing great wonders and signs [and] they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking…and they set up false witnesses saying, ‘This man never ceases to speak…for we heard him say…’” (vv. 7-8, 10, 13).
It is academic to us that leaders, luminaries, pastors, and clergy devote themselves to prayer and proclamation but note what Stephen, the table waiter, does. He opens his mouth and speaks. Grace, power, signs, and wonders accompanying, Stephen will not shut up. His spoken wisdom – controversial as it was – could not be countermanded.
The forces of our age seek to muzzle you. The siren song of respectability urges moderation. Powers within, without, and from below make it their one ambition: To silence the compelling, consistent verbalized presentation of the gospel. You are pressured to not offend. You are persuaded to not inflame. You are badgered towards suffocating tolerance.
In the Kingdom, we attack evil wherever we find it, but you want a justice issue? Let us not waver from the greatest of them all! Because not all are poor, not all are trafficked, not all are illiterate, not all lack clean water, and not all have AIDS. BUT all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is the universal malady. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old, rich and poor PERISH. They march in their legions towards damnable hell, not because of the excesses or hypocrisy of our fathers, but because of our thundering silence!
The unparalleled injustice of our day is simply this: 6,500 unreached people groups, two billion people have not heard the gospel. Our prayers, our finances, our mission, and our action MUST PRIORITIZE proclamation among the unreached. Entire people groups are damned because the Church will not proclaim in power. We must surrender our words, or our lack of them, for this gospel must be preached to every people, and then the end shall come.
2) WE MUST SURRENDER THE IDEA THAT THE GOSPEL CAN BE PREACHED FROM A POSITION OF SECURITY.
A friend sent me a Helen Keller quote: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
I live in Cairo, and the daily existence of our team reminds me that we cannot wait for peace – not Pax Americana, not stability in the Arab World, not a guarantee against danger, abuse, rape, prison, pain, or death, and not assurances of non-violence. The gospel speaks loudest when its message of hope is contrary to the times. The uncertainties and instability of our day are no excuse not to spend or be spent. The dangers that are real and that rush upon us do not remove our preaching mandate.
We must embrace ongoing insecurity. Instability is the new normal. Suffering and persecution must increase as the end draws nigh. This is our new privilege. Suffering is our destiny. This is the Live Dead joy. There is no “safe” time to preach the gospel. We must surrender the idea that the gospel can be preached from a position of security for the gospel has ever gone forth and must now again be preached – under pressure.
3) WE MUST SURRENDER THE IDEA THAT THE GOSPEL CAN BE PREACHED ONLY IN SELECT PARTS OF THE WORLD.
Our text is very clear. The gospel must be preached among every people. The Greek “nation” in our text is ethnesi. From it we derive the word ethnic, and it refers to specific language and cultural peoples – what we call ethno-linguistic groups.
The gospel must go to every people group. This is why we plant indigenous churches that they can reach their own, and the peoples beyond them. This is why we train national leaders that they may rise up apostolically and go to the regions beyond. This is why we touch with compassion that we might access those peoples who have never heard the gospel.
The goal has never been planting churches or training leaders. The goal has never been compassion toward the hurting. All of these are valuable; none are salvific by intent. All are a means to an end and work towards the ultimate goal of mission. The goal is the glory of God and the immanent return of Christ. The motive is love. The means is the preaching of the gospel among every people group, for then and only then will the end come.
In our world today are 6,500 unreached peoples. This is the priority of Scripture. This is the purpose for the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason for mission. We must surrender the idea that the gospel be preached only in certain places in our world. Though none of us would ever admit to thinking this way, we collectively have acted this way. We must now be resolute. The strategy of the Spirit demands: We will ever prioritize the regions beyond. We will ever focus on neglected peoples. We will ever preach the gospel among the peoples where it has not been preached.
4) WE MUST SURRENDER THE IDEA THAT THE GOSPEL CAN BE PREACHED IN OUR OWN POWER.
There are three spirits that plague humanity and hinder the mission of God: I know. I can. I am. These spirits must be strangled out of us, and in their place we must desperately, frantically seek the Holy Spirit. The circumstantial exposure to the realities of mission impresses the sobering reality upon us that: I know not, I cannot, I am not.
I am Pentecostal by necessity, not by choice. I daily seek the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to be filled and refilled out of sheer desperation. The continual refilling of the Spirit is the lifeline of the weak. We have no solutions or sources. We know not, we cannot, we are not. And unless the Father sends the Spirit, all is lost.
Earlier this year I was at a conference. Late one night I sat with three friends. We were talking of the many times the Spirit had led us to pray for Muslims to be healed and nothing happened.
The week after the conference, one friend wrote us: “I think God gets a different kind of glory when His servants pray and nothing happens. And pray again and nothing happens. And believe and nothing happens. And trust and look foolish. And step out in faith and are not rewarded. And their spirit persists. And they pray and pray and pray and pray, and nothing happens. And their spirit endures, and their spirit remains, and their spirit believes, and their spirit trusts. And they pray again and nothing happens. And the heavens are as brass, and the answer does not come.”
When the spirit of man is subject to God under such duress and disappointment, God elbows the devil in the ribs and says, “Got anyone like that, devil? Got anyone like that? Got anyone so surrendered, devil? Got anyone whose spirit is so yielded and soft? Got anyone that trusts you unshakably? Do you have anyone with a surrendered spirit like that?”
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of that old serpent like the spirit of one completely surrendered to Jesus. For a surrendered spirit doesn’t have to know why. A surrendered spirit doesn’t have to be known. A surrendered spirit doesn’t have to be able. A surrendered spirit doesn’t have to be the center. A surrendered spirit doesn’t have to succeed. Yet, a surrendered spirit can be trusted with power from on high for a surrendered spirit is unlimited, and a surrendered spirit is unstoppable.
We must surrender the idea that this gospel will be preached to every nation in our own strength. For it is to the desperate that Jesus sends more of His Spirit.
Rid yourself of the notion that God needs you. China, Afghanistan, and Libya do not need you. Somali pirates, Thai Buddhists, Saudi princes, European atheists – they don’t need your smallness, weakness, baggage, or sin. You need Cairo much more than Cairo needs you. You need Syria, Mauritania, Turkey, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Spain to reveal your smallness, to break you, to cast you in fragments upon the rock.
Live Dead doesn’t need you. The nations don’t need you. Jesus doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need your words, deeds, or ideas. He doesn’t need your puny security measures. He doesn’t need your strategy or individual preference about where you should go. He certainly doesn’t need your ridiculous strength or undisciplined spirit.
We are not needed, but we are invited. The God of glory invites us. The Lord of all peoples instructs us to preach the gospel among all the ethne, and His surprising condition of invitation is surrender. Jesus does not stand before us begging. Jesus never has and never will negotiate. These are His terms:
1) We must surrender the idea that the peoples of this world will be won by anything other than preaching.
2) We must surrender the idea that the gospel can be preached from a position of security.
3) We must surrender the idea that the gospel can be preached only in select parts of the world.
4) We must surrender the idea that the gospel can be preached in our own power.
If on these sacred understandings you are willing to take up the invitation of God and join Him in His grand priority, the gospel preached among every people group and then the end shall come, surrender all.