Project: Ambition

Project Ambition
And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
-Romans 15:20-21

Unreached people groups

The first paragraph of John Piper’s classic book on missions Let the Nations Be Glad contains these words: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Giving glory to God is the ultimate goal of the church and seeing the nations come to worship the one true and living God is the goal of missions.

There are more than 7 billion people representing nearly 12,000 people groups on planet earth.  A “people group” is a group of people that share a common set of values, language, and ethnic markers. We are accustomed to think of political nation-states when we hear the word “nation,” but the concept of people groups is more precisely the idea behind biblical word “nations” (e.g. Matthew 28:19-20). To date, fully half the world’s population, more than 3.5 billion people, have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of those 3.5 billion belong to more than 4,000 different unreached people groups. Of those, nearly 600 people groups have a population of 100,000 people or more. Not only are many of these people groups unreached, many are unengaged. This means that they not only have virtually no Christians living among them and have little to no access to the gospel, but there is still no work going on to reach them. And thousands of them are passing into eternity daily having never heard. The task of missions is to see these peoples, as well as all of the unreached and partially reached, embrace Christ and become worshipers.

A God-sized task

imb, the Southern Baptist mission sending agency, cannot single-handedly complete the task of reaching the unreached peoples of the world. To be sure, families and individuals who are willing to go and to plant their lives in the hard places of the world will continue to be a crucial part of missions. But the relative ease of world travel, the sheer number of churches in our land, and the amount of resources that are available to those churches means that local churches must take a more active role to impact lostness. It is time for many churches to consider the possibility of becoming an “Engaging” or "Partnering" church

A Partnering Church is one that partners with other churches and missionaries to reach an unreached people group. In short, the church essentially becomes a missionary to that people group. This means that the church will make a long-term commitment to sow the gospel, plant churches, help them to raise their own elders, and see that the churches become self-replicating. This cannot happen in one trip. It will take years and it can take decades. It will mean going to work among those people several times per year.

There is no doubt that this would be a God-sized task. We can be encouraged in knowing that we would not be the first church of our size who has accepted such a challenge. But such churches are admittedly few. The 1792 sermon that sparked the modern missions movement among Baptists was entitled, “Attempt Great Things for God, Expect Great Things from God.” If Crabapple chooses to accept this task, we can be assured that any effort to accomplish it apart from trust in God will fail. This should not discourage us, however. Rather, we should be encouraged as we anticipate how God might use this opportunity to grow our faith in him.

How this fits in

But what about lost people here? To begin with, the commission given to Jesus’ disciples in Acts 1:8 does not give options for how expansive their ministry should be. Instead, Christ’s followers are called to reach the lost from across the street to the ends of the earth. It is not either/or. It is both/and.

Furthermore, a church’s ambition to go even to those among whom Christ has not been named bodes well for it’s ministry at home. In other words, far from diminishing our ministry at home, a challenge like this one has the potential to catalyze, energize, and animate  the fervor of our ministry across the street. Indeed, as the nations continue to pour into our area, the experience and global awareness we gain by engaging an unreached people group will help us as we seek to minister to Hispanics, Arabs, South Asians, Koreans, and Brazilians in our own backyard. Who knows? We’ll likely even have the opportunity to engage a few folks from our people group right around here.

The Wolof people of Senegal

There are several people groups in Senegal, most of which are Sunni Muslims. Most of these people groups are considered some of the world’s least reached, having less than .00% evangelical presence. The largest, the Wolof people group, has little more than a scattering of a hundred believers among a population of more than 4 million. As a result of an initial vision trip In November 2010, Crabapple has begun to partner with work underway to reach the Wolof in Senegal's capital city of Dakar. Future teams will look to narrow the focus of the ministry to a particular area in Dakar.