What is the Lottie Moon week of prayer all about?
David Platt, President of the International Mission Board and author of a New York Times bestseller,
Radical, said "A pastor who believes that God is sovereign over all things will lead his people to be a death-defying missional people. Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of His hand. Therefore, His shepherds should lead their people to pray confidently, give sacrificially, go intentionally and die willingly for the spread of the gospel message to those who have never heard."
When evangelical Christianity was concentrated entirely in Western Europe and North America, everywhere else in the world needed the gospel. So, it was legitimate to send missionaries anywhere outside the evangelical heartland. Because travel in those days was usually by sea, the first wave of Protestant missionaries went to the coastlands of the non-evangelical world. Mission stations were established in port cities around Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The islands of the Pacific were also accessible to sailing ship, so missionaries went to them. Everywhere they went, the gospel was new, and gospel witness was desperately needed.
After a time, missionary leaders began to realize that their workers tended to stay along the coastlands, to the neglect of inland regions. After all, supplies and new recruits came by ship, and if things got bad, evacuation could only happen from the coast. In the mid-nineteenth century, the focus of mission work was able to shift to the interior regions of non-evangelical countries. The names of famous mission agencies like China Inland Mission, Sudan Interior Mission, and Africa Inland Mission reflected this shift.
At the time of the Lausanne Missionary Conference in 1974, there were evangelical Christians in most countries around the world. During the conference, a missiologist named Ralph Winter drew the attention of the missionary world to the priority of unreached people groups. A people group is not the same as a country. Members of a people group share the same ethnic identity. They typically have a common language, a common religion, and a common history.
When Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), He used the word
ethne, which refers to people groups and not to geopolitical countries. There are still thousands of people groups that no one is trying to reach with the gospel. Unless someone intentionally crosses barriers of language and culture to bring them the good news of Jesus, they will remain lost in darkness. Our International Mission Board gives priority to unreached people groups.
Our emphasis this week will be to pray for those who have gone, pray for more to respond to the call to become missionaries, and to give sacrifically so that unreached people will hear the Gospel.