by Bruce Carlton
“Have you ever heard about Jesus?” I asked the elderly woman as she labored at her fruit stand. “Never heard,” she replied. “Are you looking for someone by that name?” Momentarily stunned by her response, I asked another question. “Have you ever heard of Christmas?” “Never heard,” she answered. Looking back on the encounter, I guess I should not have been surprised. After all, I served over twenty years in Asia and encountered people just like this woman, that is, people who have never heard the gospel.
However, it was not this single encounter that stunned me, rather it was the fact that every person I met from this particular people group had the same response, “Never heard.” I have met individuals who have never heard, but, for the most part, everywhere Mrs. Carlton and I served, people may not have heard the gospel but they had heard the name of Jesus and had heard or knew something about Christmas. Yet, not here, not in this place and not among these people.
Such was the experience of a short-term team I led in 2010 to serve in East Asia for nearly three weeks. The team spent the Christmas season among a people group, the overwhelming majority of whom had never heard the ‘good news.’ They not only had not heard the gospel, they had never heard the name of Jesus. As I pondered and reflected on our team’s experience in this East Asian country, I began to wonder how in the 21stcentury this could be. Is it true that there really are large numbers of persons and people groups who have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ? So many lack the presence of a church to show them what Kingdom life and genuine community is. A reminder that church planting begins with those who are lost or far from God.
...for many of us our world is too small.
We talk about engaging a diverse world. We talk about #noplaceleft. However, for many of us our world is too small. We hear about peoples who have ‘never heard;’ nevertheless, such stories fail to move us because such people do not exist in the world we have drawn for ourselves. Such peoples live in someone else’s world, but not ours. Therefore, we can excuse ourselves from any responsibility to take the good news to these peoples. After all, it is not our world. But, it is our world. Just pause for a moment and think about where you live. If you are in a major city or a small town, there are unreached people nearby, God “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26b-27).
Throughout our country and around the world, there are many opportunities to engage people who have never heard the ‘good news.’
Throughout our country and around the world, there are many opportunities to engage people who have never heard the ‘good news.’ Expand your world this year by intentionally seeking to engage an unreached people group in the city or state where you live and work, or by going overseas for a short-term trip with the intent of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who may have never heard the name of Jesus. Here at home or abroad, in our world today, there are multiple opportunities to engage those who have been neglected by the church for whatever reason. Listen to the Holy Spirit and listen with the intentionality of responding affirmatively once He speaks to you.
There are millions of people in our world today who may never have the opportunity to hear the good news, who may never have the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. Are you willing to say to God, “I will go anywhere in the world, anytime you desire and do anything you ask me to do,” even if responding in this manner means pouring out your life to take the good news to people who have ‘never heard?’
Let me phrase it another way:
“What would your life be like today if you had never heard?”