According to Paul Eshleman, there are two questions Christians should be asking themselves today: where is the church not present and what are we going to do about it?
Eshleman is Vice President of Campus Crusade for Christ International and founder of The JESUS Film Project.
He said it was a “tragedy” that there are still 2,252 language groups in the world today that do not have any Scripture in their own languages.
“The incredible thing is that after 2000 years there are still people everywhere who haven’t heard and the global body of Christ needs you, needs your organisation and whatever you can give to the cause of the Kingdom to go where nobody has ever gone, to go to the people groups that haven’t been reached, to people without access to the Gospel," he said.
It was also “wrong”, he contended, that there should still be people groups today that have no missionaries, no church and “nobody even planning to go”.
“It’s absolutely wrong and my question to us is: how much longer will we wait?”
Instead, Eshleman believes the church should be thinking about the people groups with the most urgent needs and find a way to go to them.
He gave the example of one mission agency which chose where to send its missionaries according to where they had received an invitation.
“The people groups who need you the most don’t have anybody to invite them,” he said.
Although people tend to visualise the ones in need as “living in villages with small huts”, Eshleman said many of the unreached people today were living in cities.
He told the story of a conversation he had one time with his Iranian hairdresser back in the US. When he asked how many times someone had invited her into their home since coming to the US, she confessed that she had never received a single invitation.
Among Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists - who make up half the world's population - some 86% of them do not personally know a believer.
“That’s our fault,” he said. “We need to be involved.”
With only 448 out of the world’s 8,000 languages having a complete Bible translation, Eshleman said Scripture translation was the number one priority for the church today.
“How can we send out a missionary if they don’t have the Scripture in the language to proclaim Christ?” he said.
Part of the challenge of world evangelisation lies in reaching the more than four billion people who are oral learners. Some choose oral communications because they are illiterate, others because they can’t, don’t or won’t learn through literate means.
Now more than ever before, ‘Scripture servants’ or non-professional translators are moving into communities that still do not have any Scripture in their own heart language and are raising up a storyteller to tell the stories of the Bible to other people in their community.
Eshleman is optimistic they can make the difference.
He said: “Until we get written translations let’s send out story teams so that within two or three years there is no one that doesn’t have at least an oral story Bible.”
Jesus Film founder appeals to Christians to reach the unreached
Published 22 October 2010 | Maria Mackay