Does mission matter?
Does mission matter? “Of course it matters!”, some will say right away. That’s the “right” answer, but many others are saying something quite different. It is spoken in whispers, in hushed tones, one Christian to another, out of the earshot of the missionary and sometimes even of the pastor. People wonder: “With so many needs right here close to home, why should we be sending money and expending so much effort to help spread the Gospel in far-away places? We need it here!” They vote with their check books, and the verdict is in: mission does not matter nearly so much as it used to. The church today is pictured as something like an island in its own community, rowing out into nearby waters.
The picture that we get from Scripture, though, is quite different. God wants His Church to be a sending Church. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21), and also, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). While our own communities have great needs, other communities around the world also have great needs. If Christian workers were distributed around the world on the basis of need, there would be far fewer in the United States and other historically Christian nations, and far more in places like the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa.
Most compelling to me, though, is the urgent need for Gospel proclamation in the light of our ever-increasing global population. As the number of people on earth increases, so also does the number of those who will die without ever hearing the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. Over the past 100 years, the proportion of Christians in the world has actually declined slightly, from about 35% in 1910 to about 32% in 2010. With a current world population of something over seven billion, this means that there are nearly five billion people alive today who do not believe in Jesus.
Nearly 5 billion people with no hope of heaven. Yes, mission matters!
 Pew Research Center, March 22, 2013, “Number of Christians Rises, But Their Share of World Population Stays Stable,” http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/number-of-christians-rises-but-their-share-of-world-population-stays-stable/, accessed January 1, 2014.
 The estimate depends on various assumptions. For example, the Pew Study puts the percentage of Christians in Latin America at about 90%. Evangelical Christian groups estimate that only 10% of Latin Americans are Christians. The difference is due to the whether or not one includes all nominal Roman Catholics as “Christians.”