Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeSowing among the Seedless: Learning to Love Jesus among the Unengaged

By Shane Bennett

Few things feel more productive, more helpful, more on task to me than speaking at a class like Perspectives or Pathways. I love it! The content is spot on and the classes tend to gather the coolest people in a given church or city, so it’s a privilege to chat with them. I’ll often start by asking students to consider why they’re taking the course. I want them to have solid motivation to do the hard work the course asks for. Without fail, some in each class say they’re taking it to find out what they should do with their lives, specifically what God wants them to do. It’s the classic, “What’s God’s will for my life?” Or, as poet, Mary Oliver frames it, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I love to hear people ask this because I love people who care what God thinks, what God is doing, and what God may have in mind for their hours and days. The down side is that the question can paralyze. Most of us reading this article are part of a set of humanity with no shortage of options. If you decided it was a good idea you could shift houses, change jobs, or even move to a different country. If you could do anything, how can you choose the next one thing to do? Kafka said, “I am free and that is why I am lost.” That’s a little heady (and depressing) for me, but I get the point.

To help people feel a little better, I’ll often tell them, “Good news: I actually know God’s will for your life!” Of course I don’t, really. Well, sort of. What I don’t have sorted is where my personal (or American) arrogance ends and solid understanding of the Bible and the world begins. Like I could really know God’s will for the life of an almost total stranger!

Yet this much I know for pretty sure. This I offer to you, your friends, the people you go to church with, myself, any of us who care what God thinks and want to answer the call of Jesus to follow him: Go where the glow is low.

Go Where the Glow Is Low

I really wish I could remember who I swiped that pithy little gut punch from, but I don’t. I didn’t make it up, but heard it from someone and it seemed both real and true. “Bloom where you are planted” may make a nice coffee mug, but “go where the glow is low” makes a better tattoo! And it’s more biblical. God told Abraham he wanted his blessing to be pressed into every family on the planet. Jesus told his disciples that the “gospel of the kingdom would be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations” before the end would come. And his disciple John apparently saw that happen, recording in Rev. 7.9, “…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…”

Assuming we’re in the middle of this amazing story, clearly the mandate that we (the collection of all of us who love Jesus and try, however falteringly, to follow him) have is to take the gospel of the kingdom where it isn’t seen or known yet.

Or in other words, go where the glow is low.

Where No Seeds Are Planted

One of the clearer ways to describe the lowest of the “low glow” areas is the term “unengaged.” Unengaged describes people groups among whom no one is living for the gospel, reaching out in the local language and working toward discipleship movements.  No harvesting, no growth, not even any planting. Seedless. If you’re a grape or a watermelon, seedless is good. If you’re waiting for an initial outbreak of God’s kingdom in your midst, seedless is bad.

Who’s seedless? When we’re looking at a shifting scene, numbers will vary. Reliable information, however, indicates around 1400 unengaged people groups. Frontiers sees Muslims comprising 1100 of those. Steve Richardson (of Pioneers) points out 45 Buddhist groups and 139 Hindu groups too. Completely unengaged. These are groups that are not only “lost” and “unreached,” but as far as we know, also lacking incarnational gospel witness among them.

So some of us from somewhere need to go to these places, these peoples, with a truckload of seed. We need to learn local languages, love the people we find, and seek God for his purposes among them. And many more of us ought to to pray and send and look for other creative ways to see the seed spread where it isn’t.

Is this the only thing God is doing? Certainly not. And the answer to “What’s God’s will for my life?” does not always include the word “unengaged.” But let’s not let this generation pass with any groups without someone showing them what it means to follow Jesus.

What Can We Do?

So what can we do? The Unengaged Unreached Community on Facebook encourages believers to become aware, to pray, and to obey.

Awareness

Prayer

  • Turn your knowledge into prayer here and here.

Obedience

  • Can I encourage you to find representatives of unengaged peoples near you? They may be international students, refugees, or immigrants.
  • Skim this list to spark your imagination.
  • If your desire to “go where the glow is low” begins to look like a career move, please consider linking up with an agency prioritizing the unengaged. Among many great agencies doing that, consider both Frontiers and Pioneers.

Finally, wave the flag for the unengaged. Advocate, inspire, suggest, invite. I suppose engaging all unengaged groups has never been more doable than it is right now as you reach the end of this article. It’s not easy. People will die, dreams will go unrealized, and hard work will yield little results. But it will happen. God promised it to Abraham. Jesus paid for it. And John shares the scary cool glimpse he was given of what it will ultimately look like: an uncountable multitude from among the nations proclaiming that salvation belongs to their God.

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