RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--It's a beautiful vision: People who speak Simaa, Hindi, Tatar and Yi, Arabic and Karaja -- all knowing and praising God.
Are we there yet? Not yet.
But this vision found in Revelation 5:9 of people from every tribe, language, people and nation praising God is coming closer to being realized. Every year Christians continue to seek unreached people groups to tell them the story of Jesus. In the past decade, International Mission Board missionaries and their Baptist partners have brought the hope of Jesus Christ to people in more than 1,000 people groups previously untouched by the Gospel.
According to the IMB's 2009 statistical data*, there were 506,019 baptisms and 24,650 new churches started in 2008.
Church membership overseas now stands at 10.7 million.
Sometimes progress comes in stunning ways. It may come in the form of 1,400-plus new churches in India -- born after Christians gave generously to aid survivors of the devastating tsunami in 2004.
It may come in the form of a single believer in Mali who responded after two missionaries spent nearly two years crafting a set of recorded Bible stories in the man's language.
Along with charting progress, now also is the time to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead and be ready to finish the task.
Here's a global snapshot of such challenges:
-- 4,743 people groups not engaged at all with the Gospel.
-- 6,426 unreached people groups (those with less than 2 percent of people who profess to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ).
-- 1.7 billion with little or no access to the Gospel.
-- 1.5 billion Muslims -- 22 percent of the world's population.
-- 950 million Hindus in the world.
-- Christian witness among China cities less than 1 percent.
-- 355 million in South America do not know Christ.
-- Less than 1 percent Christian among more than 270 million living in the Central Asia region.
-- 97 percent of all Palestinians are Muslim.
-- 89 percent of North African and Middle Eastern people groups are unreached.
-- 311 people groups in India have no known evangelical believers.
God has used Southern Baptists to help make inroads with the Gospel to difficult places. Scores of dedicated churches have provided a continuous foundation in a supporting role, giving faithfully to international missions through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Many churches are exploring how they might take on a more direct role in reaching people groups.
Through partnering relationships, some churches have taken bold steps to reach the toughest, remotest places.
The task is doable, but it will take a cooperative effort.
What can you do? You can pray strategically and give boldly to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program. You can lead your church to own the Great Commission as never before to see that all peoples know Him.
To learn more, visit imb.org/offering.
Reported by the communications office of the International Mission Board. *Data from IMB's 2009 Annual Statistical Report (all data reflects end-of-year 2008 figures).
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