In the previous couple posts we began talking about unreached people groups. We tried to demonstrate that these groups have a distinct urgency in the mission that the Church is called to fulfill. This urgency stems from the fact that they have not heard the Gospel, and unless they are intentionally targeted by the Church of Jesus Christ they never will. This dire condition gives them a special place in the heart of God. These are the lost sheep of the Lord’s parable. God surely cares for the ninety-nine sheep that have access to the green grass of the Gospel. He surely wants His people to “care for His sheep” and “feed His lambs.” Domestic and foreign missions must never be put on the back burner or considered something less important than pioneer missions, but the Lord has made clear to us that He feels a special urgency for His lost sheep that have no access to the Gospel. In this post we want to discuss the “highways and byways” in which these lost sheep find themselves. We want to ask the question, “Where are these lost sheep?” We are not now discussing the condition of the world’s unreached peoples, but we want to focus on the territories and countries in which they reside.
If you Google the term 10/40 Window, under the images section of that search engine, you will find a rectangular map representing part of the world. That map stretches from North Africa to the East Asian countries. Vertically it spans the distance from Indonesia to parts of Russia. This area of the world is what is known in mission circles as the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 refers to the latitude lines that make up the boundaries of this “window.” According to the website published by the AD2000 mission movement (http://www.ad2000.org/) this area of the world has 59 countries within its borders. It has a population of nearly 4 billion people, which is almost two-thirds of the world’s total population. 97% of the persons who inhabit the least evangelized countries live in this region of the world. Many have never even heard the name of Jesus and mostin this window have never heard the Gospel. There are over 1 billion Muslims, nearly 1 billion Hindus and 600 million Buddhists, not to mention hundreds of millions of atheists that reside in China and parts of the former Soviet Union.
Besides the darkness of not having heard the Gospel, these countries deserve our sympathy in other ways as well. Most of the world’s poorest of the poor live in this area. This devastating poverty is one manifestation of the oppressive control of darkness. It is a result of the spiritual bankruptcy of the region. But it could also be considered part of the cause as well. If churches want to reach into this area with the life giving Gospel, it is hard to keep up the lifestyle we might be used to in the missionary sending nations. The temptation to put worldly comfort above the cause of Christ is ever-present. That is not to say that one must live in squalor to plant churches in this region. There are prosperous countries within the Window as well. But it is a pretty general rule that the poorer the place, the fewer the missionaries, and the more complete the spiritual darkness. So the facts would indicate that our inclination towards certain creature comforts plays a role in the lost-ness of these peoples. This is in spite of the fact that Christ came to “preach Good News to the poor”!
The poverty that is prevalent in this region is not the only thing that hinders the spreading of the Gospel. It has other obstacles as well. Some of the most wicked and oppressive regimes in the world rule the countries in the 10/40 Window. Again, this is obviously a result of demonic forces having free reign in the region, but it is also one of the obstacles that causes the Devil’s stronghold to remain intact. The citadels of Communism, Islam and other anti-Christian systems call this part of the world home. Most of the countries in the Window do not openly allow missionary activity (this is why they are often called restricted nations) and blatantly persecute the Church of Jesus Christ and make war on the saints. Because of this hostility toward Gospel work, it is a place that those with weak stomachs choose to avoid like the plague. Usually those of us that don’t relish a fight, give lip service to obeying the Great Commission by praying that one day the Devil will relinquish his claim on the souls under his sway and allow the Church to come in without a fight. Those of us that want to “take the Kingdom of God by force” are confident that Satan will never give in without a fight. So we must take up the spiritual weapons of our warfare, which are mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, rush into Satan’s lair and rob him of his goods. ONE stronger than the strong man has already bound him at the Cross, now we must rob him blind!
I have just made quite a dramatic call to arms, but the fact is that the Church of Jesus Christ, in general, is not answering the call. Ralph Winter and Bruce Koch, in their article entitled Finishing the Task, estimate that ninety percent of Christian missionaries are working among groups that are already evangelized. This means that only ten percent of all foreign missionaries are working among the billions of unreached people that reside in the 10/40 Window. I think I will stop here and let that awful fact sink in!