by Louann Hunt
In the Great Commission, Jesus says the mission of the church is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Similarly, in Matthew 24:14, He says, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations.” Notice both verses contain the word “nations.” The gospel is for the nations. But what does that word mean?
We tend to think of nations as being synonymous with countries—a group of people living in a particular area with a common government. The biblical meaning is more expansive than that. In the Greek, the word for nation, ethnos, means language, tribe, or tongue. The implication is there can be many nations (or people groups) within a particular country, and we’re called to reach each one of them with the gospel.
According to Wycliffe Global Alliance, more than 97 percent of the people in the world have at least a portion of the Bible in their first language, while 180 million people still lack access to the Scriptures.
So, while there is important translation work yet to be done, to a significant degree the message has already been translated into the languages of the nations. The big challenge before the church, then, is to find ways to make the message more available to the people who need to hear it.
A parallel Great Commission passage found in Mark 16:15 provides insight into how the message might be spread: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The word, “world,” kosmos in Greek, means something properly ordered.
This would include a system—even a man-made system. What are some man-made systems? How about school systems, legal systems, political systems, and technological systems? Jesus is telling us to take the gospel everywhere, including into every system.
There are four revolutionary technological systems changing our world.
Today, the world population exceeds 7 billion, and of those, 3.6 billion are unique mobile users. Fifty-one percent of the world has some sort of mobile device, and by 2017 it’s predicted there will be 5 billion smartphones in the world. We are living in exciting times!
We have more computing power in our phones than Apollo 11 had when it landed a man on the moon. Millions of people around the world have more access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water. There are people without shoes who have a phone. Why? Because it connects them to the world. The mobile revolution is in full swing.
Aided by the mobile revolution, social networks are accelerating at an astounding rate, too. It has taken 45 years for the Internet to penetrate 42 percent of the world, but social media has existed for only 10 years and has already penetrated nearly 30 percent of the world. There are more than 2 billion social network users worldwide, and 80 percent of people access social networks through their mobile devices. In China alone, there are more than 600 million active social media accounts.
The world is connecting through the Internet, mobile devices, and social networks, so why not through things like automobiles, household appliances, medical devices, smart homes, and even wearables? Get ready for the connected revolution. Researchers estimate between 50-75 billion devices will be connected through the “Internet of Things” by 2020.
Through the interconnectedness of the world comes the fourth revolution—the data revolution. The accumulation of data is mind-blowing—a zettabyte (1021 bytes) in the last two years! Data is being used and stored everywhere: your mobile phone, satellites, the cloud, TVs, credit cards, infrastructure—everywhere.
What does all of this mean?
Jesus tells us the fields are ready for harvest (John 4:35), and that’s probably never been more true than it is today. We have evangelistic opportunities like never before with at least one book of the Scriptures translated in almost 2,900 languages and more than half the world connected through technology with global access available to growing numbers of people. The gospel message can be spread through these technological systems.
What if we could create wearable technology to advance the gospel? What if we could harness technology to reach every person on earth, even in the most hostile and remote corners of the world? It seems possible for the Great Commission to be fulfilled in our lifetime—that every people group could have access to the Word of God in its own language.
Whatever is on the horizon, whatever new technology is around the corner, we need to be ready to use it for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Are you ready?
LOUANN HUNT is the Emerging Technology manager at Faith Comes By Hearing. Their Bible.is app offers the Scriptures in more than 1,500 languages, and their Digital Bible Platform is the largest platform of Bible text, audio, and video freely available via API.