Carpe Æternum - Seizing A Window Of Opportunity
We live at a critical time in history. Never before has the church been so well equipped to reach the entire world for Christ. In this WiseTrack, Fred Markert looks at what this season of opportunity means to us in practical terms, and then explores what we can be doing to reach every tribe, language, people, and nation with the Gospel
"Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look to the fields, that they are white for harvest." (John 4:35)
The Season Of Harvest
WHAT GOD IS DOING IN THE WORLD TODAY
Summertime. Warm sunny days. Fields of golden wheat wave softly in the gentle breeze, waiting to be harvested.
We are living in one of the most incredible seasons of spiritual history ever. The Christian Church is witnessing a harvest of souls far greater than any of the apostles witnessed! God's great zeal for souls is leading His Church to massive victories winning the battle for the hearts of men, women, and children everywhere. Yet most Christians in the Western world are unaware of it.
Christianity is growing three times faster than the world's population! Every day, more than 178,000 people come into the Kingdom of God!1
Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world, with a 6.9 percent growth rate, compared to 2.7 percent for Muslims, 2.2 percent for Hindus, and 1 .7 percent for Buddhists!
More than 70 percent of the progress in world evangelism from the time of Christ until today has occurred since 1900. Seventy percent of that progress has happened since the end of World War II and 70 percent of that progress has occurred in the past 36 months!2
From cover to cover, the Bible declares that every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will be touched by the power of the Gospel. Almost every continent has experienced a phenomenal increase in Divine activity within the last three years:
In 1900, Korea had no known born-again Christians, and was considered impossible to penetrate with the Gospel. But by 1986 South Korea was 20 percent Christian, and today it's conservatively estimated at 40 percent Christian, with more than 12.5 million believers!5 (Psalm 86:9)
Mongolia, one of the most isolated countries in the world, was closed to the Gospel until recently. In 1983 there was only one known Mongolian Christian. By 1989 there were six. But last summer, I stood among more than 300 Mongolian university students singing praises to our great God. (Isaiah 52:10)
In 1950, China had one million believers. By 1980 there were 40 million and by 1992 more than 75 million! The Communist leaders themselves estimate that by the year 2000 there will be more than 100 million Chinese believers!1 (Malachi 1:11)
In India there are more than 85 million believers, more than in the entire USA! Two hundred teams are traveling the nation with an Indian version of the Jesus film, entitled The Man of Peace, and are reporting 100,000 decisions for Christ monthly!1 (Zechariah 9:10)
In 1953, Nepal had no known Christians, but conservative estimates now number them at more than 150,000. Last year more than 5,000 Nepali believers gathered on the steps of the Parliament and held an Faster sunrise service in the nation that has some of the strictest laws against Christianity.2 (Psalm 47:7-8)
More people have come to know the Lord in Muslim Iran in the past ten years than in the previous 1,000 years combined! Thriving churches are found in almost every city and village.2 (Psalm 82:8)
Latin America had only 50,000 born-again believers in 1900, but by 1980 there were more than 20 million. By 2000 that number will grow to more than 100 million! Latinos are getting saved at four times their population growth rate.1 (Isaiah 11:9)
Because Christian soldiers shared their faith with Muslims during the Persian Gulf War, more than 100 new churches have been planted in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As a result of medical missionaries working among the Kurds after the war, almost the entire population of some Kurdish cities have converted to Christ.2 (Haggai 2:7)
In Myanmar (formerly Burma) 37 of the nation's top Buddhist monks gave their hearts to the Lord at the premiere showing of the Jesus film.1 (Zephaniah 2:71)
Confirmed reports of supernatural visions of Christ have also resulted in dramatic conversions to Christianity.
In Algeria, a Muslim nation, every person in the village of Bugia became a Christian when Jesus appeared to each of them in dreams, declaring His Lordship, on the same night.2
During the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in 1991 a number of Nigerian Muslim mullahs (holy men) were praying inside the Grand Mosque, the holiest place in all of Islam, when Jesus appeared to them and declared that He was God. They converted to Christianity.
Outside Kathmandu in the Hindu nation of Nepal, 200 people called the police to report seeing a man nailed to a wooden cross in the clouds above their homes. Most had never heard about Jesus, and many became Christians.4
In the original Greek text, the Bible uses a special word for the kind of extraordinary spiritual outpouring we are seeing around the world. This word is kairos, which means an opportune or seasonable time; a special season of harvest. It's not an ordinary word. It's the word used by God in the New Testament whenever He wanted us to know that a particular event was an important moment in spiritual history .
Kairos was used in the New Testament to signify key events such as Jesus' death on the cross (Rom. 5:6; I Tim. 2:6), Jesus' second coming (Mark 13:33), and the ultimate and final resolution of the spiritual war we are fighting against the kingdom of darkness. " ...when the times [kairos] will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one heaven in Christ." (Eph. 1:10)
Jesus used this word in Matthew 13:30 following the parable of the sower and the seed to teach about spiritual harvesting, and again in (Mark 11:13) to teach that some seasons weren't times of harvest.
Is It Possible to Miss Kairos?
Jesus didn't use kairos in a positive way every time He taught about harvests. It is possible to miss the harvest. In Matthew 21:33-41, Jesus tells us a parable about a kairos harvest time that didn't have a good ending.
The story goes like this: a man planted a vineyard, then rented it to some tenants. When the man sent servants to collect his portion of the harvest, the tenants killed them. The man then sent more servants, who were also killed. Finally, the man sent his son, thinking the tenants would respect him. But the tenants killed the son also.
Does this story sound familiar? God sent the prophets, then Jesus, to the world. But the people of the world killed both the prophets and Jesus, and God never received His full share of the harvest.
Jesus' audience was shocked at the way the tenants treated the owners' representatives. When Jesus explained the parable, He didn't say that God wished we would have been nicer. Instead, He gave a strong rebuke: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matt. 21:43)
God was not only heartbroken, but angry, because His servants didn't recognize their kairos moment in history and respond to it with wholehearted obedience to do all they could to gather in the harvest.
This was exactly the situation portrayed at the end of Christ's life when He looked down on Jerusalem, weeping and declaring God's judgment because they missed their kairos moment. "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time [kairos] of God's coming to you. (Luke 19:41-44)
The Israelites missed their kairos moment in history. "But," you say, "surely the Church, with the power of the Holy Spirit at its disposal, would quickly recognize and respond to kairos moments of harvest." Sadly, Church history records tragedy on the scale of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.
Kublai Khan and Yugoslavia
Kublai Khan, the great Mongol leader, ruled the largest empire the world has ever seen. It extended from the Pacific Ocean on the east to Poland on the west and from Russia on the north to India on the south. Mongol warriors were so fierce and determined that they even conquered China in spite of its Great Wall.
In 1266 A.D., Marco Polo, the great explorer and adventurer, met with Kublai Khan in his capital city. This fierce warrior's heart was touched by the news of Christ's death for the sins of the world. He sent Marco Polo back to Europe with a request for the leaders of Christianity: "Send me 100 men skilled in your religion...and so I shall be baptized, and then all my barons and great men, and then their subjects. And so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts."
God had prepared one of the most extraordinary kairos moments of harvest for the largest empire the world had ever known, and then hand delivered it to the Church! How could the Church help but jump at this incredible chance? After many years, only two missionaries came forward who were willing to endure the hardships necessary to bring the good news of Christ to the Mongolian empire. And even they turned back halfway into their appointment with destiny before reaching Mongolia. They left behind the legacy of the greatest missed opportunity in Church history.
How did Kublai Khan respond to this silence from the West? He turned to Tibetan Buddhists, inviting them to spread their religion throughout his empire. At one point, more than half of the men in the nation were Buddhist monks.3 And Jesus wept again.
Kairos - Harvest Time
"[Jesus] said to the crowd: 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, "It's going to rain; and it does." And when the south wind blows, you say, "It's going to be hot, and it is." You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time [kairos]?"' (Luke 12:54-56)
Now is the time; God is moving in these last days. The harvest is ripe, and I don't believe any of us want to miss it.
In the past, God has given the Church these kairos times, but we've not always taken advantage of them as He intended. Like the tenants in Matthew 21, we've cheated the Master of the harvest out of His full share. Let's not make that same mistake this time.
"He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son." (Prov. 10:5)
The only question now is: Will this kairos moment find us busy at work in the harvest or slumbering in the barn?
11,00 Reasons Why Jesus Won't Return Yet
What We Can Be Doing
"I make known the end [the goal] from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and l will do all that I please." (Isaiah 46:10)
Almost every time the Bible mentions the word nations, it refers not to political countries like France, India, or Australia, but to people groups. Biblical nations are people groups, such as the Serbs in Yugoslavia, the Kurds in Iraq, the Navajo in America, or the Pitjanjara of Australia. It is calculated that there are about 24,000 distinct ethnic groups in the world today.
Matthew 24:14 reflects God's tenacity in accomplishing His central purpose of reaching all nations. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." The original Greek word translated as "nations" here actually means "ethnic groups," or "people groups." A people group is defined as any grouping that has specific characteristics, such as geographic location, language, religion, or culture.
How much progress have we made in the past 2,000 years to fulfill God's goal of reaching all people groups? We've reached 13,000 of these groups with the Gospel, but 11,000 still haven't heard. No matter what your end-time theology, Jesus told us that the end would never come until all peoples have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
A Promise of Blessing
God's goal from the beginning of time was for mankind to fill the earth and rule it while enjoying intimate relationship with Him. This ideal situation was shattered when sin entered the world, turning our perfect planet into a raging war zone. Though man purposefully turned his back on God, the loving Creator still desired relationship with His creation. All of history is the account of His plan to bring that about - and the story begins with one man.
When God started looking for someone whose heart was open to Him, He was impressed with Abraham. In Genesis 12: 2,3 God promises to Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation...and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you." This promise is reaffirmed to both Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22:18 and 26:4), with God making a solemn covenant with Abraham that, "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed..." This blessing would ultimately be fulfilled through Jesus, who came to reconcile all men to God. Jesus was sent to ensure that all peoples would know Him.
The 10/40 Window
The part of the globe least touched by the Gospel is called "The 10/40 Window". It is an area that roughly spans from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north, and stretches from West Africa to East Asia. Ninety-five percent of the unevangelized and 84 percent of the world's poor live there, as well as most of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists.
These groups are not masses of faceless people, but individuals whom God loves intimately. He knows the Puku-Geeri-Keri-Wipsi of Nigeria, the Bozos of Mali, the Hwla of Togo, and the The of Laos. He doesn't want any of them to perish, but all of them to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Tragically, most of these people groups have absolutely no access to the Gospel. They have no Bible, no Christian literature, no radio or television programs. There is no one to tell them. They will never come to the Lord if no one takes the Gospel to them. Yes, we have needs at home, but the only way the Puku-Geeri-Keri-Wipsi will ever hear is if Christians leave home to reach them.
Just the Facts....
The world's population can be divided into three segments:
Christian world - that part which has heard the Gospel and been influenced greatly by it (1.87 billion people).
Evangelized Non-Christian world - that part in which up to 50 percent of the people have been evangelized, but are still resistant (2.52 billion people).
Unevangelized world - that part which has never heard the Gospel, and is often removed geographically, culturally, and linguistically from Christians (1.19 billion people).
Strategy Vs. Tactics
A pastor recently asked me, "Why should we dedicate money, people, and prayer to reach the Muslims over in Africa and the Middle East when my city is so needy and so many here don't know Jesus? The Muslims aren't affecting my city."
Even though most of us don't have much contact with Muslims, they still have an impact on us. Many of them have a strategy to take over the world, including your city. They're strategizing for the entire planet, while many times we are only tactically considering one battle - the battle for our particular city - out of a vast, global war.
If Christians continue to think and operate merely on a local, tactical level, we will constantly be on the defensive, reacting to the advances of the enemy instead of setting the pace in the war. We'll lose the battle for this generation around the world. However, if we think and act strategically by the power of the Holy Spirit, we'll continue to see mighty victories for the kingdom of God. We'll see the completion of the Great Commission within our generation.
Thinking strategically, the most obvious priority is to plant the Gospel in every one of the 11,000 unreached people groups who have no access to the Good News unless someone brings it to them. The focus of our world evangelization strategy must be to plant a strong church among each group that will grow to spiritual maturity and eventually evangelize the whole people group.
In God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, He said, "I will bless you. ..and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." God wants to bless you, but He wants to bless 11,000 other people groups through you as well. Whether you are a college student or a construction worker, you can pray, you can give, and you can go.
Open the Blinded Eyes
Paul said, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor. 4:4) Jesus said, "How can anyone enter a strong man,s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?" (Matt. 12:29)
The battle for souls will not be won merely by raising money and sending people. We can have the best strategies, equipment, and missionaries, but God is the only one who can take the blindness from people's eyes. That happens through unceasing prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). In other words, we must continue to pray for our particular assignment from the Lord until we see the victorious results.
Ask Me for the World!
God said, "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." (Ps. 2:8) The specific, fervent prayers of God's people asking Him for the nations by name has been a key element in bringing about this special kairos moment around the world. For years, we've focused our prayers and efforts toward reaching Communist Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Now we're seeing the answers to all those prayers. Why are tremendous things taking place in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? During the Persian Gulf War, the families and friends of our soldiers prayed for that area. We started praying, and God began to open the eyes of the people of those lands.
In the early 1300s, a Frenchman named Raymond Lull developed a burden for the Muslim world and went to live and preach among the Muslims in Bugia, Algeria. He was the first Christian missionary to the Muslims. After several years, he became the first Christian martyr among the Muslims. Since 1960, God has led groups of Christians from around the world to go to Bugia for prayer and spiritual warfare. They felt God saying they were not to preach, but to pray. Recently, every villager in Bugia became a Christian after Jesus appeared to each of them in dreams on the same night. The spiritual "soil" had been prepared through prayer, their blindness was lifted, and the kingdom of God was able to advance and plunder the strongman's household.
...But Only If We Do It
Why are the nations of Senegal, Bhutan, Chad, and Azerbaijan so resistant to the Gospel? Because many of us have never heard of them, so we haven't been praying for them - their eyes are still blinded by the god of this age. If we're going to be part of what God is doing in the world today, we need to pray specific prayers. You can get in on the excitement of this kairos harvest by adopting one of these people groups for daily prayer, not stopping until they are reached with the Gospel. A list of unreached people groups is available so that you can pray for them by name and receive God's Psalm 2 promise. James 5:16 declares that "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." We may not be able to see the results of our prayers right away, but God has promised that they will be effective.
Putting Our Treasure Where God's Heart Is
If we understand the priority of reaching the unreached peoples of the world, it will show in our giving as well as in our praying. But research shows that the majority of born-again Christians don't tithe regularly. We're not contributing as much or as wisely as we should.
Christians give $157 billion annually to churches and mission agencies. Of that, 94 percent is used in the Christian world, 5.5 percent in the Evangelized Non-Christian world, and only 0.5 percent in the Unevangelized world.
We sponsor 308,000 missionaries who work outside the United States. Of those, 90.9 percent work in the Christian world, 8.1 percent in the Evangelized Non-Christian world, and only 1.1 percent (3,400 people) are working to reach the 1.19 billion in the Unevangelized world.
Of the $3 billion spent annually to sponsor television and radio programs, 99.9 percent is used in the Christian world, 0.09 percent in the Evangelized Non-Christian world, and only .01 percent in the Unevangelized world.
This doesn't mean we should stop giving money to our churches or to the ministries we know and support. But we need to be good stewards. This means we need to increase our giving to frontier missions, as well as reviewing carefully where our current donations are being used.
The Bible says in 1 Samuel 30:24 that "The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike." Whatever your part in the Great Commission, you'll have the same reward as those on the front lines.
In 23 BC, the Roman poet Horace penned a phrase that has become the battle cry of modern secular man - "Carpe Diem. Quam minimum credula postero." "Seize the day. Put no trust in the morrow." We in the Church need to take up as our battle cry, "Carpe Æternum" or "Seize eternity!"
We can do that by praying for the unreached people groups by name, by making sure our resources are being used wisely, and by going, either short- or long-term.
God has thrust the battle upon us by releasing this remarkable season of harvest. Each of us must play our part as a soldier of the cross (2 Tim. 2:3,4) in this crucial hour. Let's rise to action today so we don't look back on this kairos season tomorrow with regret for what could have been!
1) US Center for World Missions
2) George Otis Jr., Sentinel Group
3) Chaos, Cosmos and Gospel - Dr. David Barrett & Dr. Todd Johnson, New' Hope.)
4) Christian News Service
5)1992 Year Book of the Korean Church