(Mis)Understanding the Need

EMQ » April–June 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 2

California, USA: People worship God at Horizon Christian Fellowship. Photo by Matt Botsford, Unsplash.

Summary: Two-thirds of Christians in the US say they have not heard of the Great Commission. Even fewer could roughly estimate the number of unreached people groups in the world. And while 85% of pastors believe missions is a mandate for all, more than half of all Christians in the US believe it is a calling only for some. If the US Church is to bridge these glaring gaps, both leaders and churchgoers must unpack why it exists.

By David Chakranarayan

Matthew 28:18–20 is a passage in Scripture known as the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” These final words from Jesus before he ascended to heaven show God’s heart for bringing his presence and redemption to all nations. Yet this biblical foundation is where we see the beginning of US Christians’ disconnect – and misunderstanding – around missions.

According to research released by Barna Group in partnership with Mission India through The Great Disconnect report, two in three US Christians (63% “no,” 5% “not sure”) say they have not heard of the Great Commission. When asked to identify the Great Commission from a list of five Bible verses, just one in three (31%) does so correctly, while more than half (51%) say they are unsure, and the remainder selects other verses. (See figure 11.1)

Figure 11.1 – Awareness of the Great Commission

At the time The Great Disconnect was released this year, there were close to 8 billion people in the world, with 3 billion considered unreached. However, when asked to estimate the number of unreached people in the world, only 12%–13% of US Christians could do so correctly, with a majority indicating that they were unsure. Add to this that only 55% believe it is “very urgent” to reach unreached people with the gospel.

Member-Only Access

Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) is available to Missio Nexus members as a member-only benefit or as a digital subscription.

Please login to gain access or join Missio Nexus!