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Gospel Access

For and from all peoples

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In Romans 10:14–15, Paul gets emotional. Many of us are familiar with the passage: “[H]ow can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” Some call these verses the logic of missions.

But Paul’s drive here is emotional, not logical. He bemoans that so many of his fellow Jews were not choosing to believe in Jesus as their Messiah. He’s discouraged that they remained trapped in a view of righteousness that comes by keeping the law.

Paul contrasts this to grace in Christ Jesus, a salvation that is never earned because we can’t earn it. His emotion moves from frustration to glory as he declares the full, free offer in Jesus: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 13).

The well-known verses about the kind of sending and preaching that leads to hearing and believing are less a logical sequence than an overflow of emotion. With so great a salvation available, what a shame that not all have access to the good news!

Five Basic Realities

Disparity of gospel access is a reality that should impact us emotionally too. Today, more than 2,000 years after Paul penned Romans 10, there are still well over 2 billion people, part of more than 4,000 ethno-linguistically defined people groups, who lack access to the good news of Jesus.

The blessing of being born in a people group where access to the gospel was waiting for us ought to produce in us an emotional roller coaster similar to Paul’s. The heights of our joy and gratefulness should, from time to time, yield to a shocking and humble recognition that the access we’ve enjoyed could be regarded simply as an “accident of our birthplace.”

Of course, in God’s goodness there are no accidents. His grace toward us who’ve received the gospel is not a matter of chance. But the access available to us in the places and cultures of our lives is also not an accident or even a mysterious part of God’s unknowable plan. Rather, gospel access, where it exists, is always a result of some basic realities:

  • God is working out His plan that all peoples of earth will gain access to salvation (Gen. 12:1–3; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 5:9, 7:9).
  • When people groups in a place or culture lack gospel access, they can gain it only from believers outside their group who will share it with them (Rom. 10:13–15).
  • This carrying of the gospel to peoples who lack it is the God-given responsibility and Spirit-empowered privilege of those who have already had access given to them (Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 1:8).
  • Gospel access is sustained in cultures and societies in places where churches are raised up and networked for impact and are strong enough to keep sharing the good news with their own people by example, word, and deed—generation after generation.
  • Gospel access multiplies across the globe as believers in these church networks fulfill their calling to reach beyond their own groups to bring access to other peoples still lacking it.

Overflowing Gratefulness

The first three of these realities are biblical truths. They reveal the miracle of our own gospel access because God worked through those who earlier received access to the good news and who felt moved to share it beyond themselves.

How could we not sing “hallelujah” for such grace shown to us? And how could we not but want to pass on to others what was such a precious gift to us? The foundational motive for missions is gratitude, especially when it is amplified by a sense that others today still wait for the miracle we’ve had available for a long time.

Passion to create gospel access for those who lack it runs deep in Alliance ministries. Since 2005, we’ve placed more than 100 of our newest workers on Alliance teams beginning ministry in 10 different countries among unreached peoples, including eight significant waves of migrants from their home countries. In addition, CAMA Services (a.k.a. Compassion and Mercy Associates) and marketplace ministries workers have followed open doors into an additional 26 new nations.

Some of this ministry is moving quickly. In many of these locations, it will be a long slog. On that path there will undoubtedly be heartache. But there will be joy as we in the Alliance family let our gratefulness overflow for the sake of gospel access for and from all peoples.

Networks of Churches

The last two of these five realities are observations made both in the biblical record and in the history of missions. For instance, note the list of churches and key leaders across the Mediterranean whom Paul records in Romans 16 as instrumental in gospel advance. Paul also urges believers in Rome itself to aid him in extending gospel access into Spain (Rom. 15:23–33).

In our own recent Alliance experience in Eastern Europe, churches that survived Communist regimes and partnered with our international workers to increase gospel access for their own people were themselves children of German Mennonites who first brought an evangelical message of good news to this land. Alliance staff modeled outreach and pastoral skills, worked alongside church planters, coached young couples in ministry, and invested in theological and missiological education for leaders. Within 20 years, the networks these leaders formed planted hundreds of churches and sent missionaries to another dozen people groups in their own land and other countries.

Sustaining gospel access through raising up such church networks means that church planting and leader development are as strategic as service, evangelism, and discipleship. And as networked churches in many new people groups begin to live out their missionary nature, gospel access is multiplied and the Great Commission can be fulfilled.

These mission activities may not flow as readily from gratitude for our own access as do the natural responses of sharing the good news and living out service to the real needs of families and communities. But these long-term commitments have been such strategic levers for Alliance impact through the years that they have become a deep source of our own joy in our calling.

In The Alliance, we’re not only glad to find means of living and speaking the gospel among those who otherwise lack access, but we’re also just as enthused about the strategic potential of culturally relevant, healthy, and deeply missionary church networks that sustain and multiply gospel access far beyond our own reach. We get emotional about this!

Fruit That Lasts

There is likely no better Alliance story of sustaining and multiplying access—not only for but also flowing from a people—than our very first story.

Within a few short years of the founding of the Gospel Tabernacle in New York City, A. B. Simpson’s congregation sent their first missionaries to Congo. The attempt failed, and the team fell apart. Replacements came a year later, and more followed. But by the 20th anniversary of the work, there were more missionary graves than living staff and no fruit to show for it.

A critical decision to stay the course eventually brought fruit. Believers were baptized and discipled, and they reproduced. Churches were planted. By 1915 there were 800 church members and more than 4,000 by 1925. In the decades that followed, Alliance workers committed themselves to sharing the gospel in word and deed, often operating chapels and clinics out of the same buildings and setting up tabernacles and schoolhouses. As churches multiplied, they prioritized the education and practical experience of emerging pastors and overseers. By 1960, church membership rose to 30,000, and before 1990 when missionaries transitioned out, this number multiplied again by sixfold.

Today, nearly 30 years later, Alliance churches in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more than 1.5 million believers. With more than 700 organized churches, they’ve still not reached all the provinces of their nation, so they are working toward a goal of planting another 500 churches.

Meanwhile, they operate more than 30 hospitals and clinics and have government-sanctioned oversight of a school district that employs 8,000 teachers to serve 100,000 students in 319 schools. They have planted churches in London and Brussels serving Congolese and other French speakers. Their own missionaries serve in West Africa, with their primary effort in the country of Guinea. And, incidentally, these missionary ministries are ones they pursue in cooperation with other church networks, especially from within The Alliance World Fellowship.

Gospel access for and from all peoples—this is the vision that drives Alliance missions to this day. It trusts God not only for the gospel shown and told where it is lacking but also for raising up church networks that sustain gospel access through generations and multiply it to other people groups. This is strategic. This is fruit that lasts. This is how the Great Commission will be fulfilled.

And this is something worth getting emotional about! Paul’s feelings swayed from concern for lost Jews to praise for grace so free that “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord may be saved.”

May our Alliance hearts beat with the dual affections of joy in our Savior and the burden to see the peoples of this world have gospel access.

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