Theologian John Piper, reflecting on the recently concluded Cross conference attended by about 3,600 college students, believes Christ's mission to the unreached people of the world is progressing towards its culmination.
The conference held at the end of last month in Louisville, Ky., was "a dream come true," writes Piper in his Desiring God website. The founder and teacher of the Desiring God ministry said it was "the fruit and overflow of an awakening in our day to the glory of God's sovereign grace," but it is "also part of something much bigger."
For the last four decades, amazing things have been happening around the world to "advance the spread of the salvation of Christ among the unreached peoples of the world," notes Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn.
The generation just past was one of the most remarkable in the history of missions, adds Piper, who served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years. "Things thought impossible have become reality."
Quoting from Operation World - 4, Piper writes that Patrick Johnstone, the founder of the reference book and prayer guide, mentioned in 1979 that the most difficult places for gospel breakthrough were Mongolia and Albania at the time. However, today there are more than 40,000 Mongolian believers, and Albania is open with churches growing. "Who among us, 30 years ago, could have envisioned over 100 million Chinese Christians, massive people movements in Iran, Algeria, and Sudan, breakthroughs in Mozambique, Cambodia, and Nepal, and the beginnings of freedom for hundreds of millions of oppressed in India?"
The recent history is unprecedented not only because of breakthroughs in who has been reached, but also because of who is being sent, Piper goes on to say. "There has been an explosion of sending countries and sending agencies."
There are over 4,000 known evangelical mission agencies sending out 250,000 missionaries from over 200 countries – up from 1,800 known mission agencies and 70,000 missionaries in 1980, according to Global Network of Mission Structures.
More importantly, nearly half of the world's top missionary-sending countries are now located in the global South, including in Brazil, South Korea, India, South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia and Nigeria, Piper says.
The United States still tops the chart by far in terms of total missionaries, sending 127,000 in 2010 compared to the 34,000 sent by No. 2-ranked Brazil, Piper notes. At the same time, the U.S. also received the most missionaries in 2010, with 32,400 sent from other nations, Piper adds.
"This is a fraction of the bigger picture that the Cross conference is a part of," Piper says. "We have no illusions of grandeur. God's world is massive. And God is infinitely more massive in power and wisdom and goodness."
God will finish His mission, Piper says, referring to the book, Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged, which he co-authored with David Mathis, executive editor at desiringGod.org. "The peoples of the world will be reached. And He will use people of many different Christian persuasions to do it, not just Calvinists."
The Cross conference is "the engine that drives everything - the glory of God's sovereign grace in salvation - accomplished, applied, heralded, globally," Piper concludes.