What is Gospel poverty?
In our globally “connected” world, it’s difficult to fathom that more than three billion people have heard little or nothing about Jesus’s life, death, or resurrection. SIM exists to address this gospel disparity, especially among unreached people groups: We believe God has called us to make disciples of Jesus Christ in communities where he is least known. This purpose recognizes a relative continuum of wealth and poverty related to the gospel. Some people have more access to it, others less, and some have none. Gospel poverty is not necessarily geographically defined. Barriers to the gospel can also be cultural, linguistic, religious, or political. And these barriers may well exist where we don’t expect them.
Examples of unreached people groups and communities where Jesus is least known:
- A community without a local church
- A community with no access to the Bible
- Communities where the dominant religion is hostile to Christianity
- Communities where Christianity has some presence, but a significant portion of the population remains unfamiliar with Jesus’ teachings and good news.
- These communities could be in a particular region, country, neighborhood, or demographic.
We want to make Jesus known everywhere there is no local church, no mission workers, and no access to the Bible. This could be a community in rural Turkey, a multi-ethnic suburb of Paris, France, or even among a particular ethnicity or subculture in the city where you live.
An anecdote illustrates my own opulent gospel wealth. In the week before Easter, I broke my ribs mountain biking. I also managed somehow to contract the COVID-19 virus. By Good Friday, I was suppressing Corona coughs that rattled my mangled skeleton. Yes, it still hurts! But my suffering is not to be compared to Jesus’s. This is simply a good opportunity for me to meditate experientially on the cross. I couldn’t remember if the Roman soldier drove the spear through or under Jesus’s rib cage to pierce his heart on Good Friday. A quick search of John’s Gospel on my iPad revealed that “not one of his bones was broken” (John 18:36). The spearhead went under the rib cage. This narrative detail somehow soothed my aching side. I was able to find the answer within minutes in the Bible.
Sharing “Gospel” wealth.
You see. I’m rich. Not material wealth like iPads or mountain bikes, but the riches that come from being born into a community that knows Jesus. There has never been a day of my existence when I did not have complete and rapid access to the gospel. Three generations of my loved ones have explained it to me and lived it before my eyes. As I write these words, I have the extreme luxury of wondering why Jesus resurrected body still has scars (John 20:20). From my iPad, I can access a global library of gospel resources to help answer my questions. And yet, today, on this same little planet, more than three billion people have never enjoyed the glorious thought that thanks to Jesus’s cross, our scars will one day become a source of joy. How could I not share these riches with those with nothing?
Do you live in a community that has Gospel wealth?
What about you? Are you rich or poor? Before you answer, let’s illustrate gospel poverty.
In France, the Monday after Easter is a national holiday, le Lundi de Paques. But if you were to ask just about anyone on a Parisian streetcorner why we celebrate Easter, you would likely get a blank stare, a quip about chocolate eggs or eating lamb, or maybe even an agenda filled with long-weekend getaways to the beach or the mountains. Few would think to mention the resurrection of Jesus.
There are wonderful French translations of the Bible, but most of France’s highly educated population have never held the Book in their own hands. So very few have any access to the Jesus Story. Since the French Revolution, laws about religious neutrality in public schools have denied generations of students any understanding of France’s rich Christian history. The cross-shaped Gothic cathedrals punctuating the Parisian cityscape have been emptied of contemporary meaning. There are dense urban neighborhoods with no Jesus followers. None. Christ is not known or even named. At SIM, we believe God has called us to make disciples here. We believe he’s called us to plant Christ-centered churches in every Parisian neighborhood that doesn’t have one … yet. We feel led by God to share the gospel in this community where for many, Jesus is unknown. If you feel led to reach unreached people groups, Contact us today.
Communities where Jesus is least known or have unreached people groups could have a history of Christian presence.
The probability of making a Christian friend is even less likely in Turkey. There are, for the average Turkish citizen, more than six degrees of separation between themselves and a Jesus-follower. One hundred years of systematic opposition has all but eliminated even a nominative Christian population. Only 0.2% percent of 84 million people self-identify as Christian. This is even more disconcerting given that the Apostle Paul first preached the Gospel there in the first century AD (Acts 19:8). By the fourth century, Constantinople (the beautiful city of Istanbul) had become a center of Christian vitality. Not today. Today, when it comes to Gospel access, the entire Turkish nation figures among the highest in gospel poverty in the world. We believe God has called us to send faithful witnesses who will make Jesus known, again, to the Turkish people.
Reaching communities where Jesus is least known and unreached people groups.
The Faithful Witness Initiative is SIM’s direct response to our global purpose. We mobilize teams of multicultural and multi-skilled workers for communities across the globe where Christ is least known. We send mission workers from anywhere the church is already to everywhere that it isn’t yet. If, like me, you recognize that God has made you “rich in Christ” (2 Cor 8:9), then he has given you gifts to share in communities where Jesus is least known. We envision a world free of gospel poverty, filled with an opulent awareness of Jesus’s glory, where Easter’s victory is celebrated on Monday and every other day of the week. We’d love to discuss how you might join this quest. Check out this link for our Connect Event to explore how you can become a missionary.
Ministry Lead, Faithful Witness Initiative
Dr. Jonathan F. previously served in new church and new leader development in the multiethnic suburbs of Paris, France. He founded and led a mission entity among these diverse churches that initiated work in France, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Congo Brazzaville. In 2017, this entity and all its personnel and projects were integrated into SIM France. Dr. F. currently serves as the Ministry Lead for SIM International’s Faithful Witness Initiative.