Beyond language and ethnicity in the Great Commission

By September 20, 2019

International (MNN) — Yesterday, our article with World Mission looked at how reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel and making disciples go hand-in-hand. A lot of missions groups today define unreached people groups based on language and ethnicity.

However, York Aspacher with Operation Mobilization, a member of the Alliance for the Unreached, says there is more to the Great Commission than ethnolinguistic categories.

Defining a community

“We recognize that there are different contexts and different opportunities to reach people with the Gospel,” Aspacher says.

“Essentially, we look at the things that separate people from access to the Gospel, and sometimes ethnicity and language can be great ways to define those barriers — but not always.”

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

OM’s vision is to foster and multiply vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least-reached. Sometimes this looks like mobilizing believers to live out the Gospel in their contexts. Other times, it looks like distributing Bibles and hosting community events. And sometimes it looks like refugee care or medical aid.

Within their various ministries, OM sees several defining factors in communities beyond ethnicity and language.

For example, sharing Jesus in contexts of career, family structure, gender, age, or common interests are just as effective; sometimes more so!

“When we speak of communities, those are obviously groups of people with common characteristics. But families, businesses, government and social work, arts and media, medicine and science, all those play a role in the communities that we all live in.”

Same, near, and far

Aspacher says another way to think about Great Commission ministry is same, near, and far ‘cultures’ or ‘circles.’

He shares the story of one family on Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa. They were from a nearby village and went to live in the lakeshore community. “It was not a big stretch for them to go to another village that was basically in that same culture.”

Through their family’s example, they are able to model Christ to other families.

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

“People are asking, ‘How do you treat your wife with such kindness? How does she respect you so much? Why do you treat your children the way you do?’ Those are leading to Gospel conversations that are bringing people to Christ.”

Near cultures and circles for proclaiming the Gospel aren’t quite the same, but similar. One example Aspacher gives is Latino and Middle Eastern cultures.

“Obviously, the language is different. But we have found that people from Latin America get along very well and fit right in very well into a Middle Eastern culture for many reasons,” says Aspacher.

“That’s someone who isn’t physically near, but their culture is near. So there can be some great opportunities for people from near cultures to step right in and fill roles in other cultures to bring the Gospel.”

Then far ministry is when believers pick up and go into a completely foreign setting to them and represent Christ.

“We all are called to be part of fulfilling the Great Commission…. So that might mean someone from America [or] from a Western culture going and serving, using their gifts. Perhaps they have trained as an accountant and they can bring those business skills to bear in another setting in a way that just blesses and accelerates the work there.”

What about your contexts?

Who is lost in your same circles right now at work, home, or in your community? Who is nearby whom you can reach with Jesus? Or, perhaps, who is far away that the Lord is calling you to go share the Gospel with?

OM wants to help believers get engaged in the Great Commission. To this end, they’ve partnered with an initiative called Scatter Global.

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mobilization)

“It really encourages people to seek out how their profession might be an opportunity for them to serve overseas in a least-reached community.”

Learn more about vocational ministry at!

OM also provides more traditional missions connections — both short-term and long-term. You can find OM’s missions opportunities here!

Finally, something all believers can do is pray.

Aspacher asks for prayer for “the coordination of those different parts of the Body of Christ across the world — same culture, near culture, and far culture all working together in their own roles to see the Gospel go out.”



Header photo courtesy of Don Ross III via Unsplash.

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