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Have you ever thought, “I could never be a missionary,” or, “I’m not cut out for missions. That’s for ‘those people’”? More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations. What you may not realize is that this command—the Great Commission—applies to every Christian. It’s not a suggestion or an idea. It looks different for every believer, but the bottom line is our Creator calls us to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth. God has a role for all of us—even you. You are uniquely wired by God to live a life on mission—to have an eternal impact on people's lives. This is what extraordinary purpose looks like. Have you given God your yes?

In the first episode of the Even You podcast, East-West President Kristen Shuler explains why missions isn’t just for “those people.” Continue reading for highlights from her interview, or watch the video below to see the full episode.


What is East-West?

East-West was started by our founder, John Maisel, with the heart for getting the gospel to people who have never heard. Along with that came the opportunity to say, “How do we not only reach people with a message of the gospel but also establish the church in areas where the church does not yet exist?”

We do that not only through sharing the gospel message but as people say, “Yes,” to Jesus, we're equipping those local leaders with how to plant churches, how to lead churches, and how to expand the church into new, unreached areas so that what we call the spiritually darkest areas of the world are reached with the message of the gospel. That's the greatest heartbeat.

I love our vision statement. At the very beginning, it says, “The vision of East-West is to glorify God,” which is core to everything that we do. That's really our filter for every decision that's made. It continues, “to glorify God by multiplying followers of Jesus.” We know that the population of the unreached is only growing, so we have to do things that are really multiplicative in nature, not just adding believers, and doing this in the spiritually darkest areas of the world. That's really the key distinctive for East-West; we're not going to places where the church is or where believers are necessarily. Rather, we're trying to say, “How do we come alongside local churches and believers and get the gospel to places where it's not yet?”

Who are the unreached?

The unreached represents a people group in which 2% or less of the population would consider themselves to be followers of Jesus. In the missiology space, they've realized that the 2% mark is the tipping point. Above 2%, they have the ability as a people group to reach their own group with the gospel, but until they get to that point, they really need the help of the outside church to come in and be a part of bringing the gospel message to their people.

Where do most unreached people groups live?

Today, there are about 17,400 people groups around the world. Of those, about 7,400 are considered unreached. As you look at the globe, there's something called the 10/40 Window, which is 10 degrees latitude to 40 degrees latitude. Think Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. That's where the majority of these unreached people groups reside. And then with the way that the world works today, those people groups are moving all over the globe. We have many of those unreached people groups here in our own backyard. And so, it's not only a focus on going to where they are but also perceiving where they are coming and being sure that there are strategies to engage them wherever they might be.

Revelation 7:9 shows that people from every tribe, tongue, and people group will one day be reached with the gospel. Today, those 7,400 unreached people groups have a combined population of more than 3 billion people. How do we close the gap between where we are today and where we will be in Revelation 7:9?

This is one of the mysteries of God. How in the world, in our human minds, could we possibly achieve something that seems so impossible?

Technically, the gap is only increasing because the birth rate among the unreached is growing faster than the rate of Christianity. If you look at global trends, it's not a good look for more people saying, “Yes,” to Jesus. So, what does it look like to get there? I think one of the most important factors in this is radical obedience.

Acts 20 is the story of Paul going to Jerusalem. In verse 22, he says that he was compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, not knowing what he would encounter there. I think the order of those verbs is really important. He was compelled by the Spirit. We're compelled by the Spirit to do whatever it is He's asking of us. Paul was compelled to go. So, we know we have to go. There's an element of going to the nations. And then the third piece is not knowing. So, even as we're going, we may not know exactly what we're going into. We know that the need is great, but we don't know exactly what we might encounter when we get to some of these places. But we do know that we have to go. We do know that we're compelled by the Spirit, and so we respond with that radical obedience.

We know that everyday people are the hands and feet of Jesus. How does that connect with what you see happening at East-West?

There are tens of thousands of stories, whether it's our staff or our national partners, people who have said, “I understand God has given me an assignment, and I'm going to step into that.” It requires obedience, it requires boldness, and everyone's role looks different. Not only is that OK, that's actually great. Your role should look different than my role and should look different than some of our national partners in some unreached parts of the world. And that's the beauty of the Body. The Lord equips each of us with our own unique talents and gifts, but it's our responsibility as followers of Jesus to embrace those gifts that He has given to us and to offer them back to Him. What that might look like for me on a day-to-day basis will be different from others. But the most important thing that I can give to the Lord is my yes for whatever it is that He's asking of me today because that's what brings Him glory, and that's what results in more people not only having the chance to hear the gospel but say, “Yes,” to following Jesus.

What prevents people from giving their yes to God’s Great Commission?

I believe that the Spirit of God is compelling all of us to come and be a part of the work, and I think the enemy is constantly seeking to prevent people from saying, “Yes,” to that work. In some ways, that can be a lack of awareness. People don't know the need that exists or the opportunities for how they might not only get involved but use the gifts and talents that God has given to them to get involved. I think fear is a big component that the enemy uses. “How can I be the one to go and take the gospel to someone far away?” “How could I possibly give up my resources when I have all these other needs?” The Lord has a part for every person to play. The enemy just wants to keep us from giving the Lord our yes and from ultimately fulfilling the Great Commission.

What would you say to those who feel that God has something more for their lives?

I think the greatest opportunity is to come before the Lord with open hands and ask what He has for you today. There's this journey throughout our lives that the Lord has been weaving together, and it's had a certain outcome. Every believer is on a journey. The Lord wants to meet each person exactly where they are today, and He has a task for each of us today. What is that thing that the Lord is asking us to say, “Yes,” to in this moment? It doesn't matter what the end objective is. Rather, how do we respond in faithful obedience today to what the Lord is asking? And then step-by-step, He's leading us to where we need to go. It may not be that someone signs up to go on a mission trip tomorrow, but maybe you sign up to learn more about missions in general. It can be a small step, but it's how we take those steps of obedience in faith that the Lord is going to take us exactly where he wants us to go. We have to be willing to come alongside what the Spirit is doing and give our yes to Jesus.


The Even You Podcast

On the Even You podcast, we want to empower ordinary people to say, “Yes!” to extraordinary purpose. Hear how everyday believers are using their gifts to have an eternal impact on people’s lives around the world. Learn more, share, and listen to the podcast now!