The more familiar translation of the Great Commission says “all nations.” But this is not a political reference, it is a tribal reference. The Greek is ethna. Pretty obviously this is root for the English “ethnic” and is not related to the nation-state as we have come to understand it. The intent is for “all peoples” to be discipled. And at least one modern missiologist has suggested the translation “all people groups.”
We could talk about “going,” or “discipling,” but today I want to focus on “all ethnics.” We are not authorized to neglect or exclude any people group from our discipling purpose while we are going. Likewise, no people group enjoys a privileged position with regard to the Gospel.
If our commission is to disciple all people groups, then we need to pay attention to the people around us as we are going. That motivates us to pay attention to demographic studies and what is happening in the community where God has planted us and our church.
The cover story of a recent U.S. News and World Report (August 6th) was entitled Who We Were—Who We Are. It provides a good overview of how the USA has changed in the last 100 years. (Many of our churches are over 100 years old. Do you think your community has changed in that time?)
Realizing that individual communities vary from the national average, did you realize that:
· The median age has jumped from 22.9 years to 35.3 years
· The life expectancy for men has jumped from 46 to 74 years, and for women from 48 to 79 years
· The number of persons living alone has risen from 1% to 10%
· The number of women in the labor force has increased from 6% to 61%
· The number of “family farms” has dropped from 5.7 million to 1.9 million
· St. Louis and Boston dropped from the five largest cities, and Los Angeles and Houston replaced them
· Illinois was the third largest state with a population of 4.8 million, but has dropped to fifth with a population of 12 million
· In 1900, 14% of the population was foreign-born, today only 10% is foreign-born (surprise!!!)
· In 1900 the origins of the three largest groups of immigrants were Austria-Hungary, Italy and Russia; today they are from Mexico, Philippines, and Russia.
We could get infatuated and distracted by such numbers. But that is not the point. Do you see in these figures opportunities for ministry? What “people groups” are you running into now? Are you motivated to find out more about who is living around your church?
© American Baptist Churches
of the Great Rivers Region
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