Every Nation, Tribe, and Kindred

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10 (NIV)

For most of its history, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has worked hard to reach every corner of the world with the good news of Jesus. However, many of the methods it has used have failed, due to barriers in geography, language, or lifestyle.

In 1989, a new plan was developed – a plan based on Biblical concept of “every tribe, language, people, and nation” which is mentioned seven times throughout the book of Revelation (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). The plan developed was multifaceted:

  • Focus the sharing of the gospel with those from other religions.
  • Focus the church planting on specific population segments.
  • Realize that new methods would be needed to reach these people groups, which included stepping away from “typical” Adventist evangelistic modes.
  • Move away from utilizing only foreign missionaries, instead focusing on training indigenous people to minister to their counterparts.

However, even with this revitalized plan in place, the question today – nearly 30 years later – is this: are we still making progress to reach every nation? Every language? Every kindred and people? If we are truly to follow the guide set out in Revelation, we must be seeking to reach each member of each people group, no matter their current religion, language, or location.

A recent (2016) study by the Global Mission Centers of the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission revealed that there are approximately 16,386 people groups globally, with 3,024 of those groups containing over 100,000 people. Of those people groups, an estimated 40% of the people groups are currently unreached. In other words, we could say that over 1,200 of the people groups with over 100,000 people have not been reached by not only Adventists, but by Christians in general. Some of these groups do not have scripture available in their native tongue, some are culturally isolated from the majority or are migrant groups and are thus hard to track, and some live in areas where the Gospel has been spread, but has not truly penetrated.

World church leaders are now focusing on the challenges that face global evangelism, targeting the unreached people groups that remain. They are asking: what can we do – as leaders of the divisions and world church? What can be done to devote quality manpower, financial resources, training resources, and media programming to focus on these groups that are not represented in the world church? They are continuing to focus on the 10/40 Window with all of the unique challenges of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism faiths within that area. They are also now highlighting the needs of the world’s big cities (in which more than half the world’s people live) and what some are calling the Postmodern/Secular Window.

In His last words to His disciples, Jesus commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a, NIV). This challenge still resonates today – to reach every nation of the word, teaching them of the love of Jesus and baptizing them into His family. This task – though daunting – is one which the Seventh-day Adventist church is not shying way from, but is embracing whole-heartedly. Every church member needs to be actively, totally involved in making and nurturing disciples, if the great Second Advent movement is to fulfil its prophetic mission that ends with Christ’s Second Coming!