Shoot, this is the stuff that makes all of us look bad. The popular Christian music group Sonicflood worked with the Southern Baptist's International Mission Board to record a music video used with the annual Lottie Moon Christmas offering - an offering which will fund much of the Board's excellent work around the world in the year to come. It was filmed in and around Damascus, Syria, including the road where Saul had the remarkable conversion some 2000 years ago that did so much to further God's mission to the Gentiles. Yes, people like you and me.
But whoever produced the video threw in some bumper-sticker mission motivators that just don't stand up to what we know about the world. I don't want to single them out unduly. You see statistics abused and used to misinform in lots of places. But how sad to see the Board educate their congregations with misleading information.
"There are 6,426 unreached people groups who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ" it proclaimed. And yes, with the nature of the medium, they said it without any source information or explanation of that statistic. "We know who these people groups are, what they are called, their dominant faith, their culture," it continued.
Too bad they didn't "know" that - even and maybe especially in the places around the Middle East where this video was shot - it's quite difficult to find people, much less whole "peoples," who have not heard the name of Jesus.
What is it about that phrase "never heard the name of Jesus" that evangelical preachers and mission mobilizers cannot resist? The fact is, Jesus has very high name recognition. Many who are part of these unreached groups have not only heard about the name of Jesus, but also know more about Jesus and those who follow him than most of us know about them. That doesn't mean what they've heard is accurate, that they know Jesus, or that they even have personal relationships with Christians - in most cases they do not. Yet most have heard the name and probably hear it often.
"Are We There Yet?" raises a missiological question. I guess four minutes isn't long enough to unpack it. But there's a world of difference between knowing the name of Jesus and knowing him.
Another missiological question for the Baptists - and all of us who believe that human beings were made to know God and make him known - might be, "do we care yet?"
Note: Yes, readers, I know that several of you wouldn't agree with me about the uniqueness of Jesus or the claim that human beings were made to know God and make him known... If you'd like to talk about that, let me know. But I think this probably isn't the best forum for that conversation.