The regions beyond

Missions: The Heart of God

"Our hope is . . . that we may preach the gospel in the regions beyond you" -- 2 Corinthians 10:16

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10

The Apostle Paul poured tremendous energy into developing congregations of authentic Christ followers. There's a related passion shining clearly throughout his writings, including 2 Corinthians 10:16. That passion is Paul's desire to have the Good News proclaimed in places yet untouched by the gospel.

The hope expressed to the imagination of California pastor Paul Welsh. Recently, Welsh blogged that while Paul did long for fellow Je the Corinthians to get the Gospel to "the regions beyond you"1 has fired ws to embrace Jesus, "He couldn't get his mind off those who had never heard of God's love . . . those in the regions beyond."

That image of "[preaching] the gospel in the regions beyond" has been used with some regularity by missions mobilizers. Think about A.B. Simpson, for example. Best known for founding Nyack College and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Simpson and his wife Margaret also composed gospel songs on missionary themes. Thus, a hundred years ago, lyrics by the Simpsons had believers singing these words:

To the regions beyond, I must go; I must go
Where the story has never been told.
To the millions that never have heard of His love,
I must tell the sweet story of old.

To the regions beyond, I must go; I must go
Till the world, all the world,
His salvation shall know.

There are other "lost sheep" that the Master must bring,
And to them must the message be told;
He sends me to gather them out of all lands,
And welcome them back to His fold.


The words "Regions beyond" have also been used in the names of missionary-sending organizations. The largest of those was the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, founded in Britain by Henry Guinness at the end of the 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, RBMU (the acronym by which it was often known) sent Don and Carol Richardson to the unreached Sawi people of Papua New Guinea.

Peace Child (both a book and a film) recounts Don and Carol's struggle to communicate the gospel to the Sawi and the eventual breakthrough ( "Celebrating 50 Years Since Peace Child"). Don's experiences with the Sawi "in the regions beyond" led him to encourage missionaries to look for "redemptive analogies" in the cultures of unreached people groups.

Bill Welsh reads 2 Corinthians 10:16 in the light of Jesus' Great Commission: "[Paul] would say, 'Follow me as I follow Christ.' . . . Jesus said, 'Go to the regions beyond. . . . Cover the world. Leave no one out.' . . . The world may not be waiting to welcome us, but those in the regions beyond must hear. So we must go."

Do we want our churches to be communities of authentic Christ followers? If so, we must echo Welsh's heart as it cries, "May our heart and vision as a church never slip from doing all we can to reach those in the regions beyond."

Discussion questions

  1. What is the significance of the phrase "regions beyond" in the context of cross-cultural missionary Gospel outreach?
  2. Why do you think the Apostle Paul seemed passionate about spreading the gospel in "the regions beyond"?
  3. What lessons can be learned from experiences like those of Don and Carol Richardson with the Sawi people in Papua New Guinea?
  4. How can churches balance the need to reach those in "regions beyond" with the responsibility to care for their own communities and congregations?
  5. Can modern technology and communication methods by themselves be used to spread the gospel to "regions beyond," or is a physical presence still necessary?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

1Note: "The regions beyond" is used in many English translations. Other phrases used include "people and lands beyond" (The Voice), "other places far beyond" (New Living Translation), "countries on the other side" (New Life Version), and "other cities that are far beyond" (Living Bible).

This mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine. That series explores what the Bible says about missions.


For early Christians, especially those familiar with Paul's missionary journeys and his letters, "the regions beyond" would mean areas that had not yet been evangelized or where the message of Christ had not yet been fully proclaimed. It emphasizes Paul's desire to continue spreading the Gospel to points further and further away.

Paul's language in 2 Corinthians 2 communicates his missionary zeal and commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Early Christians would have understood Paul's use of "regions beyond" as a call to ceross- cultural missionary endeavors and the expansion of the Christian faith into new peole groups.

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