Missions: The heart of God

The regions beyond

"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. However, there's another passion shining clearly throughout his writings including 2 Corinthiains 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 Corinthians to get the Gospel to "the regions beyond you" has fired the imagination of California pastor Paul Welsh. Recently, Welsh blogged that while Paul did long for fellow Jews 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 appeared 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, the Simpsons had believers singing words like these:

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.

Refrain
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.

   — http://www.hymnary.org/text/to_the_regions_beyond_i_must_go

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 effectively communicate the gospel to the Sawi and the breakthrough that eventually came ( "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-cry: "May our heart and vision as a church never slip from doing all we can to reach those in the regions beyond."

    -- Howard Culbertson

This 500-word 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 produced by the Church of the Nazarene.


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