Go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS...
OK God, I will go. But where do I go?
Tommy: "Hey Youth Pastor Craig, I think I want to be a missionary, but where do I go? What are the mission field countries?"
Youth Pastor: "Oh Tommy, that's great man! Glad you wanna step it up like that and serve God. You know, the Bible says to 'go and make disciples of all nations' and that 'the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few' so God wants us to reach all nations. There's so many possibilites: Asia, Africa, South America, island nations...wherever they need God...even here in the US, like inner city ministry...man, the whole world is a mission field pretty much."
From my experience, most American Christians would have a similar attitude toward defining a mission field country. Generally, they believe it is those nations elsewhere in the world that aren't traditionally Christian, are poor, and are probably non-white. Some American Christians, who think they are hip to understanding missions today will love to tack on something like 'even our own neighborhood is our mission field'. In fact a very popular sign to post at the exit of church is a sign that reads, "You are now entering your mission field." Haha, cute, and a good reminder for people to evangelize, but that kind of thing might result in confusing people about what the mission field really is from a Biblical stand point.
But what is a mission field country? In 30AD when Jesus said to His disciples "Go and make disciples of all nations" and "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." no matter where or what direction the disciples went, they could find a mission field country. Judea was the home base and the rest of the entire world needed to be discipled. So, at that time, Judea was the sole discipled nation and all others needed to be discipled. The mission was to reach all nations. 1 had been reached. 15,999 others were waiting to be reached. Today, the mission still stands. We have to reach all nations. However, since we are nearing the end of the mission, the score is more like 10,000 reached and 6,000 unreached.
This should change our thinking of what a mission field country is. I would argue that the Great Commission is the greatest commandment from the Bible that requires extra-Biblical information. In order to make disciples of all nations, we have to first figure out what nations have already been discipled, so we can focus on those nations that aren't yet discipled. The Bible can't tell us this information. The Bible was the same yesterday as it is today. It doesn't change. However, the status of our mission changes all the time. The objective of the mission is the same, but the information needed to complete the mission constantly changes.
Many countries that were 'mission field countries' 60 years ago are no longer 'misson field countries'. Unfortunately, here in the US and much of the Western world, our opinions of mission field countries hasn't changed much. Our attitudes towards missions often continue in the same pattern in which tradition has taught us. It's those poor, non-Christian lands in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.
Here's a quiz for you:
Is Kenya a mission field country? Nope, it's the most evangelical country in the world with evangelical believers making up almost half the population.
Is Jamaica a mission field country? Jamaica has more churches per city block than any other country in the world and they have a sizeable evangelical community, so no.
China? They have about 120 million evangelical believers and they send more missionaries than the United States of America. They are doing a great job reaching their own people. I would say China is not a mission field for foreign missionaries. However, they still have the 3rd most unreached people groups in the world, so it is very much still a mission field from God's perspective.
India? Perhaps the most interesting scenario in missions; they have tens of millions of evangelical believers. They have over 200 indigenous mission agencies sending out 83,000 missionaries to reach their own people, and for good reason, because India alone is home to 1/3 of all unreached people groups in the world (about 2,200). Is it a mission field? Emphatic “YES” for native missionaries, but if outsiders want to get involved in missions there, they will be the biggest help if they consult with some of those 200 indigenous agencies to see what is needed.
USA? It could be, if you focus on the right people. Of the 236 countries in the world, USA is 16th on the list of countries with the most unreached people groups. We are a country of immigrants and still are! There are 63 unreached people groups living in the United States. http://www.joshuaproject.net/countries.php?rog3=US They are mostly immigrants, refugees, international students, and international businessmen. If you live in a city in the US, try getting to know these people and welcome them. Among the general population though, USA is not a mission field country.