Rick Warren Hopes To Reinvigorate ‘Finishing the Task’
Finishing the Task was launched in 2005 with the goal of reaching the unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs) in the world by 2025.
Its new leader, best-selling author and pastor Rick Warren, has four new goals to reach by 2033: (1) bible translations in the heart language of every individual; (2) every believer trained to share his or her faith; (3) every existing church to plant or sponsor a church so that churches are accessible to all believers; and (4) prayer to accomplish these tasks and overcome the challenges impeding progress.
In 2000, a group of Christian ministry leaders at “Table 71” during a strategy session at a Billy Graham Evangelism conference in Amsterdam agreed to work together to finish reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel.
This endeavor was more formalized under the banner of “Finishing the Task” and led by Paul Eshleman. It “unites and mobilizes the global body of Christ to courageously take up the mantle of catalyzing, multiplying and supporting church planting movements in every unreached people group and place, until everyone, everywhere has access to a Bible, Believers, and a Body of Christ.”
According to Dan Hitzhusen, a global church planting strategist who has been with Finishing the Task since 2018, the group believes there are about 200 UUPGs left in the world. When he started with the group in 2018, there were about 1,700 left.
Hitzhusen explained that Finishing the Task has been an equipping and tracking organization while many other ministries are doing the work of reaching the UUPGs.
He acknowledged that different organizations have varying definitions for what defines a UUPG.
Finishing the Task’s bar is fairly low for removing a people group from the UUPG list: when at least 50 people in that group are believers, no matter how large the group, Hitzhusen said.
By contrast, a group like the International Mission Board wants to see a self-perpetuating church planting movement to consider a group no longer a UUPG.
According to the Joshua Project, there are 7,416 unreached people groups in the world.
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In his article analyzing “Finishing the Task” language based on the Great Commission, Cedarville University Professor of Missions Matt Bennett cautions, “The church has not been given the task of mere world evangelization. Grander than this, she has been given the task of making disciples of all nations.”
In 2018, Warren took the helm. After his retirement from the pastorate of Saddleback Church in September of this year, Warren began leading the Finishing the Task network full time.
He told MinistryWatch last month that he is committed to leading the movement for the next 10 years.
According to Warren, he’s spent the last two years reading “everything I could possibly read on every previous attempt to complete the Great Commission, pretty much since the Reformation forward over 500 years.”
He wants to “figure out a way to mobilize the whole church. If every supposed Christian were actually trained to share their faith, if everybody only talked to two other people, everybody could hear [the Gospel.]”
Not long after joining full time this fall, apparently Warren let most of the staff of Finishing the Task go. Regular emails are still being sent by the ministry, but no information about the major staff changes at Finishing the Task is available.
Neither are financial reports, which MinistryWatch sought from the group multiple times with no response. None can be located on the Finishing the Task website. A search of the Internal Revenue Service website produced no results for Finishing the Task as a 501(c)(3) organization.
Finishing the Task is not listed as a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
On Sunday, December 11, Saddleback’s current pastor Andy Wood promoted an offering for Finishing the Task to the congregation. “We can be a part of God’s ministers of reconciliation to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth,” he said before a video about Finishing the Task was played.
Main photo: Pastor Rick Warren during a panel discussion in Baltimore in June 2014 / RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks