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If the end goal is the preaching of the gospel to every human on the planet, then it shouldn't be too hard to come up with very efficient and effective methods to do so. For example, God could send hundreds of millions of angels to preach the gospel around the world, and in a matter of minutes every person would be evangelized. Or God could give dreams and visions to every person simultaneously, revealing to them the truth of the gospel, causing unprecedented large scale conversions all over the globe (by the way, there is anecdotal evidence that this appears to be happening to Muslims to a lesser degree). And likewise, one could creatively think of myriads of other possible ways in which the gospel could've been preached sooner, faster or more effectively. Yet, God has decided to use human vessels as His main instruments to carry out the great commission. Why?

Since I don't intend this question to be opinion-based, I would prefer answers that draw on reputable sources pertaining to the subject matter, e.g., the works of reputable theologians. Alternatively, if a denomination has an official denominational answer to the question, I would be interested in knowing about it too.

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  • 3
    what a great question...I am +1 on this one and look forward to reading and criticising answers
    – Adam
    Apr 22 at 10:28
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    In my view, this is not a well researched or focused question. Just one example (of many) is that no attention has been paid to Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, God's chosen method is the most effective and the most efficient. (It is just that this question has not stated, correctly, what He is doing and why He is doing it.)
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 at 15:49
  • @ Nijel i find your comment interesting (Revelation 14.6 is metaphorical...it does not represent a real angel, this is the case with many of the angels in Revelation), worthy of thought just the same. I find that its really interesting that few denominations really understand the book of Revelation...one of the few who really do grasp its meanings is that of the SDA church. Part of the reason for the lack of understanding comes about as a result of refusal to accept that Jesus did not do away with the 10 commandments and the real meaning of the sanctuary service in the Old Testament.
    – Adam
    Apr 23 at 8:50
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Your question came from the old mission perspective, the image of Billy Graham preaching in a stadium, which underplays the sanctification aspect of salvation. The book in my answer argues that embodiment of new humanity itself is the gospel, and that is why the church needs to be involved not only to preach the gospel but to becoming the gospel. And we all know it takes a lifetime to transform people. Apr 23 at 15:33
  • What sources do you have for more effective and efficient alternatives?
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 23 at 16:17
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What if the end goal is not "the preaching of the gospel to every human on the planet" as your question stated? What if the end goal is humanity transformed and that the preaching of the gospel is a means to this end?

God is not known to be efficient, but He gets the job done (humanity transformed) by eventually bringing all whom He has chosen to His sheepfold before the night comes. My answer starts with several Biblical observations and theological reflections and concludes with an answer from a reputable theologian (Michael J. Gorman) framing mission as PARTICIPATION.

Biblical observations and theological reflections

  • Adam caused the Fall and through Adam and a line of sinful people that the world will be saved. Note how in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:1-17) we have Jacob the liar, Tamar who slept with her father in law (Judah), Rahab the prostitute, and Bathsheba (whom God chose out of David's other wives, even though David murdered her first husband Uriah!)

  • It's a Biblical pattern that God chose people with problems BUT who have hearts for Him. He dignifies them to be involved in His plan. He is acting like a leader in a company who wants to include everyone in the company's success.

  • He even helps them to overcome their weakness (like Moses and his speech issue, and Gideon with his fear). He is acting like a father who loves to involve his little children who offer to help their dad to build / repair something although he would have finished the job sooner by himself.

  • In Christian teaching, a person cannot come to faith unless God first choose him/her (doctrine of election) and then provides him/her with grace to respond to the gospel. Those two are essential, but miracles and vision are not. At the end of the day, despite our evangelizing efforts and powers of persuasion, it is still up to God and up to the person we are evangelizing to.

  • One reason why God works through His Church is that He wants us (the problem) to be part of the solution. God is control but wants us to be maximally involved. In doing so we become more aware of our sins but become better as a result of evangelizing. His providence and foreknowledge make it work in the end. We look forward to becoming amazed at the extent of God's wisdom when everything is revealed at the end of time.

  • Paul is our model as his own life becomes the gospel: he started by being a murderer of God's elects, repented, and voluntarily became a soldier for Christ, suffering for Him out of his gratitude for being saved, and wanted everyone to have the same experience.

Michael Gorman's book: Becoming the Gospel

For a reputable theologian's answer, I refer you to the 2015 book by NT scholar Michael J. Gorman : Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission reviewed here with some constructive criticism here.

Among the points in the final chapter of the book there is one theological explanation which I paraphrase as follows: God's mission is the formation of a new humanity, so the gospel has to be preached out of a bodily witness of the transformation.

Relevant quotes from the chapter (emphasis mine):

The Gospel and the Missio Dei

A critical part of becoming the gospel is appropriately defining the gospel. A narrow, privatistic understanding of the gospel (such as, “Believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord so that you will have your sins forgiven and go to be with him when you die”) may require the church to say a lot, but it will not require it to become much of anything other than a loud voice. It does not even have to be a very credible loud voice as long as it says what (it thinks) needs to be said.

...

This is why our understanding of the gospel and our understanding of the missio Dei are so interconnected. A thin, lightweight view of the gospel entails a similar thin, lightweight understanding of salvation and the missio Dei. But a thick, robust understanding of the gospel involves an equally complex and comprehensive perspective on salvation and the missio Dei. What God was and is up to in Christ is ultimately cosmic in scope, but in the present that future cosmic reality is anticipated in the formation of what Ephesians refers to as a new humanity. If the gospel of Christ crucified, raised, and exalted as Lord means anything for the human race, according to Paul, it means that transformation into the cruciform image of God is possible in the present. And that means that the message and the people, the gospel and the church, are inseparable; the witness to the reality of transformation through death and resurrection is the existence of a transformed and being-­transformed people.

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    Spot on! The greatest delight for me as a Christian is when I see that segments of my life have been shaped by God into parables that reflect bits and pieces of Scripture. I see God teaching a story of how a person grows from infancy to maturity in the faith through different stages, and the church is passing through those same stages collectively. The history of the Church is a parable of the Gospel message. Aug 4 at 13:16
  • I read this question and immediately decided it was the problem of evil. “All powerful” doesnt mean can make 2+2 literally and mathematically equal 10; it means you have all the power there is. But the point of the goal is important. With the shaking of all things and the new earth, who am I to say anything about methods? It also connects to annihilationism. I dont agree that the Bible says there is eternal suffering for sinners. God: “Im creating a universe and reshaping a new heaven and earth.” Me: “why didnt you do this or that instead?” Lol
    – Al Brown
    Aug 5 at 0:57
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Your question could be expanded: why did God choose to make the world at all?

The implication of asking your question is that the ultimate thing God is aiming for is efficiency. This is not the case.

God created the universe for his own glory. He has his ways of doing things which are not our ways of doing things:

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

However, I think we do have some clues as to why God chooses to make the gospel known through frail and flawed human beings rather than in a more 'efficient' way.

2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." If you think of us as the 'jars of clay', then the fact that something supernatural happens (i.e. people are converted) by the preaching of the gospel shows that it is God's power at work.

Similarly in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."

When God's work is accomplished not only despite our weakness but through our weakness, then it shows it can only be his power and not ours.

So I would answer your question, God chooses to make himself known and evangelise the nations through the work of human beings, because it brings more glory to himself in his power being made manifest in weakness.

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    "God created the universe for his own glory." Can you say more about this? It makes it sound like God is a narcissist. He could expedite the salvation of billions of people, but instead draws it out because he wants more glory? Apr 22 at 18:47
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather That sounds like another question to me! Apr 23 at 7:26
  • 1
    this answer does not actually answer the question...saying God does not work for efficiency is not what the question is asking. sorry but this is a -1 from me.
    – Adam
    Apr 23 at 8:47
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    The point of believers being 'clay vessels' helps answer the Q. As evangelist D.L. Moody said, “God doesn’t seek for golden vessels, and does not ask for silver ones, but He must have clean ones.” My own application of a famous quote is, "If ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’, that might be why God entrusted the gospel to mortals." Yes, weak [but clean] vessels are bold in obediently proclaiming the gospel, and this brings greater glory to God than if higher beings did the job.
    – Anne
    Apr 23 at 9:30
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    @OneGodtheFather - Read C.S. Lewis' "The Weight of Glory". Lewis also had a hard time understanding God's pursuit of his own glory as a virtuous and meaningful pursuit, but after looking closely, discovered his error. The essay is short and accessible and had a profound effect on me. Jul 2 at 16:28
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What may appear inefficient to us on such a grand scale is irrelevant. We don't have near enough information to put the God who knows all on the witness stand. God is working on bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). The most "efficient means" seems like it should have been to create many glorified sons, withhold from them the ability to blow it, and call it a day.

But God gave Adam a legitimate choice to make and the capacity to make it, so obviously God values choice as much as glorified sons and creation itself. The inefficiency we might perceive is the direct result of humanity's God given ability to choose. Because the choice cast all into the spiritual dark (this includes our intellects), we cannot possibly predict (with our intellect) what the most efficient means of reaching us might be; we are, so to speak, in the dark on this matter.

God says it is best accomplished through the foolishness of preaching the cross of Christ. We can deny it but we have no logical ground to argue against it.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power: Christ the Wisdom and Power of God. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. - 1 Cor. 1:17-29 

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