Reaching the Lost in a Changing World
Texts: Matt. 9:35-38, John 4:34-38
by Bob Young
I fear our awareness, vision, and commitment to missions is too little. I am not certain why this is, but to make clear the challenge I share some thoughts and make some suggestions.
We must begin in the Bible. The Bible does record, Jesus did say, did he not, Matt. 9:35-38; John 4:34-38. Certainly we could find many more verses to accentuate evangelism--Light to Gentiles, Great Commission, example of early church, letters of Paul, etc. Today want to personalize these two passages, just a few verses.
Our World Needs the Gospel
Our world is ripe for the harvest. I know this from my own experiences and firsthand observations. Consider these examples of fields with great need.
We are training too many who go to work in fields already worked and potentially overharvested. We are not using wisdom. We are not sending to receptive areas; we are not touching urban areas. We are not establishing self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating churches. In most parts of our mission world, we are not reaching the population who can sustain the church.
- Guyana, open to gospel, Georgetown Bible College, inroads are limited, even with some emphasis and focus among churches of Christ, a lack of workers.
- New Zealand, about 20 congregations, ~1000 Xns, 4.25 million
- Costa Rica, 28 congregations, ~1200 Xns, 4.5 million
- Honduras as a nation has received much attention from missions. Honduras has almost 8 million persons. The church is growing, but not more than 250-300 congregations. In Olancho, there are 60 congregations, approximately 2000-3000 Christians.
- Ecuador, 14.5 millions, after years of work by a few persons, there is really only a beginning.
- Mexico, wide open, but so much to do.
- Northeast US, the ratios are improved from foreign fields but are still not good.
- West Virginia, 300+ congregations, for 3 million souls, this is barely touching the need, despite the church's long history in the state.
- Ohio, 425+ congregations, for 4 million souls.
- Michigan, 200 congregations, 9.9 million. But those of us here today are spending most of our time in these areas. This is the mission field we see.
The Lack of Workers
Why do we not send more workers to the real fields? There are not enough workers! We are not committed to sending workers. Regarding US workers, we "use up" 3 or 4 preachers per congregation in larger churches, and 100s of smaller churches go without a preacher. Further, what these preachers are doing in the local churches is often everything but evangelism. We are often sending the wrong kind of workers and are not economically wise. We can send those culturally and linguistically ready.
Identifying the Reasons for the Problem
No problem can be solved until we know the reasons for the problem. There are several reasons that can be suggested to explain this problem.
1. We are self-serving and want to hire personnel to serve us rather than we serving one another. Further, many of our preachers do not have a vision for evangelism, let alone missions.
So there are not enough workers in foreign fields. Doors have opened and closed while we sit idly by and share only a pittance of our resources for
missions and genuine outreach.
2. OVU graduate: I have never taught anyone. Sunset graduate: I have never taught anyone. I have never taught anyone, ACU, OCU, DLU, FHU.
3. We are not teaching others to teach. What are we going to do in PE class--teach others. What if I don't know anyone to teach--go to mall and sit and ask until find someone willing to study. But not necessary--foreign students, nonChristians on campus, non-Christians in our churches.
4. Even in our preacher schools, Bible colleges, and universities, we are training preachers to work for us, centered on self.
Humbly suggest this is not too hard to understand, nor is missions or evangelism something that is hard to do. Is not hard to double a church in 10 years although that is considered fantastic growth rate by students of church growth. Go into congregation of 175, teach others to teach gospel, have PE training series, get involved in community, involve the church, baptize 243 in 11 1/2 years, will have 350.
Or again, go into congregation of 200, have PE training series, involve self in community, serve, teach, love, care, involve the church, share a dream, in 8 years have 275 (~50% growth rate), and then with I CARE-WE CARE campaign, baptize 45 more next year. From 200 to 325 in 9 years = 62% in 9 years.
Wish I could tell you that these have continued to grow, but Satan is alive and well, and we too readily allow him to get in our way. Churches
have problems, divide, diminish, regroup, continue to grow, in unique path of ups and downs.
We Can Do Differently
I ask you today to consider with me, (1) what must be our goals in order to accomplish an effective missions work in a changing world, (2) what is the
essence of Xnity, and (3) What must be our strategies.
- (1) GOALS. What is the goal for evangelism in your local church?
Humbly suggest that it may be smaller than you think. May have a large long range goal but truth is that our short term goal is no bigger than our
congregational seating. If your building seats 500, that is likely your unspoken unwritten goal. If you have two services, may say, well our goal
is 1000. But my point is the same--our goals for evangelism in our communities are generally very small. We are not thinking in terms of
winning 1000s to Christ. We are thinking very small.
The same is true in our missions work. As long as we believe we have to build buildings that will provide assembly areas for every person we reach
with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will never reach the world. If our goal is to reach the entire world with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ,
we must begin to think in new ways, to employ new strategies, and to think in new paradigms about the essence of the gospel message and the essence of
- (2) THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL, THE ESSENCE OF THE CHURCH.
To communicate the gospel in other cultures/countries, must discover what is the essence of the message. What is method and what is message? How
can the message be understood in another culture? How can we avoid Americanizing? How can we avoid patriarchalism, being overly controlling?
- (3) WHAT ARE APPROPRIATE STRATEGIES FOR MISSIONS IN A CHANGING WORLD?
We must learn to distinguish principles, values, and actions. Principles are biblically based, values are more often culturally based, actions are
individually based. Sometimes principles are discussed under the topic of worldview.
If this is true, the acceptance of the same principles from Scripture may cause one to end up with different values or actions because of the
intercultural nature of our world. Example: right now there is a cultural conflict in Costa Rica because of the influx of Nicaraguans after Hurricane
Mitch. In the church, the Nicaraguan approach to evangelism has been bombastic, many of the Central America peoples are uneducated, passive, can
be convinced withthis kind of preaching. But, Costa Rica is a more developed country, probably the most developed of Central America. It has
a definite 2nd world feel to it, perhaps in ways approaching first world. The Costa Ricans wish a different approach in worship. What are we to do?
Put together a Nicaraguan church and a Costa Rican church? Is the most effective missions strategy, or is the answer to rethink the nature of the
assembly, the nature of the church, and to ask how these two different cultural views can exist side by side to the glory of God.
Suggest several things which we must consider as we seek to renew the church.
We must avoid the superstore megachurch trend.
We must avoid the latest waves of religious thinking, third waves, HS, worship, etc.
We must rethink creeds, clergy, and coercion.
We must seek a fresh look at scripture to check the appropriate principles and worldviews which are greater than culture.
We must seek an understanding of the paradigm shifts. Which are cultural and which are principle based?
We must hold fast the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must count the cost.
We must continue in prayer.
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Last updated October 2, 2010.