In my last post I discussed that one of the reasons we fail to see the United States as a legitimate mission field is that so many believers in this country are not aware of the needs that exist and where those needs exist and we cannot pray for laborers to reach a harvest field that we don’t know exists. If you missed the previous post I encourage you to read it here.
The first reason I gave for our not seeing the US as a legitimate mission field is our ignorance of the need. The second reason I see is our misconceptions of the needy.
Sometimes the issue is not that we don’t see a need but that we misunderstand it. I fear that this is often the case with the United States mission field. We are ready and willing to admit that the US is not as “Christian” as it used to be and it may be that we know what areas of this country are in the greatest need spiritually, but I fear that we misjudge or misunderstand these areas of need.
Let me explain: I believe that we too often assume that every one in the US has the same knowledge of God that we as believers have. I grew up in rural West Virginia; there was a church every couple of miles and most everyone who lived in the area had heard a presentation of the gospel or had some sort of knowledge of who God was. I just assumed that everyone in the US had that knowledge and those who didn’t go to church were rebellious toward God and had completely rejected the gospel and in the area in which I grew up, I wasn’t that far off.
When I went to Bible college in the Charlotte area and served in an inner-city church, that kind of thinking was challenged. Even in a city like Charlotte, NC where there seems to be a church of some sort on every corner, there were people who had little to no knowledge of who God was and what He had done to offer them salvation as a free gift. It was amazing to me to realize that these people hadn’t explicitly rejected the gospel; they had never heard it.
I’m afraid that we have neglected the US as a mission field because we have this idea that anyone who is unsaved has explicitly rejected God, that those who are living in open sin are doing so in knowing rebellion towards God. However, I found in Charlotte that was not the case. These people weren’t living in sin and rejecting God out of a heart of rebellion but because of ignorance. Please don’t misunderstand me; these people who are ignorant of the Gospel do have creation to look to and God certainly draws people to a knowledge of Himself through creation (Ps. 19:1; Romans 1). But, it seems to be an easy out for Christians to say, “they’ve rejected God, and aren’t interested in knowing Him”, as if that excuses us from having to reach them, because they have rejected His revelation of Himself through creation. If this was a legitimate reason for not prioritizing the evangelization of any people group with the Gospel then we might as well rip the Great Commission out of the Bible. Obviously this isn’t a legitimate reason for neglecting a certain people group neither on foreign mission field nor the mission fields in our own country.
I believe that there are millions of people in this country that are just as ignorant of the things of God as those in foreign countries, yet, in many cases, we do not readily jump at the opportunity to reach the lost in the US, because we think they should have the same knowledge of God that we have. Allow me to remind you that none of us have a knowledge of God because there was a church in a 50 mi. radius and we received it by osmosis or because we inherited a knowledge of the Gospel because our great-great-great grandmother once heard some great preacher of years past preach in a city-wide meeting. No, most of us heard the gospel because someone (usually connected to a church ministry) brought it to us.
So, if in the city of Charlotte, NC, where there seems to be churches on every corner, there are those who have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel, then doesn’t it stand to reason that there are even more Biblically ignorant people in places where there are far too few churches preaching the Gospel.
I believe there is a very Biblical solution to this problem: (1)existing churches (and by churches I mean church members not just the pastor and deacons) need to be busy going out and evangelizing the lost in their area and stop expecting the drunkard down the street to accidentally stumble into church and hear the Gospel and get saved. (2)churches need to identify the areas in which there are so few churches and so many people who have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and send missionaries to plant churches in those needy mission fields.
We need to stop expecting the sinner that is lost in darkness to seek after God. He won’t:
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
We need to stop looking for someone else to blame for the condition of this country and recognize that it is our responsibility to reach the lost in this country and get busy planting churches in the mission fields of America that we have so egregiously neglected.
2 Corinthians 4:3–6
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.