6000 unreached people groups. Of those, 3800 are unengaged. The number is staggering and yet I believe it to be numbers that can be easily defeated. By definition, unreached means that less than 2% of the population of the people group is Christian. Unengaged means no one has taken the Gospel to them. These people are born, live, and die never hearing the Good News. In our day and age: unacceptable. And no matter what the Rob Bells may say about these people who have never heard the Gospel, those who do not trust in the Lord Jesus will be separated from God for eternity, and it falls on us to make sure they hear the Word of God.
Less than 2% of all Christian churches in the US–or only 10% of the 40,000 Southern Baptist churches–need adopt ONE unreached, unengaged people group. Why can we not do this? We are too inwardly focused. We’re comfortable. We check off our religious boxes and find contentment there. We pride ourselves in our programs and productions that bring people into the door and pat ourselves on the back saying “look how many we reached!” And I’m not saying that God can’t use those things. What I am saying is that we need to change our focus, our purpose for coming together each week.
Even at my own church, we do many good things, but I’m realizing that we’re still missing the mark! I myself am the leader of the team responsible for putting some “wow” factor into our services! But we can get to point that our lights and our PowerPoints and our techno-geewhiz substitute for the simple and effective power of God in a worship service. Then we become reliant on those things and use those things to try and draw people in. All those resources are wasted because the truth is we don’t need them! God’s power alone is sufficient! Yes, there are things that we use to help deliver the message: a sound system is necessary, stage lighting is needed, video work helps us reach more people in the space we have. My point is, every decision I make going forward will be based on the effectiveness and need to help promote God’s Word and if it does not, then it is a waste and we are being poor stewards, and I can’t let that happen any longer.
I’m also convinced that our teaching, our preaching, our discipleship and fellowship…all of it needs a new focus. EVERYTHING we do must be geared toward equipping and preparing the members of the church to go and take the Good News to the ends of the earth. Everything. You might say, well some people just aren’t at that point in their walk yet. I firmly believe that whether it is a class that simply walks a new believer through the Bible from beginning to end, or a study on a passage or character, or a seasoned study about grace…it cannot stop with us. When we go into a class or hear a sermon, we must do so to use that wisdom to help reach the unreached. We take what we learned and teach it to the next person. And as a natural by-product we ourselves are becoming filled with the Word and our lives DO change and grow. The life-application is happening underneath automatically! But the point is, it can’t stop there!
The same is true of the sermon time, of community group time. You might say that life application studies are good, and I would agree! But hang with me…. These are the corporate and intimate moments when we need to be equipped with God’s Word. But the American church has watered down the Gospel. We’ve made it the point to get people in and out of the door. We’ve got all our Christian cliches to make the Gospel easy: say your A-B-C prayer of salvation, walk down the aisle, congratulations you’re saved, now live differently! I like how it was put by one pastor: this is kool-aid Christianity. In the three short years Christ had to teach his disciples, He spent that time telling them how much it would cost to be His follower. That they had to give up anything and everything. That their love for Him had to be so great that the love they had for their families had to look like hate. And that the prize would be worth it all! To God’s glory!
People just aren’t going to be saved during Sunday morning invitation time. I say that superlatively, because it can happen, but the point I’m trying to make is, we are commanded to go out and spread the Gospel. So let the evangelism occur outside the walls of our buildings! Here’s what I’m trying to say at last: let our teaching and preaching be geared toward the Christian so that it equips us for the work we have to do, and then we’ll know how to build a relationship with a person, perhaps meet some physical need that will open doors, and allow God’s Spirit to use the Truth we speak to draw them to Him. In other words, the time for us to focus on the nonbeliever is the other ~166 hours of the week. Then they’ll come on Sunday and join the ranks of believers in pursuit of spreading the Gospel to the next person. And it goes on and on and on. Yes, it’s important to present the Gospel on Sunday morning, but let’s also put more of our efforts into equipping the church to go out and less on sugar-coating the Gospel with this “Jesus will make you feel better” tactic, with no follow-up or teaching of what it really means to be a Christ-follower. This is the reason the church exists. Not to sit in Sunday School or hear a good message that convicts us or makes us feel better or “we learned a little more about God today”. Until we use the Word we are learning and put it into action, it is dead faith! Worthless. Disobedience. And I’m so afraid for the countless number of people who have been filling pews and will stand before the Righteous Judge thinking their eternity secure but hear the words “depart from me, I don’t know you” (Matt 7:21-23).
Not one person who has Christ truly in their heart can look at the Great Commission and turn away. That’s because your “want to” is saved too, and yes, we all have insecurities and reservations and fear, but at the end of the day DO WE TRUST GOD? You can’t say “that’s someone else’s job” or “I’ll give money for someone else to go”. The Christian on “spiritual milk” or eating “spiritual meat”, the call is the same. We can’t ignore it any longer. We are each and every follower of Christ called to go. And I believe we can fulfill the Great Commission in our time. There is risk, sacrifice, uncertainty. But there’s also reward! God’s glory and a share in His eternal inheritance for each of His children. I’m reading through the Bible while watching a 52-week study on His redemption story. The Bible has opened up to me in a new way and when I think about what God did for me, why would I not want to give him all praise and honor and glory?
I think about the things I have, the life I live. By pure grace I’m where I’m at. I ask myself each morning, am I willing to give it up? What’s the most important thing here? That I’ll offend someone? I have a feeling that won’t go over well when God asks me what I did with His Son. That I was afraid of getting sick, injured, or dying? What’s the worst they can do, take my physical body? God has my soul; NOTHING can take that away from Him. The Christ I have come to know in these past months of rapid and explosive growth is worth it and demands it. And when I really get down to it, when I truly conceive and believe in His love for me, how can I respond any differently? Can we do it? Yes, God. Let it begin with me!