With over 350,000 Protestant churches in America alone and millions more spread across the globe one question plagues me day and night…why isn’t the world reached for Christ yet? As I’ve thought about it I’ve come up with a short list. Agree or disagree I want you to think about these and add your two cents.
1. The church (especially in America) spends a disproportionate amount of money on buildings, staffing and internal programs.
Meanwhile the people in the community around them continue to die and go to hell. Sorry to be so blunt but I think that the average church is CLUELESS to the deepest spiritual needs of those who live in their own backyard. Divorce rates are soaring, depression is an epidemic and families are more stretched financially than ever. What is the best solution to these challenges? A personal relationship with Jesus! He can give these families the hope they need to endure the trials of this life as they rivet their eyes to the joys of eternal life with Jesus in the next.
The average church is so focused on buildings, staffing and programs for their own people that it creates a culture of consumerism that puts the focus of the church on the church. “What do our people want? What kinds of Bible studies appeal to them? How can we make life, attending church and congregational life more appealing to our people?” blah, blah, blah….
I’m not saying that these questions shouldn’t be asked and answered. What I’m saying is that these are not the most important questions. To build the kind of church that truly makes a difference we must help our people realize that it’s not all about them. Churches that don’t get hit while crossing the street of true effectiveness don’t look both ways they look three. They look upwardly to God (worship), inwardly to serving the needs of the body (servanthood and the use of spiritual gifts) and outwardly to reach the community for Christ (evangelism, outreach, etc.)
2. The gospel that is being preached tends to be anything but.
The word gospel means “good news”. It’s the good news that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and not by good works. But many who preach the “gospel” today are adding all sorts of pre-conditions. Think about some of the add ons many Christians tag on to the simple message of Jesus:
“Just say this prayer…”
“Just walk this aisle…”
“Sure it’s by faith alone but you also must get baptized”
“Sure it’s by faith alone but you also must __________” (you fill in the blank)
“Turn from all your sin and then come to Jesus” (isn’t it the other way around and isn’t he the one who turns us from it?)
The “To do list” goes on and on and on. Meanwhile the gospel we are presenting is no different than the stairway to heaven approach that every other religion requires for post earth happiness. I’m sick of the Pharisees who, while claiming to preach a sola fide message (aka “faith alone”) challenge all of us to swallow the camel of good works for salvation while they can’t even strain out a gnat of actual righteousness. The challenge with this approach is that it is wrong. It is heresy. There’s a whole book of the New Testament dedicated to those who added one thing (circumcision) to the faith alone message. The message of Galatians is as relevant today as ever.
Here’s something to think about.
If the gospel we present focuses more on what we do instead of all that Christ has done it is no gospel at all.
If the gospel we present centers around our actions instead of Christ glorious action of self sacrifice then it is no gospel at all.
If the gospel we present revolves around us turning, trying, surrendering and forsaking instead of receiving the free gift of Jesus, who surrendered and forsook everything for us, then it is no gospel at all.
When you think about it it’s not all that complicated. We are sinners. There’s nothing we can do to erase that sin. So Jesus died for our sins. If we trust in him alone, apart from our good works, our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8,9). Then we can do the good works that he foreordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), not to earn salvation but in response to the free gift he has so graciously given us.
If we really want to see the world reached with the gospel then we must preach the real, unadulterated gospel. For more on this unadulterated message of pure good news check out the book of Galatians. It’s a short powerful read.
3. The church is not focusing on reaching the most spiritually receptive demographics.
Who are the most open to the gospel? Those under the age of 18 and the poor! Who do most churches focus on reaching? Those older than 18 and the rich (or at least middle class and up!)
You’ve heard the statistics I’m sure that the vast majority of those who come to Christ do it before they are 18 years of age. And we know from 1 Corinthians 1:19-26 that the poor are much more open to the gospel than the rich. So why do so many churches focus elsewhere? In my opinion it is because that’s where the potential big time “tithers” are.
If we were in the business world selling a product we would focus the majority of our efforts and money on getting the most receptive demographic to buy our product. But, in the church, we tend to spend the majority of our manpower and money on getting the least receptive audience to “buy our product.”
As the President of Dare 2 Share Ministries that focuses on training teenagers to transform their friends for Jesus I’m always reminding adults of this crucial reality. Youth ministry and children’s ministry is where the action is. They may not be big time “tithers” or whatever yet but they are the most open demographic to the gospel.
We must recalibrate our ministries around reaching the most receptive audiences. The young and the poor.
4. It’s my fault.
At the end of the day I don’t blame misguided programs, distracted pastors or misappropriated budgets of the church for not reaching the world, I blame myself. I need to reach my own world, my own neighborhood, my own community for Jesus. Yes I’m trying but I’m not trying hard enough.
By God’s grace let’s all take responsibility for the Great Commission. If we all reached our own “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” then “the uttermost parts of the world” would be reached as well.
People need the grace, forgiveness and hope that only Jesus can ultimately give them. We have been designated by Jesus himself as the heralds of this good news. Let’s proclaim it with love, humility and boldness to everyone in our sphere of influence.
Together, in the power of the Spirit, we can reach this world for Jesus with the good news of Jesus. Let’s start today!