Published November 13, 2012

Paul's Epistle...
"Your Mission Field"

When I was but a lad, we often welcomed to our church visiting missionaries from the far-flung corners of the world. Places like Ethiopia, Japan, Indonesia, or (forgive me) Kentucky. The "mission field" always seemed to be some far-distant, desolate, or backwoods part of the world.

But that really wasn't a proper understanding of "mission" work.

Would you like to visit the mission field? Open your front door and look outside. There – that's your mission field. Walk through town some evening (as I often do) – there, that's your mission field. Walk around the office, shop, store or campus – there, that's your mission field.

Dick McClain, president and CEO of The Mission Society, says, "Acts 1:8 calls us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth while not neglecting ‘Jerusalem,' our mission field at home." He adds, "Whether you live in Louisville, Kentucky, or Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, it is incumbent on Christian disciples to identify and then reach out to those who have had the least exposure to the Gospel. The least-reached people may very well be your neighbors."

Missionary work – even cross-cultural missionary work – is becoming much more needed even here in the States. This nation is changing – and, in matters of faith, not for the better.

A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that in the past five years, the number of Americans not affiliated with a religion (any religion) increased by 25 percent, with nearly 20 percent of those stating that they are atheist or agnostic.

That same study found that, for the first time ever, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Protestant fell to 48 percent — down from 53 percent. (Part of this is due to the rise of non-denominational churches which don't necessarily consider themselves Protestant.)

The largest number of religiously unaffiliated was in the 18-29 age group, where fully 32 percent gave no religious affiliation. That number, too, is increasing, despite an unprecedented emphasis in many churches on contemporary music and market-driven growth strategies, all intended to reach that very age group. Dr. Jim Denison, president of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, says, "We have more media-savvy ministers and churches than ever, but we're reaching fewer media-savvy Americans than ever." Unfortunately, that very approach is driving away many older church-goers.

Looking at such figures, Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said, "This is the natural progression of a secularized society that has lost the value of identifying itself as Christian."

Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had an interesting – and sad – observation, noting that believers should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in Protestant churches than the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States. We don't like to think about the fact that right in our own churches there are lost souls who need a Savior. Most think they are Christians — but really don't know what that means. Or don't care, as long as everyone thinks they are. These are "nominal" and "social" Christians who may be Christian in name only. Who will reach these people? They may include people you already know.

In any case, the recent national election underscored another Pew finding: American voters who describe themselves as having no religion overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. With the atheist and anti-God population growing, that goes a long way toward explaining the recent vote, including unprecedented approvals by voters of same-sex marriage and other vices. Bible-believing Christians simply did not vote in sufficient numbers to offset this surge of ungodliness. (By the way, that research is clear evidence of a "faith & politics" connection, for those of you who don't think there is or should be any such connection.)

Steve Strang, publisher and founder of Charisma Magazine, analyzes it this way: "Those who believe biblical principles are becoming the minority. We are in a democracy where the majority rules. Those who favor gambling, abortion, any sort of sexual practice, debauchery of every type actually see us as extremists to be feared [and] are gaining every day. Meanwhile, there is a remnant in America who love Jesus. But they seem more interested in jumping and shouting and ‘having church' than being salt and light."

So, what's stopping us? Why aren't we the "salt and light" we are commanded to be? (Matt. 5:13-14.) Why don't we witness? Why don't we share the true Gospel more often – with more people?

Afraid they won't listen? God told Ezekiel to speak to the rebellious nation of Israel, saying, "You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse..." (Ezekiel 2:7). Doing your part is simply sharing the Gospel without worrying about how it will be received. Then it's up to the Holy Spirit to use what you've told them to open your listeners' hearts and minds to Christ. You're not unsupported in this task. (Pray much about it.)

Do we feel too ill-equipped? Study the Bible. Brush up on the fundamentals. Get a good book on Christian apologetics that will help you answer questions. And don't be afraid to get help from your pastor or other well-grounded Christian friend if questions arise that you're not prepared to handle. And, of course, pray that the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind what needs to be said.

Something needs to change. We can no longer look at such declines, lean back in our easy chair and say, "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Somebody oughta do something."

That "somebody" is you. That "somebody" is me. And until we all realize it, the slide toward even more ungodliness will continue, most likely at an ever-accelerating pace, and nothing will change for the better (until the Lord comes). This is far too important to delay or ignore.

Please understand that when Christ commissioned His followers to go into "all the world" to spread the Gospel, "all" included right where you are.

You don't have to go to the mission field — you're already IN it.

- Paul

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