Wineskins Archive

December 21, 2013

Stop the World! I Want to Get On (Dec 1992)

Filed under: — @ 10:27 pm and

by Rubel Shelly
December, 1992

8The church has a vested interest in the world. While we do not love the world’s ways, we love the world’s people and want them to know Christ. This world is the arena of God’s redemptive work through Christ and his spiritual body. Thus we are called to be both salt and light to a fallen and perishing world that has lost its way.

The paragraph above is simply another way of stating the Great Commission. ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a).

But we have gotten out of the communications loop with the world. We are talking mainly among ourselves about things that are of interest only to people who are already Christians.

Evangelism is about Christians being in contact with non-Christians. When we are as inept as we have proved ourselves to be in even talking with unbelievers, we ought not express surprise that we are having so little impact.

Missions researcher David Barrett says that 44 percent of the world’s population has some acquaintance with Christianity through contact with the 33 percent of its people who confess Christ. This means that fully 23 percent of the world’s population is completely untouched by Christianity; 1.2 billion people know nothing of the gospel of the grace of God. Among the 44 percent identified above, their acquaintance with Christianity is no greater than the average Christian’s knowledge of Islam or Buddhism.

Barrett estimates that 99 percent of all Christian publishing addresses issues of concern only to people who are already believers, that 95 percent of all Christian ministries are for the benefit of Christians, and that 9 percent of all efforts at evangelism are aimed at people within the parts of the world that are already predominantly Christian.

Even in the United States, many mission efforts are targeted for overkill. For example, fully half of the population of California was Hispanic as of 1990 and the only city in the world with more Mexicans than Los Angeles is Mexico City. Yet a disproportionate percentage of mission projects in such settings still aim at English-speaking Anglos.

There is still too much of the pattern of “white flight” from inner-o or mid-city areas impinged upon by African-Americans, Hispanics, or other ethnic groups. Why flee? Why not make that church’s evangelistic focus those very groups in their neighborhoods – rather than mission works in Africa or Central America?

Then there is the wide-, wide world of turned-off, alienated, and disenfranchised from within the Christian community. A presentation of pure, Christ-centered gospel will bring many back into the fold who are wandering in the bleak wilderness of insipid theology, sectarian division, and rejection by churches that God meant to be safe places for broken people.

Can things be changed? Anyone who answers negatively must not believe in the power of God to work through his people. Of course, things can change. But we have to be aware of the need for change and open to God’s power at work among us.

Think of what revolutionary changes have been produced in the political world since 1989. Do we think God is unable to produce equally dramatic results in the religious climate of the world? What limited faith we have!

At the dawn of a new year, take stock of where you are in relation to the world God loves. Ask what you are doing for the sake of being “all things to all men so that by all possible means” you might save some. Pray to God to make you sensitive to opportunities you may have missed in the past. And believe that he is still willing to do great things through surrendered and obedient lives.Wineskins Magazine

Rubel Shelly

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