I closed the last article in this series with a question: How are we doing? Jesus gave the great commission more than 2000 years ago. Every generation inherits the responsibility of carrying that commission to their world. It is like a relay race and the 21st Century now has the baton. So, I ask again, how are we doing?
In the 1980’s, statisticians reported that the worldwide church of Jesus Christ was for the first time since the first century predominately non-Western. In other words, the majority of Christ-followers live in the Southern and Eastern Hemispheres. Today Christianity is now primarily a non-white, non-Western, non-wealthy religion. In fact, Africa will be the most Christian continent on earth by 2025.
A part of the reason for this is we have been focused on making converts, and not disciples. The result, as unpleasant as it may be to admit, is described pointedly in the book “Western Christians in Global Mission” by Paul Borthwick, where he writes, ”Our greatest problem here [in the USA] is that the church is miles wide and inches deep.” He continues, “Obedience to the Great Commission suffers because nominal Christians, who have been momentarily ‘converted’ do not grow in integrity or character or biblical knowledge or Christian living. These superficial decisions are not necessarily integrated into the way they live, treat their spouse, operate in their community, or participate in business and politics. We need disciples.”
Over the last few years, I have watched the church turn from a world view to an inward focus. In fact, I was told by someone I deeply respect that a minister from a large mega-church speaking at a conference encouraged all church leaders to bring their missionaries home and put that money toward their own congregation and city. He saw this as the solution to survival. What tragic advice!
This kind of emphasis takes our focus off our own responsibility to join the rest of the world in carrying out the Great Commission. We are the wealthiest nation with the greatest financial resource available. Another quote from Paul Borthwick from the book mentioned above states: “Most of us in North America are living on an island of affluence in the sea of poverty. We fail to realize this because we think that everyone else around us is more affluent. So, we often think of ourselves as ‘poor,’ failing to remember our relative position in this globalized world.”
This kind of thinking and inward-turning is causing some countries to think of the USA as a mission field and in need of missionaries to come to our aid. The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria has already planted 500 churches across North America.
Ok if that is the problem, now what is the solution? We will tackle that one in the next article.