The Mission field of the United States
Our Definition of “mission field”
Not many churchgoers in America see the United States as a mission field. Often when the word ‘mission field’ is tossed out from pulpits on Sunday’s thoughts of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon jungle or remote Africa flood minds. To help bring a balance to how Americans view the mission field I’m defining it as; any place that people live where gospel proclamation is minimal and a biblical influence of the Church is not felt. To me, the mission field is both across the seas (international) and across the street (national).
In all of my travels across the United States each trip confirms the fact our nation is indeed a mission field in dire need of gospel penetration just as much as any other nation outside of our political borders. The mission field of the United States includes any and every stretch of land where people live and are not seeing the implications of the gospel connected to their reality of life. This mission field then includes the inner-city just as much as the suburbs and rural communities that house people who are in need of the gospel and healthy churches.
Our Declining Mission
In May of 2013 it was reported that 77% Americans polled believe religion is losing its influence in the United States (1). Although the poll focuses on religion in general, it gives us the impression that since Christianity is lumped in with other religions it too is seen as being less effective in cultural influence. Regarding the church’s impact on American culture, Dr. Al Mohler said the church was once an authoritative voice but has now been displaced (2). I’m convinced one reason the church in America has lost its voice of influence is because of our silence regarding evangelism. As Christians have stopped sharing about their faith, our nation's population has continued to boom, which put great distance between the souls of our nation and the message of the gospel.
In August of 2013 it was reported that 1 out of 5 non-Christians living in North America does not personally know a Christian (3). What’s more frightening about this statistic is that when you remove the Atheist and Agnostic from the poll results, many of whom have left the church, the number of non-Christians who do not know a single Christian jumps to 60%! What this reveals is two potential truths; either Christians are not evangelizing or we are too ashamed to admit to people of other faiths that we’re Christian.
According to the Evangelism Institute less than 5% of church going Christians evangelize, churches are only dedicating 2% of their budgets to evangelism and just 9% of pastors and 2% of church goers feel gifted and prepared to engage in evangelism (4). If churches are not dedicating resources towards sharing the gospel, and few pastors feel they are able to share the gospel, its only natural to see that not many church members will take time to share the gospel. When you take time to step back and think about it, this should break your heart. Christians in American are not sharing the message they heard the day they put their trust in Jesus!
Our Designation as Missionaries
What the church in America must do is make an effort to live on mission daily while each believer changes the way we view ourselves. We must begin to see ourselves as missionaries commissioned by God to share the gospel with our lips and lives in the homes, communities, jobs, and schools He has placed us in. If we begin to see our cities through the lens of a missionary sent by God, we will begin to have a compassion on those around us who do not know Christ. This is the compassion God burdened me with which led to an unceasing grief that drove me to evangelize more, build relationships with the lost, in order to ultimately plant a church.
None of these activities would’ve taken place in my life if I had continued to view myself as a me-centered churchgoer. Me-centered meaning, I would only go to church in order to; get ‘my praise on’, have my needs met, and promote my ministry to others. I wanted to "get-mine" before I considered the spiritual needs of those around me. Sadly, I functioned in this way for the first nine years of my walk with Christ. It wasn’t until I was confronted by Acts 17 that I was challenged to get my eyes off of the “Me-ology” I practiced and put them on the Scriptures in order to develop a healthy Missiology (the study of missions).
In Acts 17:26-27 Paul tells us God is the one who determines when and where we live. God has decided that each of us living today would be alive during this time of redemptive history. As His state-side missionaries, He has placed us in the mission field of United States in order for us to share His story with those who are lost, praying they would seek him out and find Him.
To me, a healthy Missiology includes; biblical evangelism and discipleship, commitment to a local church, balanced cultural research, and holy living in the midst of those who are wicked.
1 - Biblical Evangelism and Discipleship - Biblical evangelism places an emphasis on a clear gospel presentation being made (Romans 1:16-17 and 10:9-17) so God the Holy Spirit can cause a dead sinner to come alive in Christ Jesus (John 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:1-10) and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). A clear G.O.S.P.E.L. presentation includes:
- All humans were created in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26-27) in order to glorify Him
- Mankind once had Open Fellowship/Friendship with God (Genesis 2:7-25)
- Fellowship with God was broken when Sin was Introduced and now we’re all infected sin (Genesis 3:1-19; Psalm 51:5, 58:3; John 8:34, and Romans 5:12)
- The Penalty and Price for sin is the shedding of blood and death (Genesis 3:21; Leviticus 1-7; and Hebrews 9:22)
- Enter Jesus: God stepped out of heaven and came to earth, lived a perfect life, died in the place of sinners and rose 3 days later from the grave (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 7:26; Mark 10:45, 15:23-37, and 16:1-8)
- Jesus is the only person qualified to give dead sinners Life Everlasting (John 11:25-26, 14:6, and 17:3)
Biblical discipleship then is one maturing Christian taking a new believer by the hand and the two growing in maturity in their faith together. In the process of discipleship, the dependency of every believer is not placed on another believer or pastor but rather on Jesus Christ. Biblical discipleship includes:
- Regular study of the Scriptures (Ephesians 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 3:16; and 2 Peter 3:18) both personally and in community with other believers
- A disciplined prayer life in private and in community with other believers (Acts 2:42; Romans 8:26; Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2; and 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- The regular confession of our sins (James 5:16 and 1 John 1:8-10)
- Time spent with other believers in fellowship (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32; Philippians 2:1-10; and Hebrews 13:1-2)
- Spiritual reproduction, meaning disciples birth more disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2 and Titus 2:1-8)
2 - Commitment to a Local Church - A healthy missiology does not allow people to hear the gospel, say a prayer and then be left to themselves anymore than a good doctor would deliver a baby and tell the mother to leave the baby alone to fend for itself and pray it survives. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13 upon being saved every Christian was baptized into the Body of Christ (the Church) and as we see in the pattern of Scripture, those who are apart of the Church are connected to a local church in their area. Jesus Christ declared victory for His Church in Matthew 16:18-19. Jesus alone is responsible for the building of His church. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:20 Jesus is the cornerstone (most important piece) of the Church’s foundation. Peter tells us the ‘stones’ in which Jesus is using to build His Church are the Saints He has saved (1 Peter 2:5). The healthiest environment for biblical discipleship to take place is with other saints who are connected to a local church.
3 - Balanced Cultural Research - The gospel message is a timeless truth that needs no upgrade or change. However, the methods in which we use to communicate the gospel should have some familiarity with the people we are trying to reach. We are called to contextualize the gospel towards the rhythm of our community without compromising it. Christians who’ve attempted to share the gospel but found no way to engage in conversation with the non-believer outside of their gospel presentation often ask me “how can I keep the conversation going if they’re not interested?” In moments like these I tell them:
- We should expect some hesitancy from the lost to share an interest in the topics of sin and salvation as these are not popular subjects in our day
- We should not become discouraged from evangelizing because the lost are not interested in the gospel rather, their lack of concern should fuel our passion to share the Good News
- We should go to the places where the lost gather and engage with them in order to see and hear where their hearts are
- We should take time to research what the hot topics of our day are and develop a biblical position regarding these topics in order to become conversant with the lost as we share a biblical view on a topic that’s important to them
- We should take time to research what the physical needs of our immediate community are and work with our local churches to meet these needs and follow up with those we’ve interacted with
4 - Holy Living – There is perhaps nothing more damaging to the reputation of Jesus Christ and His gospel than a Christian that practices a sinful lifestyle. Scripture is clear regarding our responsibility to live holy (Romans 6; Ephesians 4-6; and Colossians 3). What America needs to see more of is Christians who are real about their salvation, struggles and how we daily strive for purity. Remember we are not actors playing the role of a Christian rather; we are sinners that have been saved by grace who are daily being transformed all the while no longer conforming to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-2). We must remember we are ambassadors who live among the lost but distinct from them while proclaiming the message of our Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Our Daily Mission
The United States of America is a mission field and God realizes it and its time we do too. In response, God has sovereignly and strategically placed (and is still placing) Christians in America to live on mission. It’s time for us to start seeing ourselves as missionaries making gospel advancements in the communities we live in. It’s time for us to practice biblical evangelism at home, school, work and everywhere in between. As God provides us grace to see Him saving the lost we must be active in connecting these new believers with local churches that practice biblical discipleship. Its time for us to research the issues of our culture and develop biblical positions that we share with the lost as we’re conversing about the topics have a passion for. The lost in America must see us as genuine ambassadors from God’s kingdom that live a lifestyle different from the kingdom of darkness as we proclaim the message of our King. If we remain committed to these practices, our nation will see the darkness pushed back by the light of the gospel.
My challenge to us, the American church, is that we would see our present location as our mission field and that we would respond biblically in the way we live on mission as we advance the gospel, discipleship, our local churches, and holy living on a daily basis.