Whether cleaning house, loosing weight, fixing a problem… we know what needs to be done, but often need motivation to start and finish the task. My recent experiences in China with the underground churches made me wonder why parts of our ‘Christianized’ world lack the fervor to evangelize unreached people groups. Studying the ‘Back to Jerusalem Movement’ with Chinese believers are taking the Gospel through the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim worlds to ‘where it all began’, has made me think through: (1) Why (2) Why Not? (3) Why Not Me? (4) Why Not Now!
Despite their background – atheism, communism, persecution, poverty – without much Christian tradition, opportunity for higher education and suffering in circumstances that ‘restrict’ their access to Gospel, they had a consistent, contagious, commitment to carry out Christ’s commission! This raises a central concern: why aren’t we Christians regularly leading others to Christ and many of our churches not growing or reproducing other churches?!
Why is it that people are not attracted to or respond to the Gospel and come Jesus Christ for salvation? I’ve found 3 main reasons: #1. Don’t want to and choose not to (cost of commitment too high & they don’t want to change!) #2. Don’t understand why they have to (see no benefits, only bad examples of the ‘believer’!) #3. Don’t know they need to and don’t know how to (since nobody has shared the Gospel with them!)
Surely as Christians we are convinced that Jesus is the only Way to heaven and that His Great Commission is binding for all of us, today ((Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:20). We also believe in the priesthood of all believers, the exercise of ‘spiritual gifts for church growth and the autonomy of the local church to send out laborers into the ripe harvest. Yet, often churches have inhibiting structures and controlling leaders with certain preferences that hinder more than help empower members to be missionaries!
Examining Paul’s missionary methods, I realize he went quite far and planted churches fast! The statement of his achievement has amazed and challenged me: ‘From Jerusalem to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ… no more place for me to work in these regions’ (Rom.15: 19-23) Wow! What advantages did Paul have? Maybe a common language, going to familiar regions, ideal starting points, availability of synagogues, ready-made audiences…
The above factors matter in relating the Gospel cross- culturally. Yet let me submit some of Paul’s motivations that propelled his pioneering spirit to get the Gospel to the unreached, planted reproductive churches and developed leaders (Acts 14:21-23) to complete the task of world evangelization:
(1) Paul had a personal encounter and experience with Jesus. God through Ananias confirmed (Acts 9:15) his call to take the Gospel to ‘the Gentiles’.
(2) Paul had passion for lost souls without the hope of heaven. He confessed: ‘the love of Christ’ and ‘terror of Lord’s judgment’ constrains me (2Cor. 5:10-11, 14).
(3) Paul being a pioneer had what I call a priority policy or ‘preferential option’ to preach the Gospel to ‘all nations/ethne’ who had not yet heard ‘the name’ or had not been given an opportunity to respond to Christ’s claims (Rom. 15:20).
(4) Paul expected Christ to return during his lifetime so his urgency to go to ‘the unreached’. Jesus noted: ‘this Gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come’! (Matt. 24:14)
(5) Finally we forget Paul was obedient to the simple command in Matt.28:19-20: ‘Go, disciple nations’… Believers are born to reproduce! We are saved to serve! The solution to the problem may be in Nike’s slogan: ‘Just Do It!’
Anyone persuaded with a ‘why’ to do what they ought to will figure out ‘how’ to make things happen toward that end. So it is with Christian missions! There is a cost, yet isn’t there a cause greater than ourselves for heaven’s sake?!