He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

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Saturday, June 30, 2012 

Six Challenges for the Church in Missions: 1) Keeping "Lostness" in View


Both national and international news as well as our own experiences provide illustrations of the consequences of not following Christ. However, we are more likely to see the symptoms than the spiritual roots of the evil that occurs. As churches become more concerned about (1) being less threatening places for non-believers and (2) their image in their own cultures, Christians have become careful in how they use “harsh-sounding” words like lost, sin and repentance. It is awkward for non-Christians and somewhat uncomfortable for many Christians to come to terms with the stark possibility that people could be forever lost. I’m afraid many Christians just don’t believe that those who have not heard or do not know Christ are lost.

Christians and non-Christians, the saved and the lost, look quite similar. When I see my neighbor going to work each morning, I may think he looks a lot like me. I may spontaneously think about the value or condition of his house, his family relationships, his job, his newly-acquired possessions or the make of car he drives. I’m not likely to be reminded that he is lost and in need of a savior. When he sees me, I wonder if my life looks any different to him. It is not easy to remind ourselves that people fall into one of two camps: those who know Christ and are going to heaven and those who do not know Christ and are not going to heaven.

I was talking with a young man recently whose grandparents were pioneer missionaries. His mother just completed a book about their first five years in Africa. The young man himself is working for a mission organization. When I told him I was concerned that we don’t see people as lost, he confessed that he fell into that category.

When we see pictures on television of people in troubled places of the world, we are likely to be reminded of hunger, the repressive effects of totalitarian governments, environmental destruction or the need for education, political stability, freedom, moral restraint, clean water, good food and medical care. We are much more likely to focus on the physical needs of people than the invisible spiritual needs. Young adults seem to be increasingly responsive to such physical needs. Certainly these needs are a large part of the missionary enterprise, but are they taking precedence over the priority of reaching the lost with the gospel?

We must not lose sight of the fact that people are lost. They are not going to spend an eternity with God unless they are introduced to Jesus. This must be a major component of our missions plans and ministries.

Humanitarian ministries, while worthy in their own right, should also be contributing to the evangelization and discipleship of the lost among all nations.

Practices for maximum global impact:
—Preach and teach without flinching concerning ideas such as sin, repentance and the lostness of humanity. Maintain a focus on God’s heart for the human soul.

—Teach your missionaries how to lead people to repentance and faith. Make sure your new missionaries are able to lead people to Christ in their own culture.

—Highlight the news, especially the international news, drawing attention to: (1) the results of sin, (2) a person’s need of a savior and (3) the transformation brought about by the gospel.

—Select, support and undertake outreach and missions ministries and projects that focus on life transformation. Ask your missionaries how their ministries contribute to reaching the lost and give testimonies where possible.

- by David Mays

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