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“It’s like turning the Queen Mary,” said a friend, to encourage me as I tried to change the way people thought of “missions” almost 20 years ago. My proposition was rather simple: “God is sending the nations to the U.S. in record numbers, why not start reaching them right here as part of our mission’s effort?” I used catchy phrases, such as “Reaching the World in our Backyard,” “Across the sea and across the fences.” “Don’t bypass Samaria on the way to the ends of the earth”, etc., etc. Okay, maybe you don’t think they are that cute. I did.

But no matter how hard I tried, people were not buying it. One lady in a large church in the west, after I made a presentation to the mission committee in her church, told me, almost in a condescending way, “That’s nice that you are doing this, but we only do ‘foreign missions.’”

I glanced at the kitchen in the restaurant where we were meeting and smiled at the cooks who were gladly conversing in Spanish. From there, I could almost smell the spices from the open air market I would visit later that day, where people from all nations would come to buy goods. In that case, the Queen Mary analogy failed. More like: “No need to keep the fan on when you leave the room. The dead will not complain for lack of fresh air!” And true to the script, that church, sadly, is no longer on the map.

After these many years, I find myself thinking of that analogy again. But this time around, I believe, there is a lot more at stake. Churches across this great nation, however big or small, are not succeeding at reaching new people for Christ. In the last decade, the number of evangelicals declined. Young people (20-30 something) are leaving the church in droves. Those who remain are plagued with a consumerist mentality (“What can church do for ME?”), are lethargic (“alright, let’s get ready for church…”), or simply don’t care (“lost? who?”).

Jesus said that His main thing was “to seek and save that which is lost.” At Grace Church we translate this statement this way, “Grace Church is leading people to Christ and coaching them to live for Him with purpose and abandon.”

But to succeed at this mandate, there will have to be a HUGE paradigm shift. We will have to start thinking constantly about people who are still outside of Christ. We will need to focus on praying for them. We will need to find ways to creatively be involved in their lives and reach out with compassion to them. And we will need to lovingly pursue them and gently influence them to move closer to the Messiah.

And all of this calls for the biggest shift you will ever be asked to make: you will need to become passionate about this mandate. Yes, you heard me say it: PASSIONATE. That’s a word Lancaster County people, if you believe the reports, don’t usually use to describe themselves. But I believe otherwise.

I look around and see that the so-called “reserved” people of Lititz and surrounding areas are passionate about so many things. For example, what if the government suddenly decided to no longer issue hunting and fishing licenses, what would you do? What if the Department of Education mandated that every child had to go to public schools until the age of five? Or what about this: the Justice Department has given each citizen 30 days to turn over all fire arms which will now become property of the government. I can see the flames of fire in the eyes of people through the pages of my blog already!!

You see, what we need is a re-direct. We need to evaluate the amount of time and energy we spend with so many other things that we feel so passionate about and we need to start thinking about people. Yes, people who are outside of Christ. Satan has held them under bondage for so long and the Gospel holds the key to liberate them. But how will they know unless we tell them? And how will we tell them unless we seek them?

Satan’s usurpation of people’s minds and souls is a much more egregious and paralyzing thing than the government taking away our freedoms. Without guns we can still have a vibrant connection to God, but without Jesus the future looks bleak and eternity is hell. Which is more important to you?

Twenty years have gone by since the Queen Mary analogy and today I am glad to report that many churches now get it. My own Fellowship has turned the corner. Reaching the world that is coming to us is now part of our natural parlance. Though we need to do more in this area, it is obvious that a lot of progress has been made.

How about turning the tide on being passionate about people who still need to hear that Jesus loves them? Will you help turn the big ship or stand in the sidelines and watch?

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

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