Right Under Our Noses...
Since returning to the states from Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, I have engaged in helping a small stateside church that was on the verge of closing its doors. The decision to return to the states after a year abroad was due to a medical need, namely, knee replacement surgery. Though there were other unmentioned issues that brought about my return to the states and though my return to the states has cost me a couple of supporters, I still believe it was the right thing to do. My knee replacement surgery was a success and the work I have now put my hand to in helping a small struggling stateside church is proving to be a fruitful work; (3 baptisms and attendance is up from 12 weekly to 20-30 weekly in only 5 months).
While engaged in helping this stateside church (prior to and since my knee surgery),
I have come to realize something that I'd missed before… namely; there is a huge mission field right beneath our noses... right here in America. Most churches and many Christians miss it just as I did.
According to numerous statistical websites and census data, between 4,000 – 10,000 churches are closing their doors in America on a yearly basis (that's 76 churches per week at least).* Though there are still church plants happening in the states, it is at a ratio of one to four… in other words, for every one church plant in this country, four churches close. During my year of mission work in Abaco, Bahamas, I lost one supporting church due to this very reason. What was once a thriving church, had over the years been reduced to 6 attending members – three elders and their wives. I applaud that church for supporting missions until the day they closed their doors.
Like so many churches and Christians, I didn’t think of any stateside work as really being a "Mission work." I was wrong. According to the Barna Group, over 45 percent of Americans are “Unchurched.” ** Considering that the population of the United States is 326 million, that means 146 million people in this country need the Gospel of Christ and need to come to Christ on His terms.
If we look at missions aboard and do the numbers, we are often leaving a larger field needing harvesting for very small fields needing harvesting. For instance, the population of the Bahamas is 395,000; most of the population resides on the island of New Providence (248,000). Even if all 395,000 Bahamians were unchurched, it still works out to 1 unchurched Bahamian to 375 unchurched Americans. I use the Bahamas because of my familiarity with that country due to my year of mission work there, but the numbers more or less would be similar in dozens of other countries around the world.
Don’t get me wrong… the lost of every nation must have access to the Gospel of Christ, that is why Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16. Regardless of the size of any people group, it is the church’s responsibility to take or send the Gospel to those groups - large or small field - they all need harvesting. BUT to consider “Mission Fields” as only those places outside the United States is a theological and tragic mistake.
Some may argue that America is not a fruitful field because unchurched Americans are antagonistic or indifferent to Christianity, not to mention they are also materialistic and often possess liberal ideals. If such arguments prevail, then we should never send missionaries into predominately Muslim countries or Hindu countries. Every country has its own cultural and societal difficulties whether it’s prejudice, materialism, carnality, criminal, and a dozen other barriers the Devil has erected to deter the reception of the Gospel. Regardless of the difficulties, the Gospel must reach the lost!
My point: one of the largest mission fields in the world is right under our noses – the small struggling churches in The United States of America. Bigger churches should be sending their members every week to help these small churches stay alive. It is an opportunity for the established churches to enroll the common members of their congregations in mission outreach and labor in a field that is already white unto harvest and in their own backyard. How can established churches sit idly by and watch as 76 churches per week close their doors?!
God doesn’t care if the lost souls reached are called Jamaicans, Haitians, Bahamians, or Americans… He just wants LOST SOULS to be reached. He wants the lost saved, regardless of their GPS coordinates.
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35
Keep in mind that Jesus made the above statement to His disciples while evangelizing an outcast group of people via the lips of an outcast woman... right there in the heart of Israel. The very nation where both Judaism and Christianity found their beginnings, a nation saturated with God - was a field white unto harvest... right under their noses.
The same is true of America. Let's get busy church! The fields are white unto harvest and time is short.