The United States is Unreached, But Not Out-of-Reach
by Patrick Roberts 12/06/2007 / Missions
That the United States is unreached by the gospel might sound outrageous to many churchgoers. Most missionionalogical surveys conclude that U.S. is so thoroughly "reached" by the gospel that its Christian fate is sealed forever. There's no way so many church buildings can exist in one country while the country still remains Godless, right? Ninety-something percent of the population who say they believe in God can't be all wrong, can they? Isn't it about time we packed up and went off to some other country so our expertise might rub off on them?
But the fact that the U.S. is unreached should be common sense to us. Even all the ornate steeples and pretty stained glass in the world should not blur our spiritual vision.
Acknowledging this country's unreached-ness can be encouraging if we take it the right way. We should prefer truth over comfortable delusion. Christ is great, therefore we have hope.
Churchgoing Americans believe that the United States is exempt from the omnipotence of God. Many believe that the U.S. is as saved as it will ever be, and whoever is not saved must be too burnt out on church to care about God anymore. Others believe that American sin has exceeded God's capacity to forgive, or said another way, our sin has outsmarted God's grace. This is disobedient doubt. There is a purpose for churchgoers thinking thus, that is to shelter their diminutive trust in God.
Evangelical churchgoers claim to be "outreach-minded" yet, with their actions, they expose their true conviction, which is that their own hometown is unreachable. It may sound super-spiritual to justify our lagging effectiveness by labeling this country "hard ground," or by saying that we're surrounded by "callused hearts." These sayings even sound Biblical. But, let's be wary of quoting the Bible to excuse our doubt or to sit around without ever acting like we believe what God says.
I hear some say, "Oh, but people here are just too rich, they'll never care about God so long as they have so much money." However, it is impossible for disciples of Christ, who know where they come from, to say this. Any saved person will know the authority of Christ, that He moved more than a mountain when He made their heart of stone into one of flesh. Churchgoers who believe that money is too great an obstacle for God must be forgetting that God already did the impossible when He saved their hell-bound souls. Indeed, we have already failed to confine our Omnipotent Savior.
So should we do more outreach? Or maybe more in-reach? Should we practice the same old religion more diligently than ever and expect this to get us somewhere in God's kingdom?
Congregations host community events for predictably brief times in order to procure results that are either small and fleeting or large and fleeting. The average, Protestant leader, following his ingrained, religious habits, will concoct various programs at certain times during the year, designed to either reach outward or inward for however long his fleshly strength holds out.
There are whole denominations keep running the same way a machine keeps running, replacing their burnt-out religious veterans with new, warm bodies. These are the more business-like versions of Christianity.
In spite of everything it is vital for every Christ-following resident of the U.S. to believe that God is able to reach the U.S. Reason: God is holy.
God is so holy that He requires perfection from His people. In other words, whatever God requires of His people in the U.S., it is more impossible than we can imagine. This knowledge should drive us toward total dependence on Christ, with whom anything is possible.
Be encouraged that it is beyond impossible to go to work for Christ on our own terms, flexing our fleshly muscles until we overcome a whole world of sin. American religion will never accomplish God's goals. We will never manifest the living God through a man-made institution to a people who are already disillusioned by this very institution. Our best option is desperate dependence on Christ.
The more desperate we are, the more effective our prayerful seeking will be. We should ask God to accomplish all the things that are impossible for us. When in doubt we have Christ, our constant Reminder that God is greater than we can imagine.
Christ came to make God's kingdom our everyday reality. Do we have any idea what this might look like? Living in God's kingdom amounts to no more than a nice-sounding theory to most of us American churchgoers, regardless of how many decades of churchgoing experience we have. We cannot easily imagine spiritual realities because we have between little and zero experience in this area. We can only know about God's kingdom by experience.
We can be sure that unconditional surrender comes first. After we are radically reduced in Christ, He will make us His own. If we fail to wait for His timing, His kingdom will continue to seem elusive to us.
It is difficult for me, of all people, to speak about obstacles and rebellious churches, especially while I still reserve every excuse for myself. My fleshly loves to justify my daily resistance to God. I still have mountains of unlearning to pick up and cast into the sea. So how can God expect a regular person like me to pick up a mountain and cast it into the sea?
I am an established leader of stubborn unbelief and forgetfulness. So how, I wonder, are we all supposed to give up ourselves, all as one, especially when I can hardly give up my own self-centeredness? Should I pray for other people's salvation while I still need to be saved from myself?
There remains no other choice for me but to weep over my natural state. If God has mercy on me then I will be spared. This also goes for all of us. If we knew ourselves or our circumstances at all, then we should all feel compelled to surrender.
Surrender is what we do when no other options remain. Surrender to Christ has been our only option all along.