The title of
this chapter suggests that America is a mission field. It will be our purpose
to marshal evidence to substantiate that thesis. It is feared that for the
average Christian the idea will raise questions generating either a mild
wonderment about its veracity, or a much more reactionary disbelief. After all,
is not this Christian America with 330,000 churches, seemingly found on every
corner and the mass media exposing everyone to the message of salvation? In
2013, it is reported that weekly 37% Americans go to church. Certainly a country that is providing 52%of foreign missionaries
[93,000 under 700 agencies to 211 countries]
and funding the same would not itself be considered a mission field. This is still true, even taking into account that there are many
countries other than the US which are sending missionaries, such as Korea which
sends several thousand. In fact, in 2006, May-June issue of Mission Frontiers,
p.8, it is stated that there are 4,000 Third World mission agencies sending
more missionaries than from Western churches.
Note, some of these missionaries to America!
Note, some of these missionaries to America!
will be wise to consider the seeming success story of American Christianity
that has in part blinded eyes to areas where evangelistic programs have been
less than successful. World magazine reported in June '06, that a Gallup pole indicates that 81% of Americans believe the country's
moral values are getting worse, and 85% rate the moral values as fair or poor.
This is partially indicated by the fact that Cohabitation once considered rare
is now the norm. There are nearly 600,000 homosexual couples. Eighty
percent of teenagers by graduation from high school are sexually active. The
perception of the world about 'Christian America' is what they see in the
Hollywood film industry's portrayal of a deprave lifestyle including a
materially prosperous, culturally decadent, technologically sophisticated,
undisciplined, autonomous, selfish and morally deprave society. Not only
is the success picture tarnished, another problem is the disturbing
misconception, widespread among Christians, that all Americans could hear the
gospel if they wanted to do so, or the equally false idea that no one should
hear twice before all have heard once. It is a most disquieting fact that many
citizens will live and die in Christian America having been insulated from
hearing the gospel, sometimes within eyesight of the church or even after
having lived next door to a born-again believer. American Christianity is
better than that of European where for instance, in France only 11% of
Frenchmen say religion is important, in Germany 21%, in Britain 11% while 59%
of Americans so claim. Author Weigle in his book, the
Cube and the Cathedral, suggests that the philosophical and spiritual
amnesia of Europe is fast coming to the US, caused by atheistic humanism. He
further opines that spiritual boredom gives rise to hyper individualism, no
confidence in the future and European Christianophobia.
[USNWR-5-05] However, when one takes a careful look at the American church, one
can see that the church is in the process of changing from its original
mandate. Author Jeanne Kilde suggests in her book,
"When Church Became Theatre" is what she suggests is happening.
Barna Research indicates two-thirds of young adult Americans believe extra-marital affairs, cohabitation, and homosexuality are acceptable behaviors. A majority of born-again young adults believe these types of behavior are acceptable. Life Action Revival Ministries Byron Paulus thinks he knows why. "They have been hurt and wounded by those who have misrepresented truth in the generation before them and are determining what their lifestyle will be by peer groups, rather than absolute truth. It's a seismic shift I think in the Christian community." The church has itself to blame. Paulus says many churches have stopped preaching about sin. "We're afraid that we will either lose members, or budget, not realizing that those people in the pew are actually wanting the truth." Paul warned Timothy: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear".
In 2016 it has become glaringly obvious that the public school sytem is systematically brain-washing our students into blindly accepting Evolutionary teachings of Beginnings & Biology. Then more tragically, too many Pastors have also bought this line and have espoused Theistic Evolution which quietly and carefully emasculates the need for God and pays only lip service to His place in theology, the church and parishioner's Worldview.
Who are those who have escaped the orchestrated program of evangelism of the church? How have they been neglected? The larger answer to the first question will be the subject of the ensuing chapters. In pursuance of the latter question it will be necessary to note the programs whereby the church seeks to minister to the spiritual needs of the community. It should become obvious that segments of the community are not being reached.
Part of the answer lies in the definition of missions as perceived by the church. Is not everyone a missionary? In the book, Lost In America, the authors suggest that every church member should live as a missionary and view their neighborhood as a mission field [p.92]. Are not all programs that reach out to evangelize the community missions? Is it the church's responsibility to evangelize all segments of the community? Perhaps it will be necessary to help the Christian develop a larger vision of his responsibility to reach all segments of the society. Programs have been designed to meet some needs, but there are untargeted and unchurched in most communities.
America is a
mission field for numerous reasons, not the least being that the United States
is an integral part of the "world" mentioned in John 3:16. There is
little question in anyone's mind that the field is "the world"
(Matthew 26:13; Mark 16:15) or that foreign service is
in fact missions. But there is confusion, if not outright denial that any
service rendered in America should be known
evangelism and certainly not
missions . Finally, we shall seek to establish clearly that national missions
and foreign missions are integral parts of a world mission field. We shall view
the mission world as God sees it--as saved or lost wherever they are
geographically. North America, including the US is a very needy part of the
mission world, in spite of those who convey the idea that the US is virtually
Christianized or everyone has an opportunity to hear the Good News of
salvation in Christ Jesus.
Add to this scenario the projections for what is to happen to the American population by 2050. It is to get larger, to 420 million, more diverse with whites dropping in percentage from 81% to 72%, while Asians will double from 4%, Blacks will grow from 13% to 15%, but most of all note that the Hispanic population will boom from 13% to 24%. When the Hispanics are removed from the ‘white’ column, whites become only 50% of the American population. America will also be older, now those over 65 represent one in eight, but will become 1 in 5. Research reveals it is primarily the older generation which is commited to Fundamental a Christian belief system which energizes them: to personal, meaningful daily devotional life, to witness, to attend church every Sunday, to tithing or giving to the church budget, to mission outreach, & to singing hymns. Does that sound like the "Emerging Church" of the 21st century?
Early Christians were excited to share their faith and "make disciples [Mtt 28:19]
From the very beginning churches were established as a desired result of continuing evangelism. In 1609 the Anglican church was established in Virginia (with compulsory church attendan
The transplanting of Christianity into the New World began with the Pilgrim fathers and continues to the present as a fascinating success story. Some might compare this growth to the triumph of those nameless saints of the second and third-century Roman world who were accused by Pliny of emptying the pagan temples or with vigorous Korean Christianity, which was introduced by missionaries and carried so successfuly by National Christians over the countryside. Here, too, great numvbers of Americans who have become Christians have been the direct result of intense lay activ ity.
From the very beginning churches were established as a desired result of continuing evangelism. In 1609 the Anglican church was established in Virginia, [with compulsory church attendance], and was followed by the Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and finally the Methodist church. As the people moved west they built new churches and taught their children to fear God.
Church growth was relatively steady, but at points in history it was exceptional. In the mid-1700s there was a great awakening when the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, and George Whitefield especially stirred the people. Again, a century later, a great revival began under the influence of such men as Charles Finney. Tens of thousands turned to Christ. Today nearly 365,000 Protestant churches minister to a religious community of 88,000,000 or 34 percent of all Americans. It is certainly amazing that one in three citizens insists that he is born again. In the midst of all this is said to be a colossal boom of fundamentalist religion so that the growing evangelical community may be one of the most important forces in American society. In the words of Quebedeaux, "The evangelicals...once a despised minority, are rapidly becoming the respectable (or chic) religious majority, the new religious establishment in America." Columnist Nicholist Kristof of the New YorkTimes, wrote in his column[3/4/03] that America’s Evangelical Christians make up 46% of the population, and have moved into the mainstream, calling attention to their presence in the Bush administration. He further intones that President Bush cannot be understood apart from the centrality of his faith. The election of 2016 was clearly influenced by the Evangelical Community according to the mainstream press.
of Evangelicals is happening because of intense evangelistic activity. There
are 146 Evangelical Protestant Denominations. [ARDA]
There are 146 Evangelical Protestant Denominations. [ARDA]
The church is aware that it must go into the community to compel the lost to listen to the evangel. However, only one in three ever shares his faith. Church visitation programs have suffered from reaction to Cult visitors knocking on doors; therefore these programs have all but dissappeared. Evangelistic preaching in the church is of little avail if the lost are not there to hear it. Therefore the church has its visitation night when all are invited to join in this corporate venture. Furthermore, Sunday school teachers are encouraged to visit their students and make new contacts, but declining attendance has caused serious questions about its continuing importance. Youth leaders urge those who attend to invite their friends. Bus visitation captains are zealous in their campaigning. Annual evangelistic meetings are another opportunity for intense community action, however a diminishing number of evangelists and poor attendance by a very busy populous have caused these programs to all but cease to exist. Churches sponsor the pastor on the radio or television as a direct appeal to the public. Other opportunities abound such as radio or television evangelism. Radio Bible teaching is very popular, even the rerun of recordings of those already with the Lord, but the "electronic" church is being viewed with mixed emotions. The city-wide campaign by a renowned evangelist is a popular, although less used evangelistic option. Literature blitzing is another possibility. Concerned churches have used numerous available methods to reach every soul possible. They have blitzed the country so intensely that the Christian community has burgeoned. There has been such success that Jeremy Rifkin and Ted Howard have dubbed this evangelical community a "Second America." Evangelicals own and operate 1,400 radio stations or one in every six in the United States. Six hundred offer only "gospel radio." It is suggested that through this medium alone potentially three-fourths of the population can be included in the listening audience. The National Religious Broadcasters suggest that the Christian audience is forty million per week.
It is further suggested that programming of Christian-owned and operated television stations can potentially include 20 percent of the viewing public, and new stations are being added each year. At least two Christian TV networks using earth satellite stations beam live programs twenty-four hours daily. Inspirational Network claims an audience of 6.5 million households of a possible 120 million. A fourth Christian news network--CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network)--has been established. All in all, Americans are exposed to nearly 2,000,000 religious programs annually, aired over several thousand radio and TV stations. In 1983 Arbitron research estimated that Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power" telecast commanded first place with an audience of 2,667,000; Jimmy Swaggert was second with 2,653,000; Oral Roberts was third with 2.4 million; Rex Humbard's program was fourth with 1.8 million, and 1.4 million watched Jerry Falwell. Combined they tallied perhaps only 4 percent of the population.
In 1995 it was estimated that 3.5 million people watched Charles Stanley’s “In Touch” program and Charles Swindall’s program was aired over 1200 stations, but that was only a small segment of the total population.
Coral Ridge Ministries weekly radio and TV programming of Dr. James Kennedy of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, reached 3.5 million
Evangelical Americans purchase nearly one-third of the ten million religious books on the market, which runs to 8,000 new titles annually of a total of nearly 50,000 new titles. Some $11 billion is spent on books annually, 16% by evangelicals. Evangelicals send millions of students to thousands of Christian elementary and high schools and are opening new schools regularly. What a success story! Pollster John Crathers Pollock suggests that three-fourths of Americans are "susceptible to a call of faith." But let us not be deceived into thinking that every American can hear the gospel, even if he wanted to do so. It is a larger task and far more complicated than the preceding glowing report may indicate.
It is important to note that while Protestant churches are closing in America, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are growing faster in America than is Christianity. Hinduism is the second fastest growing religion in America and Buddhism is growing three times as fast as Christianity.
In reality, Americans are in deep trouble emotionally, socially and religiously. Emotional instability is revealed by alcoholism, which dominates the lives of 13 percent of the populace. Incapacitating phobias afflict another 12 percent and depressions another 6 percent. How do we explain a national suicide rate of over a hundred per day, which disguises the fact that ten states, including Nevada, which is perennially the highest have rates far higher. Also, certain groups, such as persons over 65 and the Eskimo have rates that are respectively three and ten times the national average.
Social problems are in epidemic proportions. A 50-percent divorce rate does not spring from a deeply religious society. ABC-TV reported that 1.2 million divorces were granted in 1996. Some 75% will remarry into a society that readily accepts serial monogamy as an acceptable way of life. The other third will swell the ranks of the singles industry, many as single parents, now an alternate lifestyle, even though it may well produce overwhelming problems. By December 2006, the US Census Bureau reported that households headed by singles outnumber these headed by married. The instability of the American home often leads to child abuse [frequently inflicted by the mother], and that to runaways. Some 2.8 million children run away each year (2015). According to Dotson Rader of "Parade" magazine, the average age of today's runaway is 15 [females outnumber males] and most turn to prostitution and theft for survival. In the year 2005, 38% of children born were born to unmarried women. The rate is double for Afro-American women. Then, there are the homosexuals who so frequently contract AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), an incurable disease which affects the immune system. Currently HIV infected number 1.2 million, with the highest rate among Blacks. Each of these emotional and social problems tends to produce pockets of Americans who are essentially beyond the sound of the gospel.
General William Booth, the founder of Salvation Army, said: "The
chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost,
Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation
without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell."
General William Booth, the founder of Salvation Army, said: "The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell."
In recent years a spate of books has been written insisting that there is a dwindling evangelistic zeal in the American church. Michael Horton for instance says in his book “Beyond Culture Wars” and subtitled ‘Is America a Mission Field or Battlefield, [Moody 1994],
I write this book as a Protestant minister who is deeply concerned that both liberal and conservative Protestants have largely abandoned the chief mission of the Christian church--the ministry of Word and sacrament--in an effort to be “relevant” and “practical” in an age which has little tolerance of truth for truth’s sake. [p. 16]
Horton’s concern is that evangelistic zeal for the lost among Protestants is being sacrificed upon the altar of ‘culture wars’. Culture wars essentially meaning that center stage for some Churches are moral and political issues such as murdering abortion doctors and calling it “justifiable homicide” or proclaiming that devastating floods are divine judgment. His impassioned plea is that Christians should not see culture as something to fight as soldiers but to minister in as missionaries. He concludes, ”We are going to have to realize that America is a mission field...” [p. 263].
Unfinished Magaziane [fall 2012], published by Mission Society, printed
an artice in which it was stated, "America is one of the fastest growing
mission fields", and "American diversity is the least reached neighbors".
Unfinished Magaziane [fall 2012], published by Mission Society, printed an artice in which it was stated, "America is one of the fastest growing mission fields", and "American diversity is the least reached neighbors".
WORLDNETDAILY [WND] published an article entitled, "Prayer targets the world's 3rd largest mission field-America"
The American clergy are also in deep trouble keeping their own act together, let alone take a vital interest in evangelism. Focus on the Family, May 1996, published the results of a survey.
There is a disturbing misconception within the evangelical community that with all of the evangelistic activity going on, the millions of unchurched Americans can be reached by means of the evangelistic programs already in place. The message is pouring forth; therefore, all that need be done is somehow to inspire the unchurched to listen and act. Missionaries are not needed. Christians can evangelize all Americans.
Even foreign missionaries, zealous for those overseas, who have never heard, jealously speak of a "gospel-saturated American society," and solemnly declare, "no one should hear twice before all have been able to hear once." That is a grand, emotionally charged missionary appeal, but it has no Biblical basis. In fact, many Christians did not accept Christ on their first hearing of the gospel. There are also those who are concerned about the 450 English translations of the Bible when 1800 of the world's nearly 6,900 languages do not have one word of Scripture translated into them. The implication is clear: America is over evangelized. This is an oversimplification and clearly misses the point. Every evangelistic effort should be cause for rejoicing because there are still those who have not heard. However, in calling for more attention to evangelism overseas, that case should stand on its own merits without drawing the misleading comparison that everyone in North America has heard or could hear the gospel.
The fact is
that America is not nearly as evangelized as it may at first appear. Consider
for a moment the 61% or 321 million citizens who claim to attend 330,000
churches, including 190 cathedrals. That divides into 698 persons per church. Four
thousand close annually.
Four thousand close annually.
52 million non-religious
52 million non-religious
1. 245 million are Christian, attending 250,000 churches [Operation World - 2010]
87 million Protestant
87 million Protestant
2. 67 million are Catholic, attending 19,500 churches. [1 billion worldwide]
3. 5 million are Jews, attending 3,400 synagogues
4. 4.8 million are Mormons, attending 11.700 churches [94 million worldwide]
5. 2 million are Orthodox, attending 1,700 churches [220 million worldwide]
6. 1 million are Jehovah’s Witnesses, attending 11,000 churches
It may be that 61 percent of Americans belong to a church in 2002 but notice that all but the 87 million Protestants (33 percent of the populace) are a mission field of 71 million. If that 23 percent is added to the unchurched 44 percent, then 62 percent of Americans are a mission field.
That is assuming, of course, that all Protestants are saved, which few would accept. Even George Gallup indicates that the evangelical community includes only 45 million, or 17 percent of all Americans. He also notes that only 25 percent attend church regularly; therefore, active evangelicals number only 59 million, or 23 percent of the populace. That would seem to indicate the mission field has now mushroomed to 77 percent, or 200,000,000 souls. There are more Americans not in church on a given Sunday than are in church. Barna Update indicates that since 1991, the adult population increased by 15% in 2004, while the number of adults not attending church grew by 92%, from 39 million to 75 million.
Finally, a closer look at the 87,000,000 Protestants reveals that they can be subdivided into the following associations of churches:
1. 40 million; National Council of Churches, 40 member, 45,000 churches....[Affiliated with World Council of Churches, 590 million with 520,000 congregations, 493,000 pastors]
2. 16 million; Southern Baptist Convention, 47,000 churches ['15]
million; National Association of Evangelicals, 45,000 churches, 40
denominations 4. 2.5
million; American Council of Christian Churches, 7 fellowship groups
[affiliated with World Evangelical Alliace, 600 million Eangelicals, 129
[affiliated with World Evangelical Alliace, 600 million Eangelicals, 129 Nations]
5. 62,000; Independent Fundamental Churches of America [1000 churches, 1100 independent members]
6. 56 million; 20% of Americans unaffiliated with a religion... of 73% who claim to be Christians, only 31% go to church once a month; therefore, 41% are non-practicing. Half of these were 'dechurched'.
By means of the above information and depending on one's theological orientation, the extent of the need for evangelism within the American Protestant community can be determined. Gallup also indicates that over the last several years Protestant church attendance has held steady at 38 percent. This means that church attendance includes approximately 54 million but far less than the 60 percent of Americans who claim church membership. The Barna Report 2016 suggests 65 million attend church on a typical Sunday and 12% of adults consider themselves to be agnostics or atheists. He further reported that in 1991, 53% of the adults attending church were non-Christian, but in 1996 that number is 38%.
Perhaps the most startling development in recent years is the 52 million who consider themselves to be non-religious.
Another report indicates that of the 94 million adult males in the US, only 28% attend church and about the same number read the Bible. Eighty-five percent of the men who do not now attend church, once did. One in three say they are born-again and one in four have a Christian world view. Yet a majority do not believe in moral absolutes. They believe in god, but only as the Divine Fixit or religion is a hobby or a smorgasbord from which to pick and choose.
According to the "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches" there are nearly 490,000 clergy in the United States. Of this number 271,000 pastor 351,000 churches. Those figures mean that about 80,000 churches have only a part-time pastor, or none at all. Just how many preach the gospel is not indicated, of course, but each pastor of a church would have a parish of 840 persons if all of America's 325,000,000 people were evenly distributed. However, the average Protestant church has less than 75 in membership. In 1900 there was one church in 12,000 people. Today there is one evangelical church in 27,000.
In the year 2001, the largest church in the US was the Catholic church, which grew 2.5%. The next largest church is the Southern Baptist, which grew 0.58%. However, the Mormon church grew 1.9%. The mega churches US claim a disproportionate number of church goers. The 10,000 largest congregations, or 10% of churches, account for 50% of church attendees. A mega church is defined as one having over 2,000 members. There are said to be 1650 which include over 2 million in attendance, which doubled since 2000. They attract some 4.4 million weekly. Most of these churches developed in the last 20 years. Their services are typified by: freewheeling style, which engages the participants, high energy music, de-emphasizing of the traditional vestments or liturgy and offering diverse activities. The largest mega church in 2005 is Joel Osteen's 30,000 member Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. He has no formal training and preaches a 'prosperity gospel' of how to live your everyday life. Christ Fellowship Church in south FL claims 20,000. Mega churches are said to be the 'nation's dominant form of religious assembly [World 5-20-06]. The larger numbers are in TX with 174, CA - 169. FL - 83 and GA - 64.
It may seem that the American church is alive and well, but when churchgoers were asked why they attended, nearly half responded that it was because they were brought up in the church. They have a "belief without a strong conviction," as demonstrated by the polls that indicate that less than 20 percent of churchgoing Americans read their Bible daily or pray more than three minutes a day. The ministers admitted praying, but only eight minutes a day. The Southern Baptists report that less than 50 percent of their members give any money to the church.
A January 1996 poll of the readers of Christianity Today, Leadership and Your Church, as reported in Christian News 1/15/96, revealed that one in five pastors is fired or forced to resign their church. Almost two-thirds of those same congregations were reported to have fired a former pastor as well. The majority of the movers and shakers of these firings is usually a group of less than 10. George Barna research in 2004 reveals that only half of American pastors hold a Christian World View, and that parishioners watch more movies in a given year than they attend church services. He further reveals that only 10% of those surveyed indicated that they were saved in a church service. His research also reveals that 50% of those attending church services are what he dubs, 'notional Christians', which means, they say they are born again, but have never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal saviour.
it would seem is really not as prepared to reach the unevangelized
as it may have appeared. Edward Dayton reports in "Unreached Peoples
84" that the churches in Europe and North America are losing 2,765,000
members per year to nominalism or unbelief, more than
offsetting any evangelical church growth. Thus, churches are closing at an
alarming rate of some 3,750 per year, while only 1,300 are opening. At the same
time, while Christianity struggles for the mind of Americans, Islam, Buddhism
and Hinduism are growing at an unprecedented rate, clearly indicating that the
Church has become marginalized in our culture. Leighton Ford
further comments that high on the agenda for the future must be the
re-evangelization of the West.
Todd Johnson, Center for Study of Global Christianity, indicates of the world's
400,000 foreign missionaries, America sends 127,000 but also is the 2nd largest
receiver of foreign missionaries, 32,400. .
Todd Johnson, Center for Study of Global Christianity, indicates of the world's 400,000 foreign missionaries, America sends 127,000 but also is the 2nd largest receiver of foreign missionaries, 32,400. .
The disquieting fact of the matter is that there are vast multitudes of Americans who will live and die in North America without ever once hearing the gospel. The task of evangelism may not be mathematically impossible, for if everyone in the evangelical community would win just three others (86 million X 4 = 344 million), North America could conceivably be won to Christianity. But unfortunately, most Christians, unlike their ancestors, seem to have delegated their personal responsibility in evangelism to the church and its organized programs. The average North American Christian has never reproduced himself spiritually.
Beyond the fact of the vast numbers needing to be reached with the gospel, there seems to be a great ignorance of the fact that North America is a pluralistic society. It never has been a melting pot where all ethnic differences have been merged into a mythical "American," ostensibly reachable with a gospel presented by the dominant society. American subcultures are nearly as isolated from the gospel preached in English as they would be in their native countries. Edward Dayton says that every country, including America, is filled with people groups who share language and religious ethnicity or class that causes them to perceive themselves as having an affinity for one another. America has some 400 distinct people groups. He suggests, for example, that Los Angeles is a city with a vast mosaic of people groups. If this is true, then the church needs to recognize that the several worlds of the unchurched are not a homogeneous group.
It is not difficult to find those gospel-neglected segments of society. They are frequently well defined by language, culture, and geography. There are ethnics such as native Americans (Indians), blacks, Hispanics, and Chinese to name a few. There are those in the inner city, now called central city, from which the established churches have fled. Multitudes of Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and cults practice their religions here in North America. Millions are forgotten in institutional America, such as those in prisons, hospitals, asylums, children's homes, rest homes, and the military. In 1995 one hundred million identified with 600 language\culture groups other than Anglo-American, such as the French-speaking Cajuns of Louisiana, the New Englanders who live adjacent to French Quebec, the Haitian immigrants, the Spanish, the blacks, and recent immigrants. The educational world of the high school, college, or graduate school campuses, including the international and exchange students, are other identifiable groups virtually beyond the message as proclaimed or the gospel outreach of the typical American church. Urban migration continues to endanger adequate gospel proclamation in rural and mountain communities. Hawaii may be a tourist paradise, but most of these Americans will never hear the gospel. Alaska is over 70 percent unchurched, with great hurdles including great distances, issolation and subsistence lifestyle.
God has given His church a far reaching responsibility to preach the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:19). The church is seeking to reach the lost it knows about both at home and abroad. Denominationally structured churches have developed departments commissioned with the responsibility of surveying needy areas and developing evangelistic programs to reach them. Commendable efforts have been made, but the responsibility to evangelize North America is too massive for anything less than total mobilization of the evangelical community. All churches and Christians must awaken to the cause of discovering the gospel-neglected of North America who are frequently to be found in the shadows of gospel-preaching churches. Programs must be developed to make the evangelical community aware of these needs. The evangelical church, which has been the inspiration of missionary activity overseas, became aware of the needs abroad through the preaching of concerned pastors, information provided by foreign mission boards, itinerating missionaries and mission conferences. It is to be noted that mission directors are concerned about the diminishing number of missions conferences churches sponsor.
But how is that same church to learn about needy souls, communities, and peoples here in North America? The pastor does not know about them and is inclined to speak of missions as foreign. National mission boards have been less active in supplying the information, perhaps because of inadequate funding and research. National missionaries may not have been as zealous in declaring the need or they may not have been given as much opportunity to present the needs at home in the local church.
It is necessary to take note of the various programs whereby the church seeks to reach the community for Christ. It can be shown that the people of any community can be divided into various subdivisions, each with its own particular needs for evangelism. Each community will not have all the subdivisions possible, but most churches discover that there are people groups they had not realized they should be servicing.
It will be noted that some groups either do not or cannot attend. It should be asked if these groups are targeted by the visitation program, radio ministry, special evangelistic meetings, or bus ministry. Having charted each program, note which segments of the community receive minimal or no evangelistic thrust. What about them? How shall they hear? Does any church in the community have a program whereby the spiritual needs of those segments are to be met? If not, what responsibility does the church have with respect to those people? What organizations exist or should be developed to assist the church to reach all of the community?
There are parachurch organizations to assist the church in evangelism. Those organizations can be categorized into two kinds of ministry. One group of organizations sells or provides a service and is, therefore, financially self-sufficient. These parachurch services include publishers, evangelists, and Christian bookstores. Other ministries include radio and television pastors and Bible teachers, Bible conferences, Christian film producers, the Gideons, and Christian Businessmen's Committees.
The second group of parachurch organizations depends on the church for regular support. They are missionaries and mission organizations that oversee the ministry. They exist to assist the church in its total ministry, but especially in those areas where the internal programs of the church, its various outreach programs, and the self-sustaining parachurch organizations serving the church and Christian community have left definable groups of society virtually unserviced. Various mission organizations have emerged to assist the church and serve by-passed groups by means of highly specialized programs. Child Evangelism Fellowship for instance services the public school children through 'Release Time Classes'. The CEF missionaries are specially trained to teach the children. CEF has access where a local church would not be allowed.
Some confusion exists concerning the priority to be given to the order of evangelism. Some suggest that evangelism must begin at home for "if American Christians become so preoccupied with 'the regions beyond' that they continue to neglect the foundation at home, the entire missionary enterprise will collapse." There are also those who feel that first priority must be given to those who have never heard. "People can hear the Gospel in the USA if they want to. The gospel is available. This is not true in other lands, especially among the tribal people...There is no way for them to hear other than through cross-cultural means."
Balance must be maintained, however. As David Hesselgrave points out, Acts 1:8 indicates that both must take place simultaneously.
It is to be noted that in recent years many citizens of the "mission" world have come to visit or reside in the United States. Operation World USA section notes: we are a "nation of immigrants, with the greatest ethnic origin diversity of any nation in history. Thirty-one ethnicities have a population of over one million". The newcomers have become one of the larger gospel-neglected segments of American society. The time has come for the church to realize that her mission includes more than her primary targeted peoples in her near community and her "foreign" interests. Peter Gunther suggests that those people in between are "completely ignored" and then calls them the "important gap, national missions."
The church's responsibility is to provide the gospel for all segments of society. How can this best be done? It will first be necessary to determine what realistically can be accomplished through the people and programs within the church. Parachurch organizations can be engaged to assist her complete the work. Whatever the church can accomplish internally ought to be called evangelism, whereas what she commissions to be accomplished through external organizations should be called missions. Next, it is necessary to explain this rationale by determining who is a missionary among the workers of the church.
Although the Scriptures are clear that every believer has been "saved to serve" (1 Thessalonians 1:9) and gifted for that service (1 Corinthians 12), there seems to be considerable confusion about the implementation of that truth. First, the average Christian considers his service basically to involve some church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, offerings of time and money, and an occasional kind act or word of testimony. It seldom dawns on him that he is to reproduce himself spiritually in the life of another. Over and over the Scriptures enjoin that a father is to teach his son and his neighbor about God (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; Psalm 145:4; Isaiah 38:19; Jeremiah 31:34). Second, wherein the Christian is involved in living out his Christianity, it is determined that he is involved in "missionary activity." "If we are Christians, we are missionaries." The idea is enshrined in the saying, "You are either a missionary or a mission field." Even pastors and missionaries fall into this verbal trap. Consider the following from a missionary who is a church planter in the Philippines:
"The Bible mentions nine churches in Asia. It seems that eight of these were started by persons other than Paul, persons who traveled to Ephesus, were saved and trained and went home with the message...EVERY BELIEVER A MISSIONARY." (emphasis added)
If every Christian is a missionary, then what do we call the person gifted by God, commissioned, and sent out by the church as a missionary? We have by this technique effectively emasculated a perfectly good term that should designate a definite sphere of Christian service. It is necessary to distinguish between what is Christian service and normally expected of all believers and the distinctive kind of service we have traditionally labeled "missionary service."
Scriptures indicate that for the Christian there is a "reasonable
service" (Romans 12:1-18) involving the use of one's body and mind in
service in ways acceptable to God. It will include membership in a church
("one body" verse 4), where he will be exercising spiritual gifts
(verse 6) and lovingly serving the Lord (verse 11) in a prayerful manner (verse
12) and peaceably (v.18). These would seem to be minimal requirements of
service for all believers. Every Christian is to be a witness, actively
communicating his faith and talents as his reasonable service. The
Bible does not label that person a 'missionary'. We are all commanded to "make
disciples" not become missionaries.
The Bible does not label that person a 'missionary'. We are all commanded to "make disciples" not become missionaries.
Beyond that, the Bible declares that the church is to be aware of those serving in the church who can be singled out for special service at the Lord's bidding. Note that some were set aside in the early church to serve tables (Acts 6:3) so that others could give themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4). Then there were those who were "sent away" to other places (Acts 13:3), out of the midst of those serving in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). Those "sent away" ones are those defined in our day as missionaries.
A study of Acts 13-15 reveals certain characteristics about missionary service: again ministered in their home church (teaching and preaching in the church, 15:35).
1. They were tested servants of the church whose spiritual gifts were obvious to the Christian community (13:1).
2. The church under the influence of the Holy Spirit set them apart for special service, not in the home church (13:2).
3. They were commissioned (laid hands on) by the church (13:3).
4. They were sent out to make disciples (to preach the Word of God, 13:5.
5. They were reportable to the sending church (gathered the church and rehearsed all, 14:27.
6. They spent their furlough at that church (abode a long time with the disciples, 14:28).
7. They again ministered in their home church (teaching and preaching in the church. 15:35).
8. They helped the church see the spiritual needs of others (declared the conversion of the Gentiles 15:3).
9. They were sent out again (recommended by the brethren, 15:40).
It should be obvious that not all Christians are missionaries. Missionaries are Christians who, because of service within the church, have risen to places of leadership in that body and have been commissioned and sent to areas of service where the church recognizes its responsibility to extend its ministry. The missionary is sent by that church to perform a service the local church could not offer through any of its other channels of ministry. He is usually sent through a parachurch organization called a “mission,” which gives oversight to the particular service the organization renders for the church. Because of this relationship the mission is often called the “arm of the church.”
Let us also note, that those who are sent by the church to minister in
ther behalf and ultimately reportable to them, should have experience in
leadership working with people before being sent to the field. They need
people skills in working with others and reportable to them. Not novices or
just recently married.
Let us also note, that those who are sent by the church to minister in ther behalf and ultimately reportable to them, should have experience in leadership working with people before being sent to the field. They need people skills in working with others and reportable to them. Not novices or just recently married.
It might be well to note that there are certain mission organizations whose sphere of service is primarily devoted to assisting the church minister more effectively by its in-house programs. Examples of such programs are Child Evangelism Fellowship and Awana. They provide expertise, materials, and trained personnel to inspire and train church members to more effectively function within the church or through its evangelistic outreach. Leaders in CEF area ministries are commissioned as missionaries. Volunteers are the bulk of the outreach personnel and considered missionaries supported by the church.
Notice that the definition of missions says nothing about geographical or cultural difference. Distance is only part of the issue. Isolation from the gospel for whatever reason does not ipso facto determine a mission situation. The crucial factor that determines whether or not a particular group is a mission field signaling the need for parachurch assistance is a decision by the church that she cannot effectively evangelize that group by any other means. The making of that decision will involve the developing of a larger vision of the church’s Christian responsibility within the total community
Developing a larger vision of Christian responsibility is necessary because success in some areas of evangelism has blinded the church to the spiritual needs of other segments of society. Evangelistic programs do not target all peoples and as a result bypass some.
America is a mission field because the Christian community has not been disquieted by the fact that some within potential hearing will never be able to respond to a gospel that is not intelligible to them. [Consider the deaf community] Others will never hear because the church has not realized that her evangelistic outreach is woefully inadequate and is not reaching into areas where many are effectively shielded from the gospel.[the gheto] Finally, we suggest that America is a mission field because the church's definition of missions is inadequate. Because she does not see some of those whom she is not reaching as a mission field, they remain unevangelized while mission boards stand poised, ready to help reach them.
To aid the church in developing a larger vision of her Christian responsibility, the following nine propositions are offered.
1. The church must become aware of the spiritual needs of all segments of society. The immediate community must be surveyed to determine who is not being evangelized. The concerned church will enlarge the project to include information about the unreached in the larger community of the fifty states and North America. Information from the total mission world will be necessary.
2. The church must determine what can be realistically accomplished within the framework of the in-house evangelistic programs already in place or those that can realistically be developed to reach the total community. In some instances, with only slight modification of an ongoing program, a neglected segment of the community could be reached. It might be that a new program could be initiated without great difficulty or cost if the need were known.
It should be noted that, generally speaking, evangelization should take place within the aegis of the local church, using in-house programs and local church people. When it is determined that this is not feasible, then the specialists of a parachurch organization should be considered.
3. The church must develop a realistic definition of missions that recognizes that any people she cannot service with the gospel through her in-house programs of evangelism are a bona fide mission field, whether at home or abroad. The church should not only have a philosophy of evangelism but also a philosophy of missions, for where in-house evangelism is not possible then out-of-house evangelism must begin.
4. The church must alert her people concerning the community needs that are beyond her in-house programs and send those who are gifted and respond to those needs, to approved training institutions to prepare for service. If the church does not take this initiative, then those who leave for training without a particular goal in mind will be challenged with other opportunities for service, which may take them away from their home community and its need. This is not to bypass the work of the Holy Spirit but rather to enhance it. How is a person to be burdened for a need he does not know exists? It may be noted that the church at Antioch was used of the Holy Spirit to challenge her members to evangelize peoples beyond the reach of her in-house programs (Acts 13). The Evangelical American church must be awakened to the fact that in 1994 only 2 percent of seminary graduates went into world missions.
5. Oral learners in USA? Dr. Jerry Wiles, new North American Regional
Director  of International Aorality Network says, "Increasing numbers
of churches and ministries in North America are also realizing
the importance and impact of orality-based methods in sharing our faith and
making disciples, anywhere, with any people group". Barna research
 reports that 73% of Americans claim to be Chrisitians, while those
who go to church once a month are called 'practicing'] only 7% are
Evangelicals who seldom share their faith. Wiles suggests that "Contextual
Bible Storying" is critical even here in the USA.
5. Oral learners in USA? Dr. Jerry Wiles, new North American Regional Director  of International Aorality Network says, "Increasing numbers of churches and ministries in North America are also realizing the importance and impact of orality-based methods in sharing our faith and making disciples, anywhere, with any people group". Barna research  reports that 73% of Americans claim to be Chrisitians, while those who go to church once a month are called 'practicing'] only 7% are Evangelicals who seldom share their faith. Wiles suggests that "Contextual Bible Storying" is critical even here in the USA.
6. The church must call for her training institutions to initiate programs to alert and prepare her students for missionary service to evangelize at home as well as abroad. It should be a concern that of all the Bible schools surveyed in the United States, none offer a course targeting national missions. It may also be noted that not one seminary offers a course by that name. A further problem has existed in that no textbook has been available that details national missions. MISSIONS IN NORTH AMERICA was designed and prepared to alleviate this problem.
7. The church must prepare internship programs for her graduates to mature and display their spiritual gifts after their return from training institutions. While at school the student may or may not have had Christian service opportunities. Even if the student did, he needs further opportunity to grow in grace and learn to serve well in the church family under the direction of the home pastor. Such experience will go a long way to preparing the candidate for effective and submissive long term effective missionary service.
8. The church should encourage foreign missions to develop home departments to assist her to reach foreign citizens resident here. Why should not a foreign mission be best prepared to help the church reach those who have moved here from the country where the mission serves? This may require that the church and mission do a little soul searching, for there may be some feeling that such a policy might de-emphasize the foreign missionary cause. Mission leaders have voiced the opinion that pastors are not as interested in supporting national missions; therefore, they are reticent to open home departments. In the new century, most missions have indeed evolved to the task, but some pastors still need to inform themselves of the spritual need in their own communities and rise to the responsibility.
9. Finally, the church should recognize national missions to be as valid as foreign missions. Virginia Miller of Gospel Recordings pleads for prayer for national missionaries in their "Together in Prayer" bulletin. "Some churches do not think that people in Christian work within the United States such as Gospel Recording, where the majority of the staff do not go to a foreign field, are missionaries in the full sense of the word. Therefore, they do not pray for so-called "home" missionaries. So your prayers for us here...are doubly appreciated." Both are assisting the church to evangelize segments of society that she cannot reach with her in-house program. In his syndicated column, Paul Harvey notes:
American missionaries have preferred preaching and teaching on faraway islands and remote jungles to the neglect of the asphalt jungles in our own cities. Dollars flow readily to such ministries.
It will be less of an ego trip for the home front missionary...(he)is without status, is more pitied than applauded...we will have to try to learn to salute and support the home front missionary.
There should be no home-foreign dichotomy. Ralph Winters suggests new designations: "domestic missions" to indicate areas where there is an established church, and "frontier missions" to indicate where there is no established church. Such designations are to apply both at home and abroad. It is necessary for pastors to face the issue squarely and then to lead their people into a realistic understanding of their responsibility in the total community. Such an understanding is not possible without the assistance of national missions and their missionaries. It may come as a surprise to learn that God has quietly raised up some 500 national mission agencies to assist the church in areas where she may be unaware that she has a spiritual responsibility.
The tragedy is that these organizations are often understaffed and poorly financed in the midst of the most affluent church in history, which seems to be abysmally unaware of the need all around her. It may be that national missions and national missionaries in the past were not as well organized and represented as they could have been. It may also be true that national missionaries have felt almost apologetic about presenting the needs of their work in the light of the overwhelming conditions overseas. But, alas, has this not been somewhat the attitude of the church toward national missions?
Perhaps part of the reason for this may be that a feeling of guilt comes over the church when she thinks of national missions. If she had done her job properly there would be little need of national missions, would there? The answer is twofold. Wherein the church has been derelict in her evangelism, she should feel guilty. But the truth is she never will be able to reach the total community without specialists trained to do what her laymen and highly skilled staff cannot do. In this sense she should not feel guilty, but rather praise God for mission organizations available to assist her.
On the other hand, national missions themselves have been developing a more positive self-image. They no longer think of themselves as stepping stones toward that ultimate service, which is overseas. Yet, such negative feelings have been so persistent and widespread among churches and missions that even the accrediting association of national missions, known as the National Home Missions Fellowship, felt more comfortable with a new name, the Association of North American Missions. Let it be stated unequivocally that the church is responsible to see to it that the world community is evangelized. The church will be able to accomplish that only through the services of her parachurch agencies we call missions, both national and foreign.
It is the burden of this research project to gather under one cover seven sections of information concerning many of the gospel-neglected groups of America. It will be noted where these peoples are likely to be found as well as some indication of their comparative numbers. That the reader may gain some understanding as to why they are unevangelized, a brief historical introduction will be presented.
There are amazing sources of information of research having been done,
such as the book: Operation World, edited by Jason Mandryk and published by
Biblica Publishing. The book is the vision of one Patrick Johnstone, of WEC
International, England. Well done and used by many as a prayer guide for
There are amazing sources of information of research having been done, such as the book: Operation World, edited by Jason Mandryk and published by Biblica Publishing. The book is the vision of one Patrick Johnstone, of WEC International, England. Well done and used by many as a prayer guide for world evangelization.
Many of these groups have had some exposure to the gospel; therefore, the size of the evangelical community in their midst will be noted if available, and the mission organizations that are ministering to their spiritual needs are listed. This list appears as an appendix at the end of each chapter for ready reference. Where appropriate, sources for materials slanted toward the needs of the group, which are available for their evangelization and edification, are noted.
A database has been prepared entitled, NORTH AMERICAN MISSIONS HANDBOOK. It is a listing of the missions working in North America, noting the name, address, CEO, phone numbers and an indication of the primary ministry, the groups they service and the number of missionaries ministering to them. The list includes foreign missions that have some work in the United States. This is the only extant listing of missions working in North America and is not exhaustive.
Finally note two quotes: In Modern Maturity magazine, November-December 1995 reported an interesting survey which they made. Their readership, which is made up of senior citizens was asked, “how do you assess society’s moral and social decline?” The response of over 1,000 was, “America is headed straight to Hell, figuratively and literally unless it changes course soon.” p.12.
William Bennett notes, “Despite our wonders and greatness, we are a society
that has experienced so much social regression, so much decadence, in so short
a period of time, that in many parts of America we have become the kind of
place to which civilized countries used to send missionaries. [In ‘Does Honor
Have a Future?’, 1997]
Note: 32,400 foreign missionaries
are coming to the USA for ministry.
Note: 32,400 foreign missionaries are coming to the USA for ministry.
“The unchurched population in the United States is so extensive that, if it were a nation, it would be the fifth most populated nation on the planet after China, the former Soviet Union, India and Brazil. Thus our unchurched population is the largest mission field in the English-speaking world and the fifth largest globally. Neither the United States nor Canada is a land of practicing Christians. The Western world is the only major segment of the world’s population in which Christianity is not growing.” [p.25 Lost In America]
The American church and its missionary ministry of world evangelism must face a series of issues which seem to only get worse. One of the most distressing is the cost of doing missions. Whether at home or overseas, the cost of health insurance is a major hurdle. World Pulse [3-03] reported that for some missionaries health insurance has risen to $700.00 per month. When you add on the cost of retirement, social security and life insurance, one faces a staggering bill of potentially $1,000.00 per month, that before ministry support. One enterprising idea is to take a $5,000.00 deductible and have a church agree to meet that need in a crisis situation.
Another developing issue here in the USA is stated by Philip Jenkins in his book, The Next Christendom. In it he suggests that Christendom is being divided ‘north’ and ‘south’. He defines north as Europe and North America, and south as Africa, Asia and Latin America. He suggests the church is booming in the south and will ultimately one day “reshape how we in the north will worship and do our missionary work. The concern is that the church in the south tends to “mix the old traditions with historic Christian beliefs and practices. Traditional northern orthodoxy is not their long suit. Southern Christianity has a compelling sense of the supernatural”. He concludes, perhaps some of this will “bring fresh breezes to moribund churches in the north”. It appears this will bear careful watching
President Obama has opined that America is neither 'special' nor a
President Obama has opined that America is neither 'special' nor a 'Christian Nation'.
Kroll, Woodrow. The Vanishing Ministry. Grand Rapids: Kregels, 1991
Clegg, Tom and Bird, Warren. Lost In America. Loveland CO: Group, 2001 “How you and your
church can impact the world next door”
Appleby, Jerry. Missions Have Come Home to America, 1984