Most Americans tend to be rather provincial in their thinking about this great land, assuming that there is a mythical American, who is essentially just like himself, and that all parts of the country are much like the place where he lives. This assumption may seem logical at first, but it is far from the truth. This illusion persists because of television stereotyping, or the fact that the average American has never visited the distant parts of his country and areas that are different from his own familiar territory. Even though the people of the United States are very mobile and 25 percent move annually, the truth is that they do not move far. Many only move across town or to the next state. Although many Americans take holiday breaks, the vast differences in American culture are not perceived from the cursory contact provided by a vacation visit; nor are Americans aware that evangelicals are not evenly spread out over the fifty states. In some areas there are few or no churches. There is a dearth of the gospel in many geographical areas of the United States.
The chapters in this section discuss the spiritual needs of individuals living in different sections of North America. Many nostalgically think of living in the countryside with its quiet and peaceful context, but seldom do they consider the problems encountered in maintaining a church in an isolated or dying community. In fact, rural sections may be the most unchurched sections of the country.
Eighty-four percent of Americans now live in an urban context. Although the rate of urbanization has slowed, it has by no means stopped. For many urban-suburban folks there is no adequate gospel witness within reasonable distance. Also, many North Americans who move do not look for a church in their new location.
Alaska, although located in the extreme Northwest, is still a part of the national missions scene. Whereas many Alaskans live in the few larger cities, countless others live in the vast hinterland, where their contact with the outside world and the gospel is limited and often dependent on radio. Here missions take on a distinctly foreign flavor.
The fiftieth state, Hawaii, is primarily thought of as the place for a great vacation. Most vacationers seldom look for a church while away from home; therefore, they have little idea that it is easier to find a Buddhist temple in Honolulu than an evangelical church. In many ways this Garden of Eden is also a graveyard for missionary services.
Then there are those groups of people who move about the country in their line of work. The spiritual needs of truckers, seamen, airline personnel, vacationers, taxi drivers, gypsies, and others also need to be considered. Their life-styles make them extremely difficult to reach and also may prevent them from being faithful in a local church. Yet, there are missionaries who are concerned for their souls.