“You haven't been writing much recently, Jon,” you say. “What have you been thinking about?”
OK, I know no one really said that but anyway here it is since I am a blogger and I share what I think regardless of whether anyone cares!
Missions. There has been a fair amount of stuff written in the blogosphere about Christian Missions. No bible-believer doubts the need for some kind of mission to share the gospel. The main thing right now in 2007 is that I think we are working with the wrong paradigm. There is an adage: armies always prepare to fight the last war. I think this is true of missions. We don't even blink at spending $50,000 or more to send an American to live in a foreign country and plant a church. We are unfazed when every fourth year he brings his whole family back to the US and travels to his 60-100 supporting churches. We are unconcerned that there are churches supporting multiple missionaries when they are not honoring their pastor by supporting him financially.
“So,” you ask, “what paradigm should we be using.” The NT one of course! Paul did not try to go to every town in an area. He makes this clear in Colossians 2. He did go to the big population centers and then sent people out from there to plant churches in the hinterlands. So, where are our big populations centers. New York, L.A., Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. If we could do some really effective gospel outreach in these places we could reach the world!
My second thought is that missions is cyclic. There are periods when the focus is outward and there are periods when the focus is inward. For instance: can you name a great missionary from the reformation? No, the focus was on building up the church with a renewed focus on God's Word. From that we get later great missions outreach. My thought here is that the great American missions movement came from a church that was domestically healthy and growing. Is that still the case today? Perhaps we need to focus missions on really building up american churches and sharing the gospel with the growing number of our fellow citizens who have never been to church or heard the gospel.
American missions has historically done a huge work in evangelizing the whole world. We have sent missionaries to every nation and translated the Bible into hundreds of languages. But the now the church is failing to reach our own Jerusalem. A huge majority of those in evangelical churches will never give the gospel message to anyone. Yet we hold fast to the idea that we, as Americans, have shouldered the burden of world evangelism and the idea that we should deviate from that in any way is unquestioned. Until now.