I often wonder why the Gospel is spread so easily in places where they have never heard it. Why can a missionary go to China and fill the altars, but an American pastor have to beg for one to come? Why does an evangelist draw a crowd of 1000 in a remote village, but only 100 in a thriving metropolis? How can a Jesus following, people loving church in the middle of one of the poorest cities in America still fail to reach 80% of the residents?
I’ve thought through these questions many times. I’ve driven through downtown Albany, Georgia asking Jesus what I can do. How can I help? What can be done? But I’ve also wondered how in the world, with a church at every quarter of a mile, can so many people still be so lost? Have the scores of churches in our community really so desperately failed to be a light?
We had friends in town this weekend from Minnesota and their first comment about the South was the sheer number of churches that they passed just driving to our house. They were in awe at how much Gospel is available to our small city. Is it that these churches just aren’t DOING anything?
I picked up a homeless woman the other day and gave her a ride to the bus station. She told me that she was getting help from one of the churches downtown for her drug addiction. I witnessed to a man the other day who told me that he gets plenty of “that stuff” from his pentacostal preacher dad. We met some women when we were out delivering meals as a part of church ministry who were quick to tell us that they went to church right up the street. We have neighbors on all sides of us who attend church. Every weekend when we are out and about, we see countless yard signs for this ministry or that ministry. We receive invitations at all kinds of public places to some event a church is holding. We hear Christian music in the grocery store. I’m not quite sure what else our churches could do to get the Gospel out on the streets.
It just seems as though people have become immune to the Gospel. They have been shot with just enough of the form of religion to be denied of it’s power. They are truly dead man walking and not just because they are dead in their trespasses, but also because they have heard SO MUCH about Jesus and been given SO MUCH by churches that they have no more interest in hearing truth. Literally they have built up an immunity to the life transforming cure.
We saw it while we were out delivering meals with our church ministry. People came from out of nowhere to stop us and ask us which church we were from. They would tell us that “so and so” didn’t get a meal or make sure we knew that they lived in apartment 1502 with 7 other people who were skipped when the last group came through. They immediately agreed to let us pray with them and listened to whatever we wanted to tell them and then reminded us to go back to our church and bring them the free meal.
“Jesus answered, ‘I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.'” John 6:26-27
So I’m not sure that the problem lies in what our churches are doing or not doing. After all, some of the largest community changing revivals in history drew people without invitation. People would drive by churches and be compelled to come in.
I am beginning to believe that only one thing can change communities that have become immune to the Gospel…the experience of Holy Spirit power. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to be supernatural. We can take the Gospel to Africa and they will feast on it! They’ve never had the meal. Here they have been gorged on it. They’ve heard it all before and it hasn’t changed them. Why is this?
“A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing some fell along the path; it was trampled on and the birds of the sky ate it. Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up it withered because it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground and when it sprang up, it produced a crop 100 fold.” Luke 8:5-8
These field have been sown and sown and sown and sown and yes, some of the seed has been flat out rotten. This isn’t Israel in Biblical times where the good news of the Gospel was new and raw. It hadn’t been a part of any marketing campaigns yet or been twisted by doctrinal views. It hadn’t been tainted by scandal or abuse. And just like in other parts of the world today where the unadulterated and unedited Word of God can enter into a community and change it through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was seed that added to the church daily.
It’s not like that here. At least not where I live. People have become immune to even the most passionate presentations of the Truth that could save their lives.
And if what I am proposing here is true, what can we possibly do about it?
- PRAY. We have to be thoroughly convinced that without the Holy Spirit of God moving on the hearts that we are reaching out to with the Gospel, we will have zero impact on our community. If we aren’t witnessing hand in hand with the Spirit, we might as well not witness. If we think we can do it ourselves, if we are doing it for brownie points, if we are doing it to feel less guilty, we are wasting our time.
- LOOK FOR EVERY OPPORTUNITY. As we are praying for our communities, we need to pray for opportunities to share Jesus with open hearts. The Holy Spirit can strategically place us in front of someone receptive in 10 minutes while without His guidance we might spend 10 years on someone who never comes to Jesus. We need to look for those opportunities that we have prayed for and live with an life open to sharing Jesus wherever we go and whenever He asks us.
- BE BIBLICALLY REALISTIC. Despite the fact that it is not the Father’s Will for any to perish, some will choose to perish. I hate even typing that. It grips me to the core to accept the fact that not everyone will listen, not everyone will turn, not everyone will choose Jesus. Oh how drastically horrible for those people. So it is difficult for us to witness and leave the results in God’s Hands. We have a tendency to be emotional creatures, so we might be tempted to give up and cocoon ourselves from this reality or in the other extreme, open up their mouths and cram it in. After all, what more dreadful failure is there than not changing someone’s mind about Jesus! That’s what the enemy will whisper. We have to remember that love always gives a choice or it can’t be love. God is not interested in people manipulated, guilted, or scared into religion. God is interested in sincere heart change.
- REACH THE NEXT GENERATION. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness until everyone of the generation present at that time died. The Promised Land generation could not be tainted with the wilderness generation whose hearts had become hardened. Our young people are our hope and many of them are still open and searching for the Gospel and for Truth. Many of them are just looking for someone to invest in them and see potential in them. Plant your seed there.
- AVOID BECOMING IMMUNE. We must examine our own hearts to make sure that we aren’t building an immunity to the faith. Things like bitterness, critical spirit, envy, jealousy, legalism, and works mentality are signs that we have forgotten the message and wandered from the faith. Before we venture out into all the world, we do well to make sure that our own heart is tender before the Lord and that our connection with the Holy Spirit is secure. Repentance is KEY to resisting immunity.
- ASK FOR REVIVAL. We need to be restored to life and consciousness of the Truth in Jesus Christ and what He has made available to us. Without revival, the only thing spreading is immunity.
Father, I pray for my own community here in Albany, Georgia. Your Word promises that You desire to work in the lives of people. You desire to change destinies and redeem stories. And You are a great and powerful God well able to do just that. I ask you to intervene supernaturally in this area. I pray that You will set Your Church on fire! That we will no longer be blinded and distracted by earthly, temporal issues and circumstances, but we will instead be fully aware of the weight of eternity. I pray that You will send opportunities my way to share Your Truth and Your Life with others around me that are in desperate need…others that will hear and respond. May Your Holy Spirit move upon hearts whenever I am sharing and may Your harvest be great as we sow together. Keep me from all the enemies roadblocks, including wolves in sheep’s clothing who will always only pretend to desire the Gospel. I pray that wherever You give opportunity and wherever You send me and anyone praying with me, that You will glorify Yourself by adding to Your Kingdom. Thank You for allowing us to be a small part of Your big picture. We love You. Amen.