Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Al Mohler is one of the most reliable and helpful Christian thinkers of our time. On his blog today, he reprinted a post from 2006 on Christian Missions. His comments on missions in the new millenia are very helpful in many ways, and they stimulated my thinking on the subject. When I was getting ready to graduate from seminary, I seriously considered foreign missions as an avenue of service. As I continued to pursue various opportunities it seemed to me that the Lord was directing me to stay in North America.
One consideration that kept me in the States at that time was the tremendous need that exists in North America. To be sure there is an ongoing need for missions activity by Christians around the world. In no way do I want to minimize that need. We should continue our world missions efforts. At the same time, however, we must not allow traditional definitions of “missions” to obscure our awareness of the great need for the gospel in North America as well as other places not historically considered to be mission fields (like Western Europe).
In the new millenia, our understanding of missions must take into account the significant need in North America. According to Lost in America, by Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, 2001: “The unchurched population in the United States is so extensive that, were it a nation, it would be the fifth-largest on the planet. . . . Researchers and analysts describe North America as the world’s third-largest mission field.” North America is the third largest mission field after China and India. The fact of the matter is that Christians from Asia and Africa are coming to North America as missionaries. And that is a good thing.
What does that statistic mean, though, for churches like the one in which I currently serve? It means that we must turn our attention toward planting Reformed churches. We ought to invest our efforts and resources into planting churches not only in the Denver metro area, but also throughout the Rocky Mountain states, and wherever we have opportunity in North America. While we need to continue to support overseas missions efforts, we need at the same time to step up our efforts locally.
I strongly believe that we currently stand on the precipice of a great opportunity. I think this opportunity is especially ripe for Reformed churches. To the extent that we are willing to unabashedly proclaim the gospel as it is articulated in our confessional standards, we will find that gospel to be more fruitful than we can even imagine. There is little doubt that it will cut against the prevailing cultural currents. But the Lord has promised to build his church, and he has promised to do it through word, sacraments and prayer. We must plant distinctively Reformed churches believing that to be true.