I became a Christian in the mid-1970s. The winds of cultural change were already evident in good old America. Even though it had long been a nation which operated on Judeo/Christian morals and values, Progressivism had been doing its work slowly in universities and amongst politicians for 60 or 70 years. Even though the nation has a sort of a Christian hangover, still generally holding biblical values in the main, it was cultural but not necessarily tied to any embrace of biblical faith. The Barna Research Group recently released its material on America’s Most Bible Minded Cities. The statistics were not overly surprising to me but rather served to confirm something we at MCOI have said for quite a long time. We need missionaries to America! In fact we did an article in our Journal in 1999 titled, of all things, Missionaries to America? A little more than a decade later, in 2011, I revisited the topic in Missionaries to America – Deux. I won’t reprise either of them today but do think Barna’s research demonstrates something we have raised on more than one occasion. The church, for all of its attempt at remaking itself in order to have a broader appeal, has lost its sense of mission and as a result its impact on and influence in culture.
We really do live in a culture which is more like the first century than any other period since that time. Like the first century, today life has little value and Progressives are becoming bolder in admitting their low view of life as does Mary Elizabeth Williams in So What if Abortion Ends Life?. 1 ½ percent of the population has been extremely successful at making homosexual practice appear as normal as heterosexuality and perhaps more glamorous. Even the Boy Scouts May End Ban on Gay Youths, Leaders. If they follow through the many churches which currently sponsor troops will have to decide if they will stand firm or become another cultural casualty and embrace the new sexual norms.
Unfortunately we live in what is becoming a more and more illiterate society. Sure, most can read, write and do basic math but few are trained in critical thinking. Decisions are made based largely on emotions and opinions about life and public policy are informed by a media that has become little more than scribes and stenographers for the current administration and leading Progressives. There is little that could pass as actual journalism in the more popular “news” outlets today.
Sadly, the same is true within much of the church. Most of the books, music and church material produced is for the already persuaded in order to make them feel better about the faith. Some is boarder maintanence, to keep those who are in the church in the church. Other material is to guide the marketing campaign to broaden the market base for Jesus as a product which the church is peddling. Little effort is given to training and equipping believers to be missionaries in a crude and pagan culture which glorifies killing the innocent and advancing sex as little more than a recreational activity.
A return to “equipping the saints to do the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) is needed. That would mean training in critical thinking and sound reasoning as well as history and a good grasp of sound biblical teaching. Training in how unbelievers think and ways to challenge their thinking. Perhaps the best way to train the missionaries is to have several churches support and work with a local apologetics ministry which is already engaged in this missionary work. It is also important to have trained and equipped believers making their way into the bastions of thought shapers in the media and universities. In other words, believers who have the ability to question and reason with unbelievers in a way that challenges their views.
Over the years I have had many opportunities to sit with investigative reporters as I was interviewed about various cult stories. In nearly every case I had the opportunity to talk about outer issues and the response was always intriguing to me. As we would get ready for the interview there were usually opportunities where they would ask how I got involved in work with cults and false religious movements. As I explained how I came to the faith, made the case for the existence of God and my rejection of Darwinism they often became intrigued and asked if we could talk more after the interview. A few receive out Journal even now. The most often asked question was, “Why haven’t we met more Christians like you?” For the most part their experience with Christians did not include very many who could articulate the faith in an intelligible or compelling way and certainly could not expose and refute the modern embrace of political correctness, Darwinism and feeling driven “spirituality.”
A few years back I was on my way to speak at a church in Billings, MT. I had to change planes in Denver and while I was waiting, my flight to Billings was canceled. After expending a great deal of effort to work out other flight arrangements I had to let the pastor know that I would be there the following day. Since I had some time to kill I went to have my boots polished. As it happens, in the Denver airport, the shoe shine chair is elevated and very visible to those moving through the terminal. Also, I most often wear a western style fringe jacket and cowboy hat. The jacket tends to attract attention and this was especially so sitting in the shoe shine chair. A lady walked by and stopped to compliment me on the jacket. She asked what I did and I told her that I teach in churches on issues of the faith and culture and I was on my way to Montana to teach. She asked about the topics and I told her that my main topic was “Gay Rites: Right or Wrong.” She asked me if they were right or wrong and I suggested she might be offended by my position. What ended up happening was God gave me the opportunity to lay out my case to this lady and what ended up being a group of about 25-30 which and gathered and who were very involved in listening and asking questions. Some has not known what to think but ended up with better information and were able to form an opinion. Others were angry that I would even question gay marriage as not being equal to heterosexual marriage and still others were confirmed in what they had previously thought. Many of these people would not likely have set foot in a church and if they did would not have found much sound information on these issues but I think God sent a missionary to that place at that time to offer compelling reasons outlining biblical teaching. Other missionaries, like Bill Honsberger at Haven Ministry goes to New Age fairs and other events. He also does something he calls “Cuisine and Conversation.” It is fairly simple and non-threatening. A host puts on a meal, and varies the cuisine each time. They invite friends and neighbors, some are believers but most are not. Bill does a short presentation on some cultural issue then they have a rousing good time in actually having a good old fashioned conservation and exchange of ideas.
There is a decline in “Bible Minded Cities” because there is a decline in Bible minded individuals. The need for missionaries to America is great and growing. Will churches step up to the call? I am not sure.