This week in an article on “Four Questions Every Church should ask a Missionary Organization ” Elliot Clarke made a statement that I found very interesting.
“The fact is this, for all of our discussion about unreached people groups, most places that we send missionaries already have some kind of Christian influence.”
Clarke with this statement is encouraging Churches to ask missions organisations how they partner with other churches or groups. However he is correct that a huge amount of mission fields today can be referred to as religious .
A few months ago I shared the Gospel with a man who after being asked where he would go when he died immediately responded “hell.” Yet he could quote Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23, tell me why Jesus had to come and die (for his sin), and even had a general idea about how to accept Christ. But when I asked if he wanted to accept Jesus his answer was a respectful no.
Sadly missions today is very different that it was in past generations when people heard the Gospel for the first time and excitedly accepted Christ. Today those in mission fields (and even America) can quote the Romans road while loving the most pagan life imaginable.
The conversation with that man who knew all the answers but didn’t accept the Lord reminded me of the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus in John 3. This religious leader knew the foundational truth that Jesus was from Heaven because of His miracles (3:1–2) but couldn’t comprehend the deeper truth that Jesus had to come because he couldn’t save himself (3:3–8), and though he clearly knew the prophecies that proved Jesus was the messiah (3:10–12) refused to believe (3:9).
I truly believe Nicodemus in the back of his mind knew that Jesus was the Messiah come to save the world from their sins. He knew all the prophesies but did not allow that truth to impact his life. So it always stayed in his head never affecting the heart of Nicodemus
Notice that the ministry of Jesus here isn’t so much about sharing the Gospel but about moving past the basic Bible truth (you aren’t a normal man) and revealing the deeper Gospel truth (Christ is God’s Son who would transform hearts though the Holy Spirit). In a way we can follow Christ’s pattern by explaining the truths of Scripture instead of proclaiming them.
In more basic terms we make the person stop and think about what Scripture truly means.
This is a frustrating kind of ministry especially after we have explained the Gospel countless times and it still hasn’t made an impact upon lives. Yet all that work is worth it the moment you see the Holy Spirit lead that person past knowledge to a true relationship with Christ.
: By calling a field religious I mean they have a basic understanding of the Gospel or Christian truth