There are three kinds of lost people in the world. First, there are people who do not have a Bible in their own language (e.g. the Sarikolu Tajik people of West China). Second, there are people who do not have access to the Word of God in their language (e.g. Cuba). Last, there are people in the world who have access to the Word of God, but they disregard its influence in their lives (e.g. USA). Reaching all of these people is every Christian’s responsibility.
At His ascension, Jesus outlined our responsibility to reach “BOTH in Jerusalem… Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost.” (Acts 1:8) When Jesus used the word “both,” He was identifying that His mission includes all of those regions. There is an imbalance if we are only concerned with reaching our home country. But that same imbalance persists if we ignore our home country to reach the uttermost.
The Mission of Church Planting
Should we plant churches? Asking God if He desires for us to plant churches is like asking God if He wants us to share the Gospel. Just as God desires for each Christian to reproduce himself spiritually in the life of another person, He also desires for each church to reproduce itself by birthing other churches (Acts 13:1-5; 14:20-23; 16:1a, 5).
Most fundamental, Baptist churches have a deeplyheld conviction that foreign-field missionaries must be “church-planting” missionaries. However, carrying this belief to our own domestic field has seldom taken root. The question shouldn’t be “Does God want us to plant a church?” The right questions are “Who might God send from among us to plant a church?” Or “Where should we plant a church?”
The Location of Church Planting
When I was praying about where to plant a church, I asked God to show me not just where there were no Baptist churches; I was asking Him to reveal where there were not many churches at all. And He did. When we moved to Loveland, Colorado, there were no evangelical churches within a five-mile radius of our church location. Yet we found out three months after moving to Loveland that the city had plans to build 5,000 homes within a two-mile radius of our church during the next five years. Only God can orchestrate something like that! A great need exists in many places in the United States for vibrant, fundamental churches to be established, especially among our inner cities.
Does God want us to be concerned with our home country? The Old Testament Prophets provide a great picture of God’s desire to reach the whole world. Some Prophets were sent to other nations (e.g. Jonah). Some were sent to minister to their own people within the context of another culture (e.g. Daniel). Then, many were sent to reach their own people (e.g. Jeremiah). God was constantly concerned with “re-reaching” the Israelites.
The Position of Church Planting
In the first prayer request Jesus ever gave, He challenged His followers to pray that God would send laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38). Many Christians sit waiting for God to disclose His will for their lives, not realizing they could simultaneously be neglecting the already revealed instructions in His Word (e.g. soul-winning, discipleship, and church planting). Why are we sitting in pews waiting for God to re-tell us what He has already commanded us to do? The angels asked, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”
Many people in the Bible received clear direction from God (Abraham, Gideon, Isaiah). But many others also volunteered to serve God. One such man was Nehemiah. Nehemiah never heard God instruct him to rebuild his home country. Instead, having discovered that great need, he volunteered to meet that need.
We need more Christians who will pray about the needs of our home country (Nehemiah 1:1-11), who will ask others to help them respond to that need (Nehemiah 2:1-8), and then who will trust God to do the impossible (Nehemiah 2:9-20). One missionary rightly expressed, “Instead of saying, ‘I will stay until God says Go,’ say ‘I will go unless God says Stay.’”
Psalm 145:12 clarifies that our purpose is “to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.” Volunteer for God to play a role in His great mission to reach into the uttermost, Samaria, Judea, and Jerusalem.