Jesus clearly promised His disciples that they would do even “greater things” than He did. Here in North America we desperately need “greater things” to happen in our hearts, lives, and our churches. We need a movement of God that would fit His description in John 14:12-14 of “greater things.” We need revival in our established churches and a recommitment to a church planting movement. A newly released Barna Report has reinforced some of the concerns about our culture here in America moving farther and farther away from God.
Mike Huckabee recently gave this summary of that report: “The Barna Group just released a new study of Generation Z (current teenagers) that found they are the least-Christian generation in US history. Nearly twice as many claim to be atheists as Millennials (13% to 7%), and 35% of current teens say they are either atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated with any religion. Just 59% say they are Catholic or Christian (a six-point drop from the Millennial generation), and only 4% hold what is considered a true Biblical worldview. The survey places the cause of this change on today’s teenagers having been brought up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where they’ve never been exposed to Christianity or church.” The phrase that stands out as the most shocking and troubling is, “never been exposed to Christianity or church.” That is the polar opposite of what Jesus meant by “Greater Things.” How can that happen right here in the United States? How can this extremely disturbing number of increasing atheists occur right here in our own backyard?
Mike Breen laments that in the United States, “96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing…but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss.” The greater things Jesus promised became a reality as the early church experienced a miracle of “spontaneous expansion.”
Dr. J.D. Payne recently shared with several of us in the missions department that as of October 2017 there are 282 Unreached People Groups here in the USA with 167 in Canada. Even more alarming is that there are 207 Unengaged Unreached People Groups here. According to him this means there is no (none) evangelical planting strategy being executed at this time. Before we pass this off as a metropolitan problem in New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles we need to ask ourselves; “What am I doing to reach the unchurched, unengaged, and those far from God in my city and community?”
Is this promise of “greater things” still available to us as individual believers and to our churches today? Absolutely, because Jesus is still Lord (and always will be) and He is still sitting on the throne. But there are some elements that will be required for us to see a movement of “greater things” in our cities and communities. There are at least two necessary ingredients for us to witness an extraordinary movement of God again today. First, there must be an extraordinary practice of prayer (Matthew 9:37-38). Second, there must be an extraordinary commitment to evangelism (Acts 1:8).
We never would have believed that it would be so easy to reach so many nations without ever getting on an airplane but it is happening. The world is coming to us and we, God’s children, are to be His light. We must be ready to reach all nationalities and people groups with the gospel. Isaiah 49:6makes it clear, “I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” Thankfully, the churches, church revitalization, and church planting efforts are impacting the multitude of immigrants who are flocking to the United States.
It is truly a blessing to see churches and church planters ministering to many different language groups and people groups. Many are making a gospel difference in the lives of these uniquely diverse ethnic people groups. All to often we see contextualizing the gospel as reaching our neighborhood, but it is much deeper than that. The better questions are; how do we become the church in our neighborhood? And how do we evangelize so that we are not just reaching part of our neighborhood but everyone that lives in our neighborhood?
Joe Gustafson tweeted this about an article by Dr. Ed Stetzer, ““Essentially, gospel living in the real world became the attractional means by which God drew people to Himself. The contemporary Church would do well to go back to the future and embrace this same approach to evangelism.” Stetzer’s article points out the need to make some shifts in our evangelistic efforts which are really a return to our biblical roots in the book of Acts. He says “churches that shift from a temple mindset to a network will be more effective at evangelism” and also that churches “must shift from an attractionalmindset to an incarnationalmindset.”
Let me remind you of a quote from last week’s article where we are challenged to embrace both approaches. In the book Kingdom First, we are introduced to a church ministry that asks two questions.
- “What percentage of your non-Christian friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors would go to a Bible study or church regularly if you asked?”
- “What’s your strategy for everyone else?”