As time runs out on the year 2010, it makes me ponder how much more time we have left on this planet. As the morality and economy of the United States spirals downward, I wonder also how much longer we have left for this country. I think America has been given the opportunity and blessed with the resources to significantly impact the world for Jesus Christ. In fact I think the record shows that we have made tremendous strides in spreading the gospel throughout the nations. However, given the level of wealth with which we have to work, I have to wonder if we have not fallen woefully short of our mission. Today it seems we have become content with building ever bigger buildings and feeding infinitely expanding programs to attract more and more people inside the walls of the church. We appear to be more concerned with building up walls instead of tearing them down. The good that the American church has done around the world is clearly documented; the generosity it has shared is without question. Still, by most estimates more than two billion people have never heard the name of Jesus.
I understand that church programs are designed to equip believers and children’s ministries are designed to develop the next generation of disciples. I get that, and I am not saying that these things are without merit. However I think it is vital that we examine the mission of each program and the necessity of each building. Despite all of our somewhat grandiose efforts, the church in America is in decline; the church in England has all but disappeared. Meanwhile African and Chinese house churches are growing at incredible rates. This is being accomplished with little or no money; the costs they contend with are persecution, torture and death. So how well are those billions of dollars we pour into concrete and mortar working?
I had lunch with a friend recently who disagreed, saying we need the buildings to accommodate new believers so the church can expand and we can do more good in our communities. I understand his point of view and recognize there is some truth there. I do question how it relates to the Biblical model of the early church. Without a single program or formal building, the church in the book of Acts added new members daily simply by living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we more interested in people coming to know Jesus or adding to our attendance rolls? Let me say this again; there are two billion people on the planet that have never heard the name of Jesus. Christ said that He will not return until all peoples had been given the opportunity to hear His message. Taking the message of Jesus to the unreached people-groups in the world will not be accomplished by spending millions of dollars on building some new walls for our Western churches; it will not be accomplished by providing more comfortable Sunday school classrooms for our preschoolers or constructing cool hangouts for our teens. The only way to touch the lives of the unreached is to move outside of the very walls we are constructing. If we won’t go to them, then I ask you, who will?
How are we doing as a body? We are all part of the Church; we are the called of God. Are we contributing to the expansion of buildings or the expansion of the Word? Are we teaching how best to serve Jesus in the context of the American dream or are we teaching how to engage the world with the love of Christ? Before we lay another brick or design another program, I believe it is vital to consider every expense of the time and money we have been entrusted to spend. Are we building the Kingdom of God or simply building an empire? The longer there remain those who have never heard about Christ, the longer we delay His coming. The final command given to us by Jesus was to take His message to all people. Let’s move out from behind the walls of our buildings and take His message to the world. This is His mission; this is our mission.