03 Nov The Un-Evangelized Fields of North America
Dr. Earl Jessup
Sadly many parts of North America remain un-evangelized. Hundreds of thousands of people are not reached because churches are not reproducing churches in these areas. Where are these areas that need these good fundamental Baptist churches? They are within minutes of our good fundamental Baptist churches.
As I travel this continent and speak on church planting, I mention the need of churches being reproduced within 20 to 30 minutes of our churches. Because of this I get two responses. First of all, I have church members who say they drive 20 to 30 minutes to church and they never miss a service unless they are sick. They come to the church for all the activities and participate in the soul-winning program of the church. I always ask them a very specific question. My question is, “How many of your neighbors have you won to Christ and gotten them to drive the same distance you drive?” I have yet to have anyone tell me of one person they have won to Christ and they now drive the 20 to 30 minutes to come to church. Several years ago I was teaching in a church Bible institute on church planting and I asked a deacon about this. He lived 20 minutes from the church and had been at the church for 20 years. He is a consistent soul-winner and went out each week to witness for Christ. He admitted that in 20 years he had never been able to get one of his neighbors saved and faithfully attending the church he attended. It was quite obvious that the church needed to reproduce a church where he lived so that community could be evangelized properly.
The second response is from pastors who question the need for planting a church that close to their church. This usually comes from pastors of churches that are a bit larger and have a good reputation. They want these people attending their church so they can have a successful ministry and a larger crowd. I suspect they also want these people to attend so the offerings are better but most pastors would never say this. I have had pastors upset with my teaching on this because I suggest they should plant churches where many of their church members live. They drive to the fundamental Baptist church because they don’t have one nearby that they can attend. These churches grow because people move into these communities that are a distance away from their church and drive to this good Baptist church. The only people they reach in these communities are people that are already saved and looking for a church that stands for truth. Few if any people are won to Christ, baptized, and discipled from these distant communities. The reason is because it is just too far from the local church.
I challenge pastors to honestly evaluate how many people they see saved, baptized and discipled in communities that are 20 to 30 minutes away from their church. I think they will find it is few if any. This leaves these areas virtually unevangelized even though they are relatively close to our strong fundamental Baptist churches. Churches may have outreach programs in these distant communities but rarely do they see people saved and attending their church. The distance is just too great and with the fuel prices continually on the rise even fewer people will drive that distance to attend our churches.
The solution is to plant churches in these communities where their church members can attend and fulfill the Great Commission. The Great Commission is not just soul-winning. It is evangelize, baptize and mobilize which is clearly taught in Matthew 28:19-20. It is not enough to go to these communities, knock on doors and win a few people to Christ. We must also get them into our churches if we are to really fulfill the Great Commission. This can only be done by placing a church close by that believes like we do where they can attend and mature as believers.
With the rise of fuel prices our larger fundamental Baptist churches must reexamine their thinking on this. Rather than expect people to drive to their church for the services, it will be far better to begin a program where churches can be planted in these nearby communities so their church members can reach their neighbors for Christ and have a church they can attend close to where they live. This does not mean some will not drive to the “big” church but at least there is a church in their neighborhood where they can take or send their neighbors when they win them to Christ.
I know this article with stimulate some debate and controversy. The only reason it will do so is because pastors are unwilling to let their people go. They are afraid to trust God with their ministries and walk by faith. One pastor said to me, “Brother Jessup, I am not sure I want to plant a church near my church. Some of my members may want to go there.” I said to him, “You want your people to believe and practice Luke 6:38 but you don’t want to.” At least he was honest enough to voice what most pastors only think. Because of this many people are being left unevangelized even though they are near our fundamental Baptist churches. Brethren, we must change our thinking and philosophy on this very important matter. There are fields close by the need to be properly reached with the gospel.