Brothers, don’t ignore the devout nations

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

Recently, Time shared the list of the most and least godly cities (which, incidentally, was updated here). Careful readers will hopefully find much to be encouraged about in it—there is much work to be done in America, and there are many who have not been reached with the gospel, so there’s much to be excited about. But there’s one item I hope missionaries and church planters ignore entirely:

Christian missionaries can apparently steer clear of Tennessee, as the report suggests the state is the most devout in the union. Chattanooga was found to be the most Bible-minded city in America, a title it won from last year’s victor, Knoxville.

I’ve got a lot of friends in Tennessee (in fact, we’re going for a visit in just a few weeks—you have been warned), and I’ve gotta say, there are some amazing churches and ministries in this fine state:

  • LifeWay’s doing some amazing stuff, with the Gospel Project and a number of other initiatives;
  • Ray Ortlund and Immanuel Church are seeking to “make the real Jesus non-ignorable,” (which, by the way, is one of the best mission statements ever);
  • Josh Howerton, Matt Svoboda and the crew at The Bridge are doing great things down in Spring Hill.

Then there’s The Fellowship, Grace Community Church, Christ Community Church… and those are just a few of the ones I know about surrounding Nashville!

There are so many wonderful, gospel-loving, Jesus-proclaiming churches in a state like Tennessee that it’s easy to forget that there are still a whole lot more that are either soft on the gospel, or have abandoned it altogether. In my own homeland, Canada, we don’t have remotely close to the remaining cultural openness to Christianity that America does, but we still have many good, faithful churches.

And you know what those churches need?

They need more faithful churches around them.

They need more faithful brothers and sisters working alongside them, sharing the good news about Jesus, preaching the Scriptures unashamedly, shaking sleepy churches out of complacency, and rescuing people from the clutches of damnably apostate ones.

In our country, where there are tens of thousands of churches across the land, and yet anywhere between four and eight per cent of the population are evangelicals, and is home to the single largest unreached people group in North America, there is a great need for the gospel. In fact, it’s a need at least as great as that of many lesser developed nations. Though it was once so, a devout nation we are not.

Brothers, we must go out to all the nations. We dare not neglect the call to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples from every tribe, tongue and nation (Matt: 28:19-20).

But don’t ignore the “devout” nations, either.

Links I like

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

Andrea Palpant Dilley:

For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era like Nathan Price. The patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver’s 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Price tries to baptize new Congolese Christians in a river filled with crocodiles. He proclaims Tata Jesus is bangala!, thinking he is saying, “Jesus is beloved.” In fact, the phrase means, “Jesus is poisonwood.” Despite being corrected many times, Price repeats the phrase until his death—Kingsolver’s none-too-subtle metaphor for the culturally insensitive folly of modern missions.

For some reason, no one has written a best-selling book about the real-life 19th-century missionary John Mackenzie. When white settlers in South Africa threatened to take over the natives’ land, Mackenzie helped his friend and political ally Khama III travel to Britain. There, Mackenzie and his colleagues held petition drives, translated for Khama and two other chiefs at political rallies, and even arranged a meeting with Queen Victoria. Ultimately their efforts convinced Britain to enact a land protection agreement. Without it, the nation of Botswana would likely not exist today.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

Joe Thorn:

Anger, sorrow, apathy and hundred other feelings leave us in state of mind where the idea of gathering with the church for worship or community group simply isn’t appealing. Sometimes we wake up on Sunday morning and secretly (hopefully) wonder, “Is my kid sick today? If so I guess we’ll have to stay home.” It’s shameful, but common among all of us. Sometimes we don’t went to do what we are created for. And in that moment we make a common mistake. We think since our heart isn’t in it we shouldn’t do it. I’ve felt this way before. I have heard it a lot as well. “I didn’t come to worship this Sunday because my heart wasn’t in it, and if I came and sang those songs I would feel like a hypocrite.” This is a deadly conclusion.

Untamable God

My pal Stephen Altrogge has just released a brand new book, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine. I read this a few weeks back and had this to say:

“He is not safe, but he is good.” C.S. Lewis’ words permeate every page of Stephen Altrogge’s new book, Untameable God, as he confronts and corrects our constant attempts to reimagine the God of the Bible into some damnably “safe” cheap substitute. Jesus isn’t safe—but he is good, and that is such good news for weary sinners. Read this book and rejoice!

Check out the book and be sure to grab a copy for your Kindle while it’s 99¢!

My wife also made a nifty t-shirt for the book, which you can get here.

Get Living for God’s Glory in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Fear and Tremblin teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Standing Firm: 2012 West Coast Conference (DVD)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

So Dad, How Much Do You Earn?

David Murray:

In ways subtle and not so subtle they’ve tried to find out my salary through the years, and I’ve always gone to great lengths to conceal it from them. Shona and I never do our budgeting within earshot of the kids, and I’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to hide and shred wage slips, bank statements, mortgage statements, etc. That’s right, I wouldn’t even tell them how much my mortgage was.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped and asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What’s the point in being so secretive?” I suppose I didn’t want them blabbing about it to their friends, but they’re “big boys” now.

The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest To Be a Christian

Katherine Burgess:

The top 10 nations “where Christians faced the most pressure and violence,” according to the WWL, were North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran. and Yemen. While North Korea has topped the list for 12 straight years, this is the first time that a sub-Saharan African country took the No. 2 slot.

Consider the Risk – Then Do It

“Should I consider not doing missions if it means constant danger for my life?”

That’s the question that often comes up surrounding missions—and one that I wonder if doesn’t keep more of us from pursuing short- and long-term missions work.

John Piper offers some pastoral advice for those considering missions and the danger that can come with that calling in the following video:

An edited transcript follows.

Yes, consider it. But after you’ve considered it, probably you should do it.

If your wife says, “No,” you probably shouldn’t.

I’m assuming you mean danger for both of you, not like you’re going to put your wife at risk while you have a nice, secure position. If that’s what you mean then you’re selfish and you shouldn’t be in missions at all.

But if you mean, “Should I consider a calling on my life that brings me, my wife, my children into risk?” I would say, “Yes,” because, if everybody goes that route the Great Commission will never be finished.

Unless you say it should only be finished by single people. “Let’s let the single people suffer. We married people, we won’t suffer. We marry and then escape suffering.” I don’t think that’s the way the New Testament reads.

That’s why Jesus says, “Unless you hate mother, father … wife … you can’t be my disciple.” Now he didn’t mean “hate” in the sense of feeling malice towards them. He meant “hate” in the sense that you take risks so that Grandmama says that you’re acting like you hate her. You know you don’t hate her. You love her and you love all the people who, with her, you’re trying to reach.

I don’t have a final, nice criterion about when to flee and when to stand. That’s the old stress that John Bunyan wrote about in his book Advice for Sufferers.

Bunyan chose to stay in jail for 12 years when he could’ve gotten out of jail. And he had a wife and 4 kids, and one of them was blind. He could’ve gotten out if he had just signed, “I won’t preach anymore.” And he chose to stay there, which put them at tremendous risk with poverty.

So he wrote this essay called Advice for Sufferers, and in it he gives biblical examples of people who fled, like Paul escaping from Damascus through a hole in the wall instead of being brave. It’s like, “Come on Paul! Why are you sitting in a basket, being let down and running away from trouble?” And then there are examples where Paul throws himself, as it were, to the lions in Ephesus or in Philippi, going to jail and being willing to be beaten.

When do you stand and when do you flee? Bunyan says, “God will show you.”

So, no, I don’t think it’s automatic that you keep yourself, your wife, or your children out of risk, out of danger, and out of suffering. But there will be times when you sense, “Yes, it is time, for the sake of the kingdom and for the sake of all concerned, that I will move to another place and another ministry.”

It’s not a simple answer. I don’t have a simple answer to when those decisions are made.

By John Piper. © Desiring God.

Tears of the Saints

HT Z