Strider is an IMB Missionary who has served 20 years in Middle Earth among Muslim peoples.
I believe that God is not only on His throne but moving in the world today in ways that have never been seen before. Many people long for the ‘good ol’ days’. Years ago we even took to calling ourselves ‘New Testament Churches’ implying that we were meeting and believing just like the original first century Church. There are some very valuable lessons to be learned by looking back at what God has done among us through the centuries. We stand on the shoulders of giants for sure! But far from longing for the past I am very excited about the future. From my little outpost here in Middle Earth I have seen God do amazing things around the world and I believe that we have been and will continue to be privileged to see some of the greatest moves of God in human history.
Let’s look at the big picture. For 1700 years after Pentecost God moved mightily in Europe and America. We know that the Nestorians went East to China but for the most part the Church did not do much to fulfill the Great Commission. I am aware of some really amazing heroes of the faith who were exceptions to the rule. I also am aware that I am not anyone’s judge. Perhaps this was all just God’s timing. Perhaps the Church was just not ready to move to the ends of the earth as quickly as we might wish they could have. At any rate- or at least at the rate we are going- things really changed about 200 years ago with William Carey and the Modern Missions Movement. We Southern Baptist were involved early on in getting busy with the work of the Gospel going to the Nations. Personally, in spite of lots of negative stuff surrounding our beginnings, I am proud that our heritage is a Great Commission heritage. We went to Brazil, China, Nigeria, later Indonesia and that is where we concentrated our work for many years. As we moved into the post-World War Two phase of our journey God shut one big door- China- and opened up many other doors that we boldly walked through. The cost was incredible but the returns on investment were astounding! Missionaries were funded by the poor of the rural south to pack their meager belongings in coffins to go to places like West Africa where they could hope to share Christ for a few years before dying of some tropical disease. Millions came to faith. By 1976 Southern Baptists decided it was time to dream even bigger. We passed Bold Mission Thrust at the convention and dared to believe that we could have 5000 missionaries in 125 countries by the year 2000. We dared to believe that we could see over 10,000 volunteers on overseas mission trips. We believed we could be the generation to see the Gospel get to the ends of the earth. We achieved every goal ahead of schedule and while we were not looking God rewarded our small steps of faith in world-changing ways.
I pity the country that tries to keep the Gospel out. I really do. We could not go to the Soviet Union so God shut it down. Now the Church has grown in every republic of the former USSR in outrageous ways! Kazakhs from 2 believers to 30,000, Uzbeks to over 15,000, Kirgiz to over 40,000, Tajiks to more than 3000, and the Turkmen church continues to grow in spite of horrific Government opposition. Most of you know the Chinese story. We lost our missionary presence in 1950 with perhaps 100,000 believers and today we think there may be as many as 250 million Chinese believers. We could not get into some parts of Indonesia, the Maldives, southern India and God thumped the ocean floor in 2004 and every one of those places have now been impacted by the Gospel- some in huge ways. Afghanistan was 20 million people locked in an eternal civil war with no access to the Gospel. 9/11 happened and now more than 10,000 Afghans worship our savior in what is still one of the darkest places on earth. I just finished the book Too Many to Jail which estimates that there are more than 380,000 Iranian believers meeting in small persecuted house churches. The massive numbers of African believers are well documented and I have had the privilege of working with a number of missionaries from South America. We used to go to them now they are sending in big ways. And let’s face it, I could continue this list for two more pages and not come close to describing what God has done in just the last 20 years. God is calling to Himself massive numbers of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Animists, and a whole host of others.
This is unprecedented and most of you don’t know much about this and too many of you are not that interested. You are in the middle of a confusing election and what is happening in our beloved America is heartbreaking. I get that. How are we going to see God move in America like He is moving in the rest of the world? We need revival. We pray for revival. When will it come?
It will come when God’s two great commandments are OUR two great commandments. We must love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Many of you reading this believe that you are living this reality already. From my seat here in Middle Earth I see the American Church differently. Here is a short list of things we must correct in order to align ourselves with what God is doing in the world.
- The health/wealth non-Gospel must die. I know what you are thinking, ‘But Strider, have we not been faithful to blast Joel Osteen at every opportunity?’ Yes, you have – I admit to some of that as well- but it is not enough. We cannot preach against prosperity gospel nonsense while making every decision based on how it impacts our health and wealth. Even here on the mission field countless (no really, I can’t count them all!) people make decisions about where they live and who they will serve based on safety. Our forefathers did not do that. We do. When my wife and I obeyed God’s call to serve a people in civil war, economic collapse, and societal chaos we prayed together and told Him that He could take our lives and the lives of our two little girls if that was what was necessary to see His Kingdom come and His will be done. Many of my pastor friends thought we were crazy and even the good people who supported what we did declared that they would not be willing to do the same. As long as you are not willing to lose all you have- your money, your things, your health, your all- for the sake of God’s Kingdom you are no better than Brother Joel.
- We must repent of our adultery. I won’t quote Ezekiel 23. I used to read it as a teenager and snigger. I don’t snigger anymore. We are an adulterous generation. How? By looking to politics and earthly power instead of the Gospel to change our nation and our world. In Ezekiel’s day the nation of Israel had political alliances with Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. They played one against another. Why not? All three claimed sovereignty over Israel at one time or another. It was prudent for the Kings of Judah to look to Egypt when Babylon was threatening. It was sensible. It was well within their rights to do. It was adultery. They looked to Egypt instead of God. We have done the same now for the best part of 30 years. I am still hearing it from people that I admire and love. ‘Hey did you hear that Trump was led to faith by so and so? If we can just get him discipled then WE will have someone in the White House.’ Who is we? The Church? Almighty God’s eternal Church needs a US president to help them out? That is adultery and we have been at it, ‘lusting after our paramours’ for far too long. The Gospel does not need political power. It is the power of God. We must look to that power alone for the future of our society. I pray for our nation’s leaders. I pay taxes. I put my trust in the Gospel. No law will correct our broken society. Only the Gospel can change America. If we align ourselves with political power then we forfeit the right to proclaim the Gospel. We have for too long forfeited that right and our nation is in the condition it is in because its priests have been sleeping with politicians instead of standing before Almighty God on behalf of our people.
- We must love others well. God is love. We must love if we will be of God. Most of us say we are loving as we are inpatient, insisting on our own way- after all we are right!- are unkind, rude (well, they started it!), jealous, envious (of each other and the world). We don’t believe all things, hope all things, and heaven forbid we have to endure anything. We are known for correct doctrine. All doctrine is utterly false without love. We must be known for love. We must come to believe in love again. We don’t believe in it anymore. We believe that unless we rail against others then they will keep going down sin’s path. We fail our Master completely when we point out the truth of other’s lostness while not communicating the love and great grace of Jesus.
- Get rid of your guns. I know, this is too far for too many of you. But this idol must die. As an American citizen you have the right to bear arms. As a citizen of God’s Kingdom you have the responsibility to lay your life down. When Jim Elliot and Nate Saint went to see the Indians of South America with their three lesser known friends they had guns on the plane. The guns stayed in the plane. They refused to shoot the Indians they had come to love to protect themselves, and more interesting to me, they would not even shoot the Indians to protect each other. They died with Bibles in their hands and love in their hearts and the fruit of those deaths was eternal life to thousands. I live that way. I will not take up a weapon to protect my things or myself. I encourage you to do the same. America is a paranoid bastion of self-centered self-interest and ‘heaven help the person who tries to take what is mine.’ They can’t take it if you lay it down. Revival will come when you lay it down.
Jesus said that the people of this world were more discerning of the times than the children of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is advancing like never before and it is past time for us to invest in eternal securities. The fruit of the Spirit is eternal- it is a gift from Him. Cultivate it, let it grow in you. I have bragged about my meanness and judgmental spirit for far too long. I must pray for more patience, kindness, more hope, more endurance, more love. People are eternal. God made them that way, so, invest in people. We Southern Baptists are pretty up on the law and doctrine. We need to be up on people for whom the law and the doctrine were meant to serve. When we love people more than anything else then we will be more like Jesus than we have yet been. I should make one more thing clear as I conclude this long paper. God’s Kingdom is coming- we can’t stop it- God’s Bride will be ready- it is His work. The question is will we be found ushering in our Bride-groom with full oil lamps or will we be out in the cold dark? He is coming soon.