By Dr. Grant Richison

There is much discussion among mission leaders about the state of missions in the West. Evangelicalism has lost much of its momentum in reaching the world for Christ.

Dr. Albert Mohler said, “The total missionary force is now a fraction of that during the 1950s, and many of those that remain on the fields have been assigned duties far removed from the conversionist witness.”

This statement has two implications: (1) we ought to highly value missionaries currently on the field and encourage any young person willing to commit to missions, and (2) if the West is no longer committed to sending missionaries, then our primary strategy should focus on indigenous missions.

Over recent decades evangelicals have altered their attitude toward missions. Believers now suffer from lack of belief that they can reach the world for Christ. There is a loss of expectation of what God can do.

This enormous change goes to loss of confidence in the Bible--the loss of truth. Vacuum of truth means a deficit of conviction toward dispersing the gospel to the world. Loss of truth comes from diminished confidence in certainty toward the Word of God.

Christians today do not expect great things from God in general and missions in particular. Do we await great things from God? Everything great in life, every significant accomplishment and every worthwhile endeavor, is the result of someone with an undeniable, unstoppable passion. If we are to reach the world, we must bear vital passion for the true objectives of the Word of God.

Christians today focus more on limited, time- oriented factors in society than on the urgency of eternal heaven and hell. Life is too short and eternity too long to misplace our priorities.

The average Canadian Christian believes that it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are “sincere.” The impact of this thinking isolates the gospel message into one of many options. Ideologue pluralism has captured center stage of our values in Canada.

Skepticism about the indubitable truth of Christianity undermines both faith and mission. All of this is an echo of old skepticism or unbelief of the early 20th century. Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of theological liberalism, bought into German rationalism. His teaching penetrated many churches and eviscerated biblical truth. By the middle of the 20th century, handfuls of liberal congregants huddled in vast caverns of empty, large church buildings. Historical evangelical institutions-- such as Oxford, Dartmouth, Columbia, Rutgers, Brown, Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, and Princeton---now stand as citadels of liberalism. Yale was founded to fight liberalism! Harvard was established to train evangelical preachers! Today we are in another down cycle of evangelicalism. No wonder the mission enterprise is not important to today’s evangelical in the West.

Infiltration of skepticism in the church is happening without notice by most evangelicals. Unfortunately, precious few Christians seem willing to take the threat seriously. Many church leaders are becoming grossly apathetic about truth and sound doctrine. This has had great effect on the cause of missions.

In these days a majority of Americans claim to believe in the God of the Bible, yet they are comfortably uncertain about what is true. A suffocating apathy about the whole concept of truth dominates much of the evangelical movement. If we consider every point of truth as an open question, we will be carried about by every wind of doctrine:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Without burning conviction about the objectives of missions, we are at the mercy of whims that drive our culture. If we don’t determine what’s important and where to put our priorities, other people will determine them for us.

“If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” (Augustine)

As the old cliché goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” When we believe in nothing, we open the doors to believing anything. This is true within the precincts of Christianity. As the body of common belief has shrunk and its importance has diminished within the ranks of the evangelical world, advocates arise for almost anything. It is ironic that people today have strong conviction about weak issues (football, fashions, etc.) while holding weak conviction about ultimate issues. We have displaced the priority of missions with a plethora of alternatives.

This article is based on the address that Dr. Grant Richison delivered at the 2017 AIM Fall Leadership Seminar Suppers in Manitoba. Dr. Richison serves as Vice-President Theology with AIM.

posted on Dec 1, 2017
Advancing Indigenous Missions 2017