Is the U.S. a Valid Mission Field? - Our Call to O.A.C

 

By Ryan Itzel

Introduction

            When I was fifteen years old I spent six weeks with my church learning the ins and outs of open air evangelism ministry. As an extremely shy teen, this seemed like a terrifying idea. I was quiet. Really quiet. Yet, that summer changed my life. I began growing in my understanding of the necessity for evangelistic missions. I saw the mandate for local and global discipleship, the need for theologically based evangelism, and the urgency of our world’s condition. As my wife Tasia and I now begin our journey of service to God through Open Air Campaigners (OAC), I hope to encourage you to see the command to fulfill the Great Commission for all Christians, and the necessity to participate in both local and global missions.

The Biblical Mandate

Scripture is not lacking when it comes to passages on the Biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations. One of the greatest directives comes from 2 Corinthians 5. Here, Paul lays the foundation of salvation and the mission of evangelism. Verse 17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This verse is the clear picture of genuine salvation. There is no such thing as an “unchanged Christian.” The New American Commentary says this of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Paul’s assumption is that being in Christ should bring about a radical change in a person’s life.”[1] Second Corinthians 5:18 begins with, “Now all of these are from God.” The question that arises is, “what" is "from God?” John MacArthur says of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5, “All the aspects related to someone’s conversion and newly transformed life in Christ are accomplished sovereignly by God. Sinners on their own cannot decide to participate in these new realities.”[2] The work of God in salvation is total, leaving no room for man to earn any of his way to reconciliation. While it is true that man is responsible for his sin, and truly trusts in Christ, man’s faith in Christ comes from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). To remove any doubt as to what Paul is referring to, he continues in verse 18 to say, “who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” God reconciles sinners through the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 19:30).

With God being the one who reconciles man, forgiving them of their iniquity, one might wonder what responsibility God could give to man. The following verses answer that question. First, Paul tells us that we are “ambassadors.” The picture here is that of a servant who represents his king. The people of God have always been the representatives of God. The totality of our lives will either be spent representing our God well for His glory, or will waste away over the temporal worries of life. Being given the ministry of reconciliation is to represent God, and this is a serious task. Next, Paul tells us that God makes His “appeal through us.” It is not that God needs man, for He Himself needs nothing (Acts 17:24-25). Rather, this should be understood as a privilege from God, to use His people to participate in His work. There is no greater privilege than this, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,” (Isaiah 52:7). Finally, what is the message proclaimed by the ambassador of God? Paul says, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Though many see the Great Commission as an avoidable duty, Paul passionately pleaded for his fellow man to repent of sin and trust in Christ.

The truth of this passage should be enough to cause all in Christ to respond like the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am! Send me.”  We must encourage and spur each other on to this glorious mission, and remember, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel,” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

 

Theologically Based Evangelism

C.H Spurgeon once said, “Who can understand the number of his errors? The mightiest mind could not count the sins of a single day. As the multitude of sparks from a furnace, so innumerable are the iniquities of one day. We might sooner tell the grains of sand on the seashore, than the iniquities of one man’s life.”[3] The sad reality is that this world is corrupted by sin in its totality. The spread of sin is so pervasive that even the best, most noble acts of charity are tainted by its reach. Paul makes the widespread nature of sin clear in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” No one is free from the curse of sin, for all have sinned and fallen short, having received a sinful nature through Adam (Romans 3:23). David in Psalm 51:5 articulates the complete corruption of man’s nature, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are not sinners because we sin, but sin because we are sinners (Romans 5:19). Even the perceived goodness of mankind is as a soiled rag before God. Sin so perverts the best intentions of man that before a righteous God, no one can stand.

This news can only be understood as the worst news possible. We stand before a holy God as unrighteous, foolish, enemies of God who are spiritually without value and do no good (Romans 3:10-12). There is no hope if the story ends here. But in chapter 5 Paul tells us a marvelous truth that gives hope considering the severity of our sin. Romans 5:8 say, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What this verse is saying is with everything that has already been discussed, God chose to show grace to sinners according to the counsel of His good will (Ephesians 1:5). Praise the Lord for His great mercy! Considering this Biblical understanding, the necessity for theologically based evangelism is evident.

What about the United States?

            With all of this in mind, some will still question the validity of missions in the United States. As many are skptical of the need for local missions, here are a few statistics from Ligonier Ministries on the theological beliefs of those living in our nation.[4] Of the people surveyed in 2020 for the State of Theology survey:

1.      62% of people believe God accepts the worship of all religions.

2.      51% of people believe Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.

3.      59% of people believe the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.

4.      65% of people believe that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.

5.      66% of people reject the belief that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.

6.      54% of people believe religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.

What this information clearly indicates, is that our culture is in desperate need of the truth of the gospel. There is a serious lack of Biblical literacy in the United States, indicating spiritual death and separation from God. Our world is dying and headed straight for hell, and the United States is no exception. The only answer is the word of God, for faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). The need for gospel proclamation globally, as well as locally, is as necessary as ever.

            In light of this reality, it is with great joy that my wife Tasia and I have joined Open Air Campaigners to fulfill the Great Commission locally in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. branch, and globally with trips to our international branches. It is our hope to partner with


churches, training youth, individuals, or church groups in Biblical evangelism. The church is called to go. Our world is in desperate need, and our Lord is worthy of our obedience. It is our hope to encourage you to faithfully obey this mandate from God. Let us demonstrate our submission to, and love for, our Master by obeying His commands, and proclaiming the gospel to the world.

 

*For more information on how to partner with OAC, get training in evangelism and discipleship, or support us as we serve with OAC, click the following link: https://www.walkingthroughthegospel.com/p/oac.html

 



[1] David E. Garland, The New American Commentary: 2 Corinthians (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 286.

[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1630-1631.

[3] Spurgeon, C.H., Spurgeon’s Quotes: The Definitive Collection, ed. Kerry James Allen (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2018), 117.

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