We should be a Third World church in a First World nation. The church in Acts (our Biblical model) was a Third World church. The First World is that somewhat affluent, industrialized, technologically advanced group of nations like the U.S., Japan, and the European Union. The 3rd World consists of those nations that are economically depressed and still living much like they did hundreds of years ago. That includes most of the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa. The majority of the world’s population lives in third world countries. Ninety-five percent of people groups unreached with the gospel live there; and yet only 5 percent of our missionaries and .001 percent of our money go. These people do not have the gospel or the basic necessities of life.
Meanwhile, the typical American church is the Laodicean Church. All its achievements, activities and money are for itself. With its corporate mega-churches and selfish lifestyles, it says, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” (Rev.3:17) However, spiritually speaking, they are, “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”
God curses those “who are at ease … but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Amos 6:1-8 gives a scathing denunciation of those who live in ease and comfort, entertained and amused, while others are afflicted, imprisoned by poverty, hungry and dying. The First World Christian lives in luxury while two thirds of the world goes to bed hungry. How does the love of God dwell in us? (1Jn.3:17) What about “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” do we not understand? Where does “love your neighbor as you love yourself” fit into the typical American Christian lifestyle?
Here’s the normal. You begin by making a certain amount of money and your standard of living is commensurate with the amount of money you can borrow with that income. You have all you need: house, car, food, TV. In time you get raises, promotions and better jobs. So what do you do with that extra money? You buy a bigger house and car, boats, timeshares. Meanwhile 1,750 culture groups exist without a single church among them. Support for missionaries and Bibles are needed; but you must have bigger and more stuff.
Ephesians 4:28 tells us: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” God gave us more money so we could help others who don’t have enough. We should give our excess for the sake of God’s glory in this world. We should do as Jesus commanded: deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mt.16:24). What did He do? “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” (2Cor.8:9)
“Forty thousand people die in India every day without ever hearing the gospel even once. The U.S.has about 5,000 Christian bookstores, and more than 4,000 of the world’s nearly 6,500 languages are still without a single portion of the Bible published in their own language. 85 percent of all Bibles printed are in English for the 9 percent of the world who read English. 80 percent of the world’s people have never owned a Bible while Americans have about four in every house. Besides books, over 1,000 Christian magazines and newspapers flourish; over 1,500 radio stations broadcast the gospel full time, while most countries don’t even have their first Christian radio station. Nearly 2,000 radio and TV programs are produced for Christians in the U.S., but fewer than 400 are produced for overseas. Nearly three billion people are still unreached with the gospel, with only one missionary working for every 500,000 people, and there are still 1,750 language groups in the world without a church.” [Revolution in World Missions, p.47-48.]
All these luxuries are not sinful or wrong. The point is – we live in excess while two billion of our fellow human beings have never heard about the Savior and never had a full stomach. Our church and our lives should reflect something of that Savior who had no place to lay His head.
This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Somebody needs to call us to an accounting before God calls us to a reckoning at the judgment.
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack.” (2Cor.8:13-14)
We tend to be more American than Christian. Time to repent.
Terry Simpson is Pastor, Grace Church, Clinton