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in·tro·duc·tion

something that introduces a part of a book preliminary to the main portion

What if our generation bears witness to the demise of Christianity in Europe?

 Just consider this question for a moment before you read this book: “What if future generations will look at our generation and ask: ‘How could they have allowed this to happen?’ ” 

 

What if the names of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea are replaced with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Rome and Brussels?  It happened to the seven Churches described in Revelation, it can happen again.  The one lesson we learn from history is that when Christian nations turn away from God, they face the prospect of total demise as their lamp stands are removed.  (Revelation. 2:5-7) [1]  

 

Ironically, history is in the process of repeating itself.  Rev. David Cornick, the general secretary of the United Reformed Church in Britain, recently made the following statement:  "In Western Europe, we are hanging on by our fingernails. The fact is that Europe is no longer Christian“. 

 

At the same time the Church in North Africa faces a scenario similar to the one that the Church in Smyrna faced. (Revelation 2:10) [2]  The prospect of future suffering is forcing many believers to flee to the West.  A number of secular reporters see the current events in the Arab World as the end of Christianity in the region, with fundamentalist Islam gaining ground in previously moderate countries like Egypt.  Christians are fleeing in fear of what lies ahead. 

 

However, every challenge always comes with the ‘gift wrapping’ of great opportunities.  The flip-side of this coin is that a number of Christian agencies report that this could be the end of Islam as Muslims start questioning politics, economy, leaders and ultimately faith.  The reality is that the Church is at a cross-road and is in need of men of vigour and men of movement.  This is what this book is all about.

 

If you ended up with this book in your hands by mistake do not put it down.  However, be aware, this is not a feel-happy book.  It is not here to lift your self-esteem for missions, but rather to create a God-esteem in missions.   

 

Marcel Proust once said, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   This is the prayer behind this book: not to search for new theological missional landscapes, but to look at missions with new eyes.  This book is not about equipping us to change the world but about guiding us in changing our perceptions. 

 

 

The world is ever changing and we need to look at missions through unpolluted glasses, renewed perceptions and then to embark on a journey of obedience, faith and faithfulness.

 

You might not agree with everything in this book, but that is beside the point.  Whenever Jesus addressed the “religious community” of His time, the truth was generally perceived as insulting and offensive.  In Luke 11:42 [3] we participate in a discussion where a spade is called a spade, a Pharisee a tombstone and the rest vipers.  This does not go down well with an audience who see themselves as being a step above the rest with (verse 45) one of the experts in the law answering him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

 

Being insulted with the truth is not as bad as being flattered with lies   (Proverbs 28:23)[4].    The lessons in this book are equally challenging and are neither for the fainthearted nor the easily offended.   We live in times where the old time religion changed to a show time religion and the truth of the cross is sure to offend.  Since my first mission exposure more than 30 years ago, my theologies and beliefs have more than often been challenged and offended.  In all truth, if we are not willing to be renewed in our minds continually, and challenged in our lifestyles, then we probably deserve the label of being a spiritual tombstone: a place for the spiritually dead. 

 

The purpose of this book is not to condemn but to confront; not to insult but to inspire.  I know that some of the thoughts and teachings will challenge our non-Biblical lifestyles, just as the teachings of Jesus did to all who dared to listen to Him.  The truth is, believe it or not, that I have often offended myself as I compare my belief system and theologies with those of the Persecuted Church.  The mirror of self-denial often penetrates the coat of self-indulgence that protects my comfortable and secure existence, where sacrifice is a theory and suffering an inconvenient truth.  However, may God forbid that the message of the cross becomes a non-offensive message of self-enrichment.  The cross was never intended to be a highway to self-esteem, it is has always been understood to be the road to death.

 

This is a big contrast to humanism.  The root of humanism is happiness.  The root of the Gospel is the glory of God.  Once we embrace the Gospel, or salvation, as a way to happiness, we compromise the Gospel of the cross with a theology of humanism.  We literally become Christian Atheists and our worship becomes idolatry.  

 

Of course we all know this and we all confess this.  Most of us even believe this. Yet, most of us in our secular western societies have made this a Christian practice.  We create theologies to justify our prosperity and we live schizophrenic Christian lives. 

 

Bear with me. 

 

We confess that the Lord is our provider, but we do everything in our power to escape a situation where we would need His provision.  We confess that the Lord is our protector, yet we flee from and avoid any unsafe environment.  We confess that every believer has a mandate to GO, witness and serve, yet more than 70% of the world is still unreached.  Our faith has become an expression and not a lifestyle, an opinion and not a conviction. 

 

I am fed up with Christian jargon and religious rhetoric.  Talk is cheap and words are used only to impress.  What we obtain cheaply we will always value lightly.  Low-cost conversions lead to high-maintenance Christians and uninvolved communities of immature believers. 

 

Comfort and wealth have become a modern day cult camouflaged as Christianity but focused on self-indulgence.  The cross has become a way to self-belief and self-esteem.  The Health, Wealth and Prosperity teaching is robbing the Church of one of her greatest joys: the privileges of proclaiming the glory of God, by displaying the cross of Christ and sharing in the death of a crucified Saviour. [5]

 

BUT, how do we transform self-obsessed soldiers into a mission-minded militia? How do we move from inspiration to perspiration? 

 

There is an old Chinese proverb that perhaps provides a key:  “The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart”

 

This surely is an answer.  Nevertheless, how do we get from A to Z, from head to heart, from self to God, from life to death?  This will demand extreme and radical lifestyles.  It will require a willingness to be offended, complete and utter death to self, and to be wholeheartedly obsessed with the glory of God.

 

The 18-inch principle is especially true for missions.  It is a sinful shame how apologetic spiritual leaders have become about missions.  We beg people to participate in missions and dare not offend pew warmers by asking for involvement.  We turn to entertainers to get numbers and pacify audiences into feeling good about missions as a peace offering, while millions, literally millions, are dying without Christ.  The sin of our time is that we have replaced an army of soldiers with a band of entertainers and motivational speakers.  The battle-field has changed to a playing field.  How dare we sit and watch as the greatest of commissions takes a back seat to entertainment and self-fulfilment?

 

If ever there was a time to contemplate a changing world it is today.  We currently witness some of the most dramatic times since World War Two as the world is turned upside-down through natural and man-made disasters.  Revolutions and earthquakes are re-shaping our globe.  We exist for a time such as this. 

 

BUT the reality is that time is running out.

 

The church is on the brink of some of the greatest opportunities of our generation.  How dare we be found uninformed and uninvolved as the Arab world and Asia literally cry out for change and hope? 

The truth is:  we will make a difference, whether we are involved or not, whether we believe it or not and whether we want to or not.  There will be no neutral exchange.  If we do not seize the opportunities, someone else will. 

 

Being relevant in a time such as this will demand certain actions and, believe me, not all Christians live relevant lives.  Only those who count the cost, seize the opportunity and sense the urgency will eventually be found amongst the faithful. Today the urgency outweighs the cost.

 

It is time to embark on this journey.

 

What must happen to bridge this 18-inch gap in missions?  How do we make a theology of missions a passion for souls?  This is not rocket-science, only uncompromising raw Scripture.  Just like Gideon, we are presented with the choice in Judges 7:3 [6].  Take it or leave it.  The choice is ours.  The battle is non-negotiable; participation is optional. 

 

The 18 inch journey will move inch-by-inch, step-by-step, from A to Z.  It is a process not a solution, a marathon not a sprint.  And the quickest way to reach our destination will be to focus on Z and start with A. 

 

Fasten your seatbelts. 



[1] Revelation 2:5-7  Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.   He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

[2] Revelation 2:10  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

[3] Luke 11:42  "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  "Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  "Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."

[4] Proverbs 28:23   He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favour than he who has a flattering tongue

[5] Philippians 3:10  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

[6] Judges 7:3  Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave the battlefield (Mount Gilead).