The 1.5 Pushby Nick Gatzke on September 15, 2012
Dr. Nick Gatzke
Osterville Baptist Church
9 September 2012
The 1.5 Push
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
I haven’t slept well since May 30th. Many of you who know us, know that my wife suffers from fairly severe restless leg syndrome and comes upon her for seasons of time. So, when she doesn’t sleep well, I don’t sleep well. If you’ve never experienced it, there is nothing quite like being in a dead, deep sleep and suddenly being awoken by a swift kick in the knee! But, despite her RLS, that hasn’t been the reason for my insomnia.
Many of you know that we have a 7-month-old baby. She has not contributed to my problem. She sleeps like a champ: 10-12 hours a night!
I haven’t slept well since May 30th because on May 30th a friend of mine sent me an article and its contents have rested upon me in a very heavy fashion. The article is entitled, “From 35,000 to 15,000 Feet: Evangelical Statistics in the US and Canada: A State/Province, Metro, and County Glimpse” by J.D. Payne from the North American Mission Board.[i]
The study attempts to describe the state of the Evangelical church in America by analyzing census and research survey data and synthesizing it to answer the question, “Where are the least Evangelical communities in North America?” In turn, the natural response from the church in America would be to direct efforts and resources to those areas for the sake of the expanse of the Gospel. He analyzes the data on three different levels: the state level (35,000 feet), the county level (25,000 feet) and the metropolitan level (15,000 feet).
Along side of this data, the Payne looks at the presence of the Evangelical churches in each area. By current church planting standards, the ideal ration for Gospel saturation is to have 1 evangelical church for every 1,000 people in an urban area and 1 evangelical church for every 500 in a rural area.
As I read through the article with intrigue, I couldn’t wait to get to the metropolitan area results. This figure is the closest representation to boots on the ground. Not surprisingly, the least Evangelical metro in our country is Provo-Orem, UT. 0.6% of the people there identify themselves as Evangelical and the ratio of Evangelical churches to people is 1:18,427. The second least Evangelical metro in the country is a place called Pittsfield, Massachusetts: 1.5% Evangelical and an Ev. Church to population ration of 1:9,640.
Tied for the second least Evangelical population in the nation is a place called Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts. 1.5% Evangelical with an Evangelical church to population of 1:8,889.
I was stunned. 1.5% I knew it was bad, but I no idea it was that bad. 1.5%!!! When we moved back to New England in the spring of 2009, we viewed ourselves as missionaries coming back to rocky soil. I was engaged in a nation wide church search at the time and I had friends very directly discourage me from coming back to New England, because this is “where pastors go to die.” We knew that many around us would be hard hearted but we didn’t understand how significant the problem really was. We are one of the least Evangelical places in the United States of America.
To put this in a broader context, missiologists have used the term “unreached people group” to describe demographic sections of people to do not contain a critical mass of people to sustain and replicate a Gospel presence in their locale. You all have heard of the 10/40 Window. It is a visual tool that represents the highest concentration of unreached people groups globally.
Through the last number of decades the criteria for is an unreached people group has changed. Today, most agencies define an unreached people group as a group of people having less than 2-5% of its population having faith in Jesus Christ. 2-5%. Barnstable-Yarmouth has 1.5%.
By any of these standards, you represent an unreached people group.
By way of comparison, I have a cousin who is a missionary is Chiang Mai, Thailand. There is a higher percentage of Evangelicals in Chiang Mai than in Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
Our church supports a missionary family in Santiago, Chile. There is a higher percentage of Evangelicals in Santiago, than in Barnstable-Yarmouth.
But Chiang Mai and Santiago are easy pickings. They are major cities that have had the attention of the global Evangelical community for decades. Let’s look a few people groups that are a little less known. The Joshua Project can give us some great data on those people groups.[ii]
Have you ever heard of the Java Pesisir Lor people of Indonesia? They have an Evangelical population of 1.9%.
How about the Khmer people of Cambodia (1.7%)? They have higher percentage of Evangelicals than Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
When I was in college I spent some time in Kenya and Ethiopia with a missionary family doing ministry among a people who were 40 years out of the stone age. I was shocked to find out that today the ‘Daasanach tribe of Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia, Southern Sudan (2% Evangelical) had a higher percentage Evangelicals that our hometown.
The same can be said of the Kissi people of Northern Sierra Leone (2%). And when we think of missions in the romantic sense, we think of a rough and tough missionary hacking his way through the jungle to reach the lost tribe. Well, the work isn’t done, but one of those tribes of the great Amazon jungle, the Cuiba people of Venezuela (2%) has a higher percentage of Evangelicals than does Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
These are striking statistics, and I know that statistics can be twisted to say any number of things. But to the best of my knowledge, it seems to me that we live among an unreached people group.
It doesn’t feel like it….does it?
Why is that?
- When we think of “unreached” populations, we think of people who have little, like the ‘Daasanach, and we live in an affluent society.
- We see lots of cute, classic white churches around, but the problem is that many of them don’t preach the gospel.
- We experience some persecution, but we perceive unreached people groups to experience intense persecution and therefore we don’t lump ourselves in with them.
It doesn’t feel like it, but make no mistake about it, 98.5% of the people around us are lost, without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
What do we do with this information?
I think that the first thing we do is ask a simple question: What does God want? It is so simple it almost sounds stupid. But, it is important to ask, because I believe the more we ask this question and the more we genuinely seek the answer, the more we conform our actions and purposes inline with God’s desires.
- I. What does God want?
a. 1 Tim 2:3-4 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth
b. Ezekiel 33:11 - Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'
c. 2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Now, some may ask,” If this is what God wants, and he is God – all powerful and sovereign, then why doesn’t he just save everyone? Why do we go through the hassle?” In theological terms, we know that God loves his creation and this love motivates his desire for all to be saved. We also know that God’s love is in balance with his justice, and a just God requires sin to be reckoned with.
So, when we say that God “wants all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), we see that this refers to his affection or his disposition to all. This is his loving disposition toward you. This is his loving disposition toward the 98.5% of lost people around you. God does not find joy in any perishing. He loves his creation and this is reflected in his disposition toward them.
So if that is what God wants, the next natural question is, “What does God want from us?” 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 gives us an idea. The text says,
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
II. II. What Does God Want of Us? Christ’s love compels us to serve Him in sharing the Gospel (5:11-15)
a. Vs. 14-15 serve as the main point for this section.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
b. This action is motivated by a healthy fear (reference of God) Vs. 11
c. It puts our personal reputation at risk
i. Vs. 13 – “if we are out of our mind it is for God;” could mean in a form of spiritual ecstasy (visions or tongues), this is closely in line with the original Greek; or it could be answering a charge that Paul is mentally ill. This is similar to the charge of Jesus’ family toward Jesus in Mark 3:20 when they believe that “he was out of his mind.” Either way, his priority if pleasing God.
ii. “If we are in our in our right mind it is for you” – ministry to people needs to be marked by clear understanding. That is why vs. 11 refers to what they are being “plain to God and plain to your conscience.”
iii. There is perhaps no greater harm to the mission of Jesus than one that would not be plain and of pure motive to people. There have been many throughout history who have traded on gospel to gain something for themselves or to advance a hidden agenda. There were plenty even in the context of the Corinthian church of that day. This serves as a warning to all of us – don’t have mixed motives in God’s ministry!
We are compelled to share the gospel with those around us because of Christ’s love – his love for us and his love for our unsaved friends and neighbors – this is motivated by a healthy fear of God. And it results in us living on the mission of the one who has saved us.
III. What else does God want of us? He gives us the role of an ambassador to those around us.
a. Vs. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. Do you realize that God’s message is proclaimed through those that take up their role as ambassadors?
b. An Ambassador is a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative. They often assess the situation and conduct a mission or negotiate a treaty on behalf of the sovereign.
c. Here, vs. 16 – tells us of the situation assessment – “We regard no one from a worldly point of view.” It very simply means that we view every relationship as spiritual. I no longer look at my neighbor and Jim the barber in terms of his profession or in terms of the type of car he drives or the in terms of the paint that is peeling off of his shutters. I look at him first through the lens of how God would view him. That is an accurate situation assessment for one who is an ambassador. It is not with a desire to judge or to look down upon, as if, “I’m righteous and he is a sinner.” It is with the motivation of Christ’s love and genuine concern for him.
d. The mission is clear – we are given the mission of being people have the ministry of reconciliation. Our purpose, our goal, our identity, fundamentally as Christians, is to play a part in how people are reconciled to God. 1.5 percent! Clearly, the Christians on Cape Cod have not followed through on their mission mandate!
But we are about to change that.
e. The content of this mission is that very plain question we already asked today. “What does God want.” This is the Gospel , the Good News, the Core of the Christian Life and it is talked about in 3 different ways here:
i. Vs. 19 – Jesus reconciles the world to God and does not count their sins against them – that is the Gospel
ii. Vs. 21 – God made Jesus to be sin in our place that we might become the righteousness of God (This is how he reconciles the world) – that is the Gospel
iii. Vs. 17 – The result – If anyone is in Christ – meaning if anyone is united with Jesus through faith in him – they are a new creation. They have new life. This is what God wants for me. This is want God wants for you. This is want God wants for 98.5% of people in Barnstable and Yarmouth who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. – That is the Gospel.
Some have reckoned that the Modern Missionary Movement of the past 200 years has resulted in more people following Jesus Christ than perhaps all other generations combined. This movement was marked by some very specific things:
- · People who knew what God wanted and aligned their desires accordingly
- · People compelled by Christ’s love and motivated by a healthy fear of God to take their role as ambassadors.
- · People who found the greatest glory in this life in pleasing God over pleasing themselves, which resulted in them being willing to give up nearly everything to take up this highest office of ambassador for God, boldly proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ even when people thought them to be out of their mind.
- · While this was happening – God broke their heart for their place.
- · And finally, they trusted that when a critical mass of people in a geographical locale would be reached, they would in turn take up their roles and ambassadors and the multiplication would continue.
Today we begin the 1.5 Push. For too long have the 1.5 neglected to formally take up their roles as full ambassadors of God. For too long have the 1.5 sat by and talked about being more involved in evangelism while doing little about it. For too long have the 1.5 lacked the appropriate grieving for the many, many lost ones around us. What does God want? He desires for all to be saved. For this to happen every man and woman and child on Cape Cod has to have an opportunity to accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over the next few weeks. I’m going to push you. Actually, the Scriptures are going to push you. And my hope is, that we will have a monumental shift in how we practice ministry in our daily lives that will result in moving the 1.5% to becoming 2.5, or 3.5, or 4.5% in the next number of years.
1.5%! I pray that you go to bed with that number on your mind tonight.
[i] J.D. Payne, “From 35,000 to 15,000 Feet: Evangelical Statistics in the US and Canada: A State/Province, Metro, and County Glimpse” Great Commission Research Journal 1:2. (2010) 230-253.
[ii] The Joshua Project is a research group that identifies the unreached people groups of the world. http://www.joshuaproject.net