Why do we send missionaries to America?
Because with the population reaching 317 million, at least 200 million of those unreached for Christ, the USA is the third largest mission field in the world. In America ninety four unreached people groups have been identified. Only India and China have more unreached people.
Ruth and I are pleased to be a part of the force of 950 missionaries, candidates and spouses commissioned as Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries. Our nation remains America the Beautiful, but America needs God.
What is it going to take to reach 200 million people with the gospel? There is no one-size-fits-all strategy or ministry model. Just working harder will not get the job done. But the Lord often brings me to a passage of Scripture that describes a time in Israel’s history that is similar to ours in America.
The story of Gideon (Judges 6-7) has a lot to say to us about the kind of people God can use, even when serving God is losing its popularity. For seven years, the Midianites had been bullying the Israelites into submission, starvation, and humiliation. The nation needed some mighty warriors, because God was up to something even though the immediate future did not look promising. God is up to something in the USA and the Church needs some mighty warriors—are you available?
If so, three qualities are needed…
Sense of Urgency
Urgency means the status quo is no longer an option. For seven years the Midianites had ravaged the land, imposed their will on Israel, and brought them to a place of literal starvation. It had been years since the nation enjoyed a full harvest. They would not survive one more year.
Has anyone noticed that we are in serious trouble in the USA? In popular culture and politics, Christian values are in full retreat. Evil is flaunted while righteousness is ridiculed, even punished.
Is this ok with you? Me neither.
Now, one of the great challenges of the warrior is that people rarely share your sense of urgency. Human nature fears and resists change, unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the fear of the change. By definition, leaders are change agents; teachers are champions of transformation.
Urgency brings discomfort; it can be downright stressful. In part, this is why urgency is rare nowadays. In America, we are in stress relief mode. Even followers of Jesus—especially followers of Jesus—have filled our lives so full that we don’t have the energy to resist the patterns of the world that are squeezing us to death.
The first thing to do in an urgent situation, is to call out to God. That’s what Israel did (Judges 6:6-7) and that is what the church needs to do. There will be a “call to arms,” But in my spirit I sense that time is not yet. Now is the time to pray.
Allow me to distinguish between urgency and desperation. Desperation is panic that lacks discernment. On the other hand, urgency is a compulsion to change so that we can find the preferable future God has for us. Urgency can be motivated by opportunity, not just trouble.
Conventional wisdom says that when things get urgent, doing something is better than doing nothing. That is not always true. The call to action will occur, but the urgent warrior always prays first.
As God begins to build the warrior, the biggest change occurs in the warrior himself or herself. Beyond a sense of urgency the warrior needs…
Separation from Destructive Influences
The gods of Midian had infiltrated the camp of Israel, including Gideon’s own household. Check this out…
When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.' But you have not obeyed my voice." (Judges 6:7-10 ESV)
God’s own people were worshipping idols! What are idols?
Sadly, it still happens today. What happens when God’s people become contaminated by worldly values? We lose our power, drained like a dollar store battery. The Apostle Paul was able to call, by the virtue of his transformed life, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Today I fear the church’s call to the world is, “Follow us as we follow you.” The warrior’s commitment is a commitment to the Word of God. She or he demonstrates a courageous obedience to God’s Word—they are people of the Book. God is up to something, and God never works outside of the Word.
Mighty warriors take on and overcome the idols of this world. Gideon’s first act of courage was to tear down the idols of his father.
That night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it (26) and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down." (Judges 6:25-26 ESV)
We were never created to be conformed to the patterns of worldly living, it will kill us. Victory and freedom await if we will allow the Spirit to transform us into the image of Jesus.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2 ESV)
Today’s warrior must be especially critical of culture. By its very nature, culture is a human construct that reflects the image of God and the fallen nature of humanity. Every day our culture grows less Jesus-friendly. Sure, you can talk about faith and values, but, Jesus-talk and Jesus-like living makes the culture very irritable. The Mighty Warrior is loyal to one culture—our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
But how can I bring down the idols in my life? Like Gideon, build an altar to God. An earlier generation of Pentecostals had an expression they called “praying through.” That meant going to prayer with a resolve to persevere until an answer arrived. In addition to prayer, find help from encouragement and through accountability to a brother or sister who will help you become an overcomer. Above all, do not be gentle with idols. They must be torn down and destroyed. Now. Do not see another sunrise with that idol standing in your life.
So, mighty warriors have separated themselves from destructive influences and they possess a sense of urgency. But the most important description of mighty warriors is that they are…
Strong through the Holy Spirit
I am a life-long fan of the Green Bay Packers. My childhood idol was Bart Starr, their Hall of Fame quarterback during the 1960’s and Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls. Several years ago, we visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame where we saw Starr’s Super Bowl I jersey on display. That jersey was part of a dominating performance, but now it just hangs there lifelessly. It was Bart Starr’s ability, not the jersey’s, that won the game.
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” (Judges 6:34) I have been told that a better translation might be “the Spirit of the Lord clothed himself with Gideon." The word picture says it all. It sure looked like Gideon, but a different man stood before the army as they prepared to fight the Midianites.
What unfolds is nothing short of a miracle. To muster the troops, Gideon gives a mighty blast of the shophar. An army arise out of the beaten-down people. But God trims it to 300 men. No man could claim credit for the victory that awaits. When the 300 men blow their trumpets and raise a great shout, the countless Midianite army was put to flight by God Himself. It was an epic victory, read it in detail. (Judges 7)
Warrior do not go to battle unclothed.
…and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49 ESV)
To do God’s work we need God’s power. Luke reminds us that there are really two parts to the Great Commission: 1) Stay and 2) Go
Leader, find the strategies that God desires for you to employ. But the bottom line for reaching the USA with the gospel is the life transforming and healing power of God.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:2-5 NIV)
The Lord’s desire and our need is to be clothed with the power of God. Like Gideon. Like Jesus. Like the Early Church that turned their world upside down.
May the Lord give us warriors, men and women with urgency, that have separated themselves to God, and find strength in the Holy Spirit.
David L. DeGarmo (D. Min.) serves Global University as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Theology. Along with his wife Ruth, he is also a U.S. Missionary. He has extensive experience as an educator, missionary, and pastor.
David writes an additional blog on a variety of topics. Check it out...