God tells us clearly that He is no respecter of persons. But is He a respecter of countries? Does He love some countries more than others? Is the United States of America His favorite? No one can question that ours is a unique country, and we have seen the hand of God on it from its conception. We have been blessed; there is no doubt. There is only one country that God has blessed more than ours—Israel. While the future of America is questionable, the future of Israel is sure. God has blessed America, no doubt, because we have blessed Israel. God help us if we stop!
But why, then, do we think of America first when it comes to the gospel ministry? Why is she our first concern? Why is most Christian literature printed in English for an American audience? Why does most of the religious money stay here? Why do we keep almost all of the preachers? When a man feels the call of God to preach, why does he envision a place of service within, and almost never without, the borders of the United States? Why does he automatically think about preaching at home without even considering a foreign place and language? Does God want America to be first, and almost exclusive, in our thinking?
There is a great disparity between the need and the disbursement of resources. A pastor friend in north Fort Worth stated that within a five-mile radius of his church, there are fifteen other Independent Baptist Churches. Bowie, Texas, a town of about 6,000, has around ten Baptist churches. (I haven’t counted them this week.) A BBTI graduate on deputation told me that he stayed at one church and presented his work in ten different churches without driving more than five miles to reach the other nine! Yet, 42% of the world’s people groups are unreached. That is 3 billion people! And we are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature. We ask a missionary, “Why are you going? Are you sure you are called to go?” Should we not also ask the pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, music pastor, and everyone else in the church, “Why are you staying? Are you sure God has called you to stay?”
Recently I visited three solid, mission-minded, fundamental Baptist colleges. I asked every student that would stop at my display table what they plan to do with their life. Some students told me they were majoring in missions. Most said that they wanted to be pastors, evangelists, or youth workers.
It was probably not appreciated, but I would often say something like this: “Oh, you plan to be a pastor; that’s great! A pastor is a shepherd. There are billions of lost sheep in Asia that need a shepherd. Have you considered going there?” Or, “Oh, you want to be an evangelist. Wonderful! What does an evangelist do? He is supposed to evangelize, right? Who should he evangelize? Shouldn’t he go to the unevangelized? Where do we find the most unevangelized?” Or, “Oh, you want to be a youth director. God bless you; young people sure need direction! Did you know there are young people in every country of the world? For instance, Ethiopia has about 84 million people, and 44% are under the age of fifteen. What about all the young people in Thailand? Shouldn’t they have a trained youth leader to lead them to Christ?” (I’m not saying every Christian worker should go to the foreign field. But everyone should make themselves available.)
Charles Spurgeon said that not all men should be missionaries, but all men should struggle with it. Maybe my calling is to help men struggle with it! I fear that far too few of us are struggling with it today. Friends remind me that I am not the Holy Spirit. They say that it is not my job to call people. That’s true, but maybe He would use me to challenge them about their willingness to go! Perhaps even our pastors, evangelists, and youth workers need to do a little struggling and really question: Why America first?
We sometimes hear from the pulpit, “If God is calling you to the mission field, you need to surrender.” But is that what we should be saying? God simply says surrender! Every Christian should surrender to go to anyone anywhere and to do anything; then he must let God be the One who dictates what, where, and to whom. We must be very careful not to send a message that only a few special people have a responsibility to consider the mission field.
Since billions of people living outside our borders have never heard the gospel, shouldn’t we almost expect God to send us somewhere else? Isn’t it the God-given responsibility of every preacher to help people struggle until they surrender? Shouldn’t he inform his congregation about unreached people groups that are perishing with absolutely no hope? Shouldn’t he plead on behalf of the thousands of groups that have no Scripture? Shouldn’t he lead his people in earnest prayer for laborers for the foreign field? Shouldn’t he ask, “Who will go for us?” Shouldn’t he examine how much money his church spends in and for America in comparison to the rest of God’s world? Shouldn’t we all be asking: “Why is America first?”