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For revival in America, recognize the misperceptions

We’re Christians. So that makes us right. Right?

I think we’re wrong about a few things.

But if we can get three false perceptions turned around, we can see unprecedented revival in this country.

1. We tend to think America is not a mission field.

America was once the “chaplain” to the world — but no more. We live in a post-Christian world. We use the phrase “unreached people groups” and think of Asia or Latin America. But America is a land of largely unreached people groups: disillusioned teens, prison inmates, Muslims, addicts, the homeless, disaster victims, senior citizens and cynical college students. The list goes on. These are mission fields defined not by geography, but by demographics and circumstances.

America is a land of lost people. We urgently need Christians to become missions-minded, to think like missionaries right here at home.

The strategy of an effective foreign missionary is to figure out the culture, learn the language and relate the gospel so the target audience can receive it. But here at home, we tend to build our buildings and expect the lost to come to us — even when the “unreached people groups” in our own communities have demonstrated clearly they will not walk into our churches. We have insisted on continuing to speak our own language, “doing our own thing” as our own culture has drifted away from us.

But here’s the good news. As we begin to think like missionaries in our own American cities and towns, as we get past our own property lines and transform the way we think and talk and act inside our buildings, we will be able to reach the radically different cultures represented by the lost in our own communities. And because they so urgently need Christ, our outreach is going to produce revival.

2. We tend to think church is just for Christians.

Most of us would deny we feel this way. I don’t believe “it’s all about me.”

But let the worship minister choose the wrong songs, let the décor committee lay the wrong color of carpet, let the pastoral staff miss a hospital call — and suddenly it becomes apparent what’s really important to the members of that church.

We urgently need U.S. churches to become more outward-focused and less inward-focused. How do you define “inward-focused”? This is a church that spends too much of its resources and energies on itself. It’s a congregation that has allowed its memories to become bigger than its dreams. It’s a church where you hear phrases like “We’ve never done it that way” and “If we get bigger, we won’t know everybody.”

But here’s the good news. When we rediscover our mission and engage our culture with the truths of the gospel in ways they can grasp, we’ll see revival. When a church contextualizes the gospel while remaining faithful to the Word, its spiritual power is unsurpassed.

3. We tend to think we can do the mission alone. But every pitcher needs a catcher. Every quarterback needs blockers.

To do the hard work of reaching our own unreached culture, we need not only the power of the supernatural — the working of the Holy Spirit — but also other people. It helps when we link arms, link hearts and work together. This was the basic rationale for the establishment of the Assemblies of God. It’s the whole reason for our missions departments. And it’s the reason for our new, nationwide U.S. Missions effort: ReachAmerica Coalition, based on the Internet at www.ReachAmerica.AG.org.

We’re calling together church leaders, pastors and laypeople who want to reach our nation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re organizing and distributing resources and offering strategies and training that will enable churches to get outside themselves — and reach the unreached in their own communities across the nation.

Today, I’m asking every individual connected to the Assemblies of God in the United States of America to join me in Step 1: prayer. We need an intercessory army to bathe this effort with prayer. But frankly, prayer is only the beginning. We need Christians who will give, who will serve, who will adjust their schedules and who will get their hands dirty and plunge in.

Maybe that’s you.

Check out www.ReachAmerica.AG.org today, and see where God leads you. Maybe you will become a missionary ... to your very own neighborhood.

Alton Garrison
Executive Director, U.S. Missions.

E-mail your comments to tpe@ag.org.

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