Back to Fulfilling the Great Commission & the Last Days
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Indeed according to Acts the disciples began to fulfill what Jesus had spoken over them. Within the span of a few decades the gospel was taken throughout much of the known world at the time which consisted of the Middle East and the nations along the Mediterranean. During the centuries after Acts, the gospel was taken to the ends of the earth. In “Christian” America by one count there are approximately 335,000 churches.
But what has happened to present-day Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria? Today the Holy Land and its neighboring countries are the domain of Judaism and especially Islam. Christians today are but a small minority there. It would appear that the gospel has come and gone in that region of the world. The harvest there is done for the most part.
Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East? – NYTimes.com
NYT Magazine: Is the End Near for Christianity in the Middle East?
Might Christians in the United States view this development as a pattern also for what is now happening to our own “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria”—the nation of America where we live? What followed the initial explosion and spread of the gospel in the known world in Acts was a gradual decline of Christianity over the centuries resulting in the dire situation we see today. Could we be seeing the same thing happening in Christian America during these last days? Is it possible that that harvest in America is over for the most part?
If so, then it would behoove us in America now to look “to the ends of the earth” where the harvest is now ripe for harvest when the gospel is presented in the way that Jesus commanded his disciples.
What is the point of all this?
It is not known how much American churches receive in offerings each year. However, one estimate holds that if churches were paying taxes as for-profit corporations do, their total tax bill would be $71,000,000,000 (seventy-one billion dollars). That would mean that their total income is at least a good chunk of a trillion dollars.
“…What do churches spend on personnel, buildings and administration expenses? Those items consume 82 percent of the average church’s budget, according a study from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union” (quoting Holy Soup).
Therefore we can say roughly that perhaps a quarter of a trillion dollars is spent each year by American churches merely to maintain their congregations. And some reports tell us that overall Christianity in America is not growing, but rather shrinking.
Should we not as stewards of Jesus Christ consider whether or not we are using the great resources entrusted to us in the most efficient and effective way possible? Let’s do a simple cost-benefit analysis.
The nice chunk of a trillion dollars received by American churches each year to be used for their expenses is on the whole not, despite pockets of revival here and there, adding souls to the kingdom of God in America. As mentioned earlier, some would even argue that the Church in America is actually in decline. We are clearly not being good stewards of the abundant resources the Lord has entrusted to us. The cost is extremely high, but the benefit is essentially little to none in terms of the kingdom of God clearly advancing in America. Although born-again believers might benefit from the ministry of the Church, evangelism and growth on the scale recorded in Acts is nowhere to be seen in America.
Contrast the situation in America with the gospel now being proclaimed in India. In terms of cost-benefit, in North India we at The Elijah Challenge are spending $3 for every soul—mostly Hindus—who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior. In Orissa which is by some accounts the poorest state in India, the cost per person can be about half as much.
Let us seek to redress this unconscionable imbalance during these last days before the great and terrible day of the Lord.