This issue of ET focuses on mission – a fitting subject for the dawn of a New Year, half a decade into the new millennium.
Evangelicals must not forget the Great Commission from the risen Lord: ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). While there remains one soul on this planet without Christ, there remains a mission field and a responsibility to evangelise – a responsibility that should grip our minds and call forth our compassion.
But there is not one just one lost soul to win – teeming billions languish without hope and without God. An enormous and strategic task confronts us if we are to reach them with the gospel.
Why do Evangelicals – in the more affluent West especially – so easily lose sight of this priority? There are a number of reasons, but perhaps the most alarming (and in the long run most dangerous) is the inexorable growth of religious pluralism.
This movement is still relatively young but it is growing. It aims to get a lot bigger, for it lays claim to all the religions in the world! For 150 years, Evangelicals have regarded liberal ecumenism as ‘public enemy number one’ – and with good reason. But while ecumenism remains a malign influence, it is being increasingly subsumed into Multifaith.
Today, it seems, one cannot have an acceptable ‘act of worship’ on the community scale, unless civic leaders rub shoulders with Anglican and nonconformist clergy, Catholic hierarchy, Jewish rabbis, Muslim clerics, and representatives of exotic eastern religions. Even Satanism and witchcraft vie for respectability!
Are we witnessing in Multifaith a fulfilment of Revelation 13? Is this the final gathering of evil forces against the Lord and his Christ – with their immense potential for lawlessness and sin? Does all this presage the imminent and triumphant return of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Is mission redundant?
The world’s wisdom tells us that Multifaith makes Christian mission redundant. They say we no longer need to preach the gospel to religious people, for their sincerity and good works qualify them for salvation through Christ – even though they have never heard of him.
Shocking as it may seem, more than a few ‘Evangelical leaders’ have subscribed publicly to this view. What need is there to evangelise if people can be saved through their own religious rites and practices?
Should this discourage us from the missionary enterprise? Not at all. It should rather lend fresh urgency to our efforts to reach all humankind with the exclusive, glorious, saving message of Jesus Christ. ‘For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
True believers readily and rightly distance themselves from the confusion of religious pluralism. They are jealous for the Lord of hosts and his glory in what is, after all, his world (Psalm 24:1). But are we as alert as we should be to the subtle ‘drip-drip’ effect of this damnable teaching?
Go stand and speak
This pluralistic ‘new way’ is regularly portrayed in the media as forward-looking, harmonious, cutting-edge religion – as opposed to the adversarial ‘fundamentalism’ of the past. Our political and religious rulers, and even our Royal Family, grace its gatherings and celebrations with their willing presence.
This can seem intimidating to Christians, and the effects can ‘creep’ even into gospel churches. We feel embarrassed to speak out against religious falsehood, or to speak too loudly about the exclusivity of the gospel.
We are apologetic rather than bold – ambiguous about our beliefs rather than ambassadors for Christ. We lose confidence in the only message that puts people right with God.
Yet regardless of religious tradition and ethnicity, everyone born into this world is an incurable sinner (Psalm 58:3) and the only solution remains the gospel of God’s free grace received by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).
Let us hear again the words of the angel, ‘Go, stand … and speak to all the people the words of this life’ (Acts 5:20). The time left to do so might be shorter than we think. Let us go forth boldly in the name of the Lord – to claim the world for Jesus Christ!