This morning, as I got up early to read Scripture and pray, I finished reading Romans. While I’ve read this book many times before, chapter 15 verse 20 jumped out at me:
“I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.”
-Romans 15:20, ESV
For a long time this sentiment has been on Mallorie’s and my heart. Here in Louisville, KY, we can take for granted how saturated our culture is by Christianity and churches. It’s not that there are not lost people here, but that there are so many good options where those lost people can engage with ministry. Additionally, many of those people who live without Christ have been raised in some sort of evangelical christian environment.
It feels strange to say that Germany is a place “where Christ has not already been named,” given that there are huge churches in every square and the census would call the country 50%-60% Christian.
But in many situations, this is a cultural Christianity that has been severed from any doctrine or practice that could be called “Christian.” So few German people engage with their faith that as little as 2.9% of Germans are evangelical Christians with a relationship with Jesus Christ.
To turn that number around, 97% of Germans are living without ever having heard the gospel, read the Bible, or encountered Jesus in their lives. 97% of Germans deny doctrines like the deity of Christ or the reality of his resurrection, much less the idea of sin and a penalty owed to God which Christ has already paid. For 97% of Germans, the cross does not symbolize atonement or reconciliation with the Father.
There’s a story amongst leadership folks about a new pastor who came into his new church and saw a gaping hole in one of the walls. When he attended his first board meeting, he asked the board, “What are we going to do about that hole in the wall?” To which they replied, “what hole?”
When we are around something all the time, we grow accustomed to the status quo. Christian living is the same way. When someone comes to Christ for the first time, reading God’s word for the first time and being exposed to his will and his wisdom, they see it with fresh eyes.
Those of us who have been inthe church forever forget that. We have learned how to justify our positions and our spiritual laziness. Quite frankly, we’ve often times been vaccinated against contagious Christianity.
But new believers approach faith with fresh eyes. They see their own “holes in the wall” as Scripture exposes them. What a blessing it is to minister in places where Christ has not already been named, and not build on someone else’s foundation.
97% is a big number. It brings to mind another passage, this one from Jesus when he sent his disciples out to preach the gospel:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”