By Tim Challies; INFORMING THE REFORMING
November 14, 2017
I have grown accustomed to hearing about the horrific state of evangelicalism in the United States of America. The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has seemed to add some new fuel to that fire, a fresh opportunity to bemoan the sorry state of the church today. It has apparently become almost a pastime among conservative Christians—and perhaps especially Calvinistic Christians—to lament what the church is, rather than what she ought to be.
I’ve come to think y’all are being a little too hard on yourselves. Over the past number of years I’ve had the opportunity to travel far and wide. I’ve journeyed to many countries across most of the continents. And almost everywhere I’ve been I have found myself challenged and encouraged by American Christians. Is American evangelicalism perfect? Of course not. Is she honoring God and carrying out his mission? I’ve seen that she is.
I have journeyed to Scotland to see work being done there to return the light of the gospel to what was once one of world’s foremost sending nations. Do you know what I found there? I found American people who moved far from home to bring hope to hopeless places. I found churches and pastors that are surviving and thriving in large part because of partnerships with American believers. I saw ministries staffed and run by Scots, but funded in large part by Americans. The work I saw there simply wouldn’t exist or be as successful without the generosity and involvement of American Christians.
Another recent trip took me to Rome where I went on a tour of the city with an American who had moved to Rome to find a job that would allow him to reach children and their families. I met other missionaries who decades ago had picked up and left their own country to dedicate their lives to a foreign one. I met American families vacationing in Rome, not just to tour the city, but to visit there to build connections through which they could serve and minister.
In Germany I was asked to lead a retreat for pastors who shepherd international churches. The majority of those pastors were American. They had traveled to nations across Europe to heed the Great Commission, and there they had experienced the joy of sharing the gospel and seeing people respond to it.
I was once standing by the luggage carousel in the airport in New Delhi, India, when two men recognized me and began to chat. They told me they had flown in from America, as they did at least once each year, to teach and train pastors in this gospel-impoverished nation. As I was shown around by a local pastor (who had been invited to America, trained there at one of its finest seminaries, given the opportunity to complete an internship at one of its strongest churches, given financial support, then sent back to his home country to pastor a church) I came across a training and education facility that was run clandestinely by Compassion International with most of the children sponsored by American families. I toured local churches and local ministries whose pastors and leaders were completely and joyfully dependent upon the support of American individuals and congregations.
Many times I’ve been in touch with ministries and churches in closed countries in Africa and Asia and almost every time found they were founded, headed, staffed, or at least supported by Americans. Invariably, they would not exist, or would struggle to exist, without American believers praying, sending, going, and giving.
Even in Canada I’m often contacted by American believers who are eager to learn if there is a need for their gifts, their passions, and their talents here in the great white north. I’ve seen churches dispatch pastors, planters, mission teams, and funds to this nation. At least two strong, thriving churches in this area are pastored by Americans who came here to learn a new culture and serve a foreign country.
As an individual I’ve been repeatedly blessed and encouraged by American generosity. Even in this unusual little ministry I carry on, it is hard to imagine it succeeding without my friends and supporters from our great neighbor to the south.
What’s the state of Evangelicalism in the United States of America? Imperfect, of course, but concerned, involved, generous, and kind. Perhaps the 500th anniversary of the Reformation should cause Americans to reflect on some of the evidences of God’s grace they display, then to return all thanks and praise to him.