What if Your City Had a Lower Percentage of Christians Than North Korea?
*Editor’s Note: The following is a previously written article which Matthew has updated for Renew readers. We hope you find it helpful.
Lower % of Christians than North Korea?
As some of you know, Utah County, Utah, is less than 1% Christian (0.49%). That’s a lower percentage of Christians than Iraq (3.0%) or North Korea (4.0%) and closer to Iran (0.04%). It’s interesting that many U.S. churches and mission organizations send thousands of missionaries and millions of dollars to countries that have a higher percentage of Christian than the US, yet do very little if anything to reach the unreached places in our own nation. It’s difficult for people in the South or Midwest, where there are numerous Christian churches of various denominations in every town, to comprehend the fact that there are numerous cities in Utah without a single evangelical church. Here in Spanish Fork, we’ve discovered that it’s not uncommon to find people who have never met a “born-again” Christian. We need to amplify our efforts to reach the nations, but let’s not forget our own nation in the meantime.
Is this a problem?
Utah leads the nation in online pornography sales and antidepressant use, has at least eleven polygamist sects, and is the world’s center of the LDS religion.
In Utah, antidepressant use among women is double the national average. One in five children is sexually abused. There are more than 11 different polygamist groups in Utah, and statistics show that nearly 85% of children from these communities have either been physically or sexually abused. Suicide is the leading cause of death in kids ages 11-17. The state’s suicide rate for all ages is more than 60 percent above the national average. Utah leads the nation per capita in white-collar crime. There are nearly two million people up and down our little stretch of I-15 who have never placed their faith in the Jesus of the Bible. But none of this is the problem.
When Jesus looked out over a crowd, not so different from this, he felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful…” (Matt 9:36-37). I don’t know of a single farmer that considers a plentiful harvest a problem. In fact, a plentiful harvest is always an opportunity!
There is an unprecedented opportunity for the gospel right here in Utah, USA. There is a harvest so abundant that it’s almost unbelievable. It’s like a stream full of golden nuggets just waiting to be picked up. I could give statistic after statistic and paint the most descriptive word pictures explaining the vast sea of lost souls that call this place home, but until you stand foot on this soil it cannot be comprehended.
Here’s the real problem:
In the first part of Matthew 9:37, Jesus describes the opportunity of the harvest. Then he summarizes the actual problem in the next phrase: “…the laborers are few.” That’s the challenge; there aren’t enough workers to bring in the harvest. The crop will spoil in the field if there aren’t enough laborers.
Here in Utah, we are severely undermanned and under-resourced. We truly feel the urgency emitting from Jesus in Matthew 9. We can see the plentiful harvest ripe with opportunity for the gospel, but it can feel like digging a swimming pool by yourself with a spoon. We have a lot of hope, just not a lot of help.
What’s the answer?
Then he said to his disciples, “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” (Matthew 9:37-38).
Jesus couldn’t have made it clearer: the answer begins with prayer. He instructed his disciples to pray for more laborers. Now, this isn’t a casual prayer; it’s an earnest prayer. The word earnest is an adjective, which means showing sincere and intense conviction. Jesus is telling us that the answer begins by praying with sincere and intense conviction to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Some are called to send
As you pray, please consider how you might take an active part in the answer to this prayer? Romans 10:15 says, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Can you help send?
Some are called to go
Maybe God is calling you to lead out in planting a church in an unreached area. The harvest is waiting! Or, you might not be a lead person, but still sense an urgency to take an active role in helping. That’s great! Areas like Utah County and many other unreached areas in the nation need people who will love their neighbors, care for babies during gatherings, lead worship, host a small group, or bake food. Are you willing to go?