Over the last 100+ years, the forward move of the gospel to the ends of the earth has been prolific – reaching into the far corners of our world and touching some of the darkest places. The gospel has penetrated tribal villages in Africa and South America. It has advanced in unbelievable ways underground throughout hostile contexts. A heavy emphasis on missions has made this entirely possible!
While this has been a wonderful reality (and must continue to occur and multiply!), the reality at home, as it were, has been in rapid decay. In the Western world, the church is in steady decline. As our culture changes, the church in many ways has not adapted well to continue to impact it effectively. This reality led a British missionary to India named Leslie Newbigin to lament the spiritual condition of his nation upon returning from years of missionary work in India. In fact, he wisely perceived that his homeland was now as much in need of missions as the foreign land that he had been sent to. And this was in the late 1970s!!! He went on to write important books about the state of the Western world and church as well as our need take up the missionary cause at home.
The reality is that the whole world is in desperate need of the gospel. And the church itself must become a missionary organism, not simply a missionary sending organization. It must think like a missionary who is taking the gospel to foreign lands. And each person must embrace the missionary call on his or her life. This is why at Hope, we drop the “s” from missions – because the word missions carries with it the connotation of foreign lands. The mission certainly is global – but global must also include intentional mission to the places we call “home.”
Places like Bethlehem – recent surveys have reported that the Lehigh Valley is the 12th most unreached urban area in the United States of America. This is why Hope exists as a new church – not to do something better than another church. But because we need more churches, more mission, more missionaries to impact our city and our region and our world.