Who deserves to hear the Gospel?
Jesus charged us with reaching the nations. Since our inception, Southern Baptists have always been passionate about joining together to reach the nations for Christ—it’s in our DNA. But we have also always been passionate about joining together to reach our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for Christ. I have never seen an area that we can afford to neglect with the Gospel. Have most of our resources as Southern Baptists been concentrated in the American Southeast? Yes. Is that area so evangelized that we can now pull out and martial our resources in another area? No.
During the period of time commonly referred to as the First Great Awakening, there was no place that was more evangelized than what is now the American Northeast. In the subsequent years, evangelism efforts focused almost exclusively outside of that area. The thought was, everybody has already heard and responded to the Gospel in that area—now it’s time to move on to those who have not been evangelized. Within a generation, the area which had been so fervently on-fire for Christ was now what historians call, “The Burned-over District”. The decline continued to the point that the American Northeast is now one of the most secular regions of the Western World.
I am not arguing against our emphasis on getting the Gospel to unreached people groups. I applaud this emphasis. But Jesus has not called us to an either/or mentality. He has called us to be witnesses everywhere at all times. That includes those who have never heard the Gospel as well as those who have heard and rejected it 1,000 times. Remember that God still sent Isaiah to preach to Israel—even though He told him that they would continually reject his message. The entire history of God’s relationship with Israel is one of them rejecting Him, but God continually sending His prophets to them. I thank God that He has never had the attitude that, “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice as long as there are those who have never heard it once.” God has never had that attitude and neither should we.
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