In 1792, during an era of particularly long book titles, William Carey published An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Many Christians believed that missionary activity was not especially necessary, since God could accomplish salvation without their “help.” As Carey’s title implies, his book argued that Christians should use means – should carry out purposeful activity – to reach unsaved people throughout the world.
In the centuries since, Carey’s words have taken hold within Christendom – to say the least! Today, it’s hard to imagine not “using means for the conversion of the heathens.” Churches, denominations, and thousands of individual Christians have been gripped by a call to international missions, and this effort is now one of Evangelicals’ most significant investments. The entire world is different because Christians decided to “use means” to reach it, despite the difficulties and costs involved. And we continue to look for even better ways to reach more and more people, laboring in missions until Christ returns.
one hundred and eighty-one mission fields
Recently, I had the marvelous opportunity to visit one hundred and eighty-one separate mission fields in a single year. I walked among the natives, examined the Christian work (if any) being accomplished, and prayed for God’s wisdom for better reaching these tribes.
This was an eclectic group of tribes, with differences in size, history, economic prosperity, regional prominence, culture, and traditions. But these particular tribes share one thing: They may have more potential to influence the entire world than any other single kind of tribe. While we can never judge the overall importance of reaching one group of people over another, missiologists recognize the strategic value of reaching groups that serve as gateways to greater impact. And without a doubt, these 181 tribes (and the few thousand tribes like them) provide an immense opportunity for impacting not only their regions but the entire world.
Yet the sad truth is that we have reached these people for Christ far less than we can or should. Despite the ease of accessing most of these tribes, despite the relationship American churches already have with many of the tribes’ members, and despite these tribes’ clear potential to influence the world, mission work among these millions of people is given very low priority by most Christians. This is true even among Christians who otherwise exhibit a true passion for missions.
But as in Carey’s day, Christians are waking up to the necessity of greater missions efforts among these key tribes.
We call these tribes college campuses, and we desperately need to use greater means to reach them.
As you may already realize, those are the opening paragraphs of my ebook, Reaching the Campus Tribes, which turns 3 years old this month. If you haven’t had the chance to read it – or if you want to be re-encouraged about what you do and what you CAN do – I encourage you to take a look.
I’m going to be spending some Mondays revisiting some of the themes. In general, I’ll offer commentary, not simply quotes. But I thought today’s quotation might stand alone as a good intro to the Monday series – and a good reminder that American Christians need to be told what we’re up to as we labor among the campus tribes! Remember, my book was written for them – not simply for us college ministers. I encourage you to share it!