To Reach Unsaved Christians, First Help Them Get Lost

To Reach Unsaved Christians, First Help Them Get Lost by DEAN INSERRA for Christianity Today

People who claim Christianity but lack gospel awareness present a unique evangelistic challenge.

If there is such a thing as missional insecurity, I have felt it. It’s that feeling you had in college when your friends spent spring break serving in a Haitian orphanage while you drove to the beach. My most vivid experience of this insecurity came while moving out of my seminary apartment. I was loading up to make the drive back to my hometown of Tallahassee, where I would begin local church pastoral ministry. I was excited to be heading home until I saw my neighbor from our seminary apartment complex, Matt. He was moving to Northern California to join the staff of a local church. Great, I thought. There’s Matt packing up his family and entire life to move to one of the most secularized regions in America, and I am going back home, where I will live ten miles from the Georgia state line and less than an hour from Alabama. He’s going on mission. I’m headed to the Bible Belt.

I felt like I was taking the easy road and Matt was taking the courageous one, leading his family to an area where preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ would be just barely harder than finding a Republican. I was heading to the Land of the Monogrammed.

I said, “I really admire what you’re doing and will pray for you as you head to an area with such an important Great Commission need.”

Matt’s reply was not what I was expecting.

“Whatever,” he said. “The Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.”

I was stunned. He must have sensed my confusion because he explained further. As he did, I had a serious epiphany. I believe the Lord knew what I needed to hear in that moment, and it changed my perspective forever on my role as a pastor in the part of the country where I live and minister. “In California,” Matt said, “there is rarely confusion. Either you’re a Christian or you’re not. In the Bible Belt, many people think they’re Christians but have no concept of the severity of sin, necessity of repentance, message of grace, or the overall message of the gospel. They think they’re just fine with God and God is fine with them because they aren’t atheists and have been to church before as a kid. It’s almost like you have to help them get lost so they can actually be saved. They believe in God but do not believe their sin has done anything to separate them from him or to need the Jesus they claim to believe in.”

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