In recent years, Americans have spent more money buying Halloween costumes for their pets than the amount given to reach the unreached, Andrew Scott, president of Operation Mobilization U.S. has revealed.
As part of the Rethink Church | Rethink Mission Conference held at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, Scott, author of the book Scatter, pointed out that the average Christian household gives about 2 percent of their income to Christian causes. Of that 2 percent, only 5 percent leaves the country, and only 1 percent of that goes to changing the reality of those that have little or no access to the Gospel.
"We spend more money every year on Halloween costumes for our pets than we do on reaching the least of these," he said. "We have to take a step back and say, 'What is happening in our world today, and what should we do as a result?' We need to rethink our models and we need to rethink our message."
Scott, who has served in the mission field for over 20 years, said that while God is undeniably doing "amazing things all around the world," there are still 2.8 billion unreached people today. In fact, close to 90 percent of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists will never meet another Christian or see the "beautiful, glorious Gospel lived out in front of them."
Based on these statistics, it's clear that the mission models from the last 150 years are not keeping pace with the fast-changing world. Scott clarified that while he "honors" those in the past who have given their lives to further the Gospel, "we don't honor the past by sticking in it; we honor the past by moving forward."
The speaker and author went on to highlight several issues facing mission work today, the first being accessibility. A staggering 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where any type of mission activity is either illegal or extremely prohibitive.
"You just can no longer get into [countries] on a missionary, perpetual student, or tourist visa," he explained. "The countries are closing the doors to that type of things like never before."
Second, missionaries have a "credibility" and "positioning" problem, Scott said, adding: "Yes, our message is credible ... but sometimes, the type of presence we give ourselves in a community is questionable. If our presence is questionable, how do we hope our message can be credible?"
Mission models also have a "scalability" problem, he continued, as the number of unreached people far exceeds those willing to enter the mission field.
"We need to see a mass movement of Jesus-followers toward the least-reached, not only from America, but from cultures that are near the cultures we want to reach," he said. "We need to see an incredible increase in people going."
Finally, the current mission model has a "sustainability" problem; Scott said missionaries and churches must find "other fundraising models" that are "sustainable so we can scale it moving forward."
"We have to rethink this. We're not keeping pace; we're falling behind," he said. "There are things that are coming against us that did not used to be against us."
But what's primarily hindering mission work today, Scott said, are some of the beliefs systems Christians have adopted that "aren't biblical." Sometimes, even messages from the pulpit can cause believers to view their role, identity, and purpose in the wrong light.
The first damaging belief he identified is the idea that the sacred and the secular are divided, causing us to live in two separate, sharply divided worlds.
"That permeates so much of our thinking to this day, that there's a sacred part of our life, and there's a secular part of our life. There's a part of our life where we do things for God, and there's a part of our life where we do other stuff," he said.
The second idea we have wrong is the idea of calling; most people today think that calling means waiting for God to specifically tell them what to do with their lives. While God may certainly speak that way, "let's make sure that we don't make the experience of the few the expectation of the many, because there's a grander idea of the calling in the Scriptures," Scott cautioned.
Finally, Western Christians tend to be "me-centric," putting themselves and their wants and desires before God's command to love and serve others.
Before this reality can change, we must go back to the identity that God spoke over His people in the beginning of time, Scott said, referencing Ephesians 1.
"You're a child of God, created to for the purpose of His glory," he said. "You're not called into the purpose of God, you were made for the purpose of God, and there's no other reason for your existence."
"Before God made you, He thought of what He wanted you to do, and He made you accordingly," Scott continued. "He's given you spiritual gifts and passions for the good of the Body ... we're the most brilliant reflection of God on the planet when we be who He made us to be for His glory."
Scott went on to emphasize that believers need to be in the heart of society — wherever that may be — with the heart of the Gospel: "We were created for [mission work]," he said. "We need to get away from this idea that 'it's a call I must wait for,' and understand 'it's a call I must obey.'"
The speaker went on to challenge listeners to ask themselves, "What would it look like if we believed that all nations were on our job description?"
"We have to get away from this place where we feel like it's our programs, and it's our processes, and it's our structure that somehow prepare the people to go, rather than the Holy Spirit of God preparing people to go," he said.
Scott concluded by arguing that when Jesus-followers "break free from the confines," the world will see a "mass movement of brilliant reflections of our Creator God going out to the communities around here and in the nations in the world."
Then, he said, 90 percent of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists will see a Christ-follower for the first time and understand the power of God in a real way.