An evangelical pastor recently declared that global missionary work by American pastors has been "tragically neglected."
David Platt, senior pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., told those gathered at an evangelical conference last week in Louisville, Ky., that while local missions and ministry "are totally necessary" evangelism abroad is necessary also.
"Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples," he stressed.
Platt told those gathered at the Together for The Gospel conference about his experiences abroad and how recently he had been in Northern Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula.
"The Northern part of Yemen has approximately eight million people. That's twice the population of the entire state of Kentucky," said Platt.
"Do you know how many believers there are out of eight million people? They estimate 20 or 30. That's a problem. There are more believers in a Sunday School class in most of our churches than all of Northern Yemen."
Worldwide, there are 2 billion people in 6,000 people groups that are lost and do not have access to the Gospel, he lamented. They are the unreached.
"Just pause for a moment and contemplate the state of the unreached in the world – people who exist ... apart from Christ," he challenged. "There are over 2 billion people in the world at this moment whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell forever.
"They've never heard that there is a Redeemer."
"What about the innocent guy in Africa who has never heard the Gospel?" Platt has been asked. "He goes to heaven … the only problem is he does not exist … There are no innocent unreached people in the world. Every unreached person in the world stands guilty before God. That's why they need Christ."
Speaking on "Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions," Platt reminded thousands of ministers that God does not need them to spread the Gospel.
"The reality is every one of us, every one of our churches ... could drop dead and turn to dust and God will still make a great name for Himself among the nations," he emphasized. "God involves us in His mission not because He needs us but because He loves us and in His mercy He has invited us to be involved in His sovereign design for the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
Platt gave listeners "four practical implications" for pastors who seek to oversee "death-defying missions" to reach those overseas. Pastors, he listed, should lead "their churches to pray confidently for the spread of the Gospel to all," "to give sacrificially," "to go intentionally to all peoples," and "to die willingly for the spread of the Gospel to all peoples."
"Pastors have the privilege and the responsibility to lead the way in global missions," he said.
"The sovereign command of Christ is for you and me to make disciples of every people group on the planet. That's the point of the atonement."
The Together for The Gospel conference is a biennial event that took place April 10-12. The theme for this year was "The Underestimated Gospel."
In addition to Platt, other speakers included Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Piper, theologian and pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church; Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands and Council member with The Gospel Coalition; and Kevin DeYoung, blogger and senior pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Mich.
The first Together for the Gospel conference was held in 2006. The next conference is scheduled to be held from April 8-10 in 2014.