Today, in world evangelization and missions efforts, our greatest concern is the need to preach the biblical gospel and to share biblical truth about all matters of faith and practice in the church. Sadly, there is plenty that is unbiblical that has been propagated throughout the world regarding the nature of the gospel and the Christian life. Jesus commanded us to go into the entire world and make disciples. In many places worldwide, disciples are being made, but the question must be asked, “Of whom or of what are they disciples?”
In this article, we’ll look at some of the greatest current threats to the sharing of biblical truth in the world and why each matters.
Humanism and Secularization
The world is running headlong toward a strictly humanistic, secular, anti-biblical, and even atheistic worldview. More and more governments are taking pride in the secularization of their societies. This may be observed in developments from rapidly changing social mores regarding acceptance of abortion, alternative lifestyles, and the redefinition of marriage to outright opposition to biblical teaching and persecution of churches. Nations that once held a more or less biblical worldview on various social issues are rapidly embracing the secular mantra of our day. Churches and Christians throughout the world are coming under pressure. Examples are plenteous. Ireland and other strong Catholic countries in Latin America are rapidly embracing abortion on demand and gay marriage.
Recent decades have seen an encouraging return to a theology based in a faithful interpretation of Scriptures among a number of denominations. However, classical liberal theology still has a foothold in the world. In seminaries throughout the world that were begun by a number of mainline denominations, liberalism still has a foothold. The strength of liberal theology on seminary campuses is maintained by a number of factors including certain ecumenical alliances, entrenched liberal faculty, and humanistic cultural influences. Sadly, another factor tending toward liberalism occurred when some conservative missions agencies withdrew support for theological education in recent decades leaving the seminaries on the mission field to find support among more liberal sources. Classical liberalism may have seen its heyday, but it remains a threat throughout the world—a threat that changes its disguise with the times.
When it comes to heretical theologies, one might say, “Heresy is in the eye of the beholder.” In church history, the Roman Catholic Church considered Protestant Theology heretical including Protestant churches among a number of other aberrant groups. The majority of orthodox believers think of the usual offenders when it comes to heresy: cults, new age philosophies, and a number of false teachers who have led their followers to destructive ends within our lifetime.
However, some movements have had widespread influence over evangelical churches throughout the world. “Prosperity gospel” teaching has impacted evangelicals (and Catholics) practically on every continent. This dangerous distortion of the biblical gospel has impacted church health and church planting efforts worldwide. John Calvin wrote, “Ambiguity is the fortress of heretics.” To fight heretical theologies, we must be clear on what the Bible says about salvation and the nature of the gospel.
More and more, the world is abandoning the idea of absolute truth in general. The mantra of the current predominant worldview is that truth and morality is relative. This means that whatever any individual thinks is true or right is true and right for him or her. The world has little appetite for what the Bible has to say about truth, righteousness, judgment, salvation, or the need for repentance. Missionaries are no doubt experiencing this attitude no matter where they serve in the world. This worldview will likely continue to dominate for years to come.
Islam, in its most aggressive form, is highly evangelistic and is spreading rapidly throughout the world. Muslims who take this most radical view of their religion view biblical Christianity as a serious threat to overcome and even to destroy. A tremendous amount of money flows from nations that are home to this form of Islam to all parts of the world to facilitate the building of new mosques and the training of new radical preachers of this form of Islam.
In recent years, there has been an increase in governments returning to an openly atheistic stance with accompanying persecution of churches and the preaching of biblical truth. China, where religious freedom had been on the increase since the end of the Cultural Revolution, is now reverting back to her old repressive ways. Russia’s leadership likewise seems to be moving back to a worldview similar to the Cold War stance of the old Soviet Union. Even the United States is being inundated with a growing animosity against a biblical worldview and many nations are rapidly following the lead of the United States.
Lack of Biblical Discipleship
When Jesus gave the church the Great Commission, he commanded us not to just make converts, but to make disciples while teaching them all that He had commanded us. Sadly, too many missionaries and sending agencies in the past have focused much on conversions and less on making disciples. In our time, this trend must be reversed if an understanding of solid biblical truth is to spread throughout the world as we should desire. Churches, missionaries, and mission agencies must be challenged to embrace and seek to fulfill the true nature of the Great Commission—making disciples through training them in solid biblical theology. A shift in course in this direction on a global scale will have a profound impact on the strength of the church worldwide as she is built on biblical truth and preaches and teaches the same.
While all of these threats are serious and a real challenge to the preaching of the gospel, Christians should take hope. The world still cannot abide a vacuum for long. The time will come when there will be a hunger for genuine truth. Persecution is an old reality in church history. When persecution has increased against the church, the church has increased in attractiveness, purity, and power against the shifting philosophies of this world. Already we are seeing large numbers of individuals who are coming to Christ in Muslim areas of the world. We must be in fervent prayer for empty hearts and lives to develop an urgent desire to know the truth of God’s Word and have a relationship with His Christ. Above all, we must remain faithful in the preaching of the gospel that remains and will remain the hope of mankind during any epoch of this world.