As Christians, we feel compelled to put the coronavirus pandemic into perspective. This post shows where this effort has led me. I hope it is not premature, but that it inspires you to do more for the cause of Christ.
Our mission, as church planters, is to do more than just tell someone about Jesus; it is to spread the very ministry itself. A converted soul is an amazing thing—a miracle; however, a thriving gospel-oriented church is that same miracle multiplied over and over. It is the difference between the singular fruit and the entire tree.
Church-planting has, (of necessity), a great slowness to it. Here in Brazil, there are hundreds, even thousands of cities that do not have a solid gospel-preaching church. A missionary may be full of zeal, charisma and God’s blessings, yet it almost always takes years—sometimes decades—for a single church to become truly indegenous (self-supporting, self-governing, self-teaching and self-propogating). The reasons are many, but a healthy and productive work is not produced overnight.
The slowness of church-planting leads me to reflect on the thousands—millions—of people who, if they must wait for a churchplanter to show up to their town before an effective witness arrives, will never, ever hear the gospel! If we as God’s people hold ourselves to a policy that literally makes no effort to evangelize where a local church cannot yet be started, there are countless souls that will live and die before anyone ever gets to their city, town or village!
If we have means to get the gospel there, but do nothing, that seems criminal to me.
Again, the need for local churches is absolutely essential in this world. I cannot stress that enough. They are the hub for new evangelistic efforts. They form the very strategy that our Lord Jesus gave us. They are the constant light of the community in which they reside.
The Lord Jesus, however, did not plant churches in each city in which he preached. He brought men to Himself, but then left them to continue His ministry elsewhere. They had no local church, but they had, at least, come in contact with the Savior!
Though we believe in the absolute essentiality of local churches, does that mean that our gospel witness must be restricted only to those regions in which a local church is garanteed? Must it be that more and more generations must die without Christ, because it would go against our principles to preach Christ in places where we do not have the ministers to plant churches there?
I admit, it has always bothered me for evangelists to go to regions with no intention to plant churches. They preach the gospel. People are won over to Christ, but these new converts have nowhere to go thereafter, except for maybe a gospel-less—Christ-less—imitation of a church.
Yet, as much as I am bothered with the deemphasis on local churches that has negatively affected church planting, I am confronted with the reality that we are not getting local churches planted as fast as lost men are dying! How truly burdened are we for the lost who probably will never be reached in our entire lifetime? How burdened are we for those who will never know what a solid local church even is?
So, the pandemic happened. Everyone’s ministry went online. My Facebook feed on Sundays is a long list of church services. It really is amazing to see. All of us began reworking our church calendars. Events were cancelled; some, though, where made available virtually. I was asked to record a sermon for a youth conference that was to be hosted about 5 hours away. The subject they gave me was a great one: When it is all said and done, what gospel is this?
I poured out my heart in the video about the dearth of solid-gospel preaching in church-saturated Brazil. I showed what the gospel clearly is from I Corinthians 15, and emphasized how we need to get back to that very message. The positive response to the video was very encouraging.
About 5 days passed, and I decided to post the video to our gospel website’s Facebook page, and to pay for it to spread throughout Brazil. It quickly became obvious to me that Brazilians are willing to watch, react and comment on a gospel video over an hour long!
Here are the numbers-to-date from that first video:
- 81,092 People reached
- 4,082 Engagements
- 14,100 ThruPlays
- 774 Reactions
- 122 Comments
- 375 Shares
Facebook’s algorithm immediately reduces a post’s reach at the end of the paid “boost”. In a sense, it is like paying to put a gospel billboard on the highway, except this time the billboard is in people’s homes, and they can sit and listen to the entire unadulterated gospel, and have a way to get in touch with us if they have questions about salvation!
And, yes, the questions have come. Some of the most encouraging questions come from people who show signs of spiritual starvation, and cling to our teachings for their nourishment. They have no gospel-preaching church in their area, but have come to know Christ often by running across things online. I have no way of calculating conversion rates per video, but as men continue to be confronted with the gospel, they will be pressed in their hearts to make a decision—to come to Christ or not. Many write just to tell us what the video meant to them:
I love what you preached. What really matters to our God is recognizing who He is. In that moment there [on a cross], feeling the same physical pains that Jesus felt, he [the thief next to Jesus] had discernment that he was there because he had broken the law, but Jesus was there for his sake. He recognized his sinful state, and asked for forgiveness and was attended. Beautiful ministration [of the Word].
Amei a palavra, realmente o que vale pra nosso Deus, é esse reconhecimento de quem Ele é. Naquele momento ali, sentindo as mesmas dores físicas que Jesus sentia, ele teve o discernimento, que estava ali porque infringiu a lei, mas Jesus estava ali por amor à ele. Reconheceu seu estado pecaminoso, e pediu misericórdia e foi atendido.One of many commentaries written to us after our latest video of the thief on the cross, which emphasized Luke 23:43.
My heart has been touched. How many souls would willfully listen to the pure gospel of Christ, if only someone would get it to them? I am one church planter in one location. I cannot simply leave this church and plant 100 more in cities just like this one. I, however, can digitize the gospel. I can prepare a full-fledged sermon, record it, pay a little money and send it across Brazil. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes money. It takes getting passed the fear of people attacking you (which happens a lot!). It, however, truly gets gospel preaching to lost men—thousands of lost men!
Again, church planting remains a must. It needs to continue full-speed ahead. It needs to increase.
Spreading the gospel online is to me much of what John the Baptist was to Jesus. He prepared the people. Many got right with God. Then Jesus came with his disciples. It is a way of getting Christ’s truth to those places that simply are not even thought of as far as church planting is concerned. It will take, for all practical purposes decades to get to these places. We do not like to think about that, but men are going to hell, and we are not getting to them fast enough! Technology, if used wisely, can get the gracious message of the gospel to people now.
This realization has led me to another observation. I now speak Portuguese. How many Portuguese-speaking communities in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe have no gospel-witness and, in all likelihood, will not have one for decades? Am I to just merely hope that suddenly a drove of committed church planters will head to these regions within the next decade? Should I do nothing, if I already speak their language and can be in their homes everyday by producing gospel videos and spending the money to make sure they show up as they spend time online?
The world is on the internet. (The cults are making massive use of its power.) What impact could the gospel have if it were made available in languages all over the earth by this means?
The unjust steward was praised for his resourcefulness. We stand in awe at how Coca-Cola is all over the world. Since the internet has connected us to the majority of the world, are we fully making use of this resource?
Maybe we fear that this will make us neglect church planting. Maybe we suppose that the world will not listen to gospel preaching. Maybe we have been too busy with ministry, that we have not seen this ministry. What I can say is this. The coronavirus pandemic forced me to think outside the box. The world keeps preaching antichrist agendas, globalism, climate change, communism, ecumenism, gender confusion, immorality, antipatriotism, evolution, the destruction of the nuclear family, and so much more. Where do people see it? On the internet.
I want them to see Jesus on the internet.
In a nutshell, I am saying that there is an open door to spend money to get the gospel to people globally. Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter, Parler, Instagram, and more have their audiences. They are vehicles of communication. They have replaced billboards, mailboxes, magazines, books, newspapers, and so forth. They are the boat from which Jesus preached. They are an essential way in our modern world to meet lost men where they are at.
I ask that you pray with me about this, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me. Some might say that I am going to seed on this. I admit this opportunity is heavy on my heart. Every video reaches new people. Every dollar spent is legimitized when I see people respond. Someone might still say that I am going to swing the pendulum the other way, and neglect the importance of the local church. That is neither my goal nor my vision. I am becoming increasingly burdened, however, for those who, for all intensive purposes, will never be privileged to know a solid gospel-preaching church.
There is still a generation in Brazil that is illiterate. They’ll never read a tract; I’ve met droves of them. They will watch a video though! There are older folk who sit in their homes with nothing but a cellphone. They’ll scroll through Facebook for hours. They’ll see the video. They’ll watch. They’ll listen. Another video will show up a few weeks later. They’ll watch. They’ll learn. And, as the Lord works, many will come to Christ!
The next generation coming along lives in front of the screen. Why not at least have their eyes come across the gospel as they scroll through their disturbingly worldly feeds? Why not give them a chance to know the Christ we preach in our local churches and door-to-door in our communities?
Click here to go to the Facebook page to see the videos already posted.
God bless and thank you for taking the time to read of my burden. I pray it stirs your soul. I pray it increases your vision for what yet could be done for God’s glory to the uttermost parts of the earth!