There are 120 million non-Christians in the United States. That makes us the fourth largest mission field in the world.
I'm writing this in the Hong Kong airport a couple of weeks after this territory was handed back to China--the world's biggest mission field. During the Lutheran World Federation Assembly here, I've heard fellow Christians tell exciting stories about the spread of the good news in their lands. They give me hope.
One morning my Bible study group was discussing Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-19). Most of us took it personally, applying Paul's change of heart to our need for repentance. But a layman from Singapore got our attention with a different perspective: "This passage is being re-enacted daily in China. Every day we hear of former persecutors of the church--people who were local officials during the Cultural Revolution--who have now become Christians. God is showing them a better way."
In our mission situation God calls us to be more like Ananias than Paul. Ananias was the faithful, fearful Christian whom God directed to talk to the blinded persecutor. Paul, like those former officials of the Cultural Revolution, had lost his vision. His old worldview had been destroyed; he literally couldn't see the road ahead. Ananias got the courage to talk to Paul only after he realized that behind the forbidding exterior was a person who needed healing. And you'll recall that it wasn't until after Ananias had played his humble role that Paul could see again.
I don't know how old Ananias was. I wonder if he lived long enough to hear of Paul's impact on the Christian church's growth. If he did, he must have marveled at how God had used his conversation with the former persecutor in so dramatic a way. And it would be doubly marvelous if Ananias' story could encourage us--2,000 years later and half a world away--to hear God's prompting. We, too, are asked to go and speak to a generation that has no use for the church but has somehow lost its vision. Our Chinese brothers and sisters assure us that the miracle can happen again.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers