Overcoming Barriers so that the World Would See Jesus

As Christians, we should constantly be reminded of the hope that darkness turns into light and that life overcomes death. In the midst of global financial uncertainty, poverty, and violence, there is no greater time to communicate the hope and freedom of the unchanging gospel found in Jesus Christ. We are called to not only actively communicate the hope of the gospel, but to clear the way of potential stumbling blocks that may prevent non-believers from coming to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Our battle is not just with the world, but against

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God’s people are called to be the light and salt of the earth—to serve as examples in leading others to serve, love, and worship the one true living God. In the OT, God’s people were commanded, “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:14). This is echoed in the NT to the early Christians: “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the Church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). Our call is to communicate the hope of the gospel in all we say and do and to remove as many “stumbling blocks” as possible.

Spiritual warfare. Scripture teaches that our battle is not just with the world, but against principalities (Ephesians 6:12). In the global North, this is usually not readily apparent. We are often overly reliant upon what we experience as “truth” with our five senses. However, as we learn from our brothers and sisters around the world, spiritual warfare is at the forefront of encountering the truth and power of the gospel. Effective communication of the gospel must begin with addressing ultimate truth in the spiritual world.

Disability ministry. Another stumbling block is how we treat people who may be different from ourselves. In the global North, those with sickness and disabilities are often not readily visible to the general society. The tendency is to look toward institutions to care for the disabled. In the global South, those with sickness and disabilities are often visible yet dehumanized, powerless, and voiceless. The message of the gospel is not communicated well to this marginalized group. However, Jesus’ message and ministry was to give hope and strength to the sick and disabled—to bring good news (Matthew 11:5; cf. Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1).

Evangelism to New Age people. The gospel must also be communicated to those ensconced in other world religions and belief systems. Currently, much work is being done on how to interface with those from other major world religions such as Islam and Buddhism. However, we must also seek to communicate the gospel to those involved with new religions and New Age belief systems.

The use of media. We must also look at the question of how we are to use media to effectively reach other cultures. Media and technology are continuing to evolve at astonishing rates. How we communicate with changing technology and media to a changing world audience on a changing world stage is a challenge before us.

Communicating Christ in a Changing World
Even the face of global Christianity has changed. The average world Christian no longer looks like a middle-class, middle-aged, Caucasian North American male from a mainline denomination. Today, the average world Christian looks more like an 18-year-old African female from an independent charismatic denomination. Communicating within a quickly evolving Church is a challenge, especially where many more cultures are being enfolded. How much more of a challenge do we have before us to effectively utilize media and technology to communicate the gospel to a changing global audience, especially to those not already in the Church?

Lausanne is committed to addressing these challenges to help remove such stumbling blocks and more effectively communicate the gospel. Lausanne is committed to doing this by not only being reflective of the global realities of the Church, but by hearing the prophetic voices of our brothers and sisters from both the North and the South and seeking cooperation from the whole Church. Lausanne is committed to finding ways for the Church as a whole to interact with each part synergistically on the basis of shared call, vision, need, resources, and mutual respect. All for the sake of better understanding our world to better communicate the hope of the gospel.

In this issue of LWP, I am delighted to present to you several perspectives from across the globe addressing barriers to the gospel. With articles on spiritual warfare, disability ministry, evangelism to New Age people, and the use of media to reach other cultures, I hope these articles will stimulate and challenge your thinking, creativity, and action.

It is my prayer that as we engage further in thought and action on removing barriers to the gospel, we will be inspired and encouraged to keep communicating the gospel clearly and releasing the power of the gospel unhindered to the whole world. May God bless you as we engage the world with the immeasurable hope of the gospel.

Doug Birdsall is executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He served as president of Asian Access from 1991 to 2007 and continues to serve on their board of directors. Birdsall is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.