4 Bad Excuses For Neglecting World Missions

Jesus gave every Christian a clear calling: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV). The early church took this command to heart, spreading gospel wildfires far and wide. But the modern church hasn’t shown the same radical zeal for missions and evangelism. In fact, in 2019, only 45% of churchgoers had shared their faith within a six month period. Why is our witness so weak when Jesus’ calling was so clear? 

In this article, I’ll identify four of our greatest missions excuses and call every Christian to refresh their commitment to God’s mission. As you read, I invite you to graciously consider your own life. Have you believed any of these lies? If so, now’s the time to restore your commitment to God’s Great Commission. 

Excuse #1: “I’m Not Called!”

The first excuse is obvious but tragic. Today, millions of professing Christians flat-out deny the call to evangelism and missions. 

A 2018 Barna poll reveals this powerfully. The Barna Group surveyed 1,714 professing Christians who had discussed their faith at least once in the last five years. Of this sample, only 64% believed every Christian has a responsibility to evangelize. Yes, one-third of this sample denied their individual responsibility to preach the gospel! (One must ask—how much worse for those who hadn’t shared their faith in five years?)

How have so many missed their evangelistic calling? The study reveals one major reason: 29% of those surveyed believed evangelism is the duty of the local church (the meeting and clergy), not the individual Christian. This age-old lie has locked the lips of modern Christians: “Evangelism is for the pulpit, and I’m from the pew!” 

In Mark 16:15, Jesus imparted a bold calling to every believer — “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (NIV). In Acts 1:8, he promises the power needed to fulfill this call: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the Earth” (NIV). Did the everyday disciples of the early church exclude themselves from this high calling? No—instead, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31 NIV). This was a church on the move; a church victorious in mission! It’s time to set that church in motion again! The modern church desperately needs to acknowledge and obey its heavenly calling.

William Booth gave a startling challenge to the negligent Christians of his day. His poignant words still ring clear a century later if we’ll but open our hearts to the truth therein:

“Not called!’ did you say?’ Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.”

We’re all called to win the lost for Christ and reach the nations by going, giving, praying, or sending. The only question is—will we obey, or disobey? Acknowledge your calling today, and follow Jesus by life or by death. As Jesus called, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

Excuse #2: “I don’t have the time!”

Others acknowledge their heavenly calling, but excuse themselves by a busy schedule. 

A 2014 survey reveals that almost half of professing Christians live spiritually stunted by their to-do lists. Of those sampled, 42% said they struggled to find time to pray and study the Bible. How much more for evangelism, which Charles Spurgeon called an “irksome task?” If we struggle to find time to receive comfort and release burdens through prayer and Bible study, how much harder to take on Jesus’ burdens and suffer ridicule through biblical evangelism?

Whether we say it out loud or not, many of us believe we don’t have time to share the good news. Other things seem more urgent—that work project; that exam; that new political issue. But we must be honest with ourselves. Nothing’s more urgent than our neighbors’ eternal destinies. If we have no time to snatch them from the flames of hell, our priorities are desperately out of rank. 

(Furthermore—do we really “not have time?” If so, I must ask— how did you get time to read this article, or to check your Facebook?)

It’s easy to sink beneath a busy schedule. Work, family, friends, and studies constantly vie for our attention. That’s why Paul gives each of us a radical command: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NASB). The word here translated make the most is the Greek word exagorazo— a financial term. It means “to buy up . . . rescue from loss . . . to redeem by payment of a price to recover from the power of another.” Another power—the Kingdom of Darkness—has come in alliance to steal our time from the Great Commission. Jesus calls us to rescue that time from loss. If we don’t, Paul calls us “unwise men.” In what category do you and I fall?

Samuel L. Brengle gave a stirring exhortation about this theme in his classic, The Soul Winner’s Secret. As you read this, consider the wisdom or foolishness of your own scheduling habits: 

“The difference between wise and foolish folks, rich and poor, saints and sinners, redeemed and unredeemed, does not usually result so much from different circumstances and the start they had in life, as it does from the difference in the use of their time. One used it purposefully, while the other squandered it. One was a miser of minutes, the other was a spendthrift of days and months and years. One was always active, packing into every hour some search for truth, prayer to God, communion with Jesus, service to others, counsel to a saint, and warning or entreaty to wandering souls, while the other was neglecting the opportunity of the present but full of vague dreams for an ever-receding, elusive future. The one plods patiently and surely to glory, honor, peace, immortality, and eternal life, as the other drifts dreamily, but certainly, into the regions of “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9 KJV) and finally lands in hell.” 

Do you say you’ve fully surrendered to Christ? Consider what’s stealing your time from God’s eternal call. Make the necessary changes, lest you end your life in regret for spiritual negligence. As C.T. Studd said, “Only one life,’ twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ shall last!”

Excuse #3: “I don’t have the money!”

We all know what it’s like to struggle in finances. Unfortunately, many modern Christians use their financial struggles as an excuse to neglect world missions. In fact, only 5% of professing Christians give 10% or more of their income to Christian causes at all. Of this meager amount, only 6.4% of donations actually support mission efforts abroad, and only 1.3% go to unreached and unevangelized people groups. What a miserable imitation of our generous Savior!

Here’s the truth. Evangelical Christians could plant a church in every unreached people group with only 0.03% of their income. According to Traveling Team, “The Church has roughly 3,000 times the financial resources and 9,000 times the manpower needed to finish the Great Commission.” If we don’t have the money, it’s probably because we’re misallocating funds! (And we are—more in the next section). 

The late Billy Graham said something that ought to make each of us pause and reflect: “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” Here’s the truth: God will review our checkbooks at the end of days. We will “give account for every careless word [we] speak” (Matthew 12:36 ESV)—and every idle purchase we make. How will we fare? Will we see that we lived with an open mouth and closed hands? Will Jesus identify creature comforts we could have forgone to support God’s mission to save sinners from hell’s dark clasp? In that moment, both sinners and saints will already occupy eternal bliss or misery. We’ll have no time to change our spending habits. Oh friends, with urgency, let’s repent of our stinginess today! 

Perhaps you want to give, but feel God won’t value your giving since you can’t afford to give as much as others. Don’t be discouraged. What pleases God is the generosity of your heart. Remember how Jesus responded to the woman who gave two cents to the temple treasury: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44 NASB).

Do you have little to give? Give generously. Jesus values it even more—and you can’t out-give Him. As Paul said to the Phillippians after they made a generous missions donation — “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB). You need not fear generosity when God is your provider.

Excuse #4: “There’s so much work left at home!”

I don’t need statistics for this excuse, because I’ve heard it myself time and again. When one mentions the needs in the foreign mission field, many modern Christians deflect by pointing to the needs at home. This falls on its face for at least two reasons. 

First, this excuse often proves disingenuous. Many who claim such concern for home haven’t shared the gospel in the last year—if ever. The truth is, most of us are addicted to comfort, and we use this as an excuse to stay seated at home. 

Second, this excuse proves statistically baseless. The needs at home pale in comparison to the needs in the 10/40 Window. 

98.5% of America’s population has ample access to the gospel. 77.5% of United States citizens profess Christianity. At the least, that means they have plenty of access to the gospel if they want it. They could visit one of our almost 400,000 evangelical churches. They could seek God’s Word through TV, radio, books, or the internet. They could seek spiritual perspective through one of their many Christian acquaintances. In general, they avoid every gospel opportunity with indifference. Yet 99.7% of your tithe goes to reach them over again. What a scandal!

Meanwhile, 3.09 billion people have minimal or no access to the gospel in the 10/40 Window. That’s almost half the world’s population—and most of them have never clearly heard the salvation message. Over 80% of the poorest of the poor live there, surviving on less than $1 a day. Most can’t visit the neighborhood church, for the unreached world has only 1 Christian missionary for every 216,300 people.  Most can’t watch the gospel on TV or the radio, and few ever receive gospel literature. And most can’t ask a Christian friend about Jesus, because most don’t know a Christian. Yet the church sends only 0.5% of its offerings and 3.3% of its missionaries to reach these unreached masses. What disorder! What injustice! Will you and I be complicit in this great sin of our generation? 

With these facts considered, allow Oswald J. Smith to challenge you to radical missions reform. He said: 

“What would you do if you should see ten men lifting a log and if nine were on one end and one on the other? Where would you help? Why on the end where the one was lifting, would you not? Need I say more? It is the foreign field that needs our help most. This then is the most important work of the hour—to finish the unfinished task. ‘How shall they hear without a preacher (or a missionary), and how shall they preach except they be sent?’”

Church, let’s adopt Paul’s burning ambition—“to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20 NIV). One side of the log has too many workers. It’s time to lift the other end of the missions log—in prayer, finances, advocacy, and (if God calls) in person. As you do, remember Jesus’ missions promise: “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

How About You? 3 Questions for Personal Assessment

1. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” Have you made this your goal and practice? If not, why not?
 
2. Have you ever used one of these four excuses for neglecting missions? Which one(s)? Does that excuse still make sense to you?
 
3. What other excuses have you heard or used in this regard?
 
4. How will you respond the next time you are tempted to make an excuse for neglecting world missions?

We encourage you to take some time to reflect and pray about the content in this article. We’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Be blessed as you SHARE GOD’S HOPE!

 
 
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JJ Weller is a writer, researcher, editor, and creator for Message Ministries and Missions. He has served in evangelism through Message Ministries for 6 yearsthrilled to preach Jesus’ salvation to thousands and teach biblical evangelism to hundreds. He has a passion for God’s glory, the true gospel, biblical evangelism, biblical and historical revival, and the salvation of the unreached. He lives with his beautiful wife, Cynthia, in Lima, Peru. 

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