That Deer in the Headlights Look 10

For several years now, brothers have been coming to me asking a similar question, “Where are the greatest needs in the United States where I should plant a church?”

My immediate response usually is something like: “Go to the 300,000 Indian Hindus in New York. The 60,000 Somalis in Columbus. Or, consider the 60,000 Punjabi in New York. How about the 20,000 Yemeni just down the road from them? The 18,000 Pashto in San Jose? Maybe the 12,000 Kurds in Nashville?”Deer's Head

(All of these being unreached people groups, some with few to no known believers among them.)

And the general response to me?  That deer in the headlights look.

And when it happens, I feel that a shock to the system has occurred and a moment is needed to recover, reorient, and reengage in the conversation on a different level.

And I often think, why?  Why is this a common reaction?  Is it because:

  • this many internationals cannot be in the United States?
  • unreached people groups are not in this country?
  • church planting is not about planting churches from out of the harvest but beginning with long-term Kingdom citizens like us?
  • anyone desiring to serve as a church planter in North America should not be a missionary?
  • cross-cultural disciple making only takes place overseas?
  • such needs don’t exist here?
  • there are few equipping and support systems in place for those doing such labors?
  • such challenges are only to come at missions conferences, urging people to go to other countries?

And when I ponder why evangelicals often respond this way, I also find myself with that frustrated look of a deer in the headlights.

Brothers and sisters, it is long past time for North American evangelicals to get out of the headlights, open our eyes to the realities around us, and change our language, missiologies, methods, strategies, structures and organizations when it comes to making disciples of all nations.  What is it going to take in your circles of influence to see such change? What is it going to take in mine?

Let’s lift up our eyes and look at the fields . . . and stop staring into the headlights.


(image credit: Microsoft Office)

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10 thoughts on “That Deer in the Headlights Look

  • Judy Langley

    Thanks for stating so well many of our feelings about missions in the US (& around the world).
    God bless you as you ministry to the nations.

  • Nathan Harper

    J.D. – You are right about this unfortunate response. Mostly, I mostly attribute it to your third bullet point above, “church planting is not about planting churches from out of the harvest but beginning with long-term Kingdom citizens like us?” I think this attitude shows that we have divorced church planting from our apostolic calling. Anyway, my question is what are some solutions toward changing this attitude/response? I’m afraid that for some, the only thing that will change their perspective is for current models of church planting to fail. What are your thoughts?

  • JD Post author

    Thanks for sharing, Nathan. To start, we need to return to the Scriptures to find out how church planting is defined. Once there, we cannot avoid the reality of planting from out of the harvest; that it is evangelism that results in new churches. This needs to be coupled with the numbers of upgs around us. Over time, models do change to what is working. However, we are slow to make such changes, for we have much invested in our present approaches. A systemic shift is needed, and that does not come with ease.

  • Matt Erickson

    Dear JD,

    I appreciate your post on this topic, as it is one that our church is grappling with intensely. We are a multi-ethnic church with our ministry reaching deep into the city around us – including large numbers of internationals – as well as many nations around the globe.

    One challenge of this, I believe, is to convince typical “missions-minded” congregations to understand that the mission field is not just “over there” but right here, or around the corner. At the same time, another challenge is to convince congregations with a passion for reaching out to see beyond their own social, ethnic, or political culture to the unpg’s that God has brought into our own cities.

    This necessitates a shift in the way we approach “missions” strategy and funding that is, perhaps, much more difficult to consider.