Journey of a Lifetime
Where Christ Is Not Preached
by Steve Lytle
One verse has come to define who I am and what I’ve been called to do. In Romans 15:20, Paul speaks of preaching Christ—not where He has already been named, or been made known, lest he should build on another’s foundation. Quite frankly, that concept grips me.
Obviously, it’s not that Paul didn’t believe and practice local church ministry. Everywhere he went—Damascus, Tarsus, Jerusalem, and especially Antioch (Acts 13)—he was involved in preaching, witnessing, teaching, discipling, and leading churches started by other people. But his specific call was to preach Christ in new and unreached places.
Judy and I have been with International Missions since 1975. Rolla Smith, who recently went to be with the Lord at age 92, was the director under whom we were commissioned. We remain unequivocally committed to International Missions, believing God has called our agency to lead the denomination to take the gospel to those who have never heard the message of salvation.
In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of ministry, both inside the United States and in foreign countries. Church plants are happening on the east coast, in the desert Southwest, Colorado, and other places. New church plants are wonderful and necessary.
I also have friends who conduct ministries in places like Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras, and Haiti. I am thankful for their compassion and concern, thankful God has opened these doors of opportunity. It’s good for the people who participate, and it’s obviously good for those who receive the benefit of their expression of Christian love and compassion.
At the same time, I would plead with our entire Free Will Baptist family—all 2,500 churches and 250,000 members—that we not neglect the “ends of the earth.” Multiplied millions of men and women will be born to live, die, and spend eternity in Hell. They will never hear unless someone who shares Paul’s Romans 15:20 burden and calling goes to them, lives among them, sows the seed, and patiently awaits the harvest.
International Missions leads the way in that effort to reach resistant countries like Japan, Spain, France, and the Muslim world. It isn’t glamorous. Results are not always evident. Digging a work out of solid rock is much harder than going where a foundation has already been laid, or where a strong national church already exists. But, it is not “His will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” It may take a long time, but it is worth it. The Bible speaks of every “kindred, tongue, tribe, and nation” worshiping God, and Matthew 24:14 suggests that the gospel must go to the whole earth before the end comes.
I believe our focus needs to be “both-and,” not “either-or.” While we labor to build churches in local communities, throughout North America, and on foreign soil where significant numbers of believers and churches already exist, let’s wholeheartedly throw ourselves into the task of reaching the unreached and the unengaged. And Jesus will continue to build His Church around the world.
About the Writer: Steve Lytle and his wife Judy have been missionaries to Panama since 1975. Currently, he serves as administrator and professor at the Free Will Baptist seminary in Chame. Learn more about how you can help Free Will Baptists reach the ends of the earth at www.fwbgo.com.