Friday, May 20, 2016

Testimony from New Indian Believer

It seems that every semester God does something very interesting with the interaction between Beeson students and the international students on campus. This semester we saw two Indian students from Hindu backgrounds place their faith in Jesus. To be sure, there were Christians from many different parts of campus and churches who were pouring into them. It wasn't just Beeson students. But we played a part and it was incredibly rewarding to see what God did. Please read this testimony from a new believer from India and be encouraged. I'm choosing to keep his name off of this for the sake of security. 

To begin with I was raised in a Hindu family and followed the typical customs and rituals as a part of tradition but by the time I started college in India my beliefs shaped to be atheistic/agnostic in nature. Looking back at the past 4 months, I’ve come to a realization that God knew I needed Him even before I knew I needed him and am able to appreciate the plan that He had for me all along. I met with some Christian friends early in my semester and was invited to a weekly worship meeting on Thursday nights. On my first night at that worship meeting, I went in with absolutely no knowledge of gospel, of the Lord and what Jesus Christ did for me and the rest of humanity 2000 odd years ago. As the weeks progressed I realized I was encountering a religion not based on certain rules, regulation or rituals but a community that sought and loved their God at each and every moment of their day.

I received my first bible through Omar and kept attending different churches, never for a second imagining that I would ultimately end up becoming a believer. The growth was slow, yet steady and I kept learning more about Jesus through my interactions with both believers and non-believers. The more I learnt, the greater became my thirst for deeper knowledge and understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Each day I would learn about the Lord’s character, his infinite glory, his unceasing love and his constant presence. By the end of March, I knew that I was finally in a place where I needed to make a serious choice and a life altering decision. Did I believe that I’m loved by the Lord and He’s pursued me by bringing me to Birmingham out of all the places I could have ended up going on exchange across the globe? Did I believe that a life as a follower of Christ was what I was called upon to do on this earth? Did I believe that my prayers which were answered, all the incredible stories I heard of his love and grace were all not just co-incidences falling together but were pointing to ultimate truth of life? Did I believe that a God existed that loved us enough to descend amongst us sinful human, to walk and breathe in the same earth as we do, to face all the sin and temptation that this world offers on each corner and yet lead a sinless life, so that he could die a gruesome death by the hands of the same people he came to redeem. Did I believe that Christ resurrected 3 days later, finally conquering death?

I wasn’t a believer still, but I knew I had to give myself an answer before I could move on to anything else of importance in my life. That began a period of innumerable prayers, deep conversations and a realistic evaluation of what my beliefs had been on life, death, spirituality, religion and how I needed to spend the rest of my time on this earth. There were times where I longed to become a believer, and I sought evidence and miracles and answers, praying for that final wind of conviction to blow over me which would make all the conflict inside me go away. I thought about my friends and family back in India and how they would react to me coming back as a Christian. There were times of great peace and periods of severe doubt and I often wondered if the there was ever going to be a time when I will have my answers. The gravity of my decision was not lost on me. I was afraid, not of taking the decision of following Christ, but of never having enough conviction to take that decision.

Finally on the night of 12 of April as I was sitting and praying to God at an event called ‘Reign’ that happens at Samford, the Lord finally spoke to me. He spoke to me about my past, my present and my future. He did not shirk away from questions that I was constantly asking myself but responded to each of them. He taught me what faith meant and the conviction that I had been looking for finally came and I became a believer realizing that Christ is ‘the’ way to God and thus repenting for my past sins and accepting Christ as my saviour. I learned that at the end of the day it is a matter of faith and it could not be coerced of forced upon someone. I believe that for those who truly seek Him, God would never fail to reveal himself. I experienced his love and grace even before I became a believer. I rejoiced in the beauty of God’s word through bible and even though I am still to read huge portions of it, I am convinced of the good news that gospel brings. I realized that the source of all the pain, disappointment and brokenness in this world is the Lord’s absence. I’m humbled by the fact that there is nothing I could have done on my own to strengthen my faith and that it was God working his way in my heart all along. It wasn’t the promise of eternal life, assurance of salvation or surety of heaven that drove me deeper into Christ. It was the awareness of a God that knew me to my core that had stood by me throughout my time on this earth choosing to reveal himself, not only through his glorious nature, wonderful people and incredible miracles, but also by silent words of comfort when I need it the most.

As I prepare to head back to India, I’m aware of the fact that His work in me has only just began. I hope with the love and strength that only comes through the Lord I’ll be able to travel back and live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. I came across this verse which I would like to share that I feel aptly describes my current status. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14 ‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’

Monday, May 16, 2016

SIM Opportunities for Theological Education

Theological Education / Training Opportunities with SIM


Angola
>  Bible School Teacher at Menongue Bible Institute
>  Bible Teacher Leadership Trainer--Luanda
>  Leadership Trainer

Bolivia
>  Seminary Professor Seminario Biblico
>  Seminary Professor Seminario Biblico del Altiplano
>  Seminary Professor Seminario Biblico EvangĂ©lico La Paz

Burkina Faso
>  Professor of Missiology and Islamics

Chile
Director of Study by Extension for All Nations (SEAN) TEE
>  Ministry

Ethiopia
Bible and Theology Instructor for Evangelical Theological
±  College
±  Professor of Islamic Studies for EGST TESOL for Theological Education in Ethiopia

India
>  Grassroots Bible Trainers
±  Seminary Teachers to Equip and Disciple Future Leaders

Indonesia

>  Theological Education and Leadership Training

Malawi
±  Bible School Teacher

Niger
±  Aguie Bible School Teacher
NP   Professor for ESPriT
>  TEE Coordinator

Nigeria
>  Bible School Teachers
±  Seminary Lecturers
±  Youth Ministries Lecturer

Peru
>  Bible Teacher - Southern Peru
<  Seminary Teacher

Philippines
±  Bible Seminary Lecturer

South Sudan
>  Lecturer Gideon Theological College
<  Short-Term Bible Teacher at Gideon Theological College

Uruguay
>  Theological Educator

Zambia
Theological Teachers for Theological College of Central
>  Africa

For More info please contact:
Steve and Ann LUTZ
Phone: 706-496-8935 (office)
              706-421-8078 (cell)

Legend guide:
<1 ---1 yr. or less
>2----2 yrs. or longer
± 2 ----approx. 2 years

NP---no preference for length of term  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nepal and the Sovereignty of God

Over the past year I tried to schedule my CCMP 3 different times for 4 different countries.  Each trip started out as a dream ministry opportunity, and then God would shut the door tightly.  And in March when the door closed on a country in North Africa I was starting to sweat it.  Since I graduate in December, I had to go on a trip by this summer!  All the while I was confused and a little frustrated, wondering why God would close doors on opportunities He knew I was willing to take.  Little did I know a month later I would be planning my trip to Nepal. 

My husband, Steven, took time off work to go with me.  This would be our first time to Nepal though we had heard a lot about the work Mountain Child (the organization we worked with in the country) was doing and had met the founder.  We were excited to go on the trip and bought our plane tickets on April 22.  Three days later the first major earthquake hit.  It was a 7.8 magnitude killing over 9,000 people and leaving thousands more displaced from damaged or destroyed homes.  Suddenly, all the doors God had closed over the past year made sense. 


Steven is a structural engineer.  Just this past November he and I went to Colorado for an eMi (Engineering Ministries International) conference where he was trained for earthquake disaster relief. God’s sovereignty had been working behind the scenes the entire time.  God knew I needed to complete my CCMP.  God knew Steven’s heart for earthquake disaster relief.  God knew the earthquake was coming.  In God’s incredible love and sovereignty, our trip to Nepal became about so much more than fulfilling an obligation for graduation.  Our trip became about being a part of God’s plan to bring relief in Nepal after the devastation of the earthquake.  God had a plan for disaster relief before the disaster even hit, and He was organizing all along.  Steven assessed 30+ houses, apartments, and businesses while we were there, including a human trafficking rescue business, a children’s rescue home, an IMB missionary’s business and more.  We were able to go into more homes and meet more people than we would have if this were a normal trip.  And as we visited each place for assessment we were able to share the love of Jesus through prayer, Bible devotions, and fellowship.  God’s sovereignty and love guided and planned this trip and our faith and love have grown from seeing His mighty work unfold! 

Jackie Pettus





Friday, December 11, 2015

Katie Hill in Chiang Mai

The three words that come to mind when reflecting on this summer are: indescribable, redeeming, and bittersweet. I went through Adventures in Missions Passport trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand to serve with Lighthouse in Action Ministries, which works to restore, empower, and pour God's unconditional love into past and current victims of human trafficking. I encourage everyone to go listen to Emmi's testimony, the founder of Lighthouse in Action, and see the amazing faith she has instilled in her along with an incredible grasp of forgiveness and grace. It was such an honor to work alongside her this summer and learn so much from her. 

My team and I at the village of Chiang Dao helping paint
 and restore a children's home called Fountain of Hope
We spent our days in Zion Cafe, bonding with the staff - our new, dear friends who have been rescued out of the red light district or have been prevented from entering. We participated in monk chat, prayer walks through the red light district (which we did twice each day before we headed out to bar ministry), visited and played with the sweet children in the slums, taught English to preschool, elementary, and high school students, team time (bible study), worship, then some headed out into bar ministry while some would stay back and intercede for the girls going out. 

I truly had my faith strengthened in so many ways; I discovered a new understanding of God's grace, and love for ALL His children. We weren't just there to minister to the girls, but also the pimps, johns, bar moms, and men and women we encountered on and off the red light district. We prayed continuously to see through God's eyes and have God's heart. Through Christ alone, we were able to love like Jesus would; unbiasedly, gracefully, and unconditionally. My team and I were able to comprehend that God's heart was not only broken for the girls, but all involved. It was not easy to keep this mindset, but we constantly prayed and reminded ourselves we are also imperfect and broken; God takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful. 

It truly is an indescribable feeling to explain walking through the red light district at night and feeling an overwhelming wave of emotions: a sense of security, anxiousness, hopefulness, and lots of heartbrokenness. Every night when we arrived back to our hostel, we would debrief and pray together; there was never a night we didn't feel hopeful because we know the ending to the story: God. He's the finisher of all things unjust. He always has been. We are all pieces of the puzzle. All of the pieces are needed to complete the masterpiece and wants us to help one another, our brothers and sisters through Him. 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). This verse was one of my many mantras this summer and everyday. 

While we were in Thailand, we were able to see one of our dear friends walk out of the bars, and accept God's unconditional love for her. I ask for prayers for my friends that our still in the red light district and the friends that are are out and are still healing many wounds through God's truth and love for them. 

I'm so grateful for the support, prayers, and encouragement throughout the summer. 

God is forever faithful and good. Follow your calling!! I'm sure glad I did. 

In Christ, 

Katie Hill

Monday, July 6, 2015

While I was in Charleston


Emanuel AME less than 24 hours
after the shooting
The afternoon following the horrific Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church wasn't as crowded or chaotic as I had expected. It was quite calm.

I was on vacation in Charleston and had even been on a tour of the historic city just a few hours before a racist killer entered the prayer meeting. My wife's uncle, who led the tour, gave a glowing review of a concert he had attended at this beautiful church. For obvious reasons, I felt compelled to return the next day. I just wanted to pray for them, display unity with them, and serve as a representative of the many students, faculty, staff, and alumni of school who are passionate about the issue of racial reconciliation.

I had expected a larger number of people in front of the church, but most of those directly outside were either press members or policemen. Around 10-15 people were standing just outside of the area marked off by the police tape praying, so I simply stood there and prayed alongside my fellow mourners.

The event of the previous night was so clearly unjust and evil that the last thing on my mind was any sort of politics. With pure motives and a quiet atmosphere, empathy and prayer came naturally and easily. Easily, that is, until I was bumped sideways by someone who was suddenly in a hurry to get somewhere quickly. Confused and a little perturbed, I opened my eyes to see what was going on. It was a camera woman who knocked me around, but it wasn't immediately clear why she had done so until I looked to my right. Enter Al Sharpton.
Rev. Al Sharpton and a few friends have a
moment of silent prayer and reflection. There
were no comments made in front of the church.

I wasn't very excited about this, to be honest. I feel that he often makes things worse. In anticipation of this possibility, I felt tempted in that moment to focus my mental energies on divisive politics instead of why I came in the first place.

GETTING DISTRACTED

What a metaphor for those who desire racial reconciliation! Just when you think you're operating with pure motives and doing something everyone can agree on, you start getting bumped around and distracted.

I believe that distraction is one of the great tools of Satan when it comes to issues of race in this country.

Specifically, I want to challenge white Christians who, like me, would generally describe yourselves as being socially conservative. Most of you would emphatically declare, not only that you aren't racist, but also that you desire to see unity among black and white people (If you simply need to repent of racist attitudes, you will need something different than this article). You realize that racism in our country is real and did not simply write off the Charleston shooting as a drug problem.

I want to humbly ask a couple of probing questions and I pray you will consider them.
  • Do you spend a lot of time talking (or posting) about your disagreements with African-Americans over political issues (e.g. Michael Brown and whether or not Darren Wilson was justified) and completely avoid talking about the reality of racial prejudice and the importance for all of us to examine our hearts for our own bias (we all have them) and our own sin? 
  • Do you ever post blogs and website articles encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ to seek unity and reconciliation across ethnic groups?  
I am not trying to convince you that your opinions on recent events are necessarily wrong. Personally, I have felt very differently about the individual police shootings. For the record, I have great respect for the selfless work of policemen and I'm very slow to criticize law enforcement. Consequently, I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with some of my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ over the details of these events. I do not for one second, however, believe that racism doesn't exist and that bias doesn't happen. I've seen it in society at large and I've seen it clearly in churches where I've been a member. I have black friends for whom I have great respect (including pastors) who tell me stories about getting pulled over by the police when they are doing nothing or just getting long and lingering looks while walking down the street. This doesn't happen to me. This draws me towards compassion and a desire to better understand the world and how our fallen nature affects others and how it affects me. In addition to this, my love for God and the gospel narrative which concludes with a picture of people from all tongues and tribes worshiping around His throne compels me to seek unity. 

I'm convinced that one of the main reasons we become distracted is that we let our defensive desire to avoid being misunderstood as racists trump our desire for unity and reconciliation. Before I explain further what I mean, I need to let you know where I'm coming from.

I'm not writing as an outsider who wants to bash Southerners. I'm a white conservative evangelical Christian from Alabama. As such, I've dealt with my share of stereotyping. In other parts of the country it is often abundantly clear that those I meet are skeptical of my intelligence as soon as they find out where I'm from. It doesn't matter if they already know I have a lot of education and they have comparatively little. Intellectual superiority over me is assumed from the beginning. It is also often assumed that I'm a racist. In upstate New York I was asked if I was in the KKK (by young people who also were surprised we wore shoes). I've even been asked this question while living in a small town in Central Java, Indonesia. Escaping the shadow of Bull Connor has proved elusive.  

So I sympathize with the reaction many white people have when events are quickly attributed to racism before all the facts are in. If we think for one moment, however, that anything we have been through is on par with the African American experience throughout the history of our country, we are delusional. Slavery, Jim Crowe, KKK lynchings, the Civil Rights struggle... and now Charleston. Yes, things have improved dramatically. I have always been grateful that I didn't have to choose to be rejected by society in order to love those who are different from me. Every time I passed by 16th Street Baptist Church I was thankful that I didn't live in an era where violent racists would bomb innocent people gathering for worship... and now Charleston.

Again, I want to stress that I am not here asking you to change your mind on issues such as gun control. My concern as I watch things play out on social media is this: What should be our first response and our major impulse?  I believe strongly that, because of our past and current issues with racial prejudice, our first response should be to seek unity and to show compassion.

Our hearts should hurt over the racial divide. We should long for greater reconciliation and always keep in mind that we're not just talking about the white community and the black community; we're talking about brothers and sisters in Christ on opposite sides.

I will go as far as to say this: If you don't feel an ache to see unity between black and white in the body of Christ in tangible ways, you are simply missing the heart of our Savior. You are missing the reality of the gospel as expressed by Paul when he told the Ephesians that Christ has, through His death, "created in himself one new man in place of the two" whereas Jew and Gentile had earlier been separate. You're missing the big picture of biblical history which culminates in people from all tongues, tribes, and nations worshiping the Lord in perfect unity around His throne (Rev. 7:9). You're also missing the heart of Jesus as expressed in the Lord's prayer when He commanded us to pray for God's will to be done "on earth as it is in Heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

It's too little to "not be racist." We must move beyond that to show tangible love. We also need to be balanced in the way we react to events online. For example, regardless of how you feel about whether or not the policemen involved in the shootings of black men are innocent or guilty, please consider these questions:
  • Have you prayed for everyone involved? 
  • Have you admitted to yourself the reality of racism in our country before making a quick evaluation and putting your opinions online? 
  • Is your ultimate hope that there will be healing on both sides or that the other side will be proved wrong? 
  • Is there a longing for unity that is deeply dissatisfied regardless of where you stand? 
  • Do you at least consider the other side of the argument and the feelings of many black Americans before your only reaction is to cry "false racism!"? 
Our defensive reaction to a racist allegation can blind us. It can blind us from seeing the greater reality. It can blind us from seeing or even caring about what is most helpful. It can turn a helpful and truthful statement into a sarcastic barb painting everyone on the opposing side in a negative light. Being right isn't always the same as being wise.

What I saw early on the Thursday after the Charleston massacre was clear sympathy to a horrific tragedy. It was, however, disappointing to see how quickly the subject changed to gun control. That did not mean that Christians who believe in gun ownership were obligated to quickly counter by flooding social media with protests - to the exclusion of offering sympathy and prayers to the victims' families, Emanuel AME Church, and the black church in general! Even with this clear cut "black and white" case involving obvious racism, many people found a way to talk about everything but racism. It was sad to see, as things developed, some people passionate about defending the confederate flag and seemingly lacking any compassion for the hurting.

Maybe some of you are responding now by thinking, "But I was, in fact, horrified by the shooting in Charleston. I did pray for them. I didn't deny that it was racism. It's just that I didn't say anything about that and I did speak up about gun control." Herein lies the problem. Some of you don't use social media for anything political in the slightest. I have one Facebook friend who insists that it should only be used for "fluffy bunnies and spring meadows." If that's you, you're off the hook. But if we do use social media to speak out on issues, we need to understand that silence on this one will be very discouraging to our black brothers and sisters in Christ. Try to just imagine what they are seeing instead of well-reasoned statements and sympathetic prayers and this point should be obvious.

The negative reactions I'm writing about above certainly don't describe all white southern Christians (to any outsiders who may be reading this). The reaction from the majority of Christians whom I consider to be spiritually mature was encouraging. But it's times like these that remind me of the lack of spiritual maturity in our churches. It's a reminder of the existence of cultural Christians who show little or no evidence of a relationship with Jesus Christ at all. Also, it's a reminder of how easy it is for everyone (myself definitely included!) to broadcast thoughtless remarks to hundreds of people with the click of a mouse. Social media is messy.

I certainly don't have all the answers for our problems. But the way forward must include more substantive relationships between black and white Christians. As we pursue this, remember that we don't have to agree with every nuance on every issue in order to have unity in Christ. However, we can be guaranteed that our opinions will be impacted when we are no longer simply commenting on a political issue, but we are considering the thoughts and feelings of friends we love and respect.

Even when we are wrong (and we will be), genuine love can "cover a multitude of sins." Obviously that's a general statement and no guarantee every individual will react in a similar way. People are people and this is definitely a challenge. However, when we refrain from engaging in meaningful relationships because of fear that disagreements will spiral into an unhelpful misunderstanding, there is no opportunity for love to be shown.

A BIBLICAL GUIDE FOR CONVERSATION

It's often said by those desiring to see things improve that we just need to start talking about our race issues. While I believe this is ultimately true, it's also true that we first need to know how to talk about them or else, as illustrated above, we can simply make things worse. I've chosen a few scriptures that I believe speak to this issue (There are many more, of course). In fact, they speak to how we approach almost all disagreements.

  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is to his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13, ESV)
  • Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9, NIV)
  • I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21, ESV) This is the "high priestly prayer" of Jesus before his death, burial and resurrection.
  • A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
Too often we are simply trying to win an argument instead of trying to win a person. A serious consideration of how God has commanded us to believe and to act makes such an approach inexcusable.

STAYING FOCUSED

So there I was. Standing outside of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston less than 24 hours after a tragic, dramatic, and historic event. I went there to pray. I wanted to pray for comfort for the victims' families, for Emanuel, and for the black church in general. I felt compelled to pray for God to do something for unity in our country and to make a plea to God for individual churches to reflect the true diversity of His people.

Then, without warning, I suddenly get bumped around and find myself wondering if I was about to hear a "made for media" speech distracting from the sanctity of the situation (which didn't happen, by the way). I found myself wondering, "What do I do now?" The answer came quickly and easily.

I put my head back down and I prayed.

- David Parks

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gay Marriage and Missions


Christian leaders who are pushing for "tolerance" and acceptance of gay marriage are often using the desire to reach the younger generation for Christ as their justification. In this narrative, they are the ones who genuinely care about people knowing Christ and those of us with a traditional understanding of marriage are the ones who care more about rules and tradition than people. There are good arguments against this other than what is below.  There is one hole in this argument, however, that is very rarely, if ever, discussed:

The majority of the global population.  

This is especially relevant to the task of evangelizing unreached people groups.  Yes, there are changes that are happening on a global scale when it comes to the acceptance of new views of sexuality (Pew Research), but there is still a large divide between Western and non-Western nations on this issue.  The 10/40 Window, which is home to the large majority of unreached peoples, is filled with societies solidly against the acceptance of gay marriage and other new understandings of sexuality. 

So when it comes to Christian leaders pressing for acceptance of new views of sexuality, where is the burden for the unreached peoples of the world

Does anyone think that our increasingly "open views" are removing obstacles to the gospel among Muslims?  The reality, of course, is that the rest of the world is watching - often in disgust - what is happening in the West and are very worried that our immorality will continue to spill over into segments of their societies like it has been for decades.  They can't be convinced that this is a "new move of God" regarding how sexuality is to be understood.  They simply put it into the category of a long list of problems that have been transferred through media from our country to theirs: gang violence, bulimia, disrespect for parents, rampant sex outside of marriage, and a general devaluing of the importance of family.  For a brief picture of what this disgust looks like, consider the backlash over Facebook's rainbow flag profile pictures

One of the misperceptions missionaries have to combat upon entering one a Muslim or other traditional society (one that I had to deal with myself) is the belief that almost all Americans are Christians.  In other words, when a well-known celebrity claims to be a Christian and is soon afterwards in the news for public drunkenness, adultery, arrest, etc., the conclusion is that this is what all Christians are like.  Therefore, they are not only uninterested in Christianity.  They are appalled by it.  

Missionaries coming from churches who conduct gay marriages would only confirm this misperception and strengthen the voices of local imams warning people against the message of Christ.  

So while the call to reach people for Christ is used to lead people towards new views on gay marriage and transgender teachings in America, those who are making this point have little concern for the majority of unreached peoples of the world. This shouldn't really be surprising since many of these same leaders don't believe that whether or not people hear about Jesus will have any significant influence on where they spent eternity.

No doubt there are many of you reading this who are agreeing with the main point and yet have become quite frustrated with the reasoning being employed. You may be saying, "Shouldn't we simply focus on obeying with the Scripture says instead of trying to figure out which view of sexuality we think will reach people?" "By trying to see which way the moral wind is blowing and following suit," you're thinking to yourself,  "aren't we displaying a complete lack of trust in the power and sovereignty of God?" 

You are correct.  

The reality, of course, is that compromising on the truth of scripture never leads to true conversions.  See the history of liberalism and mainline churches.  See the recent history of the emergent movement that attracted many followers who identified as Christians already but led to very little true conversions where people surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord.   It seems that those who want a god who encourages them to do whatever they wanted to do anyway actually don't want the God of the Bible at all.  They eventually figure this out and, at best, become nominal Christians.

Speaking of the rest of the world, we need to also keep in mind the persecution of our fellow believers in other countries.  Yes, in light of the Supreme Court decision last week, the realities of potential persecution have risen for all of us.  Yet there are believers all over the globe who choose to follow Jesus knowing it will potentially mean complete rejection from society, violence from their own family members, torture from their government, and maybe even death.  Quite often the missionaries who reached them have been funded and paid for by Christians in America.  

Isn't it ironic that some of those who paid the missionaries to go are already shrinking back in the face of such little difficulty?  

Consider the words of the Apostle Paul, who was so overwhelmed with the message of grace and the freedom found in the gospel that he would not compromise any part of it in order to avoid persecution or a strain in his relationship with a newer generation of Christians:  "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:9-10 ESV)