Church Forward is a new blog I’ve added to my reading list. A few days ago, that site published the results of a study that showed the attitudes of the unchurched to evangelism. All the stats are important (please consider them carefully), but one stood out in particular:

78% of the unchurched agree that “if someone wanted to tell me what he or she believed about Christianity, I would be willing to listen.

That’s an astonishing figure. Part of me wonders if the survey question was understood. Honestly. Because that figure is amazingly high.

Last week I wrote about a subset of people who seem to be completely aspiritual. They may be the missing 22 percent. I suspect that they are the group that is actually growing in number.

If so, then our window of opportunity on that 78 percent is as wide open as it will ever be.

Let’s put this in perspective. In the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, 24, or Lost, 6,319 people worldwide will have died {source}.

The general consensus is that about a third of the world’s population is “Christian,” a loose definition that includes not only the genuinely born again, Exit, stage left...but also cult members who ascribe to deviant forms of Christian belief and people who may mentally assent to Christian morality. In other words, that one-third is quite generous.

Yet even if we assume that loosedefinition, applying the basic truths of mankind’s eternal destiny, of those 6,319 people, 4,212 are doomed to an eternity of torment in the flames of hell. 4,212. Every hour. Every day.

This is not a pain that goes away. No narcotic exists to extinguish that agony once it’s administered.

Leonard Ravenhill, the great British revivalist, put it this way in a true story:

Charlie Peace was a criminal. Laws of God or man curbed him not. Finally the law caught up with him, and he was condemned to death. On the fatal morning in Armley Jail, Leeds, England, he was taken on the death-walk. Before him went the prison chaplain, routinely and sleepily reading some Bible verses. The criminal touched the preacher and asked what he was reading. “The Consolations of Religion,” was the replay. Charlie Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase with a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”? All this was too much for Charlie Peace. So he preached. Listen to his on-the-eve-of-hell sermon:

“Sir,” addressing the preacher, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!

Hang around the Godblogosphere long enough and you’ll see plenty of fawning posts about the TV shows I mentioned above. Or about some lame movie. Or about some album by some derivative band. You’ll read plenty of talk about stuff that that will burn when the fire comes, but you’ll read next to nothing about what happens to the lost when that same fire comes for them.

If the American Church’s concern for the lost people of the world could be summed up in one phrase, I suspect that phrase would be “Let ’em burn!”

If we cared, we’d live differently. But we don’t really care, do we?

For most of us, the limit of our caring extends to the walls of our home and no further. A few of us may say we care about others beyond those walls, but our caring never gets around to asking another person, “Where do you stand with Jesus?”

I don’t like what our American culture has done to me. In fact, I despise it. Because when I look deep into my own soul, I see a nearly total lack of caring about the eternal state of other people. I may say I care, but I don’t care enough to make the changes needed to my life to ensure I’m living for Jesus. And living for Jesus means that I no longer live for myself.

The power of the American lie casts a spell over us, doesn’t it? That lie takes Christ off the throne and enthrones that pretender, self. It’s the lie of “God wants you happy!” instead of the truth that God wants you obedient to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Now we may say that we’re sold out to Christ, but we aren’t. We lie to ourselves and keep playing the happy card, that selfish, devil-filled mantra of self-fulfillment no matter at whose expense that happiness comes.

Because when we get right down to it, we’re so preoccupied with self-fulfillment that we’re willing to gamble the lives of two out of every three people to ensure it, 4,212 people each hour, so that we can keep on living for whatever pleases us, even if that pleasurable pursuit wracks the heart of God.

Can we imagine having to apologize to each person bound for hell who had the opportunity to hear the Gospel from our lips, but we were too busy caring about what Jack Bauer would do next?

Well, can we?

We should count ourselves lucky if we merit the tiniest cot in the broom closet of the mansion Christ is building in glory.

11 thoughts on “4,212

  1. Dave Block

    Excellent post as usual, Dan. I care about the lost to some extent, but probably not enough considering their eternal destination if they don’t repent. Tonight we’re having a neighbor over for dinner with whom we became better acquainted after our tree hit his roof. He is unemployed, depressed, completely disconnected from his family and seems to have no friends either. This will be the third time we’ve had him over in recent months; he’s declined and postponed a few invitations, and on our part, sickness plus major work projects (sigh) have played a role in the frequency too. A few days ago I was very disappointed when he mentioned that he’s looking to move. Our window of opportunity is shrinking.

    My wife and I also are reaching out to the international students at the college where we both work, though in her position as adviser to these students she can’t be too aggressive about sharing the gospel.

    You write, “…but I don’t care enough to make the changes needed to my life to ensure I’m living for Jesus. And living for Jesus means that I no longer live for myself.”

    Would you mind getting personal and telling us, at least in general terms, what these changes would be? As readers we already know that you’re not materialistic. And you likely wouldn’t consider sacrificing sufficient quality/quantity time with family. We know you already serve in your church. You put time into this blogging ministry without financial benefit. What would these changes be?

    • Dave,

      The main difference between living for myself and living for Christ is the manner/order in which I filter all my experiences and actions.

      A person who lives for Christ filters his sum of life experiences through the lens of “How does Jesus see this and how would Jesus act?” first, then would proceed to any other manner of viewing/acting on that input. We tend to view those inputs through the filter of self first, then allow anything else that makes it through to trickle through the “Jesus filter.”

      That’s wrong, but that’s how most of us, even Christians, operate.

      • Dave Block


        You’re on target with that assessment.

        So you weren’t thinking of specific changes in this statement?

        “I may say I care, but I don’t care enough to make the changes needed to my life to ensure I’m living for Jesus.”

        I thought you had specific examples in mind and might share them.

  2. Bob Aarhus

    Dan, I think one reason many Christians aren’t crawling on broken glass to save the unregenerate is that they can’t bring themselves to believe in the mainstream definition of Hell — that is, the eternal, unrelenting, unquenchable torture inflicted on the sinner by a supposedly loving God.

    The logic is undeniable. Every human is thrust without their consent into a world full of imperfections and temptations, an environment so corrupt that only One soul in the billions who have walked the planet have managed to remain sinless. Up until the advent of modern communication and travel (say the last two hundred years), the likelihood of each soul hearing the Gospel, were they not already favorably placed in the West, was fairly remote. For the temporal crime of wrongly executing their free will, and the tragic fault of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, the God of creation thrusts these billions upon their death to darkness and despair for eternity.

    At least, that seems to be the popularly accepted doctrine. Reconciling this with the God of mercy and love is a daunting task. Saying, “Well, He is the potter, you are the clay” doesn’t absolve things, from a human point of view.

    Now, many of us would not spare the Hitlers, Stalins, or Pol Pots of the world from enjoying eternal damnation. And, if we are honest, the fellow who cuts us off in traffic or the woman who is talking on the cell phone during the movie might as well go there too, for all the charity we have for them at the moment. But seriously — can we actually take this doctrine at face value: every unsaved man, woman, and child, even those who have lived virtuously as compared to the surrounding rabble, is cast equally and without mercy into the Lake of Fire? Where is the promised Justice?

    But reason, as Luther said, is the devil’s whore. We have the Scriptures, the tradition of the early church, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on our side, and all seem to point in the direction of this reality, however grim a reality it might be. C.S. Lewis said there is no other doctrine that he would more willingly change, but he too recognized the weight of evidence.

    As the condemned man noted, though, maybe there isn’t really the shell shock associated with this sort of reality showing through in the behavior of the Saved. Going to the Holy of Holies, drawing back the curtain, and finding Cthulhu rather than the Ancient of Days sitting on the mercy seat should be unsettling, to say the least. Why don’t most Christians behave that way? Why does the smug self-righteousness seem to exude from Christians, as many non-Christians note and object to? Maybe both the Saved and Unsaved are having trouble reconciling Hell with a Loving God. (Or maybe our doctrine and interpretation is wrong — I’ve sympathized with the Annihilationists on more than one occasion.)

    Not to digress, but maybe that’s the point. I would find it easier to go out and be a witness if I knew annihilation awaited the unsaved, not eternal torture. Why? Because I can understand and explain a God who wants to exclude sin from his presence, but cannot understand and struggle to defend a God who puts man into an imperfect world and then demands perfection — and when perfection doesn’t come in a lifetime, His wrath is everlasting punishment. I’m missing something here, I think. Or maybe not. Plenty of theologians have come and gone, some of whom think all men someday will be reconciled to God, others who have varying explanations of algorithms for the just handling of the wayward soul. All are trying to do the same thing: explain an apparent paradox at a human level that, at God’s level, makes perfect and just sense.

    So, is that part of the problem? Not that we are lazy (though we are), or that we are selfish (though we are)… but that some of the thinking unsaved can’t reconcile a Hell, and many of the saved can’t believe in it either?

  3. Bob,

    You’re absolutely correct. If the whole of an entire month laid out before me is enough to swamp my meager thoughts, eternity is simply beyond my ken.

    Likewise, I cannot imagine everlasting pleasure or unending torment. If a few hours fighting through a kidney stone brings me to my knees, I can’t imagine hell.

    I must also admit that as I get older, the reality of an eternal hell is all that much more difficult to grasp. I know that I, too, want to rationalize it away. Annihilationism would be such an easy thing to grasp and you can bet that not a day goes by that I wish that weren’t the case for the damned.

    But as a finite being who can’t see the entire picture, I have to learn to see with God’s eyes. An eternal hell must be for a very good reason that I simply cannot grasp in my humanness. Again, I must conform my thoughts to truth, not the other way around.

    • Dave Block

      I find it very interesting that this point has been raised. Tonight our neighbor (see my comment above) spent more than five hours at our house. We talked about spiritual issues and my wife and I were able to explain the gospel. The major point that our neighbor couldn’t overcome was the idea of a loving God sending such a high percentage of the children He created and loves to hell. I did my best to explain but in the end, how can I blame my neighbor for rejecting a doctrine that is so hard for me to handle? I believe in eternal hell, and I speculate that it would be even worse for the lost to be in the unbearable presence of a holy God with the stain of their sin, but it’s so hard to deal with the concept.

      It reinforces the fact that no matter how well we witness in word and through love, it takes the Holy Spirit to draw people to God.

  4. Do you ever consider that prospect of the Buddism belief that we come back in another form. I think I would prefer that to an eternity of either pure bliss or pure pain..

    • Heaven,

      The Bible is clear:

      …it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment….
      —Hebrews 9:27

      Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
      —Revelation 20:11-15

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *