It might have come across a little crass, but I’m glad I did it.
The world we live in is not a fair place. Not everyone gets the nice home, the picket fence, the freedoms and health care and the equal opportunities.
And not everyone gets Jesus.
It might have been politically incorrect to pass out candy to the first row while neglecting the entire congregation, but it was the perfect portrayal of the great imbalance of global missions.
So here’s what happened.
I had just flown around the world, from Thailand to America, and after over 30 hours, I finally arrived in Spokane, Washington. I was exhausted yet impassioned, on a mission to challenge and inspire the Western Church to remember the plight of the unreached world. It was my birthday, July 27, 2017, and after the worship session at Victory Faith Fellowship, I was given a sliver of time to compact 20 years of missions experience into 5 minutes.
I told a story of Bright Eyes, our Within Reach Global local missionary, ministering to 1,000+ orphans and underprivileged children among 74 villages. But I don’t think anyone remembered the story. It was hard to pay attention in such a strange and chaotic environment.
You see, before the Thursday night service began, I gave 2 ushers a stealthy mission. I handed them 3 bags of candy that I had purchased at the Dollar Store, explaining that they should only pass out the goodies to the first row. They should not, under any circumstances, share with anyone else in the congregation.
I stood on the stage and announced that I had a gift for “everyone” at church that night. I watched the smiles form on the 200 faces in attendance. “Ushers, can you please pass out the gifts?” I requested. I continued my story about Bright Eyes, about orphans and church planting and unreached people groups. Simultaneously, like clockwork, the ushers passed out the candy, but only to the first row.
I paused midway between my missionary narrative. “Has everyone received a gift yet?” I asked. Hands raised all over the auditorium—except for the first row! “Ushers, please, can you pass out the gifts I brought?” I requested again. And just as planned, the first row received even more candy while everyone else was overlooked.
Again, the service was interrupted as I asked if everyone had received a gift. Ecstatic hands waved, eyebrows scrunched, and confusion fell over dozens of faces. Again, the ushers loaded up the front row with more goodies while good-hearted people in all succeeding rows were explicitly ignored.
I continued telling stories from Southeast Asia—about The Cliff outreach center and orphans and unreached villages. And 5 times, the candy was given to the first row of church folk while the rest of the congregation was forgotten.
The pastor grew frustrated. A murmur of hushed whispers and awkward giggles traveled around the church. Finally, I stopped mid-sentence.
“Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?” I quoted Oswald J. Smith.
“This imbalance is outrageous and intolerable! Why is it that we have so overlooked millions and millions of people, willfully allowing them to live and die without Christ? Why do we keep selfishly stuffing ourselves, hoarding the Gospel message from those who have never heard it before?”
There was a hush across the room. The truth of the reality of the great imbalance of global missions was made known. The light clicked on. It was a visual interpretation of the plight of unreached people groups throughout the 10/40 Window.
I stepped off the stage and the service continued, and I prayed that my presentation did not fall on deaf ears.
But the question remains: Church, are we listening to the heart of God for all nations? Are we doing all we can to see Revelation 7:9 come to pass—every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of God?
For how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard of Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
Lord, send out more workers into the ripe harvest fields of the world!