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Wrestling and Lostness

February 21, 2014

In Matthew 9:36 the Bible tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes.  In our busy lives, with our familiar surroundings, it is often hard for us to see the multitudes of lostness around us.  There are times, however, when the Lord gives us eyes to see.  Such a time happened to me this weekend at an unusual place – a youth wrestling meet.

This was the second year that I accompanied a local youth wrestling team from Las Vegas to the Beehive Brawl in Richfield, Utah.  As the second day of wrestling was about to start all of the kids competing gathered into the stadium’s tunnel and grouped together by their home state.  As the kids came running out there was great excitement.  The house lights were dimmed, rock music was blaring, and spotlights and multicolored lights were flashing as a fog machine rounded out the ensemble of effects to welcome these young athletes.  The crowds cheered as the boys came running out as their state was called.  Finally, the host state, Utah was announced.  Several hundred boys came running into the arena excited to wrestle in such a big tournament as the crowd gave the loudest cheer of the morning.

As I watched these boys run into the arena I was suddenly overwhelmed with the reality that there is a really good possibility that every one of them is lost.  They live in one of the most unreached states in the union that is dominated by the Mormon religion.  Dr. J.D. Payne posted the least reached metro areas in the United States, and Utah, with a population of only 2.8 million, had two cities that took the first and seventh positions.  As I began to process this information, several realities hit me:

  1. The lostness of Utah is great!  The city of Provo is 99.4% lost according to the census data.  That means only 0.6% of that city claims to be a Christian.  How can America, a “Christian Nation,” have a city that lost?
  2. We have no viable plan to actually reach the state with the gospel.  I am not saying that no one is working to reach Utah, but the reality is that we do not have a plan that will sufficiently get a gospel witness to the people of Utah in a timely manner.  I have two good friends who are working to plant churches in Utah.  The problems, however, are that it is a slow work, there are few workers in the harvest, and the support needed for a church plant to survive usually dries up before the church is fully established.
  3. A great wave of persecution will come as people turn to Jesus.  Mormonism is powerful and well organized.  People will lose their jobs, businesses, homes, and community if they turn to Jesus.  This is something that happens on a regular basis anywhere there is an overwhelming Mormon presence in a community.  This makes the task of reaching people with the gospel and planting churches much more complicated.
  4. If the above three observations do not change, then the reality is that most, if not all of the boys I saw today will grow up, live their lives, and then die under a false religion without ever getting to hear the true gospel.

So how does this impact you?  What can you do to change the situation in Utah? 

Let me challenge you to pray for four things:

  1. Pray that God would call out workers into the fields of Utah.
  2. Pray that God would help our churches and denominations develop effective, sustainable church planting models that will endure the strains of persecution.
  3. Pray that families in Utah would come to Christ together.  This will provide needed community for the new believers and allow a movement to begin.
  4. Pray that believers who face persecution would thrive in the midst of it.

I thank the Lord for the times that He opens my eyes to see the multitudes the way He does.  I pray that you too would see the multitudes afresh and that God will use you in a mighty way to be His witness to the lost.  Finally, I pray for those boys and their families – may their eyes be opened to the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for them!

- Neal H. Creecy, PhD

Instructor of Global Studies