The Unfinished Task in Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville skyline, from Mount Sequoyah
Fayetteville skyline, from Mount Sequoyah

At church yesterday, people asked me how the BMAA Missions Symposium had gone last week. Last night I tried my best to answer that question. One of the presentations included statistics on US cities and states that could be classified as unreached people groups (like some of the foreign places to which we send missionaries). It inspired me to do a little bit of research on my area; what I found indicates that, even in the “Bible Belt,” we cannot assume that our work is finished. So during my series on missions, I read the following to the people at Eastside.

“The Tri-State Area centered around Fayetteville, Arkansas was home to over 360,000 people in the year 2000. That same year, it was reported that 35% of the population in the area claimed a connection to an Evangelical church, which in the corresponding reports seem to be rather loosely defined as those groups which believe that a person must experience a personal conversion. This means nearly a quarter of a million people are either in churches that do not preach the basic, Biblical truth that we must be born again, or they are in no church at all.”If we consider that not everyone who attends an Evangelical church is born again, and subtract 35% of that number (a conservative estimate when some denominations have estimated that as many as 50% of their attendees are lost), we can estimate that nearly 285,000 of our neighbors have either not been born again, or show no evidence of being.

“In the year 2000, if we were to evangelize these 285,000 people, each Evangelical church would need to reach an additional 633 people. However, not all so-called Evangelical churches preach the Gospel accurately or completely, and unfortunately those who do are not always evangelistic.

“If we Baptists were to take up the cause of reaching these 285,000 with the message of salvation by God’s grace, through faith in Christ, without works, we could do it only if each church reached an additional 1,523 people.

“But we can’t expect others to do the work if we’re not willing to do so ourselves. So what if we Missionary Baptists led the way? What if we were the standard bearers to carry the Gospel to our region? How daunting would the task be? Each Missionary Baptist church would need to reach an additional 5,814 people.

“If that were not enough, consider that those numbers are over a decade old. In 2010, the population of the same area was almost 490,000. The total population grew by over 30% in a decade, and many churches have closed their doors.

“There are many people in our own city who have never heard the Gospel, and others who need to hear it again. With a mission field that grows larger every day, we can no longer afford to wait and expect the world to come to us.”

We have work to do.