What an incredible opportunity we as church planters have to forge new ground for missions in America. Can you believe that there are actually large tracts of land with bustling populations that have never seen a Christian church in their community? The culture, the history and the utter scarcity of Christians make Utah one of the most challenging places to plant in America. However, for these very factors we can rejoice because they also bring incredible opportunities. Think of it. The culture is not necessarily un-churched, just churched improperly. In fact, church is already a large part of their week and it doesn’t pose a formidable hurdle that many in postmodern America can’t seem to get over. The culture has also implied that church is often stale, cold, rote and ritualistic. We have the opportunity to introduce them to a church that is grace-oriented, refreshing, contemporary and life-giving.
Not only does culture provide unique opportunities to church planters but so does history. We have the opportunity to introduce Utah to a church that is focused on displaying the grace of God. In our own history, Christianity hasn’t always been this forthcoming. Grace has always been integral in our relationship with God but sometimes lacking in our relationships with each other. Ours is the opportunity to cultivate a grace atmosphere amongst our churches. Also, the predominant religion in Utah has had a rich history of developing doctrine and literature. This may at times seem like a difficult barrier to the minds and hearts of the people. However, ours is an incredible opportunity to learn about the historic teachings of the LDS church and to intelligently challenge our neighbors with thought-provoking questions.
Lastly, we may not have the luxury of Christian community in our city or town but we have the opportunity to bring Christians to communities almost completely bereft of like-minded brothers and sisters. One might be thinking, “How is this an advantage?” Two words: “Mission Teams”. Utah is indeed a mission field and mission teams typically want to go to a foreign field where Christ has not been known (Rom 15:20). Utah is a foreign field right here in America. Not only do the short-term missionaries get excited about missions but the missionary is tremendously blessed. In my 4-5 years of working with mission teams I have realized that their presence not only provides accountability, but they promote creativity. When a missionary has mission teams, he has to have something for them to do, people to meet, outreach events to coordinate and so on. The lack of Christians in Utah can certainly be viewed as an opportunity.
I guess I just really want to challenge current and prospective missionaries to Utah to consider problems as opportunities. We have the most relevant and authoritative commission of all, in fact it is often referred to as the “Great Commission”. Planting churches is about making disciples and along the way we are bound to run into a variety of ‘problems’. We must recognize our sovereign God and the calling with which he has given us and identify these as opportunities whenever we can.
Brody Olson and his wife Elizabeth have been Missionaries to the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) people in Hildale, UT & Colorado City, AZ since 2012. You can contact them to receive their newsletter at brody.olson