“Hindsight is better than foresight” the old maxim declares, particularly since the vision of most is short in range and narrow in scope. Even our greatest heroes of days-gone-by were limited, often times, to an all too narrow set of concerns. Although they experienced resounding successes and massive followings, they often created an incomplete heritage to pass on to succeeding generations. The charge of incomplete building and partial restoration, as it relates to the church’s dominion mandate, is often laid as an accusation at the feet of those who believe in immanency (Christ will return any second now). This unfair placement of blame correctly can be attached to the myriads of Christians of every generation, including the great reformers, regardless of their eschatological frames of reference (views about the end times). The problem of shortsightedness is anthropological, in that it is a side effect of our fallenness.
The first apostles’ scope of vision was strictly toward racial Israel; Gentiles simply didn’t figure in. Certainly the Diaspora, the Jews scattered throughout the world, were the object of vision, but not their Gentile neighbors. By the original estimation of their vision, Antioch was, at worst, a mistake, at best, an aberration. Thank God that His spontaneous, sovereign moving, apart from structured efforts and accepted methodologies of those first century leaders, helped them overcome their initial inertia. They got motivated by a broader, more complete vision that made concession for the 99% of the world’s population.
Martin Luther and John Calvin did much to reform the doctrine and, to a lesser extent, the life of the church. But, for all their teachings of justification by faith alone and the election (God sovereignly choosing people to be saved), neither of these men or their movements did much to propagate the gospel outside the confines of their own regions or Christian Europe. Did shortsightedness prevent them from exporting the gospel to the Muslim hordes in the east or the two continents of the New World in the west? While the reformers were busy with maintenance in Europe, Romish missionaries were following the footsteps of Cortez and Pizarro, introducing their aberrational form of Christianity to the newly subjugated Indians of South and Central America. Today, millions of South and Central Americans are bound by a culture and the false assurances of a Romish, counterfeit Christianity. If Luther or Calvin had sponsored missionary endeavors with the convicting, irresistible pull of the true Gospel, then later combined with exponential growth, then Central and South America would be far different places today, spiritually, economically and politically. Instead, it was three hundred more years until reformation churches bean to send missionaries. Even then, entrenched myopia was resistant.
When young William Carey first planned to leave England to evangelize in India, he was sharply rebuked by older churchmen who informed him “that if God wanted to convert the heathen He could certainly do it without the help of Mr. Carey.” The modern missionary movement among reformation churches did not start in earnest until the first part of the nineteenth century.
Had the church followed English trading into China in the 1800s, and adequately decried the opium trafficking and planted indigenous churches, it probably would not be under the iron fist of communism today.
Had American Christians heeded General Douglas MacArthur’s pleas to send missionaries to occupied post-war Japan, there would be far more Christians than the meager 1% now there. We missed an open door to a people who were disillusioned with their former way of life. Traditionalism gave way to materialism. America discipled Japan economically, but did not impart true riches.
As more and more Christians have VISION for the fulfillment of our dominion mandate, we will through off our myopic shortsighted blinders that are so enmeshed in our maintenance perspective and lifestyle. More and more will make radical moves that speak of farsightedness. We will plant more churches, send more people, and allocate more finances to accomplish the long term. The Lord of the harvest will cause the increase. The exponential growth will fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord, to the same degree that the waters cover the sea.