Sunday Scrutinization: Utah is a Far Away and Dark Land
Posted by Mark Mayo
This morning my eldest daughter and I made our way to a congregation we weren’t familiar with to listen to and hopefully meet a guy who was on his way to the deepest, darkest jungles of SouthCentralWestern United States, known as Salt Lake City. A friend from our current fellowship brought me into the know that such a one as this was speaking there, and since he knew I was intimately familiar with the locale, he correctly assumed the level of my interest.
In trying to find out more about this other church, I felt a pang of regret in not taking advantage of this summer’s foray into night services by visiting other fellowships and witnessing God’s hand in the goings and comings therein. And in that, I remembered a discussion with a couple the other night about “cherry-picking” your favorite stuff among the churches you live nearby. Our friends are ones that have come to the current fellowship we are a part of, as well as being members of the previous large group we were attending. They are still participating in ministries there as well as being a part of the new, and have even participated in other congregations activities when there was an opportunity and God was leading them there. *Gasp!* There was accusation that they are “cherry-picking” the favorite things to be a part of wherever that may be. They were told that if you have chosen your church, then you must minister within the programs offered by that church. They obviously, respectfully disagreed. We are a part of the Church of West Plains, and we want to be where God is, no matter the congregation, fellowship, or denomination. That being said, we really want to have that kind of vision, and hope that others see things in the same way. In passing out flyers this summer, inviting people as a community to the fellowship meeting we have been doing, one of these things that stuck out in my mind was people not accepting the flyer stating that they already went to church.
How can we envision His Church in this way? You have yours, and I have mine, and may the two never meet. So I was glad to sit in on a service that baptized a baby (*Gasp!*) and meet a man who has such a heart for the lost. People said they were glad I was there. And you know what? I was glad to be there too, even when they don’t believe everything I do. The heart of Christ was central to our gathering, to the reasons we were all there, that morning.
As you all know, I grew up Catholic in Salt Lake City and became an evangelical Christian in my early to mid-twenties. The people I knew there were all Christians. We were part of an Awana group that came from all over the valley. We had Bible studies, fellowship dinners, retreats, all with other believers. The non-believers I knew of were my family and my coworkers (about 4 guys). I grew up there, knew the town, the places and surroundings. It is a bright and beautiful place for me. So when I heard the introductions for this man and what he spoke about, they made Salt Lake City or Utah in general sound like this faraway foreign land where people have dark hearts and lead dark lives.
How could they speak of my hometown in such a way? Then he gave some statistics: only 2% of Salt Lake is Christian. Given that just a few years ago Salt Lake hit the one million population mark, that means that there are only about 20,000 people there are Christian. Hmmm… that sounds like a lot to me. So then there are at least 800,000 people who are not. Wow. Okay, I’m getting a little of the picture here. He said he was going to be in Lehi, which is just North of Provo, home of BYU, and that Provo only had about 24 churches. That sounds like a lot. I did some searching for how many churches might be in the Salt Lake Valley, but couldn’t find any exact numbers, but I would guess from around 150-200 churches, and again, that sounds like a lot to me. But then I did a search for how many churches are in the West Plains area, where I live now, and see that online I come up with about 50, some people have told me 75. If we take the entire population of Howell County, in which West Plains is the county seat, of 40,000 then number of churches in West Plains alone is 1 per 530 people, but just taking West Plains population it is 1 church for every 160 people! An incredible number. If my guess is right about Salt Lake, then they have 1 church for every 5,000 people, or about 1 church for every 100 Christians.
Looking up the estimates of Christians in China, they have about 3% of the population. It’s no wonder there is a trend to send Church planters there to my little hometown of Salt Lake. It makes me wonder why I left… oh yeah, it’s because I was so comfortable there. I needed to get out and get challenged, to grow and to trust in God way more than I ever could in Salt Lake. Those people who are being sent to Salt Lake to plant churches better be prepared to be uncomfortable. I admire them and hope that I can be a support to them, which I am trying to do now. There is an expertise I have when it comes to going to Salt Lake and I hope people might rely on me in little ways in that, and I hope those that I know there can support them as well. There is a great work of God happening there, what with Ravi Zacharias speaking for a second time in the Mormon tabernacle and the nations evangelicals turning their eyes to the lost, I pray for them and hope you will too. And if you are a friend in Utah and would like to be connected to these folks, don’t hesitate to let me know. We could all use some small bits of support.
Oh, and if I may interject the best resource here for witnessing to Mormons, it is this book. You can find it at the best resources for Christians in Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry. There is a right way, and a wrong way to witness to Mormons.
Posted on August 10, 2014, in Sunday Scrutinization and tagged Christian, Church, Church Planting, Contention, Evangelical, Mormon, Salt Lake City, Share in Love, Utah, West Plains. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.