By Donald P. Ames
One of the problems in dealing with statistics is that someone else will always come along and seek to show they can produce even greater statistics than those you may have produced. But, so often it is easy to look at the vast numbers of people in foreign countries without the benefit of the gospel and become alarmed at their lack of -opportunity. We immediately start sending $25 per month to some preacher overseas, and begin telling ourselves what a great part we are having in carrying the gospel “to the lost.”
Now lest any misunderstand, I am not condemning the work done in other countries, nor am I trying to discourage any interested in such. Certainly the Lord Himself can bear witness to my interest in the work overseas, and such opportunities should not be passed up while people are so eagerly hungering and thirsting for the precious word of God in those countries.
But, are we really being realistic in some of our attitudes? Are only those overseas lost in the darkness of sin? Are they the only ones who have not had the chance to hear the gospel of Christ? The following statistics may come as a real shock to many, especially some of our brethren in the South (where you can drive through a mud hole and find a “Church of Christ”). It should make us all pause and ask what are we really doing to carry the gospel to the lost and to help the cause of Christ spread.
In the northwestern part of Indiana there are nine faithful congregations, or ten if you also include the city of South Bend. These congregations average about 100 per congregation, and serve a total population within those towns of 490,967 people, or in other words, there is one in attendance at church for every 491 people not at services in the Lord’s church-1,000 to 491,000! To further add to our concern for the lost is the fact these ten churches serve 898,841 people in just four counties, while included in this same area are seven other counties without even one congregation, and which have 216,015 people (Newton, Benton, White, Pulaski, Stark, LaPorte and Marshall). The figures are now 1,000 to 1,114,856. This should cause all of us interested in those lost to be greatly concerned.
But let’s break this down even further. St. Joseph county has 245,045 people and only one church (South Bend); Jasper county has 20,429 people and only one church (DeMotte-which does not even have their own building yet); Porter county has 98,114 people and only one church (Portage); and Lake county has 546,253 people and only seven churches.
Hammond is served by two congregations, yet covers over 107,709 people. South Bend has only one faithful congregation to serve 125,580 people. Gary has only one faithful congregation serving its 175,415 people. The following towns also only have 1 congregation each: Highland-24,947 people; Hobart-21,485; Portage-19,127; Griffith- 18,168; Lowell-3,839 and DeMotte-1,697.
Other towns of significant size that do not even have a .sound congregation at all (and most likely not even a liberal one either!) include: East Chicago 46,982; Michigan City-39,369; Mishawaka-35,517; LaPorte-22,140; Valporaiso-20,020; Logansport19,255; Merrillville-15,918; Munster-16,514; Crown Point-10,931; and Lake Station (formerly East Gary)-9,858.
Lowell and DeMotte serve as the southern edge of the towns served; while Gary, Portage and Hobart compose the eastern edge (and South Bend is an isolated island). The next congregation to the south is in West Lafayette. Now get out your maps and see the area left uncovered in this vast area-towns and cities without a church even in them-lost and without the opportunity to act yet!
Of course the field is hard and the work is slow. Indifference is deeply entrenched. There also comes the time when churches must pause, regroup and grow to become stronger and self-supporting. But the work must go on, and too often the desire is there, but the opportunity to use it cannot be taken advantage of. Any Christians looking for a challenge, to work, and to help others carry the gospel to the lost do not have to just go overseas. Why not look over northwestern Indiana. Indeed, they do need your help too.
(Now if anyone is so disposed as to see if they cannot produce even larger statistics than these, my comment is: “Go to it!” Maybe we need to get knocked out of our complacency, and maybe this will do us all some good).
Truth Magazine XXII: 46, p. 738
November 23, 1978