Somewhere I read that explorers, it could have been Lewis and Clark, came across Indians who, when they spoke, sounded to the expedition as if they were speaking a Welsh dialect. Through an interpreter the Indians confessed that they had heard of a God who made them and loved them and came to earth die for them, “but other than that we haven’t heard anymore”. Some of the explorers believed that they were the Lost Tribes of Israel. I have always been haunted by that image of people that had heard some of the greatest story ever told of which they are a part and never heard anymore.
There is a phenomenon called “historical faith”. The danger of that is that those who have it are like the Bible scholars in Jerusalem who told the Magi where the Christ was to be born, but would not travel to Bethlehem to see for themselves.
That is why Luther hated what he called “historical” faith; an empty, neutral knowledge of Christ that does not place a person and his life in a position of deciding between righteousness by the law and righteousness of faith—a knowledge that is not won or grasped in the hour of the death of the “I”. For faith should so affect me that I know that Christ is He who stands in for me at God’s judgment—Christ is for me!—or I don’t’ know him at all, I just know about him.
The mission imperative is that all people need to hear this message. Christ is for them. The moralistic therapeutic Christians will only say that to the “right” kinds of people. The morally upright and “good”. There are some types that don’t fit into their churches and those are the ones that smell like the pigs and have led the “riotous life”. Interestingly those are the one that the Father runs too while they are a long way off and before they can say anything wraps them in the robe of Christ. Jesus died for sinners, and the self righteous cannot by definition “do” mission work.