“If this gospel is such good news, why did it take two thousand years to get here?”
That was the response from an East Asian college student after hearing the gospel the first time. A short-term team with gifted evangelists from my home church had spent time sharing the gospel on a university campus in East Asia.
They shared the good news with many students and even led a couple of guys to faith. It was an exciting experience until they met one student who declined to believe the gospel for a startling reason.
When asked if he wanted to follow Jesus, the student said no, but not because he didn’t necessarily believe the content. He wasn’t rejecting the claims of the gospel: man is sinful, and the only way to a reconciled relationship with God is through repentance and faith in Christ.
Rather, he had serious doubts about the gospel because of the length of time it took to get to him. He reasoned that if the gospel is a true story, he should have heard about it before now. No one in his village had ever heard this story. How could it take so long to reach him?
Have We Made the Gospel Small?
Although this student’s logic doesn’t invalidate the truth of the gospel, I understand why he wondered how it could take so long for the best news in the world to reach his province. In his view, something that is universe-altering should not take millennia to reach the ears of any person, regardless of where he or she was born. It wasn’t the gospel content that caused him to reject Christ, it was how small the gospel seemed to him due to the length of time it took to get to him.
We know there are people who have yet to hear about Jesus, but if we’re not careful, we could easily become desensitized to the inexcusable reality. We could casually accept it like we do tragic events on the news that shake us to our core, only to find ourselves a few weeks later calloused and indifferent to the horror that took place. The student’s response forces us to answer, “If the gospel is so great, why is there not an urgency attached to sharing it?”
“Either the gospel is the greatest news ever heard—and thus we must urgently proclaim it—or it is only “above average news” that we can casually share at our discretion and convenience.”
It’s forced me to ask myself if I treat the gospel as a pearl of great worth (Matt. 13:46) that is deserving of my full surrender. Or do I treat it like a dirty leaf that is the center of my toddler’s universe for three minutes, as she shares the splendor of her treasure with everyone on the playground, only to discard it into the abyss of her stroller, never to be seen again?
The exposure an object deserves is intrinsically connected to its value. Invaluable artifacts don’t belong in a dusty closet; they are meant to be marveled. Either the gospel is the greatest news ever heard—and thus we must urgently follow it and proclaim it—or it is only “above average news” that we can casually share at our discretion and convenience.
Finding Fuel for Our Urgency
I’ve heard it rightly argued that we should actively share the gospel because every day thousands, if not millions, of people die without having a chance to respond to the hope found in Jesus. This is true.
But we should also stress the urgency of world evangelization because of the value of the message. This message compelled a Samaritan woman to run into town and breathlessly share of her encounter with the merciful Savior. After an experience with Jesus, a healed leper widely proclaimed the miracle this Messiah had worked in his life. Both shared the news because they treasured their experience with Jesus. And their message rightly pointed others to the One deserving such glory.
If we have lost our sense of urgency, it’s because we have underestimated the value of the message. We must resolve to share Christ with every nation, tribe, people, and language as a testimony to the worth and immensity of the news—the King of Kings has made a way for man to be forgiven and reconciled to God. This begins with a personal and corporate celebration of how great the gospel is.
The gospel is not simply above average news; it is the greatest news. It meets people in the darkest of times and provides hope. It confronts people in their despair and provides purpose. The gospel is the greatest news available, and we should treat it as such. It is worthy of our urgency.
We all have a responsibility in this. Visit imb.org/east-asia to find ways you can get more involved.
Jack Swift is an IMB training strategist in East Asia where he serves on the student strategies team developing training for student and young adult missionaries.