From Everywhere to Everywhere
The Amazing Power of the Great Commission to Mobilize God’s People for Witness
By Doug Gehman
Hidden inside Jesus’ final eschatological speech is a profound prediction. His speech is actually a response to a question, asked by Jesus’ disciples: “Tell us,” they asked, “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus’ response starts with, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Jesus continues with words about nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And warnings of famines, earthquakes, and “the beginning of birth pains.” This analogy suggests the world is pregnant with something new. Jesus continues with words about people betraying each other and hating each other, about false prophets leading many astray, and the love of many growing cold because of the increased lawlessness. Not a pretty picture!
But then Jesus says something profound. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14 ESV). In other words, before the new arrives, there will be great trouble, but there will also be great courage as God’s people boldly witness for Jesus all over the world.
In the midst of global chaos, God’s people will not cower in fear; rather they will go forth with courage! So, according to Jesus, at the end of all things, missionary work will increase!
It has been my experience that God’s people are like all humanity. We feel fear. Our first reaction to difficulty is to flee. To seek safety and refuge. This is what the disciples did when Jesus was arrested. This is what the early church believers did when Stephen was stoned to death. But then, an amazing thing happens to God’s people. We adjust to our new reality. We find refuge in our relationship with Jesus. Our awareness of our eternal security with Him is heightened. We lean into Jesus and He gives us supernatural hope and boldness. About this, the world knows nothing. And that reality – the world’s hopelessness – becomes the impetus for our bold proclamation!
This has happened down through history. It is the defining phenomenon of Christian history. I recently was in a large meeting with The Jesus Film. A man from Ethiopia shared his own experience about what happened in that nation during its war when tens of thousands died. God’s people, who were stretched to their own limits by the conflict, reached out to their neighbors in love and faith. A great move of God resulted in the nation.
I saw this happen in Sri Lanka when we worked there in the 1980s and 1990s during that nation’s civil war. Christians on both sides of the racial conflict – between the majority Singhalese and the minority Tamils – reached out in love to their neighbors. With our national colleagues, we conducted outreaches during that time and thousands came to Christ. We held baptisms that sometimes included several hundred people. We planted churches. All in the middle of national upheaval.
A friend of mine, a Vietnamese national who immigrated to the United States with his family when he was a boy, found Jesus and as an adult returned to Asia to reach his own people. Many Vietnamese young people, hundreds of thousands, were moving to neighboring Asian nations as contract laborers. They would live in a foreign land for several years and work in factories. Often their living conditions were dismal. My friend went to one of those nations to witness to these young people. Thousands turned to Christ. One time he helped in a water baptism service where over 600 young people declared their faith in Jesus by being baptized. “I was in the water so long,” he told me, “that I started shivering from the cold.” This is a tropical climate where the water was over eighty degrees!
I know of a ministry in North Africa that is training Africans from one nation to go on mission to Africans of neighboring nations, many of which are primarily Muslim. They go in witness, and their goal is church planting and raising up national leadership.
Today there are over two billion people who still are without a gospel witness. They have no Bible to read in their own language. They have no Christian community to model a Jesus kind of life to them and share His good news story with them. Someone must go. The people who will do this work in the last days will come “from everywhere.” Some will come from the West. Others will come from the East. Some from the North. Some from the South. Some will go far from home… and be stretched to learn a new language and culture. Others will go to their neighbors and share Christ with their friends in a familiar environment. But go they will!
The challenge for each of us is to answer the call of God. To listen. And to obey no matter what the cost might be. “To love not our lives unto death” which basically means we love Jesus, His Gospel, and His Eternal Promise more than anything else.
Will you be one of those “from everywhere to everywhere” people?