Why do we struggle so much with heralding the gospel in Jerusalem? Why are we comfortable with hopping on a plane and sharing the good news to a people we’ve never met yet uncomfortable with sharing the good news to our neighbors and co-workers, those we know and see every day? I think we need to understand this question to be faithful ministers of the gospel.
We’re all here because men took seriously the commands of God to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. For many generations, the Holy Spirit has transformed hearts through the heralding of the good news of Christ. These heralds experienced grace in such a way that it motivated them to preach on, speak on and share the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Christ.
We can look back to Genesis 12 and hear God tell Abram, “I’m going to save from every tribe, tongue and nation on earth. I’m reconciling all things to myself.” We can look at the prophet Isaiah say, “The nations will gather and be glad.”
We can see the coming of Jesus. We can hear him say, “There are sheep that are not of this flock who are going to be a part of my family, of my flock. They’ll hear my voice. They’ll come.” We can watch and see the gospel roll out, through the book of Acts to the known world.
This is what God has accomplished, and it’s our turn to play in the great drama and in the great unfolding of God’s redemptive plan.
The refrain from Acts 1 has echoed from the beginning of creation in God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ, and it was heralded to us – by parents, friends, co-workers, or even by people we didn’t even know. Now the message has been entrusted to us, and the command hasn’t changed: “To Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…”
In Acts, everybody heralded and talked about Jesus at home, in Jerusalem, but they didn’t want to get out of there. They didn’t want to leave. They were comfortable at home. Not until Saul began to ravage the Church did they go to Judea and Samaria.
Interestingly, we’ve kind of done a flip-flop. In the first century, they were all about Jerusalem, but they didn’t want to go out. They didn’t want to go talk to other ethnicities in other countries. They were just about them. Two thousand years later, we’re the exact opposite.
If we go on a mission trip to Mexico or Africa, we’re bold for Jesus. But as soon as someone asks us to evangelize to our neighbor, we squirm. I don’t know that we’ll ever be comfortable heralding the news, but what’s great about the gospel is that the gospel does the gospel’s work.
No one has to be an expert. I’m not encouraging anyone to be dumb. We should know the Word of God. It’s smart to have answers, but we don’t have to have all the answers. I’ve never cornered and checkmated someone in an argument and then seen that person break down, repent and ask Christ into their heart.
So why are we bold in Samaria, bold to the uttermost parts of the earth but not bold in our own front yards? What is at the root of our attitude?
We lack a deep understanding of God’s grace. For when we understand grace and who God is and what He has done, then we’re far more excited about His delight in us and His forgiveness and, in turn, we’re far more excited to be witnesses to this forgiveness not only in Judea and Samaria, but also Jerusalem.
Will we enter into the great drama that’s unfolding before us? Will we answer the invitation to be a part of something infinitely larger than ourselves? Will we fulfill our responsibility in our Jerusalem – in our neighborhoods, workplaces and circles of friends– to be heralds of Christ’s grace and mercy?
We must search our hearts and let the Holy Spirit soften the hard places. We must ask for a deeper understanding of and gratefulness for God’s grace. Because when all is said and done, there’s one song that’s sung in heaven, and we’re not mentioned. In God’s eyes, there’s one Church, and we’re a part of it. It’s all about grace.
Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. He describes his 7 year tenure at The Village as a re-planting effort where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation. The church has witnessed a tremendous response growing from 160 people to over 5000 including two satellite campuses (Denton and Northway). Alongside his current role as lead pastor, Matt is involved in church planting efforts both locally and internationally through The Village and various strategic partnerships. Prior to accepting the pastorate at The Village, Matt had a vibrant itinerant ministry for over ten years where he spoke to hundreds of thousands of people in America and abroad about the glory of God and beauty of Jesus. His greatest joy outside of Jesus is being married to Lauren and being a dad to their three children, Audrey, Reid, and Norah.