AN Egyptian mission worker told me of a recent encounter he’d had with a migrant from North Africa in Italy. Although he’d been in Italy for some time and knew local believers, the man hadn’t heard the gospel until the mission worker spoke with him.
The man wasn’t hostile, he was just confused and wondered ‘Where were the voices of other Christians and churches?’
It’s a beautiful and awesome privilege to bear the message of the crucified and risen Christ. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go among all nations and preach the good news, the church became God’s instrument for gospel spread, which bore fruit and grew all over the world.
Speaking God’s word faithfully spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Christ and the true weight of God’s nature and work.
To the believer, Christ’s cross results in resurrection life, but in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wants the early church to understand that the word of the gospel isn’t always pleasant and depends on who’s listening.
In gospel growth we must take the rough with the smooth.
Reflecting on hearing the gospel from an Arabic-speaker in Italy, the North African migrant observed that many Europeans had ‘no courage to share their faith.’
Have we become complacent in our preaching? Do we still dare to share the gospel broadly, recognising that it will bring hostility and challenges, along with the joy of seeing new believers trust in the Lord?
It is in Acts that we see the first bold step of Jewish Christians communicating their faith — not only with fellow Jews, but with the non-Jewish Greeks in their community. Among diverse cultural backgrounds, the Holy Spirit was creating a multi-ethnic church to the glory of Christ.
In our age of migration and as more of us recognise the diversity of our communities, we’re called to reflect the likeness of Christ and serve, as churches, as God’s instrument for the spread of his word.
This discipleship in ethnically diverse communities requires a new-humanity identity within churches. In Ephesians 4, Paul urges his readers to exalt Christ and maintain the unity of the Spirit above all other competing identities.
Where we may be tempted to shy away from speaking truth, we must remember that Christ himself endured hostility. Following in his steps, we too will experience painful or awkward challenges, alongside the delight of being an aroma of life to life.