What’s Your Method?
Did Jesus really command us to preach the Gospel to all creation?
Well, there it is, in Mark 16:15: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”
At first glance, it seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? What difference is the Gospel going to make to the mountains, to the air, bushes and trees, much less dogs, cats, bears and bees? I think I’ve only heard of one person who took this literally. I understand that St. Francis of Assisi literally did preach the Gospel to all creation—the birds and the bees in his garden.
However, I doubt that Jesus was speaking literally here. I’m convinced He was using a literary device called hyperbole. It’s the fancy word that defines the use of overstatement or exaggeration to make a point.
Jesus was known to exaggerate to make His point. How else can we understand what He said in Matthew 7:3-4: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” Obviously, no human being has room for a log in his eye; he can only act and speak as though he does.
In the same way, Jesus wasn’t telling us to go preach the Gospel to all creation. However, He was making the point that we need to share the Good News of salvation with absolutely everyone we come into contact with. So why is it, when it comes to preaching the Gospel, we often act like we have a log in our mouths!
I was uncomfortably reminded of that fact as I was on a mission, partially, to the local medical community yesterday. It was time for another infusion, which means I spend four hours at a local hospital with primarily one nurse who will poke me with a needle one or more times, feel bad about it, and then try to make up for it by making me comfortable for the next three hours. It always gives me a chance to make conversation, ask questions, and take a personal interest in her life. This often means I get a chance to share the Good News with her one way or another.
However, yesterday that didn’t quite happen. She did ask me what brought me to Reno, which led to the answer “to start a church.” That could have been a natural opener but her response, though not negative, was very neutral. So I decided to wait for a better opportunity, which didn’t come.
I had been in a hurry to get to the appointment so I had only one of the thank-you-for-your-frontline-service-during-the-Covid-19-Crisis letters with me. I’d included a Gospel presentation in it. So I signed it to give it to her just before she was about to unhook me. However, at the last moment, as my station beeped indicating the infusion was complete, another nurse kindly intervened while my first nurse was preoccupied with another patient. I gave my letter to the second nurse instead, judging it must have been the sovereignty of God. However, I still had a chance to get something ready for the original nurse, but I was drowsy after a nap, and let it go. Sure enough, she was finished with the other patient just in time to say a very kind goodbye to me.
As I limped around the corner, I did see the second nurse reading my letter briefly before she put it away.
But I struggled some that I hadn’t ever given my first nurse something with the Gospel in it. I alternately accused myself of being lazy, or not wanting to bother, or justified my actions by telling myself it was simply God’s sovereign plan for the second nurse to get the Gospel rather than the first, or that I would share with the first nurse another time. And then there’s that prideful response—how many believers try to share the Gospel with everyone anyway?
Then Mark 16:15 came to mind.
I talk about praying for divine appointments. And I certainly have had plenty of them. However, according to what Jesus said here, every person any of us has some interaction with in life could be, and perhaps should be, considered a divine appointment.
After all, who doesn’t need to hear the Gospel? (Yes, someone who already believes–right! But you get my point!)
Is there anything that is more important than a person’s eternal destiny? If heaven or hell might depend on my sharing the Gospel with someone, doesn’t that warrant some effort to share the Good News with everyone? (I recognize God is completely sovereign over all of this, but the Bible nowhere indicates we are anything less than completely responsible to do our part as well.)
And didn’t Jesus say to preach the Gospel to “all creation.” Just exactly who does that exclude?
Some of you will argue that you preach the Gospel by the way you live—and that’s enough. There’s that well-known saying, “Yes, preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
Yes, we all must be examples of what we believe. But that’s just the beginning. I consider the quote above to be one of the biggest copouts and spiritual lies ever promoted among true believers. That’s because it is absolutely necessary to use words to preach or proclaim the Gospel. It is inherent in the very definition of the word “preach” which Jesus used. After all, the Apostle Paul wrote, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
And that brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s example. It’s clear to me that he understood Jesus’ command in Mark 16:15 in exactly the same way I do—according to what Jesus actually said rather than what we wish He had said—”Preach the Gospel when it’s convenient”; “Preach the Gospel only when someone asks”; “Preach the Gospel only when you feel like it”; or “Don’t worry about it—they’ll figure it all out on their own.”
If you’ve ever read the Book of Acts, you know what I’m talking about. Paul chose some of the most inconvenient, even impossible situations you can imagine to “preach the Gospel.” For instance, in Acts 21, a mob of murderous Jews creates a riot for the purpose of doing away with Paul. A Roman centurion intervenes and arrests (rescues) Paul. However, Paul, using his Roman citizenship to full effect, insists on interrupting the Roman Rescue so he can address the very crowd that is clamoring for his death. His purpose—to share the Gospel with them! He wanted to save the very people who wanted to kill him!
Sounds an awful lot like Jesus.
Dallas Seminary sends me a magazine every quarter. A recent issue featured the alumnus of the year. Yes, he has his doctorate in theology. Yes, he is a venerable old saint. But no, he isn’t sitting behind his big desk in some ivory tower somewhere. He isn’t the pastor of a mega-church, though that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Instead, here is a 70-something single man who is off in some third-world Hindu/Buddhist nation on the streets sharing the Gospel face-to-face with all kinds of people who have never heard it.
How is he doing it? He is giving out tracts.
Naturally, some believers have challenged the effectiveness of his method of presenting the Gospel.
His response, “What’s your method?”
It’s a good question for many of us. But perhaps another one that could be asked is this:
“What’s your excuse?”
–Pastor Jim Wallace