The Smoke of a Thousand Villages

Have you ever sat awake wondering the implications of someone’s eternity if they’ve never heard the Gospel? It seemed extreme to me, growing up with four churches on every street corner. Maybe you can relate; it’s hard to visualize a world where Jesus wasn’t either spoon fed to you at a young age, or offered as hope by family and friends in a painful season of life. 

In 1838 lifetime African missionary Dr. Robert Moffat said, “I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary has ever been.”

Those are striking words. 

Maybe they incite something in you. Maybe you’re called by God to leave house and home to travel to the uttermost regions of the earth. But maybe you’re not. Does God’s Will for you to “lose your life for Christ’s sake” differ if you aren’t a full-time missionary?

No, the call to make disciples is just as pressing on God’s heart in Kentucky as it is in Kenya. Let’s count the costs: if it’s true that there is a God, and if it’s true that those God created to worship Him actually turned from Him and worshipped themselves, then all would be condemned to spend eternity separated from God.

But what if God in His love came and paid the whole price for the sin of the world in His Son and offered to every person freedom and eternal life with Him? If that’s true, and it is, then telling others about the Jesus you know is everything. 

This then begs the question, "Why isn’t evangelism the joy of our lives?" Those who have seen and experienced the glory of Jesus and don’t tell others about Him are living an amazing contradiction. If we are called to love others, but if we love them with everything but Jesus, we are living in disobedience to God. True love is sacrificial in nature; we see this most clearly on the Cross. That is why we can share with the threat of persecution. We love others enough to give up reputation, status, comfort, and even our physical body for them to know who we know.

Why isn’t evangelism the joy of our lives?

For me, the only thing that has given me courage to continue sharing the Gospel with family, friends, and college students is His promise that His sheep will always hear His voice. This is what Jesus said about those He died for: “I give them eternal life… My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28-29). The promise is this: Jesus draws people to himself. Jesus is the one who has the resources to make a dead heart beat again. All History and time is a divine unfolding of God’s glory, and part of that revealed glory is that he will not lose one person that truly hears his voice. All fears of evangelism die at the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ victory over death already means that faithful evangelism can’t fail now. Success in sharing your faith isn’t based on how many souls you “save” but your willingness to lose your life to win others. This is our greatest motivator in evangelism: Jesus’ victory secures ours. There is unspeakable hope in babbling nervously through the Gospel with someone you love. The midnight phone calls through tears confirm that the spoken Gospel is not mere words; it is God through us welcoming His lost sheep home. 

A college student named David Livingstone heard those words spoken by Dr. Robert Moffat. He moved to Southern Africa to share the Gospel. 

He only had one convert.

This one convert, however, the chief of the Kwena people, did more to propagate Christianity in 19th-century southern Africa than virtually any single European missionary. Livingstone’s prayer came true through one conversion. God has only ever used ordinary people to bring about His Kingdom because it shows his power in our weakness, and because ordinary people all there are. 

Who are some of those people God has laid on your heart to talk to about the love of Christ? Classmate? Friend? Roommate? Co-worker? Unreached people group? Regardless if you are being called to Papua New Guinea or a Papa John’s to tell someone about what Christ has done in your life, you can be sure that God will never be surprised by their response. Pray that God would open their hearts and run in the victory that Jesus won on Calvary, and watch Him do “abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine.”

Bradley Dean