MISSIONARIES AND IMPOSTORS
Written by Doug Ponder on October 19, 2014
Two Kinds of Christians: Missionaries and Impostors
Charles Spurgeon’s voice was said to boom when he preached, enabling thousands at a time to hear him without the aid of modern amplification. It seems fitting that such a voice was known for uttering weighty words. Imagine the mood at the Metropolitan Tabernacle as these words traveled past column after column, row after row, filling the ears and piercing the hearts of all who were present:
“Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him. That man who says, ‘I believe in Jesus,’ but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him… is an impostor.”
Of course, Spurgeon was not talking about foreign missionaries. By “missionary” he was referring to the call placed upon every Christian, the commission given by Jesus himself to make disciples of those who do not follow him (Matt. 28:18-20).
We Always Talk about What We Love
Although speaking of Jesus is a command he has given us, there is a sense in which no command is really needed at all. That’s because sharing good news is something that we naturally do whenever we experience something that we love. A good movie, a fine restaurant, a thrilling sports game, the news of a new fiancé—no one has to tell us to spread the word with these. We want to tell others about such things because we want them to share in our joy. We always talk about what we love.
Now, if that is true for small things like ice cream and movies and songs on the radio, how much more true should it be when it comes to matters of greater importance?
Imagine hearing for the first time that Germany and Japan had surrendered. The war that took the lives of so many, and disrupted the lives of so many more, was finally over. Victory! We had won. I doubt that anyone who heard that news kept it to themselves. It was likely the talk of every town, the conversation at every barber shop and grocery store and family dinner table. The war was over; peace had come.
But the message of Jesus is even greater than that, for his victory is bringing a peace without end. He has conquered sin, reconciled us to God, and reversed the power of death, turning our greatest enemy into a ferry that carries us home. That’s truly good news.
Christians Can’t Help Speaking about Jesus
It’s such great news, in fact, that the apostles couldn’t stop telling everyone. So even when Peter and John were captured, flogged, and commanded not to speak about Jesus, they famously replied, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Or as Eugene Peterson has paraphrased well, “We can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard!”
After meeting Jesus, the woman at the well scurried off so quickly that she left her water jar behind to run and tell everyone about him (John 4:28-29).
Others couldn’t keep quiet even when Jesus told them not to say anything. Like the leper who so was so overjoyed that he “talked freely” about Jesus and “spread the news” so effectively that people were flocking to Jesus from every quarter (Mark 1:43-45).
Still others gave their lives talking about Jesus. Stephen kept preaching even as he was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). And church history tells us that all of the apostles but one died as martyrs, proclaiming the good news about Jesus to the very end.
Like the woman who found her lost coin and called her friends and family together to celebrate (Luke 15:8-9), everyone who knows Jesus can’t help speaking about him. We always talk about what we love.
Rightly did Spurgeon say, therefore, that every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor. For everyone who thinks highly of Jesus will find that their joy and their love for him can’t help running over at their mouths, like a river that overruns its banks and floods the lands with the water of life.
If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep that good news to yourself. You would tell your children, remind your spouse, and share it with friends and everyone else who would listen.
From the Overflow of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks
“But I don’t know how to talk about Jesus,” people sometimes say. “I wouldn’t know what to say.” “I’m not able to explain the gospel as well as my pastor can.”
Those thoughts were common in Spurgeon’s day too. But gifted speaker though he was, Spurgeon knew that the “secret” to effective evangelism was not found in the sharpness of our minds or the skill of our tongues, but in the joy in our eyes and the love in our hearts.
He said, “Without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of His sweet love. . . If you know Christ, you are as one that has found honey; you will call others to taste of it; you are like the lepers who found the food which the Syrians had cast away: you will go to Samaria and tell the hungry crowd that you have found Jesus, and will be anxious that they should find him too. . . In every place you will proclaim the fact that Jesus is most precious to your soul.”
We always talk about what we love. If we are not talking often of Jesus, what must that say of our love for him? Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.