“That’s why Scripture exclaims, ‘A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!’ But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.” – Romans 10:15-17 (MSG)
It was a weekend in the middle of September, when the cornfields were nearing harvest but the weather was still warm and a fresh breeze was strongly blowing. To anyone else, it was a normal day in rural Illinois, but to me, it was so much more.
This weekend is when I went on a retreat hosted by a local church and experienced a personal encounter with the love of Jesus for the first time. I received Jesus’ love and forgiveness into my heart and life, forever changing my life’s trajectory both in this life and beyond.
I remember thinking to myself, How is it that I don’t remember anyone telling me of this great love of God before? I’d grown up in the church, but couldn’t recall ever really hearing of it—perhaps it was because of the veil over my heart and mind as scripture speaks of, or perhaps because I hadn’t really connected the dots on a personal level.
Maybe like me, you have heard someone close to you tell you that he or she doesn’t have to say “I love you” because you know that he or she does. It’s considered to be understood. It’s a given.
But as much as we may know our friends and family love us, we still need to hear it. Similarly, and even more importantly, we also frequently need to hear God’s love for us. As Romans 10:17 tells us, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. It is something that must be shared.
That September day, I had gained a deep perspective and urgency for sharing the love of Jesus with others. I was compelled to share. I couldn’t not share of this great love I had just encountered because I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else feeling like I had. It was too great a love to keep inside. I was compelled to share.
I am reminded of Peter and John in Acts 4, where they were called before the rulers, the elders, and the teachers of the law for questioning. Peter and John, too, were compelled to tell of all they had heard and seen: “As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, MSG).
This is something we are passionate about here at the Billy Graham Center as we seek to show and share the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world. We continue on the legacy of Rev. Billy Graham to preach and teach the gospel to the world.
In a recent study, 79 percent of unchurched said they would be willing to engage in a faith conversation if a Christian friend shared, yet in separate but related research, only 39 percent of Christ-followers said they have shared the gospel in the past six months. That’s a 40 percent gap.
With the desire to close the gap and meet this need, we are compelled to see more Christ-followers equipped, networked, and resourced to overcome barriers and show and share the love of Jesus.
Not only is there a gospel mandate to do this, but there is an openness among the unchurched to engage in faith conversations. But as Romans 10:15-17 reminds us, how will they hear if no one tells them?
Colleen Cooper is Development Coordinator at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.