Not Only the Gospel
“I have made it my ambition to preach Christ where He has not been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation.”
“I am under obligation [to preach the Gospel] to both Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also.”
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
“He came and preached peace to those who are far away, and those who are near.”
“And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached as a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come.”
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.”
“Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Gospel.”
“Those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word.”
“As you go, preach.”
These are just a few verses in Scripture specifically prioritizing the verbally declared Gospel of the Kingdom. It must be said out loud with actual words. Meaning, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words. All the time use words. Always use words. Out loud words.” (We discuss this at further length here). If all we can give is the only thing we really have, it is the name of Jesus. Give, and give freely.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul remarks that he did just that—and more. “We shared not only the Gospel with you, but our lives as well.” All too often, we reverse the order of these priorities, sharing our lives with our neighbors without ever actually sharing the Gospel—though we disguise this in the tempered term, ‘relational evangelism,’ as if that’s helpful for anybody (it isn’t). Paul could share tea with a lot of people, without ever having opportunity to share his life with them as well. He traveled a lot. He left communities shortly after meeting them. Truthfully, he wasn’t actually in Thessalonica for very long anyway. But he loved them, and he loved them deeply. They swapped stories. They worked alongside each other. They ate dinner together. They watched football together. They lived together. “Doing life” is a millennial buzzword, but Paul did it. And he did it with people who weren’t anything like him. It’s one thing to “do life” with your Sunday small group or your hipster coffee/Bible/pipe smoking club. It’s another to do it with people who have no cultural common denominator with you. They have a different language. A different background. A different sense of humor. A different standard of what to do when you enter a room. A different definition of what is acceptable to call “coffee.” And you have to drink it to be polite.
When we first sent a medical team to Kurdistan (when Better Friends Than Mountains Vol. I was filmed), we were invited by locals to come and be their neighbors. So we did. The door was open, and we walked through it. It is our conviction, burden, and prayer that the Kurds would in fact receive from the Church better friends than mountains. This will require “doing life” with them. It will require learning a language you may not be very good at. It will mean publicly blundering some sort of cultural standard you were blissfully ignorant of (until you botched it…let’s just say I did not read this in a book). It will mean swapping dishes with the family next door, telling stories of each other’s countries, and teaching their kids how to properly shoot a basketball.
The Word became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood,” as Eugene Peterson paraphrased John 1. Put frankly, every remaining unreached and unengaged people group is still unreached and unengaged because we’ve been avoiding them. We have essentially saved the most dangerous regions for last, but I moved to a podunk valley town up the road from one of Saddam’s old palaces, sandwiched in a non-nation between Iran, Turkey, and Syria, just a stone’s throw away from the Islamic State, and lived next to some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I really did teach their kids how to properly shoot a basketball.
When the Mosul campaign kicked off to eradicate ISIS out of the city, many of our neighbors went to war. We went with them, because they needed medics. It was the neighborly thing to do. Many of our neighbors went to funerals for their fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles (unfortunately, it is impossible that war would spare everybody). We went with them. It was the neighborly thing to do. The remaining nations, people groups, and neighborhoods who have not yet received a witness of Jesus will be challenging to reach. They will require methods specific to their community’s needs. But “reaching the lost with the Gospel” is also very simple. It means being a good neighbor and telling them about Jesus with your mouth and with your life.
If we love Jesus more than we love our cultural comfort levels, hipster coffees, and same-language Sunday small groups, something in us must be provoked. When it comes to the nations drowning in darkness and blasphemy two thousand years after we received marching orders, I believe we go, we send, or we disobey. Our burden for Kurdistan is to be better friends to them than the mountains which have sheltered them for so long. Serving them—all thirty-some-odd million of them—with a tangible witness of Jesus will require a lot of people for a long time. We’re in it for the long haul.
Will you join us?
 Romans 15:20; 1:14; 1:16; Isaiah 57:19; Ephesians 2:17; Matthew 24:14; I Corinthians 1:17; Acts 15:35; 8:4; 11:19; Matthew 10:7.
 I Thessalonians 2:8
 Acts 17:2
 Oh, M. (2011). Come be a nobody for Christ. DesiringGod. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/come-be-a-nobody-for-christ
 CIA Factbook. Estimates as of 2014; Turkey: "Kurdish 18% [of 81.6 million]", Iran: "Kurd 10% [of 80.8 million]", Iraq: "Kurdish 15%-20% [of 32.6 million]" Syria: "Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% [of 17.9 million]".