Is the gospel worth the cost?
I recently had the privilege of travelling to South Asia on a missions trip where I got to meet various people who were training to become pastors and their congregants. These were all people from the poorer parts of India, so the idyllic seminary picture was not what we saw.
Instead, we met daily in a small bare concrete and cinderblock building where they would have lectures in the morning, followed by a break for lunch (which was prepared by some of the other students), before resuming with lectures for the rest of the afternoon.
Furthermore, this was a college of leadership, where people would apply to study for six months after having been developed by their own pastors (which were typically in other cities – so people travelled to study at this college).
Once they were done with their six months, they would graduate and go off to start their own churches in a new village where they'd start discipling others. In due time, these new pastors would recommend some of their local congregation to apply to join the next batch (and so the process repeats).
A couple of things stood out for me. Firstly, these people hungered for the word and Jesus Christ, and so were willing to count the cost in a country that is hostile to Christians. Secondly, due to the hostility, they focused on resiliency through discipleship.
Bearing the Cost
Many of the people I spoke to were from non-Christian backgrounds. They had come to faith through someone investing in them and, importantly, sharing the gospel with them.
One of the pastors I spoke to commented on his congregation: "The people here are tired of seeking for meaning and purpose in the darkness. That's why they turned to the light of Jesus."
Honestly, it was so profound yet simple.
This understanding drives our fellow brother and sisters in South Asia to share the gospel at significant risk of retribution, including abuse (verbal and physical), ostracization, imprisonment, threats to their family's lives. But, they have seen the true light and considered him to be worth all this and so much more.
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."" (John chapter 8, verse 12)
Counting the Cost
Do we see the people around us as living in darkness? Do we assume they are content there? I know I do – and this pastor, with his simple English, radically challenged my assumptions. I wrote in September about seeing the people around us as sheep without a shepherd and how harassed they were.
Now, this pastor challenged me – do we realise that they are tired and want to see the light? That they want to know the true life in Jesus Christ?
Unless we see the lost as such, and that they are seeking a better alternative, why would we accept the cost of being a follower of Christ? Why would we initiate the awkward conversations and risk rejection?
I know these thoughts swirl around my head and I often avoid such situations. But, unless we see the lost as people that God dearly loves, and the gospel as the only good news that can really bring healing and fulfilment, we won't count the cost, let alone pay the price of following Jesus.
Challenge of the Light
Our brothers and sisters in South Asia, with so much less (materially) than I, with such greater risk of punishment than I, have counted the cost and considered it worth it. Now the challenge is placed before us: is the gospel worth the cost? Are the people around us worth the cost?