Come and See, Go and Tell

Justin Schell | 30 Nov 2022

I became a believer at the end of my freshman year at university. Almost immediately, I began to hear from leaders of my campus ministry about God’s heart for the nations of the world. As I read verse after verse from Scripture that declared God’s love for men and women from every tribe, language, people, and nation, with a blend of divine faith and naivete I simply said, ‘Father, if this is your heart, then I am going to make it my heart as well.’

I did not have a degree in missions. I had no passport. I did not personally know a missionary. I could not have told you the difference between Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam. But at that moment, none of those things were necessary. Nothing moves us to embrace and engage God’s mission like knowing his heart. Even now, after studying and practicing mission for two decades, I find it is still God’s heart that makes mission worthwhile.

A Double Invitation

One of my deepest desires is that every Christian would sense a double invitation. The first part of that invitation is to ‘come and see.’

In John 1:35-39, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we meet two of John the Baptist’s disciples. They have just heard of the one called the Lamb of God. So they begin to follow Jesus, and when Jesus notices, he invites them to come and see. He invites them to spend time with him.

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What is the result? What happens when we spend time with Jesus, when we begin to understand who he truly is and what he’s really like? In short, we hear the second invitation, which is to ‘go and tell’.

Andrew finds his brother, Simon, and says, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ Andrew spent time with Jesus, then brought Simon to Jesus. In John 1:43 Jesus calls Philip to follow him. What is the result of spending time with Jesus? Philip goes to his friend Nathanael and says, ‘Come and see!’

One more example. The Samaritan woman in John 4 encounters Jesus. She spends time with him. She begins to know who he is and what he is like, even in a single conversation. What does she then do? She goes into her village and says, ‘Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did’ (John 4:29).

Paul sums up this twofold invitation in 2 Corinthians 4:13-15. Paul says that we continue a long line of those who have believed in God and therefore witnessed to the world. We believe, so we speak. The former leads to the latter. Paul, I’m sure, would wonder: If we aren’t speaking of Christ, then do we really believe? Have we really come to know him, to delight in him?

I long for every believer in every church to ‘come and see’ the good and gracious God in such a way that they overflow in witness—they ‘go and tell’. And this is why mission isn’t just for the super-Christian or even the ordained, set apart missionary. No, the invitation is for every believer to know God and to make him known. We believe so we speak. Believers are speakers.

Some Christians will have evangelistic gifts of the Spirit, a spiritual knack for introducing others to Christ.  Some will be called out of the church to be sent into the world as missionaries, evangelists, campus workers, and workplace influencers. Some will receive the lost and weary into the warmth and welcome of their homes, listening to and lingering with them, while sharing intimately about the gentle and lowly one who came for the lost and weary. Whatever our gifting or position or calling, all Christians, all believers, are speakers.

We may speak in different places—my neighborhood or a foreign land. We may speak to different numbers—one co-worker over lunch or 1,000 people at a gospel rally. We may speak through different mediums—social media or in person. We may speak to different audiences—an agnostic youth or a Muslim who is a marketplace professional. We may speak in different languages—mother tongue or a second/third/fourth language. We may speak into different relationships—a family member or a total stranger. We may speak in a variety of timeframes—a three-minute testimony during a coffee break or a three-hour walk through Scripture after hours. We may speak at different volumes—in open-air exclamation or in security-concerned whispers. But we all speak. A silent Christian is an oxymoron.

Knowing the Father’s heart, knowing the goodness of our Jesus, compels the Christian to speak. We do not hide the light of the world. We season our speech intentionally and generously with salt, saying in various ways, ‘Come and see Jesus.’

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Every Christian a World Christian

I have a friend whose motto is ‘every Christian a world Christian’, meaning every believer should be living on mission with God so that their lives are shaping the throne room of heaven, the one we see in Revelation 7:9, where men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation are worshipping the Lamb that was slain.

World Christians are actively looking for ways to impact the world for Christ. Yes, they are witnessing locally wherever they are, but they are also seeking to make contributions to global mission in any other way they can.

They pray for God’s mission among the nations. They join with the Lord of the Harvest in praying that more laborers would be sent out (Matt 9:35-38). They pray against the work of the enemy who seeks to blind the eyes of men and women around the world, asking God to shine his light into dark places (2 Cor 4:4-6). They pray for missionaries, pastors, and evangelists whom they know, that they would be bold in declaring the Gospel (Eph 6:19-20). They pray that ministries of mercy and justice cause those they serve, and anyone else watching, to give glory to the Father in heaven (Matt 5:16) and to call on Christ for salvation (Rom 10:13-17).

They give to God’s mission among the nations. They give sacrificially, out of whatever little they have (Matt 12:41-44). They give joyfully (2 Cor 9:7), even begging earnestly for the favor of taking part (2 Cor 8:3-5). They desire that God’s gospel workers are well supplied (Phil 4:10-20), and are sent on in a manner worthy of God (3 John 5-8).

World Christians welcome the nations who come to their homeland. They have compassion on the sojourner, because they understand what it feels like to be strangers and aliens in this world, sometimes living as expatriates, immigrants, international students, and refugees themselves (Exo 22:21, Heb 11:13, 1 Peter 1:1). They recognize that the Lord has taken the 10/40 Window, turned it upside down, and started shaking it out all over the world. Men and women from lands where hearing and believing the gospel are illegal have been moved to new lands where, often, they can freely hear and believe in Christ if we will welcome them and witness to them.

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There’s another line in that motto of my friend. The full statement is, ‘Every Christian a world Christian, every Christian a mobilizer.’

This may look differently in Latin American than in Eurasia, but there are ways we can invite other believers to join in God’s mission. We can invite them to pray for the nations with us. We can invite them to welcome the foreigner with us. We can help them to so delight in the Lord that they long to go and tell others about him. We can invite them to invest their time and money in seeing the gospel go from those who have it to those who do not. We want all Christians everywhere to transition from being a part of the harvest field to joining the harvest force!

These activities may look different around the world, but they can all be a part of what our churches and ministries are doing.

So, friends, come and see the Lord. See his glory, beauty, kindness, majesty, and power. See Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the friend of sinners. Come and see the Father of heavenly lights who only does good for his children. See God—Father, Son, and Spirit—delighting to draw men and women into the very fellowship and glory that they have eternally shared.

Come and see, and then go and tell!

Justin Schell is the Lausanne Movement’s director of executive projects and the US director of the Union School of Theology. He is the author of Come and See: A History and Theology of Mission. Follow him on Twitter @TheJustinSchell.