The Gospel In Between
Friends of mine, people from other places, often say, “I love Australia. It’s so unique. Your people are so warm and friendly, your beaches so inviting, your Koalas so cuddly.” Let’s get a few things cleared up. Koalas are not cuddly. They are vicious death-machines who’ll take your life by falling from the branches above your head. The last thing you’ll hear as darkness takes you, is the sound of a lawnmower with a stick jammed in its blades plummeting toward you from above. Koalas aren’t cuddly, don’t believe the hype!
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, is that when I reply, “Oh, what parts of Australia did you see?”, I usually get some variation of, “Well, we landed in Sydney and had a wonderful few days there, then we flew to the Gold Coast (or Melbourne) and had a really enjoyable time sitting on the beach (or freezing our butts off while sipping lattes). Then we flew home.” When that happens, you haven’t seen Australia—you’ve seen Sydney, then either a sunnier more relaxed version of it (or a colder more uptight version of it).
But I don’t get upset. I mean, most Australians haven’t seen Australia. For sure, most of us have seen the highlights reel, the main places, the cultural icons, and popular destinations—but very few have seen the in between places.
That’s where I live. A place in between. A place where the interstate highway was detoured to not slow the flow of traffic. A place where if you lay on the grass and look into the sky, you see planes high above streaking from one important place to another. I live in between, but so do the other 13000 people in my town. In fact, much of Australia lives in between.
As of 2019, Australia’s population broke the 25 million mark. I know that’s small in the global context, but still, Australia holds a unique place in the world. If we asked each Australian to stand equal distance from each other over the entire surface of our great brown land, there would only be 3.1 of us in every square kilometre. For those of you still living in the ancient imperial world, that’s about 8 people in every square mile. Regardless of the scale you use, that isn’t many people. Now add to these statistics that Australia's five largest cities, each spread far and wide from each other in the various states and territories we have, account between them for about 14 million people. That means that 11 million people live in between, just like I do.
As a part of the movement of churches and people dedicated to advancing gospel centrality, we need to ensure we don’t develop our own ‘tourist mentality’, where certain centres become Mecca's for pilgrims and ministries. Cities need Jesus, no doubt. Cities need to be over-run with the gospel. And yes, I understand the ‘Centre-Church’ concept, and I embrace Paul’s obvious strategy for gospel proclamation on his journeys through the book of Acts. But we also need a gospel for in between.
While gospel strategies are good, that’s not what the gospel is primarily for. The gospel isn’t just a filter to shape your vision statements by, or a clever acronym to fit into a presentation for a ‘startup’ ministry. The gospel is good news for dying people. The gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. The gospel is the satisfied pointing to the well where water can be found. The gospel is someone found telling someone lost where to find hope. The gospel is meant for people.
I’m not sure where you live, but I can guarantee that there are people there who need to hear the gospel. Maybe you’re in a bustling city where you pass millions by on the street, or maybe like me you’re in one of those place in between. Your little town may have been bypassed or looked-over, it may have been let down or left out, but no matter the morale of your community I want you to know that the gospel is for those in between too. In fact, I would argue that the vast majority of Jesus earthly ministry was showing us just how significant the in between places are in God’s economy. I take heart at all the times I see Jesus bring hope and life ‘as he was going’ somewhere. When the great invitation is sent out for the wedding feast, and the invited guests turned away, it was to the highways and roads that the message was then sent.
Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. - Matthew 22:8-10
One day, when we all stand together at the great marriage feast of the Lamb, when every tribe and tongue will stand shoulder to shoulder in worship of him who conquered, I will hear countless voices of men and women like me—the ones in between that the gospel reached out to.
So the next time you’re travelling to some exciting destination, stop and consider the little places you travel past, the places in between. They are filled with people who need the gospel. If you’re in a season of waiting on God’s leading for ministry, then pray and seek his will for the in between places of the nations. We need you. The harvest is plentiful, even here in the in between places, but we need workers—workers who are willing to take the gospel in between.