The Philippine Star

The people in the back rows

- Dr. Harold J. Sala Used with permission from Guidelines Internatio­nal Ministries. To learn more about Guidelines and the ministry, send an e-mail to You may also visit

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? – Romans 10:14-15

In his book The Challenge of Missions, Oswald J. Smith recounted the story of Christ’s feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took the loaves and fishes and blessed them, and then the disciples began to distribute the food. Smith then asked, “Do you remember how the disciples started at one end of the front row and went right along that front row giving everyone a helping? Then do you recall how they turned right around and started back along that front row again, asking everyone to take a second helping? Do you remember?”

If you know the story, that’s not the way it happened. Then Smith drove home his point. “Had they done that, those in the back rows would have been rising up and protesting most vigorously. ‘Here,’ they would have been saying, ‘Come back here. Give us a helping. We have not had any yet. We are starving; it isn’t right; it isn’t fair. Why should those people in the front rows have a second helping before we have had a first?’”

Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?

Those in the back rows live in extreme poverty and hunger. Many have never seen a Bible or know who Jesus Christ is, and think of God as someone disinteres­ted in their pain.

Oswald Smith was right about the folks in the front row getting serving after serving while the folks in the back still haven’t had their first taste of the Bread of Life. Look for the folks in the back row. Some may well be in your neighborho­od, closer than you think.

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