I love using striking and memorable quotes from missionaries, pastors, and theologians in my sermons. Our past brothers and sister have spoken wonderful truths in beautiful ways. Often it’s hard to say it better than they have.
What should we think, however, when our favorite teacher or missionary did not actually say the quote attributed to them? Should we still use it?
Take, for example, this quote about the Great Commission:
The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.
If you search Google, you will find hundreds of websites citing J. Hudson Taylor as the source. But, you won’t find a book or page number to confirm the citation. As far as I know, scholars have not been able to confirm the quote from any of Taylor’s writings.
What should we do then? Should we stop using it? Should we pigeonhole it in the anonymous folder? What is the most honest and responsible way to handle the many famous statements like this?
My suggestion is simple.
Keep quoting it! Note that it is often attributed to the great missionary J. Hudson Taylor.
Despite its uncertain source, it is absolutely true that the Great Commission is not an option to be considered but a command to be obeyed. With the authority of heaven and earth, Jesus said, “GO!”
The quote could have become associated with Taylor because it was similar to something he said. We can’t know with certainty. But we do that Taylor dedicated his life to the Great Commission. I’m sure if we were to ask him about this quote, he would reply with a loud and hearty “Amen!”
So keep using it. Let your congregation know that it’s possible Taylor may or may not have said it. But, also tell them how Taylor lived it out. Tell them how Taylor’s life as a missionary in China affirms that he would have believed this statement. Tell them how Jesus has given us a command to be obeyed, not an option to be considered.