47. Preaching the Gospel
In various places, and with varying degrees of
success, Christadelphians undertake elaborate, advertised, public gospel
proclamation. Often it seems that the degree of success — humanly speaking
— leaves us disappointed. But, oddly enough, the one method of gospel
proclamation that outdoes all others in efficiency, which costs exactly nothing,
and which can be done by absolutely everyone, suffers serious neglect. Personal
witness for the faith, which built up the struggling Christadelphian body at a
remarkable rate in the last quarter of the last century, is now often passed
over for the “flashier” methods.
Yet this is how the gospel was first
“One of the two which.... followed him,
was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon,
and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah” (John
And then a few verses further
“Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith
unto him, We have found....” (v. 45).
He hadn’t really. Jesus had found him
instead. But the two processes are not to be separated. The disciple’s job
is to go and “find” his fellow. But in his “looking” it
is really God who does the “finding”!
Paul, the master preacher, had none of the modern
devices of publicity that we lean on so heavily. His familiar simple recipe
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by
the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
To be sure, we say, a man cannot receive the
gospel without a Bible. Right enough! But that is not what Paul is saying there.
His phrase means: “Hearing comes by the spoken word about God”, as
the next verse plainly confirms. “How shall they hear without a
preacher?” (v. 14) They can hear without an advertisement or other clever
modern eye-catcher. But not without a preacher. Sooner or later, someone has to
do the talking, and the sooner the better.
Nor is there any picking and choosing as to who
shall hear our good news. Who are we to discriminate and decide before for God
who is and who is not fit for His blessing?
“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the
evening withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper,
whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good” (Eccl.
And because “thou knowest not”, thou
shalt not make contemptuous pre-judgment as to which mode of preaching is the
best. Agreed, some methods seem relatively less efficient than others, to the
extent of appearing more wasteful of time or energy or resources. But none is to
be despised, for at one time or another the grace of God has made use of them
So why don’t we bring our personal witness
for the faith into daily life more than we do? Reason number one is:
“Behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child” (Jer. 1:6). There is a
paralyzing feeling of incompetence. “I am not quick-witted enough to cope
with the arguments people may fire at me, not sufficiently well-acquainted with
the Bible to be able to go to the very passage that is needed, etc.,
Such a poor attitude should be set right once and
for all. With the more conscientious, it springs out of a pathetic line of
reasoning of this kind: “The Truth must never be let down. I am not
competent to start talking on the subject. Therefore I’d better not say
With many this way of thinking is quite probably
an excuse, more than a reason.
There is a very simple way of coping with
one’s inadequacy in discussion, and that is to admit it: “I
can’t answer your argument right now, but I’m sure it can be
answered. Next time I see you, I shall have an answer for you.” None
except Christadelphians think it shameful not to be able to come up with a full
explanation of every problem passage. Others are highly unlikely to think the
worse of us for admitting ignorance on one point or another. Besides, that
“next time I see you” leaves the door wide open for a point-blank
return to the topic some time later! So that is a positive gain.
On the road that goes down from Jerusalem to
Gaza, Philip did not wait for his new acquaintance to ask him: “Do you
happen to know what Isaiah 53 is all about?” Instead, he was ready with
his own question: “Can you make sense of what you are reading?” This
is a fairly obvious example of what we are talking about. But every day a number
of opportunities may come along, to speak the right word at the right time. We
must learn to be alert to such openings. “Be instant, in season, out of
season,” exhorts Paul. Be ready, on the alert, even in the most unlikely
circumstances, for you never know!
Jesus sat by the well at Sychar, weary, hungry
and thirsty. But when his disciples returned with the food they had bought, they
found him alert and vigorous and not interested in food at all. While they were
away he had a better meal than they could provide — the spiritual
strengthening of an open, inquiring mind with which to hold
He sent out his disciples in pairs, and they set
off, one may be sure, nervous and ill at ease at the unaccustomed responsibility
he had laid on them. But the men who returned were hardly to be recognized as
the same persons. They bubbled over with excitement and pleasure. What was it
that had made the difference?