Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 19, 1960
NUMBER 3, PAGE 3a,10

Thoughts On Preaching Abroad

Gordon Wilson, Sacramento, California

Much attention has of late been paid on the part of various journals to the problems posed by foreign evangelism. Lecture programs have been specially arranged by churches and schools with a view to exploring the possibilities for the evangelization of the world. All of this indicates a growing general interest in preaching beyond our borders and an increasing concern for taking the truth outside of this continent. The talk and considered. It is important that the scriptures be the concern are good; much more needs to be said and standard by which the work is measured. It is also important that we avoid saying and not doing.

The "Go" In The Gospel

". . Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:47.) Preaching to the whole world requires a beginning place and the best place to begin is where we are. It is fine to look across the sea, but look also at the man next door. It is the sheerest hypocrisy to pretend an interest in the souls of the universe while we ignore those of our own community. Still, that does not mean that we can refuse to take the gospel to foreign lands on the grounds that there are still Americans who have never heard the gospel. There will always be a need for preaching at home; there will always be "mission" points in this country, but does that mean that we should never take the gospel abroad? Certainly not. The local church should begin by planning a program of preaching in its immediate neighborhood, indeed, in its own building. Then, as ability increases, extend the preaching to nearby regions, and before too long there should be included in the budget support of one or more preachers in foreign lands. Once a good program is activated locally, then start supporting the preaching elsewhere. Let us not equivocate, let us not rationalize. It is our task to preach to the whole world to the extent of our ability. Let us measure up to the task.

Mistakes We Have Made

Many mistakes along the line of evangelism have been made by churches of Christ through the years, aside from the great mistake of simply not doing the work.

1. One major mistake that has been made in many instances is sending preachers who are not qualified. We all know of preachers being sent into foreign fields who are weak in the faith, or have moral problems. I have listened to a large number of so-called "missionaries" speak in various localities. I have been impressed by the fact, deny it who will, that with few exceptions these men simply have little or no ability. Here in the States they could not hold a work as local minister with any self-respecting congregation, because they cannot preach. Often they cannot even conduct a lucid conversation in private. Yet we wonder why it is taking so long to accomplish our task! We ought to require the same, perhaps even greater, standards of ability for those whom we support abroad as we require for evangelists at home. If a man has a poor record at home, or a bad moral character, or too limited experience as a Christian, why should we expect that he will do credit to the cause of Christ in the more difficult fields? Brethren, do not think that I wish to disparage or ridicule these men. I know of several men with outstanding ability who have given up "good positions" at home and have made great sacrifices to go where others would not. I love and appreciate these valiant Christians; I pray for them often. Still, we must face reality and admit that the general situation, while it is improving, has not been good in the past.

2. Doctrinal carelessness is another of our mistakes. Issues here may seem to remote to workers far away but, provided they are not false issues, they will someday arise as problems there as well. For this reason foreign evangelists need to keep themselves informed as to brotherhood-wide discussions and not ignore these issues in their teaching "over there." New converts in other nations must be taught what the Bible teaches on the work and organization of the church, and how to deal with problems that are bound to arise someday. The gospel is the same in other countries as it is here. Yet, we know that the small, struggling congregations have been easy prey for advocates of error through the years. The soft, institutional-minded brethren have control of the "mission work" in certain countries. Why? Because evangelists have recognized the importance of a full gospel at home, but not abroad. Thank the Lord that there are at the present time at least a few men of God in other lands who are standing uncompromisingly for the truth in all its fulness.

Connecting the church with secular enterprises has given the Colleges and Orphanages in foreign nations a firm footing, but it has impeded the easy flow of the gospel and has hampered the spread of the church as exalted above all human projects and plans. The college in Ibaraki, Japan - is it, or is it not, a church institution? The home in Franscati, Italy - is this a church of Christ orphanage? The natives would say yes, because these institutions stand connected in their minds with the church. In other words these things have prevented them from learning what the church of the Lord is, and what the gospel of Christ is designed to do — save their souls rather than teach them everything from Agriculture to Zoology. It is for this reason that the apostle Paul and the other apostles by the guidance of the Holy Spirit only preached the word. Churches of Christ resulted from the preaching of the word. Inspired men did not go about establishing institutions as a prelude to establishing the church.

Can we "forget the things which are behind" and at the same time learn from the mistakes of the past? Surely we can if we will.

The Scriptural Pattern

Keep the emphasis where it belongs: (1) Go. (2) Go with the gospel. (3) Go with the complete gospel. (4) Go with the complete gospel in the scriptural way. All of these things are of equal importance, as all will agree (except certain individuals who deny that there is any scriptural way.) The Missionary society claims to be just a "method" of going, but we know that it is another organization substituted for the church. Our brethren ought to remember how much grief was brought on the church less than one hundred years ago, and this memory of sadness and strife, tears and tribulation, should make us fearful of any organization identical with, or even similar to, the missionary society. Let us be content to let each congregation support those who are willing to go to the best of its ability. The church in Philippi supported Paul while he was preaching in Thessalonica, (Phil. 4:16.) Since he expressly declares (verse 16) that no other church was at that time involved in communicating with him, it follows that this congregation necessarily sent directly to Paul in the field. In Corinth (see 2 Cor. 11:8) several churches sent to the apostle's support, but they did not send through the church in Corinth, since he was in no way chargeable to any of the Corinthians, (verse 7.) He plainly declares that what he received was brought to him by messengers from Macedonia, (verse 9.) Direct and independent cooperation between each contributing congregation and the evangelist is the scriptural pattern. Not one line of authority by command, example, or necessary inference can be found in the New Testament for the modern "sponsoring church" type of cooperation. Let us end the foolish quibbling over the how of evangelism and just do it God's way. I think I can see the wisdom in God's plan, but whether I can or not, it is right, for He devised it.

Looking To The Future

Probably we must start all over in Japan and some of the other older fields. A few "G. I." congregations in these countries may still want the truth and might be encouraged and helped by sending mature and capable preachers to teach them. These congregations generally have few needs and are entirely self-supporting. With direction and purpose they could plant the original gospel all over their areas until there are a multiplicity of solid native congregations.

The iron curtain is parting and unless there comes an unexpected reversal in attitudes most Communist lands will soon permit, if not welcome, the entry of preachers from America. The people of these lands are hungry for spiritual food; they are straining their vision in search of just a ray of some light to lead them. But their ignorance of the true light makes them an easy prey for those who go to them with a perverted gospel. This points up the need for the church of Christ to send men who are faithful and able to teach. We can, and I am persuaded we shall, take the word to them. Preachers who are not already too burdened to go should begin to give consideration to the practical problems involved.

All of the current discussion about foreign evangelism indicates that the future is bright if we will only act while action will avail. May it be true in our generation that the gospel will "be preached to every creature which is under heaven." (Col. 1:23.)