|Vol. 13 No. 4 April 2011||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A few years ago, the keynote speaker for a school of preaching lectureship was a brother in Christ renowned for his decades of experience in radio preaching. Doubtlessly, his oratory was well suited for that type of media and was probably effective for him. However, he also expressed the firm and unmovable opinion that radio alone was the media with which the churches of Christ ought to attempt to reach the world’s masses with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As far as he was concerned, other media venues, such as the printed word, were virtually if not entirely useless!
Brethren, there is something to be said for confidence in the application of one’s talents for the cause of Christ. Each of us ought to do what we do best, and do it persistently so that God may be glorified and so that souls may be edified. However, unrestrained, abounding confidence can lead to unfounded arrogance, which can stand in the way of effectively evangelizing the world, glorifying God and edifying souls.
While radio preaching is an invaluable tool for taking the light of the Gospel to the farthest reaches of planet earth, perhaps into every nook and cranny, the radio alone cannot effectively evangelize the world. Radio is a media of opportunity, as is television and even specific occasions on which preachers and teachers present a Gospel message to a live assembly. Media of opportunity requires listeners to be in the right place at the right time to benefit from the presentation; not listening to the radio or television broadcast or not in a particular assembly of people, that opportunity eludes reception and is forever gone.
Probably no particular media alone can effectively evangelize the world with the Gospel of Christ. Radio cannot baptize anyone. Television cannot acknowledge repentance by erring Christians and offer prayers on their behalf. However, various types of media (e.g., radio, TV, literature, Internet, telephone, etc.) working in concert with local brethren, missionaries, Bible schools, etc. can offer a well-rounded and effective effort to evangelize the world.
It is not radio to the exclusion of literature. It is not literature to exclusion of television. It is not any particular method to the exclusion of any other specific method by which the churches of Christ will succeed in evangelizing our billions of neighbors, but it is the use of every viable type of media in a given circumstance or location that may be affordable (therefore, doable) and likely to be effective. Don’t use what is too costly to achieve at this point in time, but use each type of media and every activity that can be accomplished in a given scenario that has a reasonable expectation of being effective in communicating the Gospel to the target population.
That said, literature has some distinct advantages over other types of media, including radio and television. Gospel literature is less of a media of opportunity only than either radio or TV. Literature is always ready when someone is ready to scrutinize it rather than having to be in the right place at the right time. Furthermore, Gospel literature provides for repeat performances whereas radio and television broadcasts are gone for good when the noise fades from one’s ears; literature can be read over and over again, and it can be transferred from one person to another. Gospel literature can be reproduced and thereby multiplied, too. Literature can stay behind when missionaries or evangelists leave. Literature can be an extension of God’s children who cannot otherwise reach out in different directions simultaneously. Literature has some distinctly unique benefits over radio and television preaching, and deserves to be companion with other viable methods instead of displacing other methods or being itself displaced by other methods.
From Romans 10:13-17 one certainly can ascertain that preaching is God’s chosen and primary vehicle for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. Radio, television and public speaking to assembled groups make good use of preaching the Gospel of Christ. However, what shall they preach? Notice verse 17: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Word of God or the Bible is the obvious source of Gospel teaching and preaching, for sure. However, brethren, the Bible itself is literature! One cannot discount literature, then, without in effect discounting the source of teaching and preaching – the Bible. Remember, various methods of proclaiming God’s Word work in conjunction with each other rather than in opposition to each other.
Literature is a band of missionaries attending to the needs of souls stateside and abroad. Literature is a tireless and relentless missionary and instructor. Occasionally, we hear of persons coming across a tract or an outreach book that was initially distributed maybe three decades before. One of my primary affections for Gospel literature is that it will outlive me! I can influence people for good with Gospel of Christ after my inevitable death through the printed word, and I am working toward that end.
The church’s mission is worldwide, and America is simply one country in the world. The responsibility of the Lord’s church is not to take the world for Christ, but turn it upside down for Christ (Acts 17:6). Remember, Jesus Christ did not take the world for Christ – owing to human freewill that can opt out of obeying the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It is the Christian responsibility to saturate the world with opportunity to know the Gospel of Christ; we must plant the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11) and water it (1 Corinthians 3:6), but we are not responsible for the increase. We are culpable if we do not plant and water, but we cannot make anyone obey the Gospel. Methods like radio, television, Internet, literature, Bible schools, preaching and teaching are members of the body of methods that when used together demonstrate a coordinated approach to effectively trying to continue the mission of our Lord “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Media methods are merely tools in the toolbox of God in the hands of mortals to turn the world upside down with the Gospel.
Literature can take many forms. Gospel literature may be a printed manuscript of a radio or of a TV sermon. Gospel literature may be the printed word on a computer screen, such as a text file, PDF or a webpage on the Internet. Gospel literature may be collected in the pages of a book, or may be condensed into a pamphlet or tract; both have their standings in evangelizing or otherwise edifying souls.
Especially tracts ought to occupy a primary place in efforts to evangelize souls whose first language is not English. As far as introductory material about Christianity or a particular Christian doctrine, even among English speakers, the brief introduction of biblical information is more likely to attract rather than drive away interested souls. Furthermore, because of their brevity, tracts require the best possible word choices and selection of Scriptures to concisely represent the truth of God’s Word about a specific topic; tracts require better writing skills than what an author might find necessary to bring to bear in writing a book. Good tracts or pamphlets provide the core of teaching on a particular subject in short order and with a minimal of reading. In addition, tracts are affordable compared to the heavy outlays of funds often required for radio, TV and books. Tracts are portable and durable.
Bible correspondence courses, Bible reading schedules, bookmarks, Bible references, Bible dictionaries, lexicons and religious books in general round out mission’s program literature whereby precious souls not only can learn about God’s plan of salvation, but also mature as Christians. In short, Gospel literature reaches souls at home and abroad, out of the church and in the church, non-Christians and Christians, and Gospel literature is ready whenever and wherever a soul can and wants to make use of it. Gospel literature is an indispensible tool among other tools in the toolbox of God to fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16). The Bible is literature! Forasmuch as many members of one body are essential components of the whole, coordinated body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-28), literature is an essential component of the whole, coordinated effort to lead souls to become Christians and then to help them to mature.
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
I recently read an awesome illustrative story from World War II. In preparation for the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied Forces called every available man to readiness. One unit, consisting of office workers, was hastily converted to infantry and assigned to a section of road that was expected to be under fire within hours. The first order was for the men to dig foxholes. One man, who had spent years at a typewriter, had little success in the stone hard ground. Finally, he approached his commanding officer and said, “Sir, wouldn’t it be easier if we just attacked and made them dig the foxholes?” Wow, what a thought! As Christians, we certainly need to hold our ground (Ephesians 6:10-17), but how often are we barely doing that and failing to advance? How often do those belonging to Christ sit on the sidelines and watch the battle rage on, all the while lamenting the condition of the world and the church!
Let’s attach sin! Sadly, the church in many places is being influenced by the world and becoming “tolerant” of sin. How many congregations have couples unscripturally married, worshipping with them each week and fellowship is still being enjoined? Brethren, we have dug fox holes and buried our heads; thus, sin is blemishing the bride of Christ! “Well, we may upset them” or “we may lose some members if we deal with the sin” are often excuses that are heard. Are we no longer worried about “upsetting” God? Have we become so wise in our conceits that we believe that our way is better than God’s way? “…it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23b).
Let’s attack shams! There are those who guise themselves as God’s children, and yet look just like children of the Devil! Sadly, there are entire congregations that dress up like Christians, but underneath the name on the sign, underneath some familiar acts of worship is the “synagogue of Satan” (cf. Revelation 2:9)! How many identifying characteristics must be present for a congregation to be authentic? Ask the Department of the Treasury the same question regarding our currency and see what it answers! Just because a piece of paper is green does not mean it is a $20 bill! “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17)!
Let’s attack sects! Christ never intended for our communities to house “101 flavors” of religion. However, we are plagued with sects and denominations around every corner. Some say, “Well, we have always been plagued by such”; right, but at one time the church made it a point to lovingly challenge and boldly proclaim that Christ only built one church! However, now in many localities the church is content to be the light of the world, by simply paying the electric bill for the meeting house! Many have dug fox holes and have fallen asleep while the world, the church and our friends and families are daily deceived by sects of men. The church of today could learn from Paul, who did not wait for the battle to come to him, but rather he took the battle to them (Acts 13:5; 14; 17:2; 18:4)!
Brethren, it’s high time the soldiers get out of the foxholes and onto the battlefield! “Rouse then Soldiers.” Let’s Attack!