Does Christ Need a
It is wonderful to hear examples of brethren preaching the Gospel to others in a variety of ways. Some still include regular radio/TV programs, publications, or tapes. But many ways of sharing Bible teaching involve direct personal efforts of people teaching others. One method in use is the public Bible study (such as the Trucker’s Bible Studies covered in Servants’ News). Other methods involve distributing food or other necessities to the poor, and teaching or providing literature to those who are interested. The simplest method is for one believer to teach another person about their understanding of the Eternal and His Word.
The New Testament tells us much about how the Gospel was preached during that time. The following list is not exhaustive, but it shows the majority of places where the Gospel was preached and the methods that were used. These scriptures paint a rather stunning picture of how and where the gospel was preached. Please read them all:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.... And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together... Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:2,6,38,41).
Now when they [corrupt leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it (Acts 4:13-14).
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42).
And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council (Acts 6:12—Stephen delivers the entire message of Acts 7 before the council).
Then he [Stephen, after preaching his long message] knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:60).
...At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.... Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:1,4).
Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him" (Acts 8:29).
But Philip was found at Azotus [25 miles away from where he was a few minutes ago]. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea [70 miles of numerous coastal cities] (Acts 8:40).
And when he [Paul] had found him [Barnabas], he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:2).
And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.... (Acts 13:5).
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:9-10).
And he [the jailer] brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they [Paul and Silas] said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house (Acts 16:30-32).
Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there (Acts 17:17).
So he [Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).
But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9).
And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus [a Greek Council], saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? (Acts 17:19.)
I [Paul] have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, "‘It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:33-35)
Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.... Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. (Acts 28:16, 30-31).
Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches (2Cor 11:23-28).
We can see that the places of preaching varied greatly: the temple, synagogues, homes, schools, market places, prisons, and their own assemblies (churches). The methods for attracting an audience varied also. Sometimes, miracles attracted a crowd. Other times, they spoke to an existing religious audience. Public trials (often on false charges) also provided audiences. Sometimes, there seems to be no apparent reason for an audience forming—either the people were attracted simply to the conviction of the speakers, or they were drawn to listen by the Eternal. Sometimes, there was no large audience—a believer or two talking to a listener or two.
A few other overall characteristics of Gospel preaching are evident:
1. Preaching the Gospel was the highest priority in the lives of those who preached. They would rather die, be beaten, or imprisoned than stop preaching the Gospel.
2. The preachers relied completely on the Eternal and themselves to preach the Gospel. They did not hire horsemen, bands, or entertainers to help them attract a crowd. They were not continually seeking the favor of religious or political leaders to help them attract crowds and avoid persecution. They did not start corporations, political parties, or military-like units.
3. Money was not a primary factor in Gospel preaching. The Bible contains no mention of sending money to a person or place so that Gospel preaching could begin there. There is no mention of Gospel preaching being canceled or not progressing due to lack of funds. While the Bible teaches that those who preach the Gospel should be able to live by it (1Cor 9:10), the role of money in preaching the Gospel is rarely mentioned in the scripture.
No Human "Master Plan" Needed
When we consider all of the above scriptures, we see that no human "master plan" existed. The apostles and other teachers traveled and spoke to others as the Spirit led them or as the needs became apparent to them. There is not one hint of any kind of "planning meeting" among the apostles to determine how they would take the Gospel to the world. (Some people believe Acts 15 was a church-wide "ministerial conference" where such plans could have been made. But if one reads the chapter, it is clear that the meeting was initiated by those in Antioch and was just between those in Antioch and Jerusalem. No effort was made to involve other areas which had already heard the Gospel. The letter from the meeting was addressed only to Antioch and the nearby regions.)
In spite of the New Testament record, it is still easy to find single human organizations, each claiming that it is the one that will preach the Gospel to the six billion people in the world. Obviously, such statements are designed to make believers think that that organization is the "true Church" and to encourage their members to contribute heavily. Have you ever wondered if the leaders of such organizations plan to claim responsibility for preaching the Gospel to the World when they are judged by Christ? (2Cor 5:10). Will they accept responsibility for possibly millions whom the Eternal wanted to reach and they did not? Will they try to insist that the only ones who should be in the first resurrection from their day are the ones reached by their organization? Or will they accept that Christ called and taught many people without their knowledge? I believe that when most of these "organization leaders" appear before Christ in judgment that they will be quite willing to accept whomever He calls His own. So why are they not willing to accept and acknowledge that Christ has believers outside their organization now?
Even if one organization had nearly endless monetary resources, determining how and where to preach the Gospel to a world of 6 billion people is a task complex beyond all human capability. There are so many different religious groups and nations today with such a wide variation in understanding, practice, and leadership, it would be impossible for one man to understand how to reach them all.
This writer once asked the head of a fairly large Sabbatarian organization what kind of broadcast he thought would be necessary to explain the New Testament in a way that Jews could understand and accept. The head of the organization responded by saying that if the Jews wanted to be converted, they would have to listen to and obey the same teaching that he was preaching to Christians.
It is wonderful to know that Christ is able to reach people with the message that will cause them to respond. Even humans with long experience in international evangelism realize that the preaching of the Gospel must answer the big questions of people in the culture in which they live. The Eternal cannot really be viewed as King and Master of the Universe if those who preach about Him cannot answer basic questions of people in a specific culture. For example, people from a culture that practices polygamy may want to know exactly where and why the Bible forbids it. As another example, converts from Judaism may ask about which of their traditions they should continue to follow. A preacher cannot be credible by telling them to "forget all traditions" when there are some that are practiced by Christ and his followers in the New Testament.
We can be confident that our Father has a "master plan" for preaching the Gospel and that He will see it through. We simply have to be willing to be a part of whatever plan He has for us. It is possible that His plan for you is that you work hard at a job and give money to someone else who preaches. Maybe your purpose is to be a good example that others will see—a shining light. But it is also possible that the Eternal may want you to talk to share what you know with another individual or maybe a room full of people. He may someday show you that He wants you to quit your job, go somewhere else, and begin teaching there. We need to be ready to serve Christ, and we need to be actively seeking His will and the gifts of His Spirit (John 5:30, 1Cor 12:28-30).
Neither Group Size Nor Money is The Issue
Many Sabbatarian groups have come to realize that Christ is the real, living Head of the Church and that He is capable of governing any number of believers and groups (not just the human head of one organization). Small Gospel-preaching efforts are beginning in a number of places. People are repenting and being baptized as a result of them.
However, it is important for those in small groups to realize that they are not somehow better than those who heard the Gospel from and now assemble with a corporate church group. We must all realize that we grow at different rates—Christ works with us as He sees fit. It certainly is a doctrinal error for one man or group to teach that they are the only one with whom Christ works directly. On the other hand, the great diversity of doctrines within independent groups shows that they must have some doctrinal error, too. All of their different doctrines and practices on the nature of Christ, calendars, Holy Day-keeping, sacred names, form of services, role of women, etc cannot all right. We must realize that we all probably have some error, and strive to learn as much as we can, and follow what we understand to be true.
The big church organizations need to stop teaching that they are the primary place where God is working and that the only effective way to preach the Gospel is to give money to them. They need to realize that large amounts of money and modern marketing plans are not what is needed to preach the Gospel. But also little groups and individuals need to learn that little amounts of money, marketing plans and gimmicks are not the answer to preaching the gospel
Small ministries and individuals have a lot of freedom to seek the Eternal’s will and do whatever He leads them to do. They also have freedom to invent or copy some idea to preach the Gospel that is contrary to biblical instruction and example. We at Servants’ News have observed some disturbing trends over the past few months in groups large and small. We will not mention the names of the groups, but will mention what we believe to be mistakes and hope that those who can do something about them will change them. We also hope that others, hoping to be used of the Eternal to preach the Gospel, will not make the same mistakes.
Christ Does Not Need Gimmicks
Network marketing church organization. We received letters from one organization that was promoting a network marketing "church". They recommended that a person purchase inexpensive booklets from them ($50.00 minimum order), mark the booklets with his own name, and then sell or give them away. If anyone ever gives an offering or begins to tithe to this "church" as a result of those booklets, the person who first gave the booklets would receive 20% of the new people’s offerings and tithes. If the new people ever begin to pass out booklets, then the original person also receives 20% of their tithes and offerings from people they "recruit". This extends to three levels of "down-line" (a term familiar to network marketers). Most network marketing organizations give fancy titles to a person who has achieves a certain amount of "downline": supervisor, manager ,director, etc. In this "church" organization, a person with successful downline is called (you guessed it) a "pastor." The promotional letter said absolutely nothing about whether a person had spiritual gifts and how one might go about teaching and caring for the needs of those they have taught. It assumed that any person who was able to get responses from booklets was to be considered a spiritual leader.
We realize that some of you have a hard time believing this, but the promoter of this network marketing "church" was absolutely serious. He had eight booklets written with a combined total of over 600 pages on subjects such as the Sabbath, Holy Days, clean meats, the calendar, and (of course) tithing. We have seen this group’s booklets (though not their network marketing plan) recommended by other ministries. We do not understand how people can make merchandise of the gospel in this way, but the reason they keep promoting it is because some confused brethren are participating in it! If you are ever tempted to try to turn the truth of the Bible into a money-maker, please pray to the Eternal about it, or talk to some stable person who will help you out of it. If you know someone who has this problem, please help them (Gal 6:1-2).
Corporate logo and image development. Some groups spend a great deal of time and money developing a corporate logo and "corporate image". This has been shown to be an effective way to market products—especially when there are many companies selling very similar products. A logo and a distinct "market image" provide "market differentiation"—a way for people to see one brand as different—hopefully better—than all of the rest. But is the Gospel of Christ so similar to other religions that it needs a logo to differentiate it? No! But are some church organizations so similar to other church organizations that they need a logo and "image" to differentiate them? Yes! To outsiders, many "Church of God" groups seem identical to each other. A logo and marketing plan are a way to promote one church organization over another.
But does the Bible teach that we need different church organizations, each with a distinct image? Did Peter, Paul, John and the other apostles each have a logo? Did they stamp it on their letters so people could easily identify it? Did they encourage congregations to display their logos at their meetings? Did not Paul teach us not to identify with specific leaders and factions? (1Cor 1:10-15; 3:3-16.)
Trinkets in exchange for contributions. For years, many religious groups of all kinds have offered some kind of gift in return for a contribution. Some even offer a series of increasingly bigger gifts for bigger contributions. Groups that use these programs will usually tell you that they are effective—that people will write a check or give a credit card number if they know they are getting "something", but they are hesitant to simply give something for nothing tangible. It does not matter if the thing they are getting is not worth anywhere near what they paid for it—most people are used to getting a "bad deal" now and then. This is all probably true—but the principles are not Biblical.
Can you imagine the apostles offering a pebble from the yard of Jesus’ house in exchange for a contribution of a certain amount? Could you imagine the apostle Paul offering fragments from one of his ship-wrecks in exchange for a contribution? Or maybe Titus could have picked up some cheap jewelry in one country and offered it as a contribution inducement when he preached in another country where the jewelry would be considered "novel".
The problems of this should be obvious. Christ died for us while we were sinners. He gave of himself with no promise of getting anything back. Believers are to love each other as Christ loves us (John 13:34). How can they begin to have that love for others if they cannot even give $50 to a ministry without having to get something back for it? People need to learn to give to a ministry because they believe in what it is doing and they want to serve the Eternal by supporting it. We are called to give our lives to Christ (Rom 12:1). How can we give our lives if we cannot give a few dollars?
For years, Sabbatarian groups were largely avoided the offering of trinkets in exchange for contributions. This was primarily because these groups taught that the Levitical tithe had transferred to the New Testament ministry. Now that many Sabbatarians realize that the Levitical tithe continued to go to the Levites until 70 A.D and never was transferred to "church leaders", they are not contributing nearly as much to the preaching of the gospel. The solution to this is not to "butter up" people by offering them pens, paper-weights, plaques, and other paraphernalia in exchange for their financial help. The solution is to teach a commitment to Christ like that of Barnabas, who sold his land and gave it all to the early church (Acts 4:36-37), then went on to preach and teach himself for many years.
If a ministry is in financial need, if the Eternal is not providing for it and those who run the ministry do not know why, they can literally use the principles of Matthew 18:15-17 to resolve the matter. They can first pray to the Eternal and ask Him to show them what to do. He may want them to make changes before he blesses the ministry. This writer has often asked the Eternal to send a person to me who will give me the answer to a specific question. Several times, He has done it. But if the Eternal does not answer, more people who know the condition of the ministry should be involved—to pray to the Eternal and to make suggestions for possible change. If the Eternal does not hear that, then it should be taken to the church—the congregation—those the ministry serves. This will probably be done by letter. The letter should not be a plea for more money, but should ask those served if they will support it so it can continue, if they want the ministry to change, or if they feel that the ministry has outlived its purpose. A biased letter will probably produce a biased answer. But an honest letter will probably produce an honest answer. Those running the ministry must be willing to accept the fact that if the Eternal does not provide the funds, that He may not want the ministry in its present form.
Tape and Literature Marketing. The Bible says that the Gospel is to be preached freely (Matt 10:18; 1Cor 9:18; Acts 20:33-35; 1Tim 6:5-6). Indeed, very few individual brethren would try to charge someone for attending a service or Bible study, or for personally teaching them from the Bible. But when individuals and groups begin sending tapes and literature on a regular basis, the costs mount up. In some cases, the Eternal seems to provide the necessary funds for such ministries, but in other cases, He apparently does not. Those producing the tapes and literature have the choice of either charging for what they produce, or not producing it. If the producer believes that the tapes and literature serve the Eternal, and if people are willing to pay for it, why should he cease producing it? Also, most such ministries will make their material available free to someone who specifically explains that they cannot afford it and requests that it be sent for free.
When a ministry does charge for its material, it is essential that they still have the best interests at heart of those they serve. They must not simply run their ministry to maximize profits. Businesses often have "sales" and claim to save you money while they are really trying to trick you into buying a product that you may not need, or into paying more than necessary (a $30 chair for $22 sounds good unless you discover that another store regularly sells it for $20). Such deception should have no part in a ministry of the Eternal. A ministry should promote its most edifying material. It should not promote poor tapes and literature that are "slow moving." The goal of any religious ministry is to please the Eternal and do his work, not to maximize an accounting statement.
What Should We Be Doing Now?
We hope that those involved in ministries will think about these things. Christ does not need us to invent a "marketing plan" for Him so His Gospel can be preached. What he needs is people willing to dedicate all of their lives (not just a little) to Him so He can use them. Rather than bring various worldly business ideas into the preaching of the Gospel, we need to be continually reading that Bible so we can think like our Father in Heaven thinks. We need to realize that this is Satan’s world, but that living the Eternal’s way of life is still the best—for now and for eternity. We need to overcome our own sin as well as help others with theirs. If you have a ministry, do it right. If you know others involved in ministries, you may be able to encourage them to do what is right. The apostle John put it this way:
14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us... 19We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true...] (1Jo 5:14,19-20, NIV).
—Norman S. Edwards &
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