My first thought was that if Christians had not nearly ceased from proclaiming the gospel within the Christian era, we would not be in the post-Christian era now.
I am sure the previous sentence will raise some eyebrows and disagreements. “Christians haven’t ceased from proclaiming the gospel. Good grief. There seems to be a church on every corner in some towns,” will be the cry by some.
Let’s look at the math; I will use myself as an example.
I live in a rural area. According to Wikipedia, my county is just shy of 17,000 people. I have been a pastor in this county for 22 years. I have preached more than 4,000 sermons in Parke County, Ind. alone. But in those 4,000-plus sermons, how many of the 17,000 have heard one? I have knocked on many a door, but I know I have not knocked on all of them. Even if I had rang every doorbell, some doors will have no one at home, some doors will not allow the opportunity for me to give them the gospel. There will be other doors where those there when I knocked will have long departed, and maybe several residents have come and gone.
You may be thinking, “Preacher, you are disproving your point. You say Christians have nearly ceased from proclaiming the gospel and in your example, you talk of preaching more than 4,000 sermons.”
Think of what Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Jesus is talking about reaching the entire world, “every creature,” with the gospel and here I am having difficulty getting it to 17,000 people, let alone 8 billion. I understand I have a reach outside of my county. The fact you are reading this is proof of that, but still, even if I reach everyone in the United States, I still fall far short of “all the world.”
Honestly, I do not think there is any one person who can preach the gospel to everyone on earth. Even with the internet; a tool our Christian forefathers did not possess, our message may have a worldwide reach, but there is no guarantee that “every creature” on the planet will hear or see it. I believe Jesus is setting up a precept here. Every Christian should do everything possible to get the gospel to as many people as possible.
The spreading of the gospel is vital because salvation comes after someone has heard the gospel. Romans 10:11-17, “For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Europe has been in a post-Christian era for several decades; I saw it when I lived there in the 1980s. America has now arrived.
Many Christians nowadays believe living the Christian life is enough to get the gospel out. In other words, they are the only Bible some people may read. The thought is living the Christian life is sufficient enough to win the lost. The problem with this thinking is two fold. One – The Bible is perfect, holy, pure; we are not. At some point or other we will goof up, and those around us will see it. Two – Did we not just read in Romans that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Yes, having a good testimony will contribute significantly to get people to listen to you when you speak to them about God, it may even cause them to come to you, but without actually giving them the Word in one form or another, salvation does not come.
There are salvation testimonies of when people are alone, but they will always come with the fact that someone had told them the gospel before hand, or they were listening to a preacher on the radio or television, or they started reading the Bible some stranger had placed in the drawer of the hotel room. One way or another, the word of God was involved. Again I remind you, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The girl at the checkout register, the cable man, the fellow sitting at the next desk at work, the children’s baseball coach – how many of “all the earth” does God place in your world?
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Email him at [email protected] and visit preacherjohnson.com.