Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 18, 1949

Is The Gospel Being Preached?

Clarence C. Gobbel

What did Jesus command his apostles to preach to all creation? What was it that is declared God's power to save? Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mk. 16:15) Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom. 1:16)

Judging, however, from what one can often hear proclaimed from the pulpits of the land, and I mean in the churches of Christ, it would be easy to conclude that something else is considered to be "the power of God unto salvation." The Master did not suggest that we preach "about the gospel," or some far-fetched, high-sounding, spectacular, oratorical sermonette to please the greatest number of people. But from their practice, it would seem that some have read it that way. And to make matters even worse, isn't it strange (or is it?) that so-called elders and other prominent church members will sit with wide-eyed wonder and open-mouthed eagerness to swallow such tripe?

Who Is Responsible?

It is pretty easy, right here, to argue in a circle. Is it the demand of the congregation for this compromising type of preaching which causes the preacher to accede and furnish what they want? Or is it the preacher's personality that gets the membership into this lethargic attitude, and makes them completely satisfied with what he puts out? This scribe would not be guessing too much, I am sure, to offer the suggestion that both of these things have been, and may continue to be, responsible.

It has been the experience of a great host of gospel preachers, when called to fill pulpits of such congregations, that upon their presenting the plain, unvarnished truth, teaching against all forms of worldliness, covetousness, and indifference, their services are not appreciated. Oftentimes when such a preacher presents the true status of the church—that it is not a denomination among others, and that the preacher is not to be considered a "pastor" of the flock—he is told that "someone else is being considered for the work." Why is it that the preacher who makes it plain that he is not going to do the work of the elders, and is not going to "wet-nurse" the congregation, and doesn't intend to do all the personal work, is not much in demand?

This is all the more puzzling when we realize from actual experience that a congregation of Christians will gradually but surely die of spiritual starvation when given this easy, flowery, and soft preaching. Anybody who is half awake in the church can readily observe that when the simple, plain, strong gospel is constantly given out from the pulpit, both negatively and positively, the church will grow in numbers and in strength. Why can't all see it? It would seem that even elders could see a fact so obvious.

Misuse Of The Pulpit

But is the preacher always in the clear concerning the matter? Let's turn the picture over. Have you ever noticed that some preachers consider themselves "hard", when the truth is they come nearer to being merely hobby-riders. It has been my observation that most of the brethren will at least sit still and say nothing about the preacher's condemnation of sin so long as he uses the Holy Scriptures. But when he begins to ride his hobby, and continues to "rub it in;' then an eruption is liable to take place. A continued harping on a hobby, in the tone of a braggart, or in the self-righteous attitude of one who never sins, will create an atmosphere in which it is impossible for the preacher to accomplish anything at all worth while—even when the sins he condemns are directly and specifically condemned in the Bible.

Any preacher would be offended should someone else take advantage of the pulpit to air some petty grievance. Any preacher would resent someone using the pulpit to attack him for some wrong he may have done without first having come to him in a private manner to try to correct the matter. Personal wrongs suffered should not be aired from the pulpit. Regardless of who may be at fault in the matter, it is always the part of kindness and fairness, let alone of true Christianity, to try to settle such personal affairs out of the pulpit. Outside of the harm that may be done to the individual publicly "exposed", we can never know just how much injury is done to others. Should less gossip be done in the pulpit, and more wrongs righted in a private manner, fewer invectives would be coming from the pew.

Obligation Of Elders

The truth can be preached in a strong, plain, and scriptural manner without forfeiting the respect of true Christians. Those who are faithful, or who desire to grow in the faith, will never become offended when the plain, simple gospel message is preached. The man who gives liberally is not offended when the preacher preaches on covetousness. The man who is not giving as he should will be the one who is offended by such preaching. The man whose life is clean will not be offended by straightforward preaching on moral matters; only the man who is guilty will take exception. The elder who is doing his duty is not offended by sermons on the responsibilities and work of the eldership.

It seems evident that elders, the overseers of the congregation, who hear from the members criticisms of preachers who preach "hard" sermons, should be able to determine at once whether the criticism is justified or not. They should know whether the preacher is at fault for the wrong kind of preaching, or whether it is simply that the member is too weak to accept the truth. All too often it happens that the elders simply ask the preacher to "find some other work" rather than accepting their God-given responsibility to try to strengthen the weak members. When elders wake up to their true duties, and uphold the hands of the preacher who is true and faithful in his preaching, more of our churches will be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."