Why Don't More Of You Come?
This article will not be as diplomatic as it will be pointed. The purpose of it is to shock some of you (we do not say all) from the complacency in which you are engulfed. Most of the time our preaching is directed to others and all too seldom to those of us who preach. The writer does not feel self-righteous, hence that is not his reason for writing this. Neither does he believe that all preachers are going to Hell because they do not immediately drop everything and rush off across the ocean. He further recognizes that there is much work yet to be done in the States, and that even in places where the church is numerically and spiritually strong, there is still a need for preachers. He does not, therefore, mean that the work in the particular field where he labors is any more important than the same sort of work anywhere else in the world. He is, however, decidedly of the persuasion that the kind of work of which he writes is just as important, and he is further persuaded that some of you who read this paper do not really believe that it is. If this article serves to stir thought and possibly result in more action, the space it occupies will be justified. The question that troubles this writer is this: why don't more of you come to help spread the gospel in other lands?
Why Preach The Gospel At All?
The very reason for all preaching is stated in Rom. 1:16-17. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." We have all preached that and applied it to those who heard us. Such application is proper. But the passage also sets forth that which should motivate us in preaching. Preaching is for the purpose of saving souls. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
The gospel which is preached is the power God employs in acquiting the sinner who stands before him guilty. This is the import of the term "righteousness" in Rom. 1:17. It is only through the gospel that God accounts a man righteous, considers him justified and acquits him. Hence, we often speak of "pardon" from sin. The very fact that sin is universal in scope, demands that the remedy be universally applied. That application certainly includes the north American continent, but brethren, it does not therefore exclude all other nations of earth. The acquital power of God is as much needed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, China, South America and every other land, as it is in the United States of America. You may ask, who denies that? Is it not possible that some who recognize the truthfulness of the principle, deny the application of it when it inovlves them personally?
A One-Sided Picture
The writer is just as opposed to one-sided journalism as most of the readers of this paper; but he is just as opposed to a one-sided application of God's acquittal power. Is the picture one-sided? Draw your own conclusions from the following considerations. The work of pleading for the ancient order has been underway for over 150 years in the States. During that time it has steadily progressed. Even the digression which swept away so many, had a purifying effect and left a stronger faith when the smoke of battle disappeared. Still, there are many areas of the country which are destitute of the truth. These needs should be met. Still, many congregations are filled with members who are blessed with fine cars, houses, television sets, gadgets and appliances of every description, fine clothes and other external signs of prosperity. They meet in buildings that are generally comfortable, usually attractive and well-located. They are able to support quite well a preacher, and to carry on what they consider an active program of work. Many of them take for granted the fact that they have access to the gospel preached several times a week, and many of them come only on Sunday morning. Most of these congregations choose between capable men for gospel meetings and local work. Some of the preachers will not move to a place unless the house for the preacher measures up to certain specifications and has a garage, and connections for an automatic washer. The salary must be so much or else. This is not an indictment against all gospel preachers, but it is against those who are guilty of the type of antics here under consideration. If you are not guilty, then there is no cause for you to become offended at what is said here. Securing teaching materials is no problem, for there are publishing houses operated by brethren where good selections are available. And while some congregations bask in luxury and have a glowing feeling about their "program", there are people in that very neighborhood as well as around the world who are dying in sin. We could go on in description of this side of the picture. While this does not apply to all congregations, it certainly does to some, if not many.
There is another side to the story with which some are not acquainted. Outside the borders of the U.S.A., there are just over 100 gospel preachers (including the good, bad and indifferent) to preach to 93% of the population of the world. In ratio figures, there is one preacher to every 23 million people. The efforts of these men have resulted in little bands of Christians in various countries. Only a small number of them own buildings, and most of them will not for several years. Many of these meet under about the same circumstances as we do in Bergen. Have you ever climbed three flights of stairs and turned into a dimly lit corridor to reach a dingy little room that will seat about 45 people, and recognized that little room as the sum total of your meeting facilities? The room is drab looking, and some of the paint is peeling from the wall. On the floor beneath there is a newspaper printing room, and at times when worship is being offered to the Lord, the sound of the presses can be heard. On the same floor is another meeting room which is generally used at night by a group of shouting Holiness. In Oslo, the brethren had to meet for a time in a building which was used for dancing instructions immediately after the Sunday evening service. Now that an opportunity has opened for us to reach more children than we have teachers or facilities to handle, we have the problem of getting good literature translated and mimeographed. Last Sunday it was necessary to drive off and leave some children on the sidewalk because there was not enough room to bring them to Bible school. Our problem is not getting them interested in coming, but getting them to the meeting place and then having room for classes and enough teachers to meet the needs. Here is a problem we cannot adequately meet because of a lack of workers and funds. Songbooks that were useable were not to be found. Have you ever thought what a problem it would be to make the song books for the congregation of which you are a member? How would you go about synchronizing the notes from an English book with the words of another language? Think what a blessing your song books are. Here on the west coast of Norway there are many towns numbering from 15,000 upward that are ripe for the gospel. We have received mail from some of these places asking for literature. The work here is demanding and we cannot turn loose and go into these places at the present. This is only a small part of the picture. Our problems here have not been nearly as great as some faced by brethren in other lands. There are still several countries where the sound "back to the old paths" is unheard. While some of you preachers are sitting in air-conditioned buildings and worrying about your socks matching the pulpit furniture, just remember that there are brethren in the far stretches of your own land as well as on the far flung fields of earth who are wondering if there will be enough resources to meet the ever increasing opportunities, and wondering if there are going to be enough nights in the week and hours in the day to meet the pressing call, "bring me the gospel." If this sounds somewhat impassioned, it is meant to be. While some of you are considering if the next place you move will have water connections for an automatic washer, just remember that there are multiplied thousands who daily are perishing for want of the "water of life." The writer is not bitter. He is just saying that the picture is one-sided. The souls of the Americans are important. They must be reached. Failure to try is inexcusable. Still, that fact does not relieve us of our responsibility in other parts of the world.
The Usual Reasons Considered
1. "These are critical times and I am needed at home to help hold the line." Yes, these are critical times, aid some are needed — in fact all of us are needed wherever we are — to help "hold the line." But are any of us so powerful and influential that the brotherhood would wither and die for the want of our refreshing eloquence, should we absent ourselves from the scene for awhile?
2. "I am just not bent that way." This implies that some of us are just a little strange. What way are you bent, and what "bent" you?
3. "It is too hard to get support in the right way." Sometimes it is hard. But many who read these lines would have no difficulty at all securing enough support to come. There are more brethren who are willing to send scripturally to support reliable men than some may think. Some of you could get support and could come if you wanted to.
4. "I could never learn to preach in another language." Have you ever really tried? The writer said the same thing until about a year ago. It is surprising what you can learn to do when you have to do it. It is one of the most refreshing experiences the writer has ever had to be able to sit down and discuss the most important subject in the world with sincere people in their own language. Of course, languages are barriers, but they are not insurmountable.
5. "My family must be considered." Certainly this is true. But have you ever thought that your family might be greatly enriched by their experiences in another land? Here lies the hindering cause for many. Many preachers' wives are not willing to make the necessary adjustments. Not all, but some of the problem is materialism, this-worldliness. A man should have adequate support for his family, and with such they will not suffer physically, though they must learn to live for a time without some of the luxuries of home. As for children, they adjust readily. All the preacher's families in Scandinavia have children, a number of which are in school and doing fine with their studies even in another language.
6. "My family would have a fit." They might at that. The Lord had something to say about loving "father or mother more than me." Many parents are unhappy when their children marry, but they usually get over it. It would be a fine thing if more families would seek to instill within their children a desire to help in such work.
7. "I just don't want to go." And that's the truth of the matter in many cases. Certainly, there are some who cannot come without great hardship; others might be better suited to work in the States. But there are some who could come, who would be successful, but who do not want to come. Now, if you do not want t come, then stay home, but have a good session with your heart as to why you do not want to come.
The writer realizes that it would not be the part of wisdom for all the preachers in the U.S.A. to move off to other countries. He is not encouraging that. But he is pressing the question, why don't more of you come?