Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 13, 1966

Short-Cuts That Are Short-Circuits

Paul Earnhart

In these times when there is a frantic competition among some brethren to see who can get the boldest, biggest, and most expensive promotional scheme before the brotherhood, it takes courage for a man to ask an obvious question like, "What are we getting for all this money, time and effort?' He should be prepared for a lot of folks to think him a spiritual back number with a Mother Goose mentality. Yet the question any sane man should want an answer to is the one most feared and avoided by the "promoters". In order to raise large sums of money, they have poured out on us a deluge of literature which builds up the prospects of their scheme as "high as a kite." Afterward, in too many instances, a short one column notice suffices to describe the real results.

Who among us has not wondered what the same expenditure of money put into the support of dedicated gospel preachers would have produced? A million dollars (the amount spent on the World's Fair project) could have amply supported 140 gospel preachers for a year, or 70 for two years; one hundred and forty man-years of work in teaching Christ personally, intimately, man to man, "eyeball to eyeball," with the added motive force of the example of a Christian in action. Radio, television, newspaper, fair booths, etc. are all legitimate aids to the spread of the gospel, but don't we need to be wise as well as scriptural in the use of the Lord's money? Don't we have to ask ourselves if these aids are really aiding, and if the results are worth the expenditure?

When concrete results are lacking, it is not uncommon for such efforts as national radio and television programs, national advertising campaigns and other heavily financed efforts to be justified on the basis of the publicity and national recognition they gain for the church of Christ. We couldn't care less. The only "public image" of the Lord's church we care about, is what the next door neighbors see in the lives of those of us who claim to be the Lord's disciples. Beyond this we are not trying to impress anybody with, or sell anybody on, the church of Christ, but on Christ who will never deceive them and break their hearts by hypocrisy and sham.

Is it a desire to "make a fair show in the flesh" that makes these "big but largely ineffectual programs so appealing? Are we trying to impress folk with the fact that we have money, educated and important men, and are a force to be reckoned with in worldly terms? The thought alone ought to chill our hearts.

One thing is certain. The thing that sent the gospel flying from heart to heart in the world of the first century was the fact that those Christians "went everywhere preaching the word." They believed in Christ. They were filled with Christ. They preached Christ. From man to man, from woman to woman, the gospel spread like leaven through the ancient world and engulfed it. The same deep faith in Christ and His word, revealed in a godly life, and compelling one to speak to others of the good news will get the gospel to the world of the 20th century as it did to the world of the first. And when the whole story is written, we are persuaded that radio and television and jet planes and all the wonders of our technologic age will be but insignificant details of the story. Preaching is a personal business. There are no short-cuts.

The great tragedy is that it is not disagreement over the need for every Christian to be an earnest and active teacher of the Word, or the need for every church to support worthy evangelists to go to the "uttermost parts" which has torn the brotherhood for now more than a decade; but it is these big low-yielding projects which no single church can finance that are bringing new organizational arrangements among the churches and the consequent division. We weep for that.

One word more, however, to those of us who have earnestly questioned that any New Testament church had the scriptural right to solicit the funds of other churches for its own use in evangelism. As long as many of us sit on our hands instead of being every one a teacher of others, and churches act as though the harvest field stops at the walls of the meeting house, we must take some of the blame for the developments we have deplored. If each of us were teaching others one by one as he ought, and each local assembly of Christians were sending out men to teach in other areas and lands, how in the world would any spiritually sane person be remotely interested in some cumbersome, unscripturally organized, publicity-seeking, extravagantly financed, low-yielding campaign or promotion? Brethren, what are you and I going to do to change it?