Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

Sophisticated Preachers

Henry A. Kirkland

"But though I be rude in speech, yet am I not in knowledge; nay, in every way we have made this manifest unto you in all things" (II Cor. 11:6).

From the beginning those who preach the gospel of Christ in words clear to all men have been looked upon as being unskilled, unlearned and lacking in "tact" or the professional manner. When the rulers, elders and scribes considered Christ's first servants, Peter and John, they looked upon them as ignorant men (Acts 4:13). The same Greek term (idotes) is rendered rude in 11 Corinthians 11:6. Peter, John and Paul all had to face people who were sophisticated or worldly wise, and who, in their vanity, looked down on them as "rude" or "ignorant" men unfit to teach people in spiritual matters.

History records that sophistication and digression go together. As men became more sophisticated they led the church deeper into apostasy. History also records those who remain faithful to the word of God in all matters may appear "rude in speech" to their more sophisticated brethren. For twelve years (1908-1920) brother J. D. Tant, a pioneer preacher, was barred from the pages of the Gospel Advocate because they were becoming "more literary" (J. D. Tant, Texas Preacher, Pgs. 314, 387, 388). It is not uncommon today for editors to likewise "fail" to print things they think "unliterary".

Evidently Paul with his great education spoke in plain, simple unadorned phrases. He was more interested in saving men's souls by teaching truth than he was in feeding their vanity and sophistication. Thus he spoke clearly of some who were "bastards" and not sons" (Heb. 12:8), and of counting things "dung" (Phil. 3:8), a word that is found at least 20 times in the word of God!

The truths of the gospel are never fully propagated by the use of soft, high-sounding or meaningless expressions with no application in plain understandable language. In fact, few men can speak softly and be heard, while none can speak softly with flowery phrases or oratory and sophistication, IF they expect to Really Convert hard unpenitent hearts. "From the beginning it has not been so".

The history of the restoration movement shows us that as brethren became more concerned with worldly sophistication and acceptance, schools sprang up almost without number and digression multiplied exceedingly. (Because I say this some will no doubt charge me with being "anti-school" but such is not so." In 1845 there were schools, but after the Missionary Society was begun in 1849 a great zeal for establishing schools ran wild. By 1897 there were 45 schools (An American Religious Movement, Pgs. 114, 115, 131). This much resembles our "Institutional" binge since World War II. With all this sophistication to provide their pulpits with men who were not "rude in speech" or "ignorant" the Christian Church really "marched on."

Why am I concerned. Because in some places I have noticed a yearning for Suave, Sophisticated "Ministers" who will make one proud to introduce or who will give the congregation an air of "keeping up with the denominations". This yearning is one of the roots of many present digressions.

Some are more interested in their "bearing" in the pulpit than what the people are hearing from the pulpit. Some are more interested in how they are being "received" by the audience than why the message should be embraced by those present. Many in the audience are also more concerned as to how "their Minister" and his delivery is being received by the friends brought (Many times with reciprocity being promised) than whether plain and simple truth is being proclaimed fully and fearlessly.

What we need today is more concern for these things lest we be spoiled by men's philosophy and empty deceit — rather than disturbed by "crude or rude" speech or manners. Paul showed the Corinthians he was not deficient in knowledge even if he was no orator. Let us today judge a man by his knowledge and life rather than sophistication or facade. It is worldly minded to look on the Outward (I Sam. 16:7). Jesus said, "Judge not by appearance but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24). It is better to be "rude" in one's speech with an abundant entrance into heaven, than to be "smooth in speech or appearance" and slide gracefully into hell.

Box 272, Dillard, Oregon