Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 7, 1967


Killing The Goose

Robert C. Welch

Preachers and churches are killing the goose that laid the golden egg. They are destroying in the minds of Christians and the unconverted with whom they have contact the value of preaching to an assembly. All that is herein said seeks not to minimize the importance of personal, private teaching on the part of the preacher and all Christians. But it does seek to call attention to a serious mistake many are making.

Personal contacts with people could and should be utilized to emphasize the value of what they will hear and observe when they attend the meetings engaged in by the church. Instead of that the preachers are now leaving an impression with the audience that such preaching is literally ineffective and that the only way to teach and convert people is to do it privately. Thus the preacher is destroying the need for his work as a preacher. Furthermore, the churches are listening to it and are looking for a man who will spend his time in teaching private classes and going from door to door. They seem to care little whether he can effectively preach or not. To put it bluntly, preachers are preaching themselves out of their jobs.

This grave mistake is already manifested in the rebellion of many young people to the worship of the church as they talk about getting closer to God in their "prayer cells" or "cottage meetings." It is beginning to be manifested in the church's effort to work among college students by hiring a teacher (private preacher) to organize, and work in, small groups in apartments and dormitory rooms. In effect, such efforts are saying that the preaching is ineffective and the worship of the church is not edifying.

When in the course of gospel meeting (?) the local preacher announces constantly and most insistently that he and the visiting preacher are willing and anxious to come and talk with the hearers and assist them at any hour of the day or night, he is virtually saying to them that they will not be able to get what they need to hear from the sermons but will have to get it privately. This is an apparent reason for a lack of responses to the sermons that are preached. This is an apparent reason why most baptisms now come from "personal work." Nobody — preacher, church, Christian, personal worker, unconverted - believes anymore that a public gospel sermon is the time and place for hearing, believing and obeying the gospel.

This practice of minimizing the importance of public sermons, while over-stressing the organized personal work, is killing the efforts of the majority in the congregation. The preacher and a very few of the better equipped make, and are expected to make, all the personal contacts. All the rest say nothing and do nothing. They are taught that it is not so important to persuade people to hear the preaching; and they do not feel that they can constructively conduct a private class study; so they leave it to the preacher and the capable few.

We gravely need more men and boys studying and training in preparation for being powerful, persuasive, public proclaimers of the gospel. When filled with the love of God, the truth and the souls of men, they will do the private teaching as the opportunities prevail. But they need to be filled with faith in the power of the public sermon to teach men and to persuade them to obey the gospel and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Manifesting such a conviction in the power of their preaching, they can instill in Christians who hear them the desire for and confidence in the effectiveness of getting others to hear the sermons. They can follow the example of Nathanael and Philip: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." (John 1:46.)

The divine precepts and examples still stand. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." (Acts 20:7) "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (I Cor. 9:16) "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (II Tim. 4:2)