The aim in these articles is to encourage prayerful contemplation and invigorate discussion on how we can faithfully and effectively present the Truth to the world of today. Having considered the role that lectures play, we will move on to other preaching methods that can be used.

Lectures are by no means the only way to preach. There are ecclesias that, while still faithfully maintaining a bright shining forth of the gospel, have moved away from the normal format of the Christadelphian lecture on Sunday nights. They have chosen a less formal method of presenting the Truth in the hope that friends will feel more at ease in this environment. Different names are given to these presentations such as Seminars, Bible Education Evenings and the like. Irrespective of the name of the presentation it is imperative that the message proclaimed is just as crisp and relevant to salvation as that given in lectures. Though there is a less formal structure there should never be a lessening of the fundamental truths that are preached – the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the need for repentance and baptism into Jesus Christ.

Brethren presenting material at this style of evening do need to have the ability to present in a friendly and easy flowing manner and be able to take questions and comments and deal with them along the way. They need to be able to ‘think on their feet’. If a brother giving these presentations reads from a fixed pre-written paper then what was proposed as informal and interactive has reverted to the standard lecture platform. Some ecclesias that run this style of presentation also run a session for younger children of the brethren and sisters in another area of the hall. By doing this there is no distraction to the main activity and the younger ones can enjoy and benefit from a Bible activity at their level.

It is the step that follows the lecture or presentation that is vitally important but which can sadly be so neglected. How many lectures or seminars have been held where there has been no set plan for individual follow-up with each friend who attends?

“In every house, they ceased not to teach and preach”

Because we have become so accustomed to think of our ecclesial halls as the home of the ecclesia, possibly we have let slip from our minds one of the best places to teach the Truth – our homes. In the first century there was no ecclesial hall; the meeting place for the ecclesia was the home of a brother and sister. Priscilla and Aquilla used their home for this purpose (Rom 16:3–5; 1 Cor 16:19), as did Nymphas (Col 4:15), and Philemon (v2). Paul would first present the gospel in the synagogue, but when that door was closed he continued in the homes of those who had responded. From the public forum the preaching moved into the home.

Consider some references to this preaching work in the home. At Miletus Paul reminded the elders of Ephesus: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20–21). Note the emphasis on the theme of repentance in his preaching work. Do we follow this pattern in preaching? The public preaching Paul refers to was that which he did “daily in the school of one Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). If he did this “daily” while still working with his own hands to support himself and those with him (Acts 20:34–35), it seems he did not miss preaching opportunities because of work commitments.

Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem saw the value of using the house as a place to preach: “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). This was a daily activity, and in this case it was immediately after they had received a good thrashing by the Jewish rulers. Mary, the mother of John Mark, used her house as a meeting place for the ecclesia in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Lydia opened her house for use in Philippi (Acts 16:15), and also in Philipp it was in the jailer’s house where he, his family and others had the gospel proclaimed to them (v30–34). Justus opened his house to Paul so that he could preach there (Acts 18:7). It so happened that Justus lived next-door to the synagogue and the next verse reads: “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house” (v8). One can mentally picture Paul leaning over the fence as Crispus went past saying, ‘Have you come up with an answer to those verses in the prophets that I gave you, Crispus, that show Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah?’

The home became the place where the Truth was preached and where the ecclesia met and worshipped. Slaves and freemen were welcomed into the warm atmosphere of the home of a brother and sister. We can imagine the busy toil as the sister prepared refreshments for the friends, doing it uncomplainingly, recalling the gentle rebuke the Lord had given to Martha when she was faced with feeding thirteen hungry men (Luke 10:38–42). When a house becomes a home it is a home to everyone – all reservations are soon removed and the homely atmosphere prevails to provide genuine friendship, trust and love. It is a place where “love thy neighbour” can have real depth for the interested friend.

Having interested friends home

Most of us, when we buy or rent our first home will decide that ‘it will be a home for the Truth’. It is good to ask ourselves – have we actually done this? What did we really mean when we made such a comment? Did it just mean that we would live the Truth there and not allow any of the distractions of the world in through the front door? Did it mean we would enjoy having just our peer group home for meals and the readings? Let us hope it was not limited to that (Matt 5:46). Did it include planning to have interested friends home to preach the Truth?

Tuition in the home is as vital a part of preaching today as it was in the first century. It is the necessary follow-on from all public preaching work of an ecclesia. Let me tell of a recent example. An ecclesia held a six-week seminar series to which twelve friends came to the first session. By the end of the six weeks the number of attendees had fallen but during that time three of the friends had been invited to the homes of brethren and sisters. The series finished but the weekly sessions in the home continued. Those three are now baptised. The seminar awakened an interest but it was the following months of weekly time together around the Word of God that brought forth fruit. This is not an isolated example – you yourself could think of many similar incidents. Home tuition is an essential in preaching work. When a brother and sister have interested friends home they are working as “heirs together of the grace of life”, just as Abraham and Sarah opened their tent to strangers and were blessed in so doing (Gen 18:1–5; 1 Pet 3:6–7). Paul says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers” (Heb 13:2). Retired brethren and sisters may find friends who are able to come home during the day to talk about the Bible. Preaching together as husband and wife, or as a small dedicated group of brethren and sisters is always a rewarding experience.

The added value of having friends home for Bible tuition is that the children realise that their parents see the Truth as something to be shared in a meaningful way. The example and commitment of parents in this wonderful work can leave a lasting impression. Also the friends see the way the Truth takes the highest priority in the Christadelphian home. I recall reading my daughter’s report on our family activities when in primary school – ‘Uncle A and Auntie B came last night and after dinner Daddy and Mummy took them up to the lounge and told them the truth’. I do not know what the teacher thought that meant, but it did mean something to this couple who are now our brother and sister!

Some practical suggestions

We are well aware and understand that we all have differing abilities. It is our diversity that makes ecclesial life interesting and enjoyable but it is the unity of purpose in this diversity that can allow the body of Christ to function so well to his glory. Not all have the ability to patiently sit week by week and answer questions as they take a friend slowly through the doctrines of the Truth. This is not a task that is limited to brethren only – sisters can tutor just as brethren can.

We know from our own experience that before baptism a person spends some time in the home of a brother and sister having tuition in the basics of the Truth. This pattern applies for both the interested friends and senior Sunday School scholars. A good way for brethren and sisters to become involved in this tuition is to start by tutoring a senior Sunday school scholar. In fact those involved in Sunday School teaching may not realise it but they actually do have the ability to set out the Truth logically and simply. In that case they do it with the help of the lesson book. In tutoring friends there are likewise a number of tools that can be used.

Obviously the lecturers and seminar presenters are the primary ones to fulfil this work. They have taken on the responsibility of presenting Bible truth for the ecclesia, believing they have that ability. Friends will readily identify with them so if they ask the friends home for a chat on the Bible there is often a positive response. Lecturers may not have realised the potential they have in this area. This is obviously what Paul did. He taught “publickly”, by lecture or seminar, and then “from house to house”. Experience has shown that brethren who do this may find they have too many friends coming to their home. It is at this point others need to willingly share part of that burden and offer to take some of these friends under their wing and have them home to their place.

But what will I tell them if I have them home?

This is often the fear some have. The first thing to understand is that you have them home as friends. They are not coming home for a lecture. Ask what interested them in the Bible talk they came to hear, and listen to what they have to say. You may find they have a specific topic or questions they wish to know about. This introductory talk will help you plan a path to help them come to know the story of the Bible and the fundamental truths it teaches. You may ask, ‘Are there any tools to help me take them along this path?’ Yes, there are many. The Exploring the Bible course is one tool that could be used but there are many others. Read a lesson before the friends come, make some notes and then tell the story of the lesson in your own words. If you are asked a question and feel uncertain of the answer, just realise we have all been in that position. Be honest and say, ‘Look, I don’t know the answer but let me search it out and I will give you an answer next week’. There is nothing wrong in not knowing an answer the first time. But let me assure you, if you are diligent and wise, you will never be caught out with that same question again!

If you are still unsure you may wish to ask a brother who is tutoring friends at home if you can come and listen to him as he teaches. This will give you confidence. Just remember you are going to tell a person what you learned yourself for your baptism. You will find it very exciting and invigorating to your own faith to take a person through those basic truths again. One final point – if you are to have friends home then seek the Father’s blessing on your labour in His service through prayer before they come. Remember we can only plant and water – it is God Who gives the increase.

In Summary

Let us just list some points that may be worth reflecting upon:

  • Lectures and seminars are held with the aim of attracting interested friends to come and hear the “good news” message in the Bible.
  • Lectures and seminars are not an end in themselves – more needs to be done to provide follow-up instruction with friends.
  • Having friends home for instruction in the truths about God and His promises is a proven way forward in helping to preach.
  • This is not a new or novel method of preaching but is following the pattern set in the first century by the apostles.
  • Ecclesias over the past 100 years have followed this method of instruction for both friends and senior Sunday School scholars and God has blessed this work by ‘giving increase’.
  • All lecturing brethren have the ability to perform this work. • Many other brethren and sisters can work in this area – it is an ecclesial area of work.
  • For those who would like to be involved in this area of ecclesial work there is help available with tuition notes etc.
  • A brother and sister who feel they are not capable to tutor friends can offer their home as a place where such tuition can take place.
  • There is a benefit to families where the home is used for preaching, as it underscores in the minds of the children that their parents give high priority to teaching the Truth to others.
  • The sister will normally provide a cup of tea or coffee after the session. This builds friendship and demonstrates that we are people who wish to extend ourselves to help others find the way of salvation.
  • It is a work that a brother and sister can be involved in “as heirs together of the grace of life”.

These few comments on using our homes to preach may spark some thought by ecclesias and preaching committees to seek ways to incorporate this suggestion into their ecclesial preaching work. A meeting to discuss how this could be done and who would be willing to be involved would be a good starting point. But if that is not so, we can all do this individually simply by asking a friend – ‘Would you like to come home for a chat about the Bible?