This article concludes this series on preaching. We hope that it has promoted some careful reflection upon both our personal and ecclesial commitment to proclaim the ‘good news’ we have been blessed to receive. To further assist in this important work we will list a few practical steps which we believe can be effective in our preaching work. Above all we must prayerfully seek God’s help, remembering that it is our responsibility to plant and water but He alone can give the increase.

When the lawyer asked Jesus, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” the Lord responded by asking  him what he considered were the basics necessary to obtain eternal life. The lawyer replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind and thy neighbour as thyself ”. The Lord’s response was, “This do and thou shalt live”. He then gave the parable of ‘the Good Samaritan’ which powerfully teaches us to show compassion to those in need (Luke 10:25-37).In our preaching work do we see that this parable has a direct application for us? Do we appreciate that each day we come upon those who have been ‘stripped, wounded and left half dead’ by sin in this present evil world. The Samaritan, upon seeing the pitiful state of the poor victim, had “compassion” on him. He identified with his desperate need and did what he could to assist, with little thought of cost to himself. The actions of ‘the good Samaritan’ identify him with the Lord himself and his compassion and love for all who came to him. His compassion knew no bounds his love for his neighbour was amply demonstrated by giving his life as a ransom for all. Preaching the gospel, or supporting those who do, is a practical demonstration of our love for our neighbour. We just can’t walk by on the other side of the road while people are dying, and still expect to be commended when we meet our Lord.

Personally introducing the Truth

Most of us regret lost opportunities, times when we could have spoken up to introduce the message of salvation to others but let it slip. Throughout the day opportunities often arise to speak a word, perhaps as we journey on public transport to or from work, in conversation at the work place or with people we meet during the day. For those at school or university opportunities arise to speak a word that may spark further interest. There are those we meet in the many different situations of the day but just listing these opportunities is not enough, we need to be prepared to act upon them. The ‘good Samaritan’ was well prepared with oil and wine to help the one in need.

Introducing the Truth to a person is often through a spontaneous response to some event or comment that takes place. We need to be prepared to seize any occasion to turn a conversation around to speak of the Hope we share. There are times when we can be reasonably confident this opportunity will arise because of some event or disaster which has made headlines in our news reports. As we go off to our daily activities are we prepared to meet the opportunity with a prepared response when someone comments on the current situation? Let’s consider how we may turn a brief question or comment into an opportunity to introduce some aspect of the gospel. Such opportunities can arise at a bus stop, in a shop or at the checkout counter, at the playground while watching your children, while travelling in a lift, on a bus or flight, with a fellow student while working on some project together or with a work colleague while getting a cup of coffee at the office the list is never ending! A comment is made and you respond, endeavouring to introduce some aspect of the Truth. Your comments need to be brief but aimed at creating interest and opening the way for further discussion. If you are speaking to a work colleague then it is not good to stand talking when you have been paid to work. If the person shows interest or asks a question that needs a fuller answer, then suggest having a coffee or lunch together, or ask them to ‘drop in to your home’ to chat about it and make a date for this.

Memorise some key quotes

When opportunities arise for making a comment you will probably not have a Bible with you. Therefore memorise some key quotations so that you can use one or two of them as you speak. Here is a suggested list that will cover many opportunities

  • Matthew 6:9-10 The Lord’s Prayer regarding the kingdom to come
  • Acts 1:9-11 The words spoken at the ascension of Christ telling the disciples that he would return visibly to the earth
  • Luke 1:31-33 The words of Gabriel to Mary telling of the future role of Jesus as king sitting on David’s throne ruling over Israel
  • Mark 16:15-16 The Lord’s instruction for the gospel to be preached and that it is only through belief and baptism one can be saved
  • Acts 17:30-31 God has commanded all people to repent because He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ
  • Daniel 2:44 God will set up a kingdom here on earth that will last forever and all man’s kingdoms will be removed.

This brief list covers most of the main doctrines we need to tell others about. So to be an ‘evangelist’ or ‘messenger of good news’ you will first need to gather tools like these into your mental tool box and be skilled in using the correct quote to spark interest in the mind of the friend.

Speaking to those with English as their second language

Today many of our friends come from other countries and English is their second language. To instruct these we first need to know how much, if anything, they know about the Bible. Our ecclesia has weekly Saturday evening seminars for Chinese with over 20 attending each week  there have been ten baptisms from this group over the past four years. They come from a communist country where the national god is atheism, and to them the creative power producing the natural world, whether animate or inanimate, is evolution. Other countries have different backgrounds and so we do need to have some understanding of this if we are to be effective preachers. To start discussion on Bible topics and assume they will know what we are talking about can prove fruitless. But let us never make the mistake of thinking that because these people may have faltering English they lack the ability to understand biblical concepts. Many are highly educated, having more than one degree and some have doctorates. What is required is a logical presentation of the topics of the Bible. If necessary, commence by telling the story of the Bible and show how it came to be written. This kind of instruction requires patience and personal  discipline as most times we need to simplify our language, not the message, and speak slowly to ensure they are following the points being made. We have found having a bilingual Bible is a great help as the friend can look to see how some point is made in their mother tongue. In fact it is best to use the bilingual Bible yourself so that you are reading and speaking the same words in discussion. For the Chinese seminars we use the ESV and the Chinese version sent down from China. There is literature available now in many languages that can be used in tuition. For example Exploring the Bible, a 26 lesson course following through the story of the Bible and covering the main doctrines is now in 13 languages. From personal experience, tutoring a second language person in the principles of the Truth is a very rewarding exercise.

Be positive in preaching

As a preacher of good news we are to preach the Truth. Negative answers about what we don’t believe can be totally misleading,even confusing to the friend. A brother related how he was asked by a colleague, “What are you doing over Christmas?” He responded by telling the person that he didn’t believe in Christmas as it was just a pagan festival and went on to show how it was based on the paganism of Babylon which the Roman Catholic Church had taken up. The brother was rather surprised when it was pointed out to him that the friend thought he was an atheist or non-believer in Christ. It would have been better to quote the reason for Christ’s birth from Luke 1:31–33 and make some brief comment on this, giving opportunity for a further discussion on the topic. Just denying error is not preaching the Truth. For example, giving an involved lecture setting out the history of the Trinity from the days of Nimrod through to Athanasius, while it may be of interest to brethren and sisters and some friends, is not preaching the Truth. The Bible quite clearly sets out the truth that there is one God and shows the relationship that Jesus has to God, his Father. However there are times we do need to help a friend to understand the roots of the error they hold.

Always have a leaflet available

Giving a leaflet on the topic you have discussed with a friend is a good way to help them understand that teaching but always read it first so that you are familiar with the matter raised in it. It is a good idea to keep some leaflets on general topics in your car, on your desk at the office or near the front door at home so that you are prepared if the opportunity arises. Possibly one thing lacking in the brotherhood today are leaflets that address matters in a simple way that friends can follow. Today we do not meet many friends who have the biblical knowledge to defend the teachings their church holds or even the familiarity with a Bible to be able to search out a matter. As Bible reading seems to be a dying practice, discussion now seems to be the best way forward.

Invite friends to seminars or lectures

If there is a lecture coming up on your ecclesial lecture programme relating to the topic you have been discussing with a friend or one that you feel they may be interested to hear about, or if there is a seminar series in progress or about to start then ask them along. Tell other members of the ecclesia that you will have a friend there and ask them to make them feel welcome. Questions may arise from the lecture that will give further opportunity for discussion on another occasion.

Give a card to friends

Have you ever thought  I should have given that person my details so they can contact me to follow up our talk if they wish? Below is an example of a card given to friends at lectures, seminars and on other occasions. After a friendly chat hand them a card saying that you would enjoy continuing the discussion. Invite them to email you if they have any questions or comments on the matter you have raised. The card is simply produced on a computer and printed on a thin white A4 card. It is worth having some in your wallet to be ready at any time.

Exchange mobile numbers

This also is a very good way to keep in contact with people who may have shown some interest at a lecture, seminar or just in personal discussion. It is so easy to ask, “What is your mobile number?” and then dial it while talking to the person. You then have theirs and they yours. Then if you have a lecture or seminar coming up that you think may be of interest to them you can either call or send a SMS to invite them.

Some concluding thoughts

In this series we have endeavored to raise some very basic questions and offer helpful comments for our preaching activities, both from an ecclesial point of view and regarding our own personal commitment. Our aim has been to be constructive, to review and assess if over the years our preaching platform has moved away from the core issues we should be addressing. We commenced by looking at the actual message we need to be preaching. You will recall that we listed the very clear facts that the message of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and then the disciples was specific and personal. It concentrated on proclaiming the need for hearers to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins. The other topic given equal emphasis related to the coming Kingdom of God. We also considered our own personal involvement in supporting the ecclesial preaching. Have we become more committed to speak with friends? Have we been actively endeavouring to befriend those who come to lectures and seminars, by inviting them home or taking a genuine interest in them? Do we follow them up ourselves or are we still leaving that to others in the hope that they will? This series was never intended to be exhaustive in suggesting ways to preach collectively or individually. What we have endeavoured to do is urge each one of us to appreciate the privilege we have in knowing the wonderful Truth of God’s Word and therefore the serious responsibility we have to share that message with others. May God bless each of us as we endeavour to be ‘evangelists’, messengers bearing good news to this perishing world.