The Need for “First Principle” Preaching

By Jimmy Thomas

Truth Magazine recently made an appeal for “first principle” articles. They reported barely enough on hand for one issue. An associate editor expressed fear that some might consider this request as a sign of their “mellowing” or going “soft.”

For some time I have been concerned about the lack of preaching designed to convert the lost, especially in gospel meetings. I have attended meeting after meeting without hearing one sermon devoted altogether to nonmembers. My book of sermons by preachers from yesteryear show that these men preached much on subjects like “Rightly Dividing the Word,” “Sin,” “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” “Examples of Conversion,” and “The Identity of the Church.” Such teaching challenged sinners and lead many to examine and embrace the truth.

Now-a-days meeting sermons are on “The Home,” “Christian Living,” “Attendance,” “Demonology,” “Archaeology,” etc. I have found that some brethren will really compliment a sermon on “dancing” and “mini-skirts,” but seem to care little for a lesson on “The Blood of Christ.” It also distresses me that preaching on these fundamentals might be mistaken by some as a sign of “softness.”

I have always felt that the “Big Meeting” was a time to bring your neighbors and friends to learn how to be saved. Not that it would not be good for them to hear other sermons, it is just that right now they need “first principles” worse.

Some say,”The church needs to be converted before we try to convert the world.” That may be true, but members can be taught, these things on Sundays throughout the year. Furthermore, most churches have had ample time to be converted if every they will be. I am not saying that sermons to Christians are wrong in a series of meetings, but they should not be the main thrust, unless the meeting is designed and announced for that purpose.

We are not baptizing many during meetings anymore. Few “outsiders” even attend. Members are not working to get them to come. We think that if we have visitors from other congregations, our meetings are successful. I have even noticed that song leaders go through a whole meeting and never lead “Oh, Why Not To-Night” and “Almost Persuaded.” We are just not putting much emphasis on seeking the lost.

The old cliche is, “Well, that has been preached so much that everybody has heard it.” But, that is precisely the point at issue; everybody has not heard it. Those who are not Christians most certainly have not. Our children haven’t. And it is not going to hurt any of us older members to hear it again. I dare say, some couldn’t tell another how to be saved anyway. The old gospel story should always sound sweet to those who are saints.

Brethren, we need more of the old fashioned preaching on “Faith,” “Repentance,” and “Baptism.” If we don’t get to it at once, a greater apostasy than any of us has ever seen may loom upon the horizon.

(from the Bulletin of the Hickory Heights Church of Christ; Lewisburg, Tennessee.)

Truth Magazine XIX: 39, p. 604
August 7, 1975