By Weldon E. Warnock
Gospel meetings can still be an effective method to save lost souls, as well as edify and motivate the church. Most congregations usually have one or two meetings a year with great evangelists to preach in their protracted efforts. It has been my privilege to have been involved in many of these through the years, both as speaker, and as the local preacher working with congregations in conducting a meeting with a guest preacher.
Vividly, I can remember great meetings with such brethren as Frank Puckett, Homer Halley, Roy Cogdill, James Cope, Foy Wallace, C.D. Plum, H.E. Phillips, Jack McElroy, Luther Blackmon, Marshall Patton, Lloyd Nash, Fred Dennis, and others. Truth was preached and men and women were delivered from the bondage of sin. What these men preached during those days is what the churches need to hear now.
1. We need the old, Jerusalem gospel in gospel meetings. Men are lost in sin. The only remedy is the gospel of Christ. If the day of preaching the pure, unadulterated gospel is outdated, then the day of salvation is outdated. Paul wrote, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Salvation is contingent upon preaching.
Preaching saves, but not just any kind of preaching. It must be gospel preaching (Mark 16:15-16). Paul said the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). The word “power” is a translation of the Greek word dunamis, from which we get the word “dynamite.” The gospel is, therefore, the dynamite of God, powerful enough to blast sin out of man and man out of sin.
The apostle Paul was cognizant of the fact that the gospel was to be preached in order to save men. He wrote to the Corinthians, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which ye are saved” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). The glad tidings of salvation was not beneath the dignity of this grand apostle. He wasn’t interested in public acclaim, impressing the intellectuals, or endearing himself to the socially elite, but he was only concerned about preaching Christ and him crucified. “When I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2).
Many have become disenchanted with the old gospel and fascinated with a new gospel. They are enthralled with clichés, sound-bites, trite sayings, scenarios, book and newspaper reviews, stories, accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, etc., instead of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. You hear very little Scripture and no analysis of the one or two given. Some of us are simply beating the air in our preaching with no substance. Paul says, “Pre ach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Of course, this would include a broad spectrum of biblical subjects.
2. We need to preach a simple gospel. Too many preachers are pre-occupied with the highly intellectual, theological and philosophical approach to preaching. It appears they are full of themselves, trying to demonstrate their much learning. Formal education of preachers is good and beneficial in many ways, but we need to realize it is a tool, a means to an end, and not something that elevates us above others. (Neither should we glory in our ignorance.) Foy Wallace used to say that he had all the degrees necessary to preach the gospel when he was normal 98.6.
Some of us get carried away with Greek and Hebrew. We can’t say a dozen words without going into the original language. I commend a brother who knows Greek and Hebrew. It is most helpful. But to give us a course in foreign languages every time he preaches is a little much. Marshall Keeble was in a debate many years ago with a sectarian preacher. The preacher resorted to the Greek. Keeble hardly knew anything about Greek. He asked for all in the audience who knew Greek to raise their hands. No hands went up. Keeble looked at his opponent and said, “We better stick with the English something our audience is acquainted with.” Brother Keeble knew how to simplify truth.
Jesus was the master teacher. Much of his preaching was with one and two syllable words and the common people heard him gladly. He employed illustrations of which his hearers were familiar. We would do well in imitating Him. (Even the meat of the gospel can be preached with clarity.) I hear brethren talking about component parts and constituent elements to “prove” a position. If it requires all this kind of mental calisthenics to understand truth, many of us am in trouble.
Some of the old-timers used to say that they like to shuck and shell the corn in order that the calves could eat it. I recall a statement attributed to Fred Dennis. He said that Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep not his giraffes. Paul wrote that Christ sent him “to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17).
3. We need to preach a certain gospel. Let us proclaim facts, not theories, certainties and not doubts. Truth can be understood (John 7:17; 8:32; Eph. 3:3-4; 1 John. 2:21). Preach it with conviction! Act like we believe it!
Many times preachers raise questions and never give any answers. The audience leaves the meeting bewildered. What has happened to the bold statement in sermons: “The Bible says”? Some of us would rather quote Shakespeare, Freud, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Charles Swindoll or Pat Robertson than the God of heaven. Shame on us! What do these men know about going to heaven. They don’t have the words of life!
Let’s preach with certainty that there is only one way to be saved, one church, one faith, one baptism, one inerrant, inspired Bible, one Lord, one pattern for worship, one organization of the church, and one absolute moral code. Preach it, brother, and not this general, “tip-toe-through-the tulips” type of preaching that resembles a pep talk before the big game in the NCAA finals.
People need to know they are lost if they have not obeyed the gospel. They need to be brought face to face with their sins. When the people on Pentecost heard Peter, they were pricked in their hearts (Acts 2:37). A lot of preaching being done today wouldn’t nettle anybody. When we preach about improving our self-image and making alien sinners and erring saints feel good about themselves, we are being stupid, to put it bluntly.
W. Curtis Porter wrote several years ago, “Preaching that is not distinctive enough to make the lost realize they are lost is not the kind of preaching it takes to save men. Whenever an unfaithful brother, one guilty of sins against the high heaven, or with an ungodly attitude toward the word of the Lord can sit under a man’s preaching without feeling any discomfort or alarm, there is probably something wrong with the preaching. The man needs to be blasted with the gospel dynamite till he can see his lost condition. As long as your preaching allows him to feel secure in his sins he will not likely be redeemed from his sinful state” (Gospel Advocate). Brother Porter was right. Some think his remarks are from the back-waters of ignorance, prejudice and intolerance, but such thinking shows just how little these modem neophytes know about the gospel and the way to preach it.
This loose attitude toward truth lurks in the shadows in many places, if not brazenly in the open. I was talking to a young man recently and he rejected examples as binding and necessary inferences as obligatory. To him the only thing that mattered was commands. He maintained that the day and frequency of the Lord’s supper were optional. I asked him if once every ten years would be acceptable? I reminded him that my judgment was as good as his and if I decided that every ten years would be sufficient to observe the Supper, logically and scripturally, if he were correct, I would be right. Dusty Owens has been writing recently that the time and frequency of the Lord’s supper doesn’t matter. In fact, Dusty makes coming to worship in the assembly on any occasion a matter of whether you want to come or not. His thinking is as convoluted as the young man above.
Brethren, it is past time that we get back to preaching the doctrine of Christ in a sure, determinate, definite, decisive, unmistakable, unequivocal and absolute manner. I am disgusted, along with a lot of other brethren, with honey-mouthed men who masquerade as gospel preachers. Success in a gospel meeting is not judged by the hoopla of denominational campaigns. We need sound and healthy doctrine not a placebo.
4. We need to preach a militant gospel. Foy E. Wallace said, “The church grew when the fight was waged and the battles raged. When the let-up came in the fight, the let-down came in the church. It is said that the denominations do not fight any more. That is because the church has quit fighting and they have nothing to fight” (The Gospel For Today).
Jude wrote, “Ye should earnestly contend for the faith” (v. 3). This is a call to arms, a rousing battle cry. It means to “agonize, straggle.” Too many are forgetting we are engaged in a spiritual war that means life or death (Eph. 6:12; 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12).
While the devil and his forces are running to and fro over the earth, some of us are joining hands with his cunning agents in compromise and duplicity. Religious error and moral degeneracy should not be allowed to have a safe sanctuary in the church. But regrettably, it does, such as unscriptural marriages, social drinking, immodest dress, no binding examples (although Jesus left us an example to walk in his steps, 1 Pet. 2:21), unity in diversity, instrumental music as a moot issue, and several other things.
First century preachers went out into the world and turned it upside down (Acts 17:6). I can envision some of our present-day “Zig Ziglar’s” in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia or amidst the multitudes at Ephesus. In both places they would have won the Chamber of Commerce award. But not Paul. He preached one Lord, one faith, one hope and one God. Should we do less?
Because false teachers still abound in our time, we must be militant. Truth is perverted (Gal. 1:6-10), exchanged for a lie (Rom. 1:25) and withstood (2 Tim. 3:8). Give us men like Joshua, Caleb, Micaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Stephen and Paul to fight the good fight. We don’t need flatterers, pussyfooters, apple-polishers, men-pleasers and hirelings. We need real, courageous men who preach the gospel out of love for the souls of men and women, boys and girls.
This is the type of preaching that we need in gospel meetings!
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 16, p. 7-8
August 19, 1993