Uncomfortably (?) Close to Home

By Paul K. Williams

“Preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. Every creature? When we have put preachers in all nations we have only begun, for the job is to preach to every creature in every nation. But I am thinking about our approach in the cities where we live. Are we preaching, or attempting to preach, to every creature?

There are two aspects of this problem, which worry me. First, I am worried because we tend to think our job is done by having a comfortable meeting house and inviting people to come. They dont, so we say they are not interested. Usually they have not heard enough gospel to know whether they are interested or not! And we are to blame.

The New Testament method of preaching to every creature is to go to the people. I am convinced that our major emphasis in this regard must be in personal work. This is hard work. It requires all that we regard as most precious to ourselves-our time, our prayers, our earnest effort, and our wholehearted commitment. Because of the high price we must pay in personal work, we shirk the task. We are willing to pay a preacher or supply money for a radio program, but we will not make the sacrifice of preparing ourselves and telling our neighbors about the gospel. Ponder this, Christian: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).

Second, I am worried over the fact that we are class conscious when we select the ones we do preach to. It is no accident that we are, by and large, a white, middle class church. We carefully locate our buildings in the new suburbs. We abandon the old, decaying and racially changing neighborhoods. And we long ago, with pretty good reason, wrote off the rich.

Sure, there are real problems in building a stable congregation in a poor neighborhood. It is much easier to do what we are doing than to preach to every creature. But our consciences should prick us until we repent. “He died for all”-2 Corinthians 5: 15.

February 8, 1973