Quiet Forms of Preaching
Although the majority of my income now comes from book ghostwriting and editing jobs, I still write articles occasionally.
Historically, it has focused its attentions outside this country. So, EHC has largely operated “under the radar.” However, two years ago it launched a U.S. initiative, with a goal of enlisting 60,000 churches to spread the gospel.
Reading for Eternity
During an interview with EHC Executive Director Scott Middlebrook, he shared an anecdote that caught my attention.
It concerned a 2014 trip he made to an Asian nation to get more details about churches that had been started where once there were none.
Thirty years ago, a missionary who lived in that part of the world had visited the country to teach about good hygiene and the need for clean drinking water.
The missionary would conclude with a gospel presentation and distribute EHC literature.
Over the years, word-of-mouth reports indicated that a villager had accepted Christ and started a church.
On his trip, though, Middlebrook learned that five people had responded to the gospel. They helped start eight churches, not just one.
For me, the most interesting part of this story came from the fact that all five people responded to the gospel after reading the literature distributed in the villages. Their decisions didn’t follow a one-on-one presentation by the missionary.
One reason that story struck such a chord is an experience from the mid-1990s, when my wife was a seminary student.
She came home one day and told me about the professor who—in response to a question—had scoffed at the idea that one could have a ministry of writing.
The man’s theory: only by proclaiming the gospel verbally, whether in a public service or in conversations with others, could one be “in ministry.”
That casual comment felt somewhat like a dagger going into my heart. On the streets, they would call it being dissed.
That a professor would make this kind of remark, which insults introverts who would never dream of approaching strangers on the street, is bad enough.
What’s worse is I think it reflects the pro-extrovert bias in the church, particularly in the evangelical world.
The idea has long been that one must knock on doors, go out on the streets, or otherwise buttonhole strangers to proclaim one’s faith.
Not surprisingly, most church members don’t want to do this. Not because of fear or a lack of faith, but because of their shyness and reticence. Many find the idea of engaging others without first establishing a basis for the conversation to be distasteful.
To restrict the sharing of one’s faith to methods that run counter to many individuals’ personality and make-up is one reason so many evangelism programs are failures.
For years, I wrote about missions teams that built churches or repaired homes. Such activity inevitably resulted in people receiving Christ as Savior.
Not because they heard a three-step plan to salvation, but because they saw real-life people giving of their time and talents to help others. That spoke volumes.
I feel the same way about writing. While I may not preach to someone on the street, the fact that someone takes their time to read something I wrote—which has the same purpose—means they may pay closer attention to the message.
There are eight churches in a far-away place that stand as proof.