This weekend I was planning to be at UCCF’s Biblical Evangelism Conference, which I believe is essentially a weekend of training on giving evangelistic talks from the Bible (though the snow meant I ended up not going). In keeping with that, I though it might be worth commenting on two quotes I came across a while ago from quite different sources.
The first is from a BBC interview which Mark Lawson conducted with Sir Michael Caine. At one point (3:42 into the linked clip) Michael Caine says
If the audience is sitting there saying ‘Oh, isn’t Michael Caine a wonderful actor!’ then I’ve done it all wrong. They should be saying ‘I wonder what’s gonna happen to Harry Brown now?’
Michael Caine wants to be transparent, a mere window into the character he is portraying. His only intention is to reveal to us Harry Brown. There is a strong parallel with how Jesus lived, perfectly revealing His Father.
As I and others learn about giving evangelistic talks, this is how we need to speak. We are not to point to ourselves, but to another. If the audience is sitting there saying ‘Oh, isn’t Tim a wonderful speaker!’ then I’ve done it all wrong.
During the 1880s a group of American ministers visited England, prompted especially by a desire to hear some of celebrated preachers of that land.
On a Sunday morning they attended the City Temple where Dr. Joseph Parker was the pastor. Some two thousand people filled the building, and Parker’s forceful personality dominated the service. His voice was commanding, his language descriptive, his imagination lively, and his manner animated. The sermon was scriptural, the congregation hung upon his words, and the Americans came away saying, “What a wonderful preacher is Joseph Parker!”
In the evening they went to hear Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The building was much larger than the City Temple, and the congregation was more than twice the size. Spurgeon’s voice was much more expressive and moving and his oratory noticeably superior. But they soon forgot all about the great building, the immense congregation, and the magnificent voice. They even overlooked their intention to compare the various features of the two preachers, and when the service was over they found themselves saying, “What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus Christ!”
Spurgeon: a new biography by Arnold Dallimore, p216
The Book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings; every forward thrust the first church made was immersed in prayer. Take another look at the church at Pentecost. They prayed ten days and preached ten minutes and three thousand people were saved. Today we pray ten minutes and preach ten days and are ecstatic if anyone is saved.
Ronald Dunn, quoted in Prayer: The real battle which I think is quoting Dunn’s book Don’t just stand there, pray something!
You may notice that the Acts 2 account of Pentecost doesn’t mention a ten day prayer meeting. The number comes from knowing the ascension of Jesus Christ was 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3) and that Pentecost was 50 days after it (Pentecost was, by definition, 50 days after the passover, which was when Jesus rose from the dead. Leviticus 23:16 refers to Pentecost). This leaves a ten day gap. At the start of those ten days, we read the disciples “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14). In Acts 2:1 we read “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”, and the idea that the intervening period was spent in prayer and supplication is an assumption.
At the moment in my quiet times I’m looking through the book of Acts. Earlier this week I read Acts 2:40 which says
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
It’s the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has come upon the gathered believers in Jerusalem, and Peter has just preached a sermon to the Jews who were around him. Luke has recorded for us the sermon he preached, then at the end he writes this verse.
This is gospel preaching. This is what I aspire to. Not as a pulpit preacher, invaluable as they obviously are, but in my day-to-day life. I hope I will learn to follow the pattern Peter used when he was preaching to a group of people. He both testified to and exhorted the people.
If I’m not misunderstanding the passage, the words are not meant to say the same thing. They are complementary. Peter testified by his life, showing the people Christ by the way he lived. Every day Christ was visible in Peter. Peter also exhorted, urging and pleading with the people to be saved. It may not be as catchy as UCCF’s “living for Jesus, speaking for Jesus” tagline, but isn’t this exactly the same approach?
We cannot share the gospel by simply living it. We must preach it, whether while stood in a church or in a casual conversation, so people can understand their sin and their need to call out to Jesus for salvation. But neither can we share the gospel by preaching alone. The gospel’s power is to transform lives, and if our own lives are not transformed then what is the gospel we are presenting in our preaching? Neither will do alone; we must have both.