Jesus said that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church. But city gates are not an offensive weapon. They are defensive, which means that the Church should be besieging them—and not the other way around.
“He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Lk. 24:46–47).
“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’” (Mt. 10:7).
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, and He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Lk. 4:18).
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea” (Mt. 3:1).
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Mt. 4:17).
“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom. 10:15).
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23).
“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).
To preach is to declare, to speak with authority. It is one-way, dogmatic communication. It is not a discussion or a debate. It is a proclamation.
“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimedthe gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:17–19).
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant” (Col. 1:21–23).
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:17).
According to these verses, preaching and proclaiming is the way to spread the gospel. People do not think of this kind of presentation as loving, but it needs to actually be loving. You may have heard the expression “Don’t preach to me.” It is said with an emphasis that makes “preaching” sound like unkind, condemning speech. We have come to believe that preaching is unloving, and we do not want to be considered unloving, so we are either quiet or we soften our speech so it does not sound like preaching. This softening often leaves out parts of the gospel.
I remember once when an evangelist came to see me in the 1960s. He wanted to explain to me a new concept in communicating the gospel. It was called “sharing.” This concept has since spread like wildfire. “Sharing” was meant to be inoffensive, more “loving,” more “tactful.” The difficulty is that “sharing” has taken the place of preaching. We have bought the lie that because people take offense from preaching, the preaching must therefore not be loving. This is not true.
Here is a portion of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:
“We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to sharewith you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Thess. 2:6–9).
In this verse, “share” is good because it includes “our lives as well.”
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:11–12).
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
Paul loved and preached. It is not preaching (i.e., the method) that gives the right kind of offense; it is the content of the gospel message:
“Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the crosshas been abolished” (Gal. 5:11).
It is the cross that gives offense. It is easy to leave out the cross in “sharing.” The more we leave out, the easier it is to talk. It may be easy to talk to an unbeliever about “Jesus,” but is harder to talk about the “Lord Jesus Christ.” It is still harder to talk about sin. It is even harder to talk about 1) hell, 2) the cross, 3) the resurrection of Christ, and 4) repentance.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–13).
Pastors, teachers and evangelists are to teach the people to do works of service. They are not to do all of it themselves. We can divide the Christians into two groups:
1) Those whose vocation is preaching, teaching, and other works of service.
2) Those whose vocation is farming, business, laboring, housekeeping, or professional (attorneys, educators, physicians, etc.).
Most of the people in the first group (the ones who are trained) interact primarily with other Christians. They do not have much contact with unbelievers. They have to force themselves into contact with the rest of the world.
Most of the second group has normal, daily contact with unbelievers, but they very rarely preach the gospel because they are not taught how. Those in the first group are to teach those in the second group. The best means of teaching is example. The best way of learning is by imitating.
*Excerpted from Weapons & Tactics. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.