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Christian Biblical Studies
METHOD AND MESSAGE
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
(1 Corinthians 1: 21, King James Version)
ONCE A WELL-RESPECTED and powerful means of presenting the Gospel message, outdoor preaching, always an exercise in courage, is in today’s Britain the preserve of a handful of hardy souls. Even many fellow-Christians, disdain this approach. And perhaps it would, in this age of the Internet, be considered inefficient and counterproductive. But it has a long and honourable history.
For most of the Gospel Age this method was used by God to draw in the believers. Sometimes it was the only way. Throughout the centuries many reformers were unwelcome in the established churches of the period. Having no access to church buildings, they were restricted to small home assemblies or field preaching. It was through this means that the roots of Methodism were planted deep in this country by John Wesley and his brother, Charles and, later, in the United States by Francis Asbury, the intrepid circuit rider.
On one occasion of Whitefield’s open-air address to the Bristol colliers, John Wesley observed
‘I could scarce reconcile myself . . . at first to this strange way, having been all my life, till very lately, so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.’ (Robert Southey, The Life of Wesley, 1820; Hutchinson & Co.: 156-158)
The New International Version puts the emphasis on the content of the preaching: ‘God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.’
Regardless of how it is presented the Gospel message itself will be rebuffed and pilloried by most who come in contact with it. The Christian heritage of this land, though not dead, is under severe strain. We’ll have to get used to this, but persevere anyway. For God’s promise stands firm:
The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham’ (Galatians 3: 8, 9, KJV).
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