Somebody observed that preachers ought to be as smart as the average washing machine – after it spins dry it shuts off automatically. Ever heard a preacher who kept “spinning”after he was dry? I have – and sometimes I was hearing myself! But when it comes to the preaching of the gospel, we must not shut off or shut up. Two thousand years ago, outside Jesus’ empty tomb on a Sunday morning, an angel of the Lord told some worried women who had come to see the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said … And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead … So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to bring His disciples word” (Matthew 28:5-8). Later, Marks account of the gospel says Jesus declared, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Some Christians never shut off but are very vocal and insistent about the last part of that mandate – that baptism is an essential part of our faith response to Jesus’ gospel. The problem is many Christians fail to take seriously the first part of that passage. We do a lot of going, but too often we just shut off when it comes to preaching the gospel. But we ought not to, because Jesus’ command to “go and preach” is not directed to those still outside of Christ but for those of us who have been “baptized into Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27). If we have heard the gospel and obeyed Christ through faith, repentance, confession and baptism, then we are directed to “go and tell!” We can put it this way – every saint this side of heaven is called to somehow, someway, be involved and supportive of the church’s never-ending commission to get the gospel of Christ to every sinner this side of hell.
But again, we shut off far too easily. In 1967 John R. W. Stott published a book entitled, “Our Guilty Silence.” In the preface Stott mentions reticence on the part of church members as one of the things that hinders evangelism. He called it “shyness about the things of God” and said it helps to produce a church of “silent saints.” He wrote, “It is the theme of this little book that such silence is ‘guilty silence.’ Of course, ‘there is a time to be silent’ but there is also ‘a time to speak’ (Ecclesiastes 3:7).” He continues, “If the gospel is the ‘good news’ it claims to be, and if it has been entrusted to us, we incur guilt if we do not pass it on. Like those Samaritan lepers who found the Syrian camp was abandoned, we need to acknowledge our guilt & say, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news , and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household’ (2 Kings 7:8-9).” Nineteen years ago David Sain wrote words that continue to challenge and even convict me – “if we do not believe that people who have not believed and obeyed the gospel are lost, we have no valid reason to evangelize. I remember H. A. Dixon saying there are two reasons why we are not more concerned and more active in confronting people with the gospel. First, he said, we are not convinced that they are lost if they do not obey the gospel, and, second, we are not convinced that we are lost if we do not try to teach them” (The Spiritual Sword, Vol.34, #2; Jan., 2003). Many groups on earth, religious and some very irreligious, are telling their message. This is NOT the time for Christians to shut off or up about the gospel, no matter how dry the world thinks it is. God help all of us tell somebody about Jesus!