If one is to believe the statistical charts and reports so commonly quoted today, a single conclusion is inescapable: the disciples of Jesus are not inning the world, they are losing it! Now mind you, I said, “If one is to believe the statistical charts ….” for quite frankly, figures can be quoted, twisted, used, or misused to prove virtually anything.  It is never easy to know just how reliable or accurate any survey is, at least not until you know the background and bias of the agency or individual responsible for it.

But without quoting any specific numbers or sources or relying on any so-called “scientific    studies” we must be honest with ourselves in acknowledging that the Church is not living up to the expectations so clearly evidenced in the first three centuries of the Christian endeavor.  In the period immediately following the life of our Lord and His apostles, it appeared that the Gospel would capture and carry the day.  Even those hostiles to the faith admitted that the disciples were “turning the world upside down” and total triumph for the cause of Christ seemed imminent.

What happened? What caused the Church to gradually lose the dynamic and the momentum of those early days? And again, for those who protest this is an unfair judgement, all we ask is for them to look out into the world and decide for themselves about the present-day power and influence of the Christian faith.  Clearly, things, are not the same now as they were then, in the New Testament era when the transforming power of the Gospel was in the process of claiming the world for Christ and His Church.

Without becoming identified with the chorus of critics who forever are found shouting about the weaknesses and the failures of the Church, could we nevertheless admit the altercation of method may have denuded the Gospel of its greatest power?  What was the primary strategy and the principal approach of Christ and the Apostles in their attempts to turn people from darkness to light, from death to life?  The answer may not only be revealing, but it may also be judgmental; for their methods so clearly stand in stark contrast to those we attempt to employ.

Unless we are careful and exceptionally discerning, we might tend to attribute the early success of the Gospel to the exercise of supernatural, miraculous powers.  Many people unquestionably were attracted to the movement by reports of the signs and wonders which accompanied the disciples.

However, any permanent result of the Gospel comes not by any overpowering, external display of mystical, supernatural might, but by the faithful proclamation of God’s truth and values through preaching.  Jesus came preaching!  He sent out the twelve Apostles, saying “As you go, preach….” Later, in commissioning the seventy disciples who were being sent throughout the land, He said, “He that hears you, hears Me.” Preaching has always been central in God’s plan to reach and win the world. 

It is only when people have sought to substitute their ways for His way: to rely on wealth, prestige. organization, institutions, human strategies, that the Church has suffered the reversals and retreats which are commonly noted.   The method of Our Master has always been to proclaim truth and value with authority and certainly in the full confidence that the message and way of the Lord would be affirmed in human experience.  Whatever else might occur, the Church – you and I must never vary from the truth and value of Christ Himself in reaching out to others.  Jesus came preaching! We must continue speaking out and proclaiming His truth and value to this world and His truth and value will set us all free!!!!