Preaching Around the World – An Introduction
The gap between the tremendous preaching successes in Africa and India and the obstacles to growth we face in traditional areas is astounding.
We need to rejoice in the former and overcome the latter. The Tidings will do all we can to encourage both. We’ll be eager to provide an ongoing forum for continued discussion and reporting of progress.
This special issue on “Preaching Around the World” follows these principles. We hope it provokes celebration over the growth where it is happening and correction of the problems inhibiting growth in the other areas. The articles describe preaching efforts across the globe.
In “The Shape of Things to Come,” Bro. Jeff Gelineau reviews the dramatic changes that are occurring in our community. The future will not look like the past. We must embrace change.
Bros. Tim Galbraith and Tej Chippada describe preaching efforts in India. Bro. Tim writes about the importance God places on people hearing the gospel in their mother tongue. “Thoughts, feelings, and actions must all be involved in the conversion process, and hearing the gospel in the language heard at your mother’s knee is hugely important to help this process.” Bro. Tej tells the story of the impact the gospel has had on his life: “I was able to identify with the Christadelphians much better because they seemed more like me and I could see how they lived out their beliefs… Another thing I appreciated about the Christadelphian beliefs was that it was free from superstition and strict rules… I learned that the teachings of Christ are more powerful than any barriers such as culture, caste, age, language, or social status.”
Bro. Steven Cox reviews the recent mission work in the UK’s Iranian émigré community. Among other things, he highlights how they adapted the preaching of the gospel to the needs of this situation: “The redirection of resources in the UK from evening lectures into activities like the hostel classes is more than just a change of venue and addition of a translator; it is also a change in methods, and a change in message.” He also describes the positive impact these efforts are having on UK brothers and sisters: “If we can work out what is saving fundamental doctrine and what is cultural baggage it should be good for the indigenous English Christadelphians too. If we can be re-converted to the core doctrines about Jesus, then that should make us want to put our house in order, to make Christadelphians again the clear and attractive first choice for those who do not see Jesus as a pre-existent being.”
Change is hard for institutions.
It’s not easy to move the fixed habits and ideas of a group. But change happens, whether we like it or not. We can choose to stick with the evolutionary type of change, the one universally associated with decline. Or we can control the change and deliberately implement strategic plans to benefit our spiritual health.
Bre. Matthew Blewett, Matt Bilello, and Dave Jennings describe developments in Africa. Bro. Matthew recalls an episode in 2005 in which a wise brother issued a challenge for change: “If you were in my company, I would fire all of you. Each year you come back here and report the same poor results using the same methods.” They embraced the challenge. They established a “cast your net on the other side” philosophy. “The first principle… was Touch and Teach. As a country where poverty and inequality are amongst the highest in the world, we could no longer teach without manifesting the message of our teaching through touching. The more we could integrate these elements of practice and theory, the more we could emulate the method of our Lord in the gospels.”
Bro. Matt Bilello summarizes lessons learned from his time as a missionary in South Africa. After listing practical Do’s and Don’ts, he writes, “Doing preaching work is a highly rewarding experience, one that I recommend highly without reservation.” On the other hand, he also writes, “It is not one that should be entered into lightly.”
Bro. Dave Jennings writes about the amazing growth of the gospel in Malawi and Mozambique: “Combining the total population of Malawi and Mozambique, there are about 48 million residents. Of that, over 20,000 are Christadelphian brothers and sisters!”
Bro. Clive Drepaul reviews the history of preaching efforts in the Caribbean and Panama. The story involves many inter-woven themes, some headwinds and some tailwinds. “The fact that the local populace is ever willing to listen to the gospel tips the scale in favor of seizing the opportunities against being overwhelmed by the challenges.”
Sis. Ethel Archard describes the challenges facing African refugees who come to North America. She concludes: “Every refugee has unique needs, and these may vary depending on their home country. Whether newly arrived refugees learned the Truth in Africa, Iran, Pakistan, or another country, they may underestimate the challenges they will face. On the other hand, local brothers and sisters may underestimate the opportunities they bring.”
Bro. Dave Jennings writes about the history of preaching in southern California and especially their experiences putting on the “Learn to Read the Bible Effectively” seminar. He summarizes the impact: “There is a huge benefit to individuals and ecclesias involved in the public seminars. It sharpens our message, builds faith, and accelerates spiritual growth. It helps us to avoid isolation from the public, which is a grave danger to ecclesias… It reminds us just how beautiful and inspiring the Truth is.”
Sis. Melinda and Bro. Kevin Flatley provide a book review of the short but insightful book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, by Thom Rainer. The book’s lessons are a warning to us. Sis. Melinda and Bro. Kevin summarize one of the key issues: “Change is hard for institutions. It’s not easy to move the fixed habits and ideas of a group. But change happens, whether we like it or not. We can choose to stick with the evolutionary type of change, the one universally associated with decline. Or we can control the change and deliberately implement strategic plans to benefit our spiritual health.”
Bro. Joe Hill closes the issue with his article, “Learning from Each Other.” He identifies issues that can inhibit growth of the gospel by citing the results of five different surveys, two by Christadelphians and three by non-Christadelphians. Although there are no easy fixes, he recommends we learn from the stories shared in this special issue. Applying these lessons, he offers three simple, back-to-basics ideas that can help us improve our preaching of the gospel: (a) Focusing of the gospel; (b) Balancing external and internal needs; (c) Changing lives.
Change is happening. We either adapt or die. Let us do everything we can to improve our planting and watering of the gospel seed, knowing it is our Heavenly Father Who gives the increase.
John Bilello (Ann Arbor, MI) and Joe Hill (Austin Leander, TX), Guest Editors