In what way should gospel work be carried on? This is one of the “vexed” questions in not a few of the assemblies of the saints. It is certainly a very important question; for the proclamation of the gospel is, or ought to be, the great “feeder” of the assembly. A powerful gospel testimony is one of the clearest tokens of a prosperous church. But how can we have a powerful gospel testimony? That is the point. On what principles should gospel work be carried on? The question is not hard to answer: the difficulty is, to have the answer put into practical operation. Our answer is simply this: If there are any brethren in the assembly who are manifestly fitted of God for gospel work, then in the name of the Lord let them go on, and let their hands be held up by the saints. It is simply a question of having the right men in the right place. The Lord hath set the gifts in the church as it hath pleased Him. What we have to do is simply to say “Amen” to what He has done. We may wish that we had the evangelist’s fire in our bones. But, if the Lord has not put it there, we need not try to manufacture it; for evangelists, like poets, are born, not made. Therefore let us thankfully acknowledge those of our number whom the Lord has furnished for that work. In an assembly where that spirit prevails, you find God’s people going forth as one in gospel testimony. This is seemly; and where each is acknowledged according to the place that God has given him in the church, we may safely count upon signs following. It is just at this point that
comes in. Happy are the assemblies where the gospel ministry is in the hands of those whom God has called to that work. But another system of carrying on gospel work has gradually come into use, and is to be found in active operation. We refer to the system of having the gospel platform open to any brother who may desire to preach. For want of a better name we must call this “the any-man ministry,” which it really is. Its advocates contend that, as it is “the assembly’s gospel-meeting,” one brother has as good a right to preach as another; and that, if any brother wants to preach, no one has any authority to shut that brother’s mouth. Now, we hold that this is an unscriptural way of carrying on gospel work. It fails to recognize the diversity of gifts in the church. It takes for granted that anybody will do for the platform, and that for the sake of peace any brother must be allowed to preach if he wants to preach. What is the result of this system? The result is that there is
The gospel-meeting has become dull and unprofitable. Sinners can not be brought under the power of the gospel. Has the gospel failed? No. It is still the power of God; and we know that He abideth faithful. The failure must be upon our part. May it not be due to the adoption of the any-man ministry? - a thing nowhere sanctioned by the Word of God? Under such a system, brethren are allowed to preach whether they are fitted for the work or not, while those who seem called of God to gospel testimony have to wait their “turn.” Such a system cannot go on without its fruit, or want of fruit, being manifest. We may try to soothe our conscience by declaring that people have got gospel-hardened now-a-days. But we question if people are really so gospel-hardened as some would have us to believe. We may sit down and say. “It is strange that nothing is being done.” But in many cases we would think it strange if anything were done. Under such a system, need it be wondered at, that the fittest men are often the least forward to take the platform? Yea, is it not the case that the any-man ministry has a most discouraging effect upon the very brethren whom the Lord would have to go forward in gospel testimony? “Brother So-and-so must be allowed to speak, else he will be offended.” Thus, by giving honour all around, the attempt is made to please everybody. Yet even that attempt fails of its purpose. But
is not to please our brethren by giving them the platform. Our aim ought to be the glory of God in the salvation of souls. How can that end be attained? This is the question we must set before us. If that question is to be satisfactorily answered, then those whom God has called to the work must have their true place. We need scarcely say that a spiritual man will never be found forcing any one out, in order to push himself in. If there are too many gifted brethren in one spot, or if the system of carrying on the work genders to bondage, the remedy is simple. Let those who believe they have a special call to the gospel, strike out to rescue the perishing as God may lead - working on scriptural lines and seeking the prayers and fellowship of the saints. In this way it will soon be manifest whom God has called to the work. We do not believe in shutting any man’s mouth. If a brother wants to preach, let him preach. That is, if he says he is
let him go with the gospel to the world. Do not hinder him. If he begins with a cottage-meeting, he will soon find out if his gift lies in that line. If he is a godly brother, with the heavenly fire burning within, we doubt not that some Paul will be at hand to lead out the youthful Timothy. But if he is a brother making no proof of his ministry, and yet claiming to have a right to preach, we reply, “Yes, but you have no right to practise on meetings brought together through the instrumentality of others.” Many find it easy to preach, if you gather up a meeting for them; and yet these brethren would find it the hardest thing in the world to get up even a cottage-meeting by their own gospel efforts. Therefore, in the present dearth, we would say, Let the buried talent be dug up; and let us who are the saints of God be ready to say “God-speed” to any godly brother who goes forth to rescue the perishing.
Reprinted by permission, from “Light and Liberty” (U.S.A.)