The National Religious Broadcasters vs. J. Gresham Machen

In terms of sharing the faith, which do you prefer – sharing the gospel message – the doctrines – or your personal testimony? That is the question that was asked of many on the floor at the national religious broadcasters convention – the group of people whose job it is to communicate what Christianity is to those listening over the airwaves. What was their answer? Overwhelmingly they replied that they believed their personal testimony was to be preferred and was more effective in evangelism. Listen to this week’s White Horse Inn to hear the tragic answers. However, I do not blame these poor broadcasters mostly. To whom are these people listening? What do they hear preached on Sunday mornings?

At the end of the broadcast, Horton shares this quote from J. Gresham Machen – in it Machen teaches exactly the opposite of what most of us (apparently this would include those on the floor of the national religious broadcaster’s convention) were taught all of our lives. Machen’s words line up with the Bible. However, much of the church’s so-called evangelism today does not line up with the Bible. Maybe that is why much of our evangelism is so powerless.

Let us not deceive ourselves. Christian experience is necessary to evangelism; but evangelism does not consist merely in the rehearsal of what has happened in the evangelist’s own soul. We shall, indeed, be but poor witnesses for Christ if we can tell only what Christ has done for the world or for the Church and cannot tell what He has done personally for us. But we shall also be poor witnesses if we recount only the experiences of our own lives. Christian evangelism does not consist merely in a man’s going about the world saying: “Look at me, what a wonderful experience I have, how happy I am, what wonderful Christian virtues I exhibit; you can all be as good and as happy as I am if you will just make a complete surrender of your wills in obedience to what I say.” That is what many religious workers seem to think that evangelism is. We can preach the gospel, they tell us, by our lives, and do not need to preach it by our words. But they are wrong. Men are not saved by the exhibition of our glorious Christian virtues; they are not saved by the contagion of our experiences. We cannot be the instruments of God in saving them if we preach to them thus only ourselves. Nay, we must preach to them the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is only through the gospel which sets Him forth that they can be saved.

If you want health for your souls, and if you want to be the instruments of bringing health to others, do not turn your gaze forever within, as though you could find Christ there. Nay, turn your gaze away from your own miserable experiences, away from your own sin, to the Lord Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Only when we turn away from ourselves to that uplifted Savior shall we have healing for our deadly hurt.  -J. Gresham Machen, The Importance of Christian Scholarship in The Defense of The Faith


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