Winning People for Christ

The Church of Christ has been commissioned to make disciples of all nations. This command holds for all nations and generations, until the end of time when the Savior-King shall return in great glory upon the clouds of heaven.

Throughout the centuries the church has always taken seriously, at least in theory, that the method by which men were to be made disciples was that of preaching.

This, apparently, isn’t believed any more.

In much of the religious education literature which pours from denominational presses the emphasis is on “nonverbal communication.” As the editor of Southern Presbyterian Journal summarizes the new approach, “We are urged to demonstrate love, to practice forgiveness, to offer acceptance. We are told it is not what we say. but what we do that ‘preaches’ Christ. Wc are reminded that children learn of the love of God by experiencing love and not by being told of love.” It need not surprise us, therefore, that children and young people learn very little about the facts and mysteries of the Christian faith by this method.

In a somewhat different form this same approach is being advocated on the mission fields. In a sense, this is not new. Years ago already many churches established schools in foreign lands in the hope. not of making convinced converts to Christianity but rather of influencing their lives by Christian example. The success of such ventures has been dubious. Now in a much more outspoken way this approach is defended. “Missionaries are told that they ‘fall down badly’ in their responsibility to ‘relate themselves to the people.’ Christians are told that they will never have an effect on pagan cultures until they demonstrate the effect of their faith in their own lives. National church leaders are pressing for changes in missionary policy which will place the missionaries on a basis of equality with themselves -same salaries, same housing, etc.”

Now there is just enough of the salt of truth in some of the arguments to make it possible for many, both at home and abroad, to accept the implied charges uncritically. Meanwhile they forget what really the calling of the church is.

The editor rightly considers the new approach a “distortion of the Gospel…essentially a replacement of faith with works; of the message of salvation with the effects of salvation…‘Non-verbal communication’—from the standpoint of saving effect—is pure hokum.”

This is strong language. But it needs to be said, not once or twice but often. Not the example of the Christian but the person and work of Jesus Christ alone saves. Nor can this be communicated in any other way than by preaching the Word which lives and abides forever. Of course. such a preaching is to the natural man. both in the homeland and on the foreign field, a stumbling-block and foolishness. But God makes it the power unto salvation. For the church at home and abroad his command still is, “And when yo go, preach.…!”


The Calvinist-Contact is a lively paper. It deserves much more attention from Calvinists in the United States than it usually receives. To be sure, many of its articles appear in the Dutch language. Tills rather severely restricts its reading public. But as a medium for reaching the Calvinistic immigrants in their first and formative years in a totally new and strange world, it is effective. More than that, it speaks clearly and uncompromisingly about the issues which the newcomers are bound to face.

In their new situation the immigrants often find themselves at a loss. Thus their specific reactions to the problems which they face are mingled. This was apparent in recent months, when two employees in the public schools of Toronto were dismissed because of their refusal to join a union which they claimed conflicted with their Christian convictions. The reactions to their refusal to join were both numerous and contradictory. They also reveal that Calvinists in Canada were by no means of the same mind.

Even though the situation created thereby was a delicate one (or a newspaper which has no ecclesiastical tics (and thus no such support!) the editor spoke up frankly and forthrightly. Sharply he analyzed what was involved. ‘“The question which basically called for our attention was, whether we (i.e., Calvinistic immigrants) ought to conform as much as possible to our environment and witness within that framework, or whether we ought to maintain our isolation and on this basis influence the world around us.”

In two articles he presented his case.

In the first he emphasized the need of coming to a com· man understanding of the problem and on this basis developing a unity based on common convictions. This was a plea for unity on principle, a wholehearted devotion to Cod and his Word. “if we seek to be of influence for God’s sake, we must zealously seek to promote unity of conviction among ourselves….Not in the sense that we camouflage our differences, but that we attempt to understand each other. Why are we enthusiastic for our opinion? Merely to hear ourselves? Or for the sake of our organization? Or for the sake of our mentor? Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. If it is not for God’s sake, we do well to stop at once. But if it is for God’s sake, then it must be possible for us to draw closer together. From conversations heard recently and letters we received it has become plain that there is room for improvement.”

For such effective unity more is necessary, however, than oneness of principle. There must be oneness in practice. Thus the following week there appeared a challenging editorial on “Barth or Dordt?” Here the editor spoke of tho divergences of approach. He stressed that the influence of Barth is far from negligible, even though this by no means implies that all who are influenced by the Swiss theologian have adopted Barthianism. He urged that the readers should examine whether the Barthian approach is Biblical. Here there is no place for distinctive Christian organizations in the fields of education, labor, politics, etc. If adopted by many, it would signalize the rejection of the historic Calvinistic approach to the Christian’s calling in this world.

Without mentioning the word, the editor directed attention to the antithesis, reminding the readers of the words of our Lord, “Behold, I send you as sheep among the wolves.” Christians must recognize the implications of their redemption in Christ. “But salvation through the sacrifice of Christ implies the commencement of a new humanity, which also is obligated to live as a new humanity—misunderstood and shunned, isolated and often despised, but nevertheless very real.”

The concluding paragraph throws down the gauntlet. “On this basis we must be firmly united, one in conviction and one in concern, and thus ready to help each other in the application (i.e. of this basic principle to all of life). Whether one person will be more drawn to social-economic and another to educational spheres, still another to ecclesiastical work or to politics, does not make much difference. There is a variety of gifts, but there may be no variety of principle. It is absolutely fallacious that loyalty to principle breeds sterility. We cannot speak about love to our fellowmen, unless this love is rooted first of all in love to God. And love to God cannot exist, unless we believe that God has first of all come to us in his Son.”

This call to unity of principle and practice as Christian believers is urgently needed not only among Calvinists in Canada but everywhere.

Too long we have been complaining to ourselves and each other that the Reformed faith in its broad application to life has been languishing. Is it possibly because as Calvinists we have not been committed wholeheartedly to the principles which we profess and the program by which these can best be implemented in the given situation? Well may we ask why our many discussions and debates and committees and resolutions have produced so little fruit. At least, we haven’t been plucking much fruit in the fields of Christian journalism, labor relations, business, politics, and culture. Have we perhaps exhausted ourselves by our overmuch talking? It cannot be gainsaid that when positive Christian guidance has been offered, many Reformed people have been more than willing to follow. The growth of our Christian schools bears ample witness to this fact. To be sure, in many another field the problems are more intricate and difficult of solution. Consistent Christian witness in politics and labor, for example, seems much more difficult to achieve than in education. But let us admit honestly that we haven’t tried nearly so hard in these fields. Hence there is little unity in principle and in practice here.

Time is running out. This we all profess to realize. More than that, Reformed believers are increasingly being influenced by siren songs which come from both right and left. Many seem to be enamored of a pietism and fundamentalism and even dispensationalism, which because they recognize the badness of this present world seek refuge in an experiential Christianity removed from the struggle of our age. Others, with a sharpened social consciousness, seem to have imbibed uncritically the approach of the older liberalism or of Barthianism on the burning issues of witnessing for Christ in all areas of life.

How often does the Reformed press on this side of the ocean include trenchant articles on the Christian’s calling in labor, politics, and culture? Aside from some superficial news-reporting little is said. When upon a rare occasion such an article appears, it is usually in a periodical of severely restricted circulation. And then everybody keeps still, lest differences of opinion come into the open. By and large we restrict ourselves to ecclesiastical concerns. That these arc of utmost significance cannot be denied. But we may well ask ourselves whether we have possibly concerned ourselves too exclusively with these, and then in isolation from the other aspects of the Christian’s calling in this world, with the result that oneness in Christian principle and in Christian practice is rapidly being lost. Should this trend continue for another generation among us, the Reformed faith may become a pretty irrelevant article for the average man and woman in the churches. Let the history of other Calvinistic churches in this part of the world sound strong warning to us, before it is too late.

What this calls for is precisely what the editor of Calvinist-Contact urged.

We must begin to speak among ourselves about these matters, and that frankly and fearlessly and charitably. Through such responsible speaking we may confidently expect that God will guide us in developing an active, articulate, and challenging program of action around which all who love the Lordship of him whose we are and whom we serve will rally. Only then can we speak with united voice to the world around us. It will also surprise us how many will listen to such a clear voice.


Maurice Hindus is a man who has often been to Russia. In his most recent book about that land, House without a Roof, he also speaks about the churches.

The Russian Orthodox Church is evidently weak. No longer does it command widespread loyalty. Much less is it an effective witness to Christ among the yOtmger generation. In contrast, the evangelical Baptists are growing in strength. In spite of the official attitude, the registered congregations of this group number 5,400 with some 540,000 members and 3,000,000 adherents. The Baptists have multiplied tenfold since the days of tlle Czars, and that despite all attempts of Soviet atheism to neutralize or stifle their voice.

Several possible explanations for their phenomenal growth are suggested. Members are kept on probation for two or three years before they are accepted. High standards of Christian living are maintained. The message proclaimed by the churches is warm, personal, and Biblical. The people themselves are honest, industrious, and peaceloving. But one of the chief reasons seems to be the simplicity of their organization.

In many communities they are not strong enough to apply for a church building. Then eight or ten families will meet in one of the homes. Each group is a tightly knit cell. Comparing them with the early Christians, Hindus comments, “They too are a sect in the first century of their activity; they too live in a hostile world; they too profess a simple faith and arc drawn into a closely knit fellowship, share common joys, and offer one another succor in times of stress and misfortune, Well or ill, the Baptist is never lonely…They constitute a collective of their own within a society that is based on collectives.”

By this organization they beat the Communists at their own game. In our increasingly impersonal world with its proliferation of organizations, we might well learn the blessings of intimate personal communion. Here small groups meeting together for fellowship around God’s Word can help resolve many of the problems which are created by Our big congregations. In a world like ours “the church which is in thy house” can again become a potent influence for the spread of the Christian faith.



L. Nelson Bell, whose articles arc usually well worth reading and remembering, exposes the method which some people pursue when confronted with difficulties in God’s Word.

“There are parts of the Bible which run counter to our own ideas. There are parts of the Bible which we do not understand. There are parts which are contrary to our own propositions.

“This problem can be met:

“Question the knowledge of the writer. Impugn his honesty and motives. Question his understanding of the situation. Look for the limitations of his education, time, and environment. ‘Interpret’ what he writes so that it means something else, Devise new and clever theories about revelation and inspiration which give top priority to human reason, not personal faith.

“In other words, if we do not like the message we can attack the messenger.

“This is one way to adjust the Bible to our own liking.”

Plainly this is a prevalent method of approaching the written Word of God. Few scholars would state their method so baldly, Much less would they be willing to acknowledge frankly that this is their intent. But the results of their method speak for themselves. By attacking the messenger they have dulled the sharp edge of his message. In fact, they arc left with a message quite foreign to the message of Scripture.

And this, as Bell rightly affirms, “is a desperately dangerous and foolish thing to do.”


For the past decade our American institutions of higher learning have been under surveillance and even attack as among the weakest links in our defense against Communist inroads. Whatever our judgment may be of the methods pursued at times by investigators, among them influential individuals and committees of the government, some of the facts which they have uncovered cannot be denied and ought not be swept under the rug.

The Prairie Overcomer reminds us of some of these which many people want to forget.

“It is an alarming fact that one Communist leader after another in the East got his Communist education in the West. Chou En Lai, Premier of Red China, went to Paris for his education and was converted to Communism.

“The personal secretary of Chou En Lai was trained at Harvard University.

“Chu Teh, Commander in Chief of the army of Red China, was turned to Communism during studies in Berlin.

“Cunawardena, a leader in Ceylon, was won to Communism at the University of Wisconsin.

“Narayan, leader of India’s Socialist Party, turned to Communism at the University of Wisconsin.

“According to Who’s Who, half the top leaders in Red China were educated in the U.S.”

Shocking as these statements are, they ought surprise no one. By and large, our educational institutions are addicted 10 the “scientific” approach. They champion a “neutrality” in the learning process which aids and abets materialism, pragmatism, and irreligion. No abiding norms remain. If the implications of the Christian gospel for the social, economic, and political order are rejected or ridiculed in the schools traditionally Christian America, the blame for the world leaders who turn to Communism for an answer to their pressing problems lies squarely at our own door. We have failed to challenge them with the Christian life-and world-view. More than that, we are failing to challenge our own rising generation. Without inculcating a strong Christian philosophy of life in our youth, we can hardly expect them to stand strong in the aU-encompassing struggle against Communist totalitarianism. By neglecting to propagate a full-orbed Christianity, we are sowing the wind. Some day—sooner than most people think—we will be reaping the whirlwind.


Believers are called by God’s Word to examine themselves. This task rests also upon the organized church.

With a humility and honesty not always found among church-men the leaders of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands have been addressing themselves to this calling. In many periodicals they signalize attitudes and actions among the church’s membership which they deem incompatible with sound spiritual life.

Recently Professor J. Waterink in an article in Centraal Weekblad called attention to irresponsible journalism in some of the articles which profess to give guidance to believers. Here he notes the manifestations of senility. Among those so afflicted there is the inability to understand what is said or read. This is followed by an inability to evaluate critically what is said and read. The third step in this process is an inability to speak or write responsibly. All this is the fruit of n. lack of self-discipline produced by several factors which operate in the lives of those so afflicted. The professor continues, “And this lack of discipline in old age is frequently associated with a tragic peculiarity. Talkativeness increases as discipline decreases. The less meaningfully such people speak, the greater is the tendency to speak much. Thus for many centuries it has been maintained that senility begets a tendency to be loquacious, garrulous.”

This process of deterioration he discovers among some self-styled leaders in his church. Here he quotes chapter and verse.

He mentions those who uncritically pass on for truth the fables of those who misquote and misinterpret God’s Word. Certain glaring errors of Jung and Adler, be notes, seem to be accepted as truth by some Reformed writers.

But far worse he deems the next step in this process of deterioration. Often those who accept uncritically what they read begin to propagate their misunderstandings and misinformation. Thus he takes to task the writer of an article in a Reformed youth magazine who condemned as “completely absurd” the divisions of Protestant Christendom in the Netherlands. The writer of the article, so the professor states, betrays a grossly superficial view of the church and the problems surrounding church union, as well as a lamentable ignorance of the growing apostasy which has overwhelmed large segments of the Dutch people. He apparently does not understand what it is to read and evaluate and write under the discipline of the teachings of God’s Word.

Waterink’s warning might well be taken to heart by many who talk and write quite irresponsibly about ecclesiastical problems surrounding the brokenness of Christ’s church and hopes for reunion in Canada and the United States. “Church still means: that which belongs to the Lord. That demands a recognition of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. And when the church talks and acts as if this can be forgotten, there senility increases and discipline is gone. This is not an occasion for a sharp polemic. It is first of all a situation which prompts us to make known our sorrow to the Lord in our prayers.”


Many church-men have commented about the effects of the admission of sizable Orthodox groups into the World Council of Churches at its recent New Delhi assembly. Some have greeted these accessions with rejoicing. Others have expressed the not ungrounded fear that leadership in this movement is being shifted away from historic Protestantism.

Few of the comments, however, get at the heart of the matter so clearly and incisively as those of Dr. G. C. Berkouwer in Christianity Today.

This distinguished theologian briefly reviews the address of Dr. G. V. Florovsky of the Greek Catholic Church, who contended that the Eastern Orthodox churches view the matter of ecumenicity from a totally different perspective than docs Protestant Christendom. While the latter “begins with the notion of a plurality of churches and from that point proceeds to a discussion of their reconciliation,” the former “sees the problem of ecumenicity as a problem of schism. The Orthodox do not consider themselves one of many churches. The Orthodox church must think of itself as The Church.'” Thus Dr. Florovsky insists that “the continuity” of Christ’s church must be honored. To all practical purposes this means that, since Orthodox Christianity has preserved this inviolate, the divided churches must return “to this ecumenical body.”

Dr. Berkouwer concedes that this problem of the continuity of the church is a most pertinent and profound one. Yet he points out clearly that the Reformation churches are fully as concerned with this as are the Romanists and the Orthodox. This question involves the essence of Christ’s church. He thereupon delineates the authentically Protestant approach to this problem, which has too frequently been shoved aside by many Protestants in their eagerness to get the churches to unite in one external organization. His words are worthy of being carefully weighed.

“The problem of continuity is really the problem of remaining under subjection to the one Lord of the Church. But, and here lies the crucial difference between Catholic claims and Reformation insight, the Reformers never assumed that the continuity of the Church was automatically sustained. They felt far more deeply that the Church in history was always tested by the Gospel. They did not assert: the Church is here and we are the Church, therefore no danger can threaten us in view of the Lord’s promise to abide with the Church forever. This promise, the Reformers insisted, could only be accepted in faith, in fear and trembling, and in acceptance of enormous responsibility. Only as long as the Church submitted to the Gospel could it assume the guarantee implicit in the Lord’s promise that the gates of hell could not prevail against it. This is why both Calvin and Luther put the problem of the Church’s continuity in the context of the lordship of the Word of God in and over the Church.”

This language is clear and challenging.

It is the voice of authentic Protestantism. It lays bare the tremendous issues which are involved in the drawing together of those who name the name of our Lord. It demands a critical evaluation of the aims of those Protestants who have too long ignored the church’s calling to be faithful to the Word. It urges Orthodox and Romanists to take seriously the Reformation concept of the continuity of the church of Christ. The two contradictory views are set sharply over against each other.

Whether this presentation of the claims of classic Protestantism will be taken seriously remains to be seen.

If so, then all who love the Reformed faith will rejoice. It will mean that the underlying problems surrounding a reunion of the churches will be faced openly. It will imply that Protestants are not quite so ready to bargain away their birthright for the sake of big organization as many have feared. But if not -and many incidents in the history of ecumenical movement caution us against an undue optimism—it will be exceedingly difficult and even dangerous for those who are loyal to God’s Word to work within this framework. Their voice will then be largely that of negative protest. And such protest may likely be much more effective when uttered outside of the Council.