December 12, 2017

The Baptist Program of Evangelism

W. W. Bustard, D. D.
Pastor, Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio

Editorial note: We are in the midst of a series of posts from the messages delivered at the Pre-Convention Conference of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1920. From the Conference the Fundamental Fellowship was formed which is today known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. The messages from the conference were published in a book called Baptist Fundamentals. The book has been digitized by Maranatha Baptist University and is available as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives collection in Logos format, available here. Links to previous posts will appear at the end of this post.

A thing is a success when it does well that for which it was intended. This is a practical principle which we ought to apply to the work of the church today, as we ask ourselves the questions: “Why a Church?” “What Is Its Mission?” “For What Purpose Did Christ Leave It in This World?”

There are those who tell us the church is here to teach the truth, but we know that this is not the whole answer to the question nor the whole duty of the church. It is not even the primary function of the body of Christ. To start with, the church is not so much educational as it is regenerational. Or, to state the whole truth, the church is primarily regenerational and then educational.

There are those who tell us that the church is here to help solve the social problems of the day and render social service to the community. Once again we have but a partial answer, for we know that evangelism is the program of the church, while social service is the by-product of this program. While it is good to clean up a community, it is better to clean up the people who live in the community, for the reformation of society is made possible only through the regeneration of human nature.

There are those also who tell us that the church is here to preach the gospel. Of course the church should preach the gospel, but preaching the gospel is not an end in itself, neither does it end in itself. It is the divine means to a great end, which is the salvation of all those who believe in it. To answer our own question fully then, we would say, that the great mission of the church is to win men and women into Christian discipleship and through them establish the kingdom of God upon earth.

If the Baptist denomination is to adopt this as its program, there are three things we ought to believe, three things we ought to realize, and three things we ought to do.

The first thing we ought to believe is in the authority of the Scripture and inspiration of the word. The Bible is not only the god of books, but it is also the book of God. It is the word of God because it reveals the will of God. Regardless of the fact that everything has been done through centuries to destroy it by enemy, agnostic, and higher critic, every book in the Bible says to its critic what Paul said to the jailer, “Do thyself no harm, we are all here.” It is a fact which is beyond contradiction that the men and the churches, in our denomination, who are doing the greatest soul-saving work, are those who believe in the authority of the Scriptures and the inspiration of the Bible.

The second thing we ought to believe is in the divinity of Christ, and, by this I do not mean that he is divine as the rest of us, but he is “God of very God,” “God manifested in the flesh,” “God doing his work through his own Son for the redemption of the race.” What others say about Christ ought to make very little difference to us, but what Christ says about himself ought to decide the matter of his deity beyond all controversy. Jesus said, “I am not of this world.” He said, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “Before Abraham was, I am.”

When Thomas said, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus did not rebuke the disciple nor refute the statement. Christianity is the only religion which has a divine Saviour in it. Buddha was a teacher, Mohammed a prophet, and Confucius a philosopher, but Jesus is the world’s only Redeemer.

The third thing which we ought to believe is the efficacy of the atonement on the Cross. The Bible reveals but one plan of salvation, and that is redemption through faith in Christ’s atoning blood. There is character by salvation, but there is no salvation by character. The cross is the pivot around which the progress of the world moves and upon which the hopes of humanity depend.

In connection with the evangelistic program of our denomination, there are three things which are must realize:

1. There is something from which men must be saved, and that is sin. Jesus never denied the reality of sin. He dealt with it as something which actually existed in the hearts of men and the world around him. He spent part of his time in forgiving sinners but never spent any of his time trying to reason sin out of existence. The trouble with sin is not that it is unreal, but that it is altogether too real. Today the church must face sin as the chief thing which keeps men from God — something which makes possible all the unhappiness that is in the world, which fills even the nations of the earth with a selfish ambition, and which may at any time turn the earth into a human slaughter-house again.

2. There is something with which man can be saved, and that is the power of God. This is the one thing which is even greater than the power of sin. Marvelous as is the power of God as we see it in the creation of the world, it is even greater as we behold it in the redemption of man. In this great work of salvation, the church does not have to depend so much on its own human strength as on God’s divine power. In the work of man’s salvation, God is seen at his best. No one is beyond the reach of his redeeming grace.

3. There is something to which men should be saved, and that is service. God’s best gift to men is man, and God has seen fit to employ the redeemed in this great work of world redemption. Angels might well envy us the honor of helping others to Christ. The church’s greatest privilege is to evangelize a lost world. There is no other way of saving the world except as man shall cooperate with God, and there is no work greater for the church to do than this work of winning a world lost in sin.

There are also three things which we must do. These three things are found in that one great sentence, which fell from the lips of Christ when he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Here Jesus is establishing the law of precedence — teaching us that there are some things which because of their importance should precede others, and one thing which should always be first.

I take it that here Jesus is teaching that the interests of God’s business should precede the interests of our own business. We are not to seek first that which pertains to our own worldly advancement but that which pertains to the upbuilding of God’s kingdom in the world and the transaction of God’s business on the earth. As ambitious as we may be to make a success of our work, we should be even more ambitious to make a success of God’s work. This may look like a hard rule and undoubtedly it has never yet been adopted by Christian people, and yet we firmly believe that this is one of the things Jesus meant when he established this law of precedence.

Again, Christ also intended that we should put the interest of God’s kingdom ahead of the interest of our family affairs. Of course we realize here that we are entering into a sacred realm and invading that thing which is so near to all men and women, namely, the family circle. In our law of precedence undoubtedly our family life comes first with its interests and its happiness, but in Christ’s law of precedence the interests of God’s kingdom are put first, with the intention in the Master’s mind that they are to be kept first, and so our sense of divine values is to be established by seeking first the interests of the heavenly kingdom.

In enunciating this principle of precedence, Jesus is also trying to establish the fact that the interests of the kingdom of God should precede the interest of life itself. In a sense there is nothing more sacred than life, and yet to live only for the selfish interests of our own lives would mean to violate the law of Christ, refuse to follow the Master’s example, and relegate to the rear the sublime interests of God’s kingdom. Time and again missionaries, converted native Christians, and martyrs have listened to the voice of the Master, followed the heroic example of Christ and laid down their lives in order to establish first the kingdom of God in the hearts of men.

Link to Baptist Fundamentals and other works available in Logos format as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives, produced by Maranatha Baptist University.

Baptist Fundamentals series:


Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Historic Baptist Principles? … or the seed of defeat in the soil of revival

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (1)

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (2)

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage

Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

Comments on Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

An Unexpected Message

Comments on An Unexpected Message

The Bible at the Center of the Modern University (1)

The Bible at the Center of the Modern University (2)

Comments on The Bible at the Center of the Modern University

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