The apostle Paul learned that he had to instruct non-Christian people in "the rudiments, the very alphabet, of the Christian faith." Acts of the Apostles, p. 271. As spiritual descendants of the great evangelist we face the same problem in our program of evangelism among the same kinds of people today. To any congregation in the world we should speak simply and logically. In countries where the people have no Christian foundation upon which to build, this is not only desirable but imperative.
Our preaching must be stripped of all pedantry and all peculiarly Christian phraseology that would be "Greek" to them. If a Hindu were to speak to a Christian congregation about puja and darshana, using these phrases with which every Hindu is familiar, those in attendance would understand none of his references. Likewise, most non-Christians are not fully conversant with our Christian phraseology. We must explain and explain and explain. We must speak simply. We must not speak so rap idly that they do not understand us. We must repeat and repeat and repeat the simple tenets of truth until they fully grasp what it is all about. We must use language and terminology with which all are acquainted. This requires much study and careful preparation.
Not only must our speech be simple and easily understood, but our sermon content must be logical and within their grasp. Our first task is to establish a basis for mutual confidence upon which we may understandingly build together. Until the Bible is accepted as the Word of God and the established authority upon which we can all base our faith, our quotation of Scripture is almost in vain. Different preach ers have different methods of establishing this authority. My own personal preference is to use the inductive method of teaching. For several evenings at the beginning of my evangelistic effort I speak on subjects of general inter est current events, history, simple archeology and astronomy, et cetera, in each sermon leading up to a climax that reveals to my listeners that the book I have before me the Holy Bible contained all this information long before it was revealed to man and before the historically certified events took place. To lead up to such a climax in one's lecture without frequent reference to the Bible produces the right effect on non-Christians. They have reverence for a holy book of some nature, and such a method encourages them in a new-found confidence in a Book that is so revealing and that explains so many mysteries.
We must then convince our hearers of the need for a God-inspired Book. To introduce this important phase of our approach, we ex plain how iniquity has "separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2). No one questions the truth of this statement. Man is estranged and alienated from God. The world is filled with sin and with fear. All religions will agree with this premise. The warfare, the bloodshed, the heartache, and all that is in the world today are not God's plan.
The Holy Scriptures reveal that in the begin ning man was created perfect and that God spoke with the creatures of His hand face to face. Then sin entered. Man fell. Circumstances demanded that God sever His hitherto open communion with man. No longer could He speak to him face to face. It became necessary for God to devise some other means of communication with fallen man.
Why should God seek to re-establish His con tact with man who had disobeyed Him? Because the very essence of God's character is love. Though man had rejected His Master and rebelled against Him, the God of love would not permit him to be destroyed without an effort to convince him of his mistake. He would make another effort to win back man's love and loyalty. Through His divinely inspired Book, God revealed this plan to sinful man. Thus God could again establish a permanent link of communication between Himself and the sinful human race. Such a link is the Holy Bible.
The next step is to show why only one Holy Book is necessary, and how we can know that the Holy Bible is that book. All nations are o/ one blood. We are anatomically and physiologically all the same, requiring food, water, sun light, and other necessities for our existence. Since morally we have all fallen, we are all sinners all controlled by the same sinful acts and tendencies. Since all of these things are true, we all have the same spiritual needs. Regard less of our race or caste or creed, we all need deliverance from the guilt and power and curse of sin and evil. There is no justifiable reason for more than one plan of God to meet the spiritual needs of all mankind, hence there could be no need for more than one God-inspired Book wherein this universal plan could be revealed.
To inspire confidence in God's Holy Word, to lead the non-Christian to accept it not as merely a holy book but as the Holy Book, is the first step toward winning him to Christ. To do this, we should clinch our points as follows:
1. The world is filled with sin.
2. Sin separated man from God.
3. God's love compelled Him to seek to re establish that broken communion.
4. Since God could no longer speak face to face with fallen man, He provided an inspired authoritative Book through which He could make known His will to man.
5. This Book was written by holy men of God whose lives reflected the lofty principles of heaven.
6. This book must be God's authoritative Word, not man's speculative ideas.
7. The acid tests of scientific accuracy and fulfilled prophecy, the consistency and harmony of all its volumes, and the power manifested in the individual life, all prove conclusively that the Holy Bible is indeed God's Book.
8. Since all mankind's needs are the same the world around, only one God-inspired Book is needed.
Seeking Common Ground
With these facts firmly established, the evangelist may proceed to preach the Christ of the Bible and His message for our day with authority and power that the non-Christian will ac knowledge and respect.
In preparing sermons for non-Christians we should keep in mind subjects that have a bond of mutual interest. For instance, the whole world heathen, Moslem, and Christian alike is being swept by the same irresistible tide of current events. The bloodshed, heartaches, uncertainty, and fear that characterize the world today touch the lives of believers and unbelievers alike. Non-Christians today take a keen interest in world events. We need to capitalize on this interest and teach them how the Holy Bible interprets the events of the hour.
Hindus, Mohammedans, and Zoroastrians are alike looking for a heaven-sent Deliverer. Build ing upon this basic concept, we have a wonder ful opportunity to reveal Christ as the true coming deliverer. Some non-Christian religions still follow the custom of offering living sacrifices. I have stood in the precincts of Kali temple in Calcutta and watched Hindus sacrifice goats by the scores. We can use this practice as a "springboard" from which to preach Christ as our great sacrifice.
"The heathen systems of sacrifice were a per version of the system that God had appointed; and many a sincere observer of heathen rites learned from the Hebrews the meaning of the service divinely ordained, and in faith grasped the promise of a Redeemer." The Desire of Ages, p. 28.
Among Moslems and many primitive Hindu tribes one day a week is of special religious significance and is honored as a special holy day. Just recently I have come to hear about quite a large number of Sabbathkeeping Moslems in East Pakistan. The acceptance of the principle of having a weekly rest day offers an opportunity for us to lead non-Christians to accept God's true seventh-day Sabbath.
When Paul preached to non-Christians on Mars' Hill centuries ago, he used the subject of the judgment. His preaching, under the blessing of God, brought conviction. Our message today is the judgment-hour message, and it will still bring conviction to the hearts of non- Christians.
To bring true conversion to those still in heathen darkness, our sermons must be Christ- centered! For some time the apostle Paul sought to meet logic with logic in his effort to persuade men to repent and to give up their evil ways. However, he later realized the futility of such an approach, and said, "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). From the writings of the Spirit of prophecy we read:
"The philosopher turns aside from the light of salvation, because it puts his proud theories to shame. . . . Paul saw that the character of Christ must be understood before men could love Him, or view the cross with the eye of faith. ... In the light of the cross alone can the true value o£ the human soul be estimated." Acts of the Apostles, p. 273.
Says one Hindu professor of old Hindustan: "There is a moral pivot in the world, and more and more the best life of east and west is revolving around that pivot; that pivot is Jesus Christ." In our work for non-Christians may God help us never to seek to hide the Light of the world!
Under no circumstances can we ever permit our message to degenerate into a mere social gospel of modernism. Says one advocate of this pseudo-Christianity:
"I believe there are other religions which will meet the needs of other men, just as there are other cultures and other forms of governments than ours that will meet their needs. I have no more desire to 'Christianize' the world than I have to 'Americanize' it." C. T. HOLMAN in The Christian Century, November, 1935.
In South India after the last great depression I saw the fruitage of such a philosophy in closed mission stations of other denominations in many places. Says God's messenger:
"In vain are men's dreams of progress, in vain all efforts for the uplifting of humanity, if they neglect the one source of hope and help for the fallen race. . . . There is no true excellence of character apart from Him. And the only way to God is Christ." Steps to Christ, pp. 23, 24.
Recognition of Brotherhood
In our preaching today the brotherhood of all must be recognized. The day of white superiority and invincibility is gone forever. The era during which everything good bore the label "Made in the U.S.A." or a facsimile of the Union Jack belongs to the ages. The heathen are awakened. The weak are saying, "I am strong." We must not "preach down" to those who today are rightly convinced that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." The messenger of the Lord declares, "In the sight of God, all are on an equality." Acts of the Apostles, p. 238. The peoples of all lands are our brothers. We must work for them as such.
If we carefully arid prayerfully study the peculiar problems and opportunities before us, God will enable us to discover the best approach to the hearts of our people. It is His will that they should be saved. I firmly believe that the day is fast approaching when the light of present truth will break forth in these heathen lands with a splendor not equaled in any other part of the world. God has His chosen ones here in reserve. In His own time and in His own way He will call them forth to join the victory march Zionward. His truth will triumph. The non-Christian world will be evangelized. The work will be finished. Great will be the rejoicing!