How will they hear without attraction?
But this is what Paul wrote in Scripture (Romans 10:14b):
How shall they hear without a preacher?
Does the Bible teach that we must attract unbelievers for them to hear the gospel? Especially if we will use "good things" to do so?
I contend that, according to Scripture, not only does attraction have nothing to do with the unsaved hearing the gospel, but that God is against it. Jesus or the Apostle Paul didn't use it and both of them opposed it. The Antichrist and the False Prophet, however, during the tribulation period will use attraction as a means of propagating their message. I also believe that the use of attraction is symptomatic of shame for the gospel.
To start, let's consider 1 Corinthians 1. There were divisions in the church at Corinth, not based upon scriptural matters but upon unscriptural and non-scriptural ones. People were accustomed to chasing after men with either wisdom or who did signs, both of which were extra-scriptural attractions. And so these were implements that men used to attract men---they worked. The Greeks popularized philosophy, what is called wisdom in the second half of 1 Corinthians 1. Of course, it wasn't the wisdom of God, true wisdom, but the counterfeit wisdom of Greek philosophy. Schools revolved around men who people thought were really smart, impressive talkers. And they attracted people with their impressive sounding speeches. Someone might be tempted to use wisdom as a basis for tickling the ears of those who were mainly allured by intellectual bait.
On the other hand, some needed experiences, signs, what was more feeling or emotionally oriented. They wanted to be 'wowed,' shocked, or awed by the unexplainable. The Jews were uniquely susceptible to this kind of attraction, perhaps because God Himself had used signs as a basis of identifying Himself to the Jews as a fulfillment of prophecy. God would say, "I'm going to do this." And the 'this' was something that only God could do. So they would look for that particular event, and it would be a way for God to verify that it was indeed His man or the promised Messiah. The real signs were of varying degrees of arousal to the senses, from a heavenly host singing and praising God as they hovered in the Palestinian sky or a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Tongues were one of these signs, and so Corinthians started speaking in a kind of gibberish to impersonate actual unknown languages. We see the same in the Charismatic movement. However, it could be any kind of experience to garner attention, like a statue of Mary with tears or a sculpture that bleeds. Fake healing. Whatever.
It isn't as though these two categories, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:22, were all that could be comandeered for the use of attraction of people. Men are vulnerable to deceit because of depraved hearts. They are prone to the pride that wisdom attracts and the lust that signs entice. That's not all there is to the teaching of 1 Corinthians 1, however. Paul spends a long section dealing with the subject at large from 1:18 to 2:16. He confronts more than just division, but he goes after the particular methodology that is used that preys upon men's selfishness.
The only permissible, God-ordained attraction for men is the gospel itself. Paul explains that in 1 Corinthians 1-2. Why only preaching the gospel, despite the fact that it "won't work"? And Paul essentially says that. He says that the gospel is foolishness to men. And we know that too, which is why we often act like we're ashamed of it ourselves by reverting to the natural attractions that Paul denounces in these two chapters. He knows that men will continue to favor their own techniques and strategies because of their successfulness. Paul answers the question. Preaching glorifies God and it is all that really does change natural men.
To the Jews, preaching was a stumblingblock. Why? It was weak. They wanted a strong looking, Saul-like conqueror, somebody taller than everybody else, who could whip up. To the Greeks, preaching was foolishness. Why? It was stupid. You had to make an intellectual leap to think that the way out of your sin and difficulties was through someone dying. Death was not a likely way to save anyone.
So preaching doesn't work. It's not attractive. We know that. And so we've used our own kind of wisdom and signs to attract. And now preachers are saying, "How can they hear without attraction?" They're right. People won't be attracted by preaching. So God chose it. Why? Because it is the power of God.
Preaching in the end glorifies God, and that's why we shouldn't use attractions, even if it is a Messiah sing-a-long, the particular promotion that we used as an illustration in the first post in this series. The Messiah sing-a-long makes sense. It's got Christian connections. So does a conservative speaker. Get Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin to make a conservative speech with conservative values, draw a crowd, get them on your side, and then spring the gospel on them. Or maybe a popular sports figure who is respected for his heroic athletic prowess. He could bring in people who love sports and make it easier to see people saved. All of those ideas make sense to people for various reasons.
But God has chosen the weak things of this world. We shouldn't then choose the things the world is impressed with as a means of moving it. God isn't glorified in that. He wants an unexplainable success. That's what all the rest of 1 Corinthians 1 is about. But you might say, "I'll praise God for the good results after the sing-a-long; I mean, I'll give Him credit." Right. And what will it all mean? More sing-a-long promotions and it will be the latest fad to be packaged and put into a conference workshop---another manmade concoction for you to try.
Because Paul wanted to avoid attractions, he came to the Corinthians without excellency of speech (1 Corinthian 2:1). Excellent speech seems about the most innocuous attraction that someone could utilize. He was in Greece. Corinth was in Greece. And so he went the opposite of what attracted them. They liked impressive speech, so he gave them bland. He spoke the right content, but he wasn't trying to spice it up. He wanted God to receive the glory, so he was careful not to use a human strategy, even something that to us is as innocent sounding as excellent speech. Instead, he came in weakness, fear, and trembling. Wow. That's attractive.
Some might say, "Well, Paul used attraction on Mars Hill, you know, with the Athenians." No. Wisdom hadn't worked for the Athenians. They still didn't know God. They had an altar built to the unknown God. Wisdom had gotten them nowhere. So what did Paul do? He went and gave them more wisdom, just doubled down on the wisdom. No. Paul gave them revelation. He preached. That's what he did. With preaching, they could know the God that they didn't know. And in the end, preaching gives glory to God.
The Athenians didn't need wisdom. They were natural men. They needed the strategy of God. They needed what the Holy Spirit alone could do. And that's preaching. We don't do better to mix some human technique with God's methods. The medium will change the nature of the message and the results will stand in the power of men.
We don't want to provide what Jesus said a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after (Matthew 16:4). And wicked and adulterous could go for Greeks or Jews, when they seek after something other than God. We want our methods to stand in God's Word, so that He gets the glory.
I thought the Messiah sing-a-long was a perfect opportunity to talk about this, to ask the question that is the title of this post. And then we should go from there, thinking about all of the workshops and seminars in conferences on every program there is in churches to lure people in. And some of the people that are publishing most in principle against this kind of thing are some of the big violators of their own teaching, like John MacArthur. Some may think I have something against Him. I don't. I've read and been helped by his materials. However, this among other errors, needs to be pointed out, because he is very influential. And this is also an inconsistency in practice. What he tells everyone else to do he needs to do himself. And these kinds of programs are not just the domain of Rick Warren, Jack Hyles, and revivalist fundamentalists. So does John MacArthur and so do fundamentalists who say they are death on Jack Hyles.
How is using these different strategies and new measures being ashamed of the gospel? We are ashamed of the gospel any time that we don't preach it when we should. And it should be preached to unbelievers instead of using these techniques. Someone might say, "Well, we do preach it later." But it shouldn't be later. It should be the technique and the strategy. Not doing so is to show shame for it, and I'm basing that on what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. On top of that, God doesn't get the glory. If that's what we're living for, God's glory, then that will matter to us.
More to Come.