BY JERRY HILL — One thing was becoming clear: the Lord’s church did not require a full-time preacher in each location in order to exist and thrive, as our custom seemed to demand. By 1965, penitent, baptized believers were seen to be able to speak to others in a convincing way. Churches began and grew, in which there were no full-time preachers
The last wishes expressed on earth by our Lord require his followers to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mathew 28:19), “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), “that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46), and “tend” and “shepherd” “my lambs” and “my sheep” (John 21:14-17). This was to start with the apostles “in Jerusalem“, and would go to “all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The importance of this task is obvious: man is separated from God by his own sins (Isaiah 59:2); his sins are his wrong-doings (1 John 5:17) and everyone has done wrong (Romans 3:23); the consequence of his sins is eternal punishment (Revelation 20:11-15). But Love (1 John 4:8) predetermined an escape (1 Peter 1:18-20) and everyone needs to be made aware of it (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
Historically, God used pretty unlikely people to announce this good news: twelve Galileans (Acts 2:7), four of them fishermen (Mathew 4:18-22), one a tax-collector (9:9), another a political rebel (10:4), and who knew anything about the other six (Mathew 10:2-4), one of whom became a shameful disappointment (Acts 1:16). Who but God would be impressed with Mathias (1:26)? All of the fugitives from Jerusalem went about doing what? They preached all over Israel (8:4). One of the leading young men in the synagogues (Galatians 1:14), with a strictness that led to heartless brutality, it seemed (Acts 26:9-11), could be converted and used so greatly he could humbly say, “Imitate me” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Really, considering all those seemingly unqualified people God used throughout the New Testament to carry out for Him the most urgent, most tender, farthest reaching, most important assignment I can imagine, it should not be too surprising to see it happening in 20th Century Latin America.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
The noble goal of returning to Christianity as it was practiced in New Testament times requires the removal of unnecessary, impeding and wholly customary practices, such as raising support for a preacher for every church. The provision for traditional, resident, preacher training schools, with their administration, teachers, staff and facilities could be by-passed for the good of the cause, we concluded. Aggressive, knowledgeable preachers were being produced more economically, more quickly and possessing a greater sense of urgency than we had dreamed possible. Seeing eager Christians respond so favorably made thwarting the Communist threat a reality. Preachers in this situation would be more versatile and independent. In view of this, world evangelism became attainable.
During Nineteen Sixty Five, the above reasoning was being developed as we went about our routine visits to the churches. Bible correspondence students, near and far, required the visit of evangelists. New churches were being worked into our schedules. Our radio preaching was undergoing some time-consuming changes. In a sense, the open heavens poured down blessings and surprises in great quantities.
This article is an excerpt from Jerry’s Hill’s book on the beginning of their work in Guatemala and Latin America.