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a timeless evangelism lesson from the british bulldog

Gary Oldman picked up an Oscar for his stellar portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour[1]. With the threat of German invasion and pressure to pursue a negotiated peace with Hitler, the Prime Minister gives a historic speech. The effect is electric. His political nemesis, Viscount Halifax, is asked what happened. He responds, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Winston Churchill makes a fascinating leadership study. His courageous war time leadership offers loads of lessons. Let’s settle on one: the power of the spoken word.

Churchill used the power of the spoken word to fortify fearful Brits and call a country to action. I heard Churchill rally the British Isles with:

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

I was inspired by Winston Churchill’s wartime oratory. As I watched Darkest Hour, I was reminded my homeland faced a huge genuine threat. I was struck by the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who fought against Hitler. I was also reminded of the power of words. Churchill used words to address and diffuse those who would undermine his leadership. He used words to infuse hope in the hearts of the British people. He used words to call people to a cause far greater than themselves.

I was also reminded that words really matter.

Churchill’s oratory made a historic difference. Words count. Paul knew this. The gospel veteran wrote, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Paul is convinced of the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and the necessity of preaching the gospel (Romans 10:17). Paul cites Isaiah the prophet as a reminder of the privilege and power of announcing God’s wonderful news. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

Canadians need to lay claim to the ancient and timeless art of proclaiming the Word of God, “in season and out of season.” We need to commit to winsome and bold gospel proclamation. You have beautiful feet and God has called you to be a herald of his gospel. Lives can be transformed through the foolishness of your preaching!

If I had ten bucks for every time some would-be sage invoked St. Francis of Assisi and said, Preach the gospel all the time, if necessary, use words. I would be a wealthy man. I have read it on CD sleeves, books, heard these words dropped from the pulpit and in conversations. However, these words are mythical. Saint Frank, who was part of a preaching order and may have preached up to twelve times a day – never said them. They represent a post-Christian antipathy towards truth claims and a pushback against authoritative proclamation.

One biographer helpful debunks the myth of St. Francis:

"'Preach the gospel; use words if necessary' goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.”[2]

Ed Stetzer reminds us of the power of the spoken word. “A godly life should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim. But without words, what can our actions point to but ourselves? A godly life cannot communicate the incarnation, Jesus' substitution for sinners, or the hope of redemption by grace alone through faith alone. We can't be good news, but we can herald it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen.”

Your words matter. Your pulpit ministry, your formal and informal preaching and teaching can make a profound difference in the lives of your hearers. Your gossiping the gospel with your neighbour can have a glorious kingdom impact. Your gospel communication with your searching friends and skeptical colleagues can prove life changing. As you lift King Jesus high, who is strong and mighty to save: wobbly saints can be strengthened, backsliders restored, prodigals run home, and unbelievers put their trust and confidence in Jesus. Preach the gospel. Take every opportunity to preach the gospel. Keep preaching the gospel…and use words because they are necessary.

Dr. Bill Hogg

Dr. Bill Hogg Is Message Canada’s National Director. Check out

Bill’s passion is communicating the good news of Jesus, igniting the fires of evangelism, and encouraging and equipping God’s people to share the gospel. He loves encouraging younger leaders and mentoring evangelists.

Bill dreams of seeing a new generation of Canadian evangelists raised up by God and released into the harvest fields. Check out . He also longs to see teams of downwardly mobile urban missionaries – Eden Teams -who put roots down deep in broken postal codes to share their lives, share the gospel, and bless and elevate the poor.

[1] Darkest Hour (2017) [2] See Mark Galli’s Saint Francis and his world

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