Words are Always Necessary
So it happened again. I lost my voice. Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that I have a raspy voice as if I shouted too much at a basketball game. I have no voice. Speaking makes needles of pain rip at my throat, and my struggle to 'speak' sounds like whistle of the trees on a windless day, no matter how hard I try. The fire in my throat has silenced me.
But, pity me not. Seriously. With the help of good friends, some liquid sleep, benzocaine lozenges, whole body charades, and good old pen and paper, life as a sick mute is pretty much equivalent to life as a sick nonmute. I can communicate, make people laugh, host a small birthday party, and even write emails. Life goes on.
And, there are perks to being a sick mute. I now know who are the best, and worst, charades players.
From my experience, I could monologue on a few topics, all of which I think would be quite interesting: • the necessity of verbal communication in relationships • the power of nonverbal cues • the relationship between the body and the spirit • the sovereignty of God and sickness • the way my brain is reduced to the mind of a five-year old when I'm sick
But, I'll save those for later.
What I do wish to share is this: the value of the preached Word of God. Because of my sickness this week (and the same sickness last November), I have had to cancel four Bible teaching sessions. That's the worst part about not being able to speak; I can't give the Word. And that is devastating.
In a church age where drama replaces pulpits, where colored lights replace Bible preaching, and where we want to sing and pray to God more than we want to hear from Him, I say it and say it loud: the Word of God must be preached, and that requires a voice. Regardless of the circumstances, the culture, the technology, always, in every time, in every age, in every season, the Word of God must be preached.
Christianity is, as the only true religion, inescapably verbal. God intended it that way. When God sent a prophet, He did not send the man to be a scribe alone; He sent the man to prophesy and to inscribe the revelation. After all, when God sent His Word, it did not fall out of the sky already bound; He spoke it through the quills and mouths of His chosen men.
We see this in Paul's clarion call for evangelism:
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
Calling, hearing, preaching. These actions all require words, namely spoken words. Paul implies here that the gospel work of evangelizing the lost demands preaching, speaking the Word of God. Notice he is not asking for more printed Bibles and Christian literature (important as those are!), but instead for the preaching of the Word of Christ.
Why, Paul? Why not just hand out tracts and publish articles and give away free books?
I think that one of the answers is this: it is easy to ignore the written word. It is easy to ignore a book; just close it. It is easy to ignore a letter; just rip it up. It's easy to avoid an email; just delete it. It is easy to close the web page. It is easy to skim the blog post. It's easy to skip the Facebook link.
But when a preacher is explaining the Word of God, you're forced to listen at his speaking rate, on his terms, and understand his message. You can't skim. You can't fast forward. You can't make him stop. And, if he is preaching well, he's bringing you along in his argument, cornering you, cutting off every avenue of intellectual escape. You're systematically hunted, exposed, as the truth of the Word of God is brought to bear. This is how good preaching works. When the man of God rightly teaches the Word of God, and unfolds the mind of God, it is not the man who speaks, but God. And God will get an audience. This is God's chosen means to save sinners, sanctify saints, and shame the world.
This is why we send missionaries to preach to the lost, not just Bibles. This is why we need preachers in the church, not just good Christian books. This is why pastors stand up in front of the congregation, open their mouths, and declare, with authority, the Word of God. Gospel work always requires spoken words. How will they hear unless the word of Christ is preached?
Just a short word in closing. "Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary" is a stupid quote. Preach the Gospel at all times; words are always necessary.