Not long ago I heard the titular head of a large missionary organization say that medical aid was the “bait” by which his group hoped to catch men and give them the Gospel. Some of his hearers protested, but one of them, a doctor, immediately came to the speaker’s defense: “Of course it is right to use bait. Jesus used plenty of it, both in his words and in his miracles.” But did he?

There is no doubt that the Christian Church has often used bait. Everyone knows the sorrowful story of the rice Christians of China, the free meals and lodging offered in a score of missions on skidrow, the lurid advertisements which have featured the dramatic conversions of former gangsters, wiretappers, communists, and convicts. The other day I saw the words “air-conditioned” sending forth a particularly fervent appeal in red letters from the bulletin board of a church in the deep South. We are all familiar with the appeal of spectacular buildings, magnificent music, special programs, and daring sermon subjects.

Spiritual Resources

Leonard M. Outerbridge in his Lost Churches of China says: “Seldom has the church dared to trust its cause solely to its innate character and its own spiritual resources and message.” And Walter Lippmann has reminded us in his Preface to Morals that if men had the “certainty which once made God and his plan as real as the lamppost,” and were sure “that they were going to meet God when they go to church … there would be no complaint whatever about church attendance. The most worldly would be in the front pews, and preachers would not have to resort to desperate expedients to attract an audience.”

Whatever may have been the policy of his followers in using bait, did Jesus use it? Can one honestly point to anything he ...

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