Has the church lost its sense of urgency in evangelism? Has it substituted something irrelevant for God’s provision for crisis? Has it misunderstood the nature of the world’s predicament?

The Apostle Paul, writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, says: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Phillips arrests our attention with this translation, “Never lose your sense of urgency.”

Paul’s appeal for urgency is based on the kingship of Christ, who will judge all men on the return of Christ, which will ring down the curtain of history as we know it; and on the coming of a new kingdom, the kingdom of Christ.

The sense of urgency is heightened, Paul says, by the fact that a time is coming when men will be unwilling to listen to the gospel message: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3,4).

Everywhere today we hear of a world in crisis—race, food, economics, population explosion, conflicting ideologies, all magnified by selfishness, hatred, greed, lust, and other sins of the human heart.

The Church is found at the forefront in this cry of “crisis,” but it seems at times to be merely frenzied about symptoms while oblivious to the source and nature of the crisis.

Picture the emergency ward of a large and well-equipped modern hospital. A man is carried in on a stretcher. His face is contorted with pain, his right leg is flexed, and he places a protective hand on his abdomen.

Nurses and doctors hurry in, and a laboratory technician is called. The patient’s temperature is above normal; he is nauseated; the pain, originating in the pit of his stomach, has now localized in his lower right abdomen. A stat blood count shows a marked increase in leukocytes (nature’s army of defense against infection), and there is a “shift to the left” in the differential count, showing that the process of infection is advancing.

Suppose the doctors give an injection to relieve the pain, use medicines to lower the temperature, place an ice bag on his abdomen to cool the area, give a sedative to relieve the nausea and a transfusion to make the blood picture more normal. Then they place the patient in a comfortable bed and hope he will get well.

From this picture even the least informed layman has probably deduced that the patient has an acutely inflamed appendix. Does he need palliative treatment? Is the alleviation of his symptoms the cure for his disease? Are not those responsible for his care culpable if they either misdiagnose or mistreat his condition? And are they not made even more culpable by the fact that the facilities and means of treatment are immediately available? The answer is obvious.

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We are living in a time of crisis. The symptoms are to be seen on every hand. All the mass media display for our eyes and din into our ears evidence that men and nations are passing through a series of convulsions.

But has God been taken by surprise? Is his solution for the problems of the world different from what it was in the first Christian century? Is the Gospel, powerful enough then to overcome every obstacle, no longer capable of producing change? Is the crisis so great that the Cross of Jesus Christ must be bypassed? Is it no longer true that Christ is man’s only hope of redemption? Has the wisdom of man transcended the infinite knowledge of God?

Paul told Timothy to “preach the word.” Nothing was said about offering homilies on “being good.” Nor did he tell Timothy to work up a demonstration against the tyrannies of Rome or the degrading traffic in slaves. He did not inveigh against Greek philosophy, nor did he try to drive a wedge between the poor and the rich. His admonition was to “preach the word,” and no doubt Timothy knew as well as Paul that what was “of first importance” in this preaching was “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

What utter foolishness, you say? How could a message like that transform men and society?

As it was then, this message of the Cross is folly to the world, even though it is God’s answer to the crisis of men and nations. And if this simple message of God’s offer of redemption to sinners becomes foolishness to the visible church also, then the world will indeed be in desperate straits! Part of the crisis is precisely at that point.

Life is by no means static, and the mistakes of today can snowball into the disasters of tomorrow. Concern with symptoms is good to a point, for it shows awareness of impending danger. It is tragic, however, if the Church’s response to crisis becomes simply a nebulous affirmation that “the Church is mission” (whatever that means) rather than the bold declaration that Jesus Christ came into the world and died for us sinners and that he arose again from the dead. Nor does the message stop there. It is the message of a coming King and the setting up of his eternal kingdom.

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To the call for “involvement” our response is, “Of course!” But what shall the Church be involved in? Not, surely, in becoming a part of a lost world order, but rather, as a called out people, in bearing witness to Christ’s love and redeeming power in a festering social order.

Crisis is all about us—in the lives of individuals, in the life of our nation, in the world as a whole. But there is no crisis for which God does not have the answer. To the Church and individual Christians he has entrusted his formula for solving the situation.

Not long ago I received a letter from a school teacher in one of the most sophisticated high schools in Texas. The children she teaches come from homes deeply involved in the space age. But the church she has attended and others of which she is aware are also sophisticated—preaching “another gospel” and frantically trying to solve the world’s problems without reference to the Gospel of personal redemption. She wrote, “Much is being said about ‘experimental ministries.’ I would be thankful if those responsible would make it possible for us to have in this area a church where the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, and give us two years to try the ‘experiment.’ ”

Have we lost our sense of urgency? Have we lost confidence in God’s remedy? Are we now so far removed from God’s methods of solving crises that we are completely insensitive to his Spirit’s leading? Has the magnitude of the world’s problems blinded our eyes to the power of the Gospel, of the Holy Spirit, and of prayer?

How wonderful if the Church could shift its emphasis from new programs and pressures for church union to a simple preaching, teaching, and living of Jesus Christ, the crucified Son of God! Our Lord is the “Christ of every crisis.” Let’s give him a chance.

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