This past week, I did the unthinkable. I reached up and took my dissertation off of the bookshelf. To be frank, it is probably only the second time that I’ve opened the work since I finished it approximately ten years ago! I dusted off the cover, broke the book open, and began to read. The subject of my study was the evangelistic preaching theory/style of Dr. Robert Hamblin. Hamblin carried many roles—pastor, evangelist, professor, denominational leader, etc. His fingerprints easily could be found upon the evangelistic strategies of Southern Baptists for many years. He even preached a revival meeting at Temple Baptist Church back in the day! And even though Dr. Bob was an interesting figure, I admit that my work wasn’t the most emotionally appealing piece of literature that I have encountered. Of course, Dr. Argile Smith once reminded me during the writing process that I could be famous or finished. (I chose the latter!) However, I did stumble over some treasured nuggets from Bob’s life, theology, and sermons.
For example, Hamblin held the firm conviction that every believer was called to testify of Christ. He even determined that the early church was “obsessed” with witnessing. I love that terminology! It communicates that believers were consumed by the Good News and its impact! They were passionate about the story of Christ and were driven to share it with others. And it all grew out of their own genuine experience with Christ. Sound familiar to Acts 4:20? This past Sunday night, Andy Stanley unpacked this verse for us and reminded us that two fishermen, Peter and John, simply spoke what they had seen and heard. (And by the way, thank God that more than 400 folks participated Sunday night in that focus!) The early believers could not “unhear” or “unsee” Christ, and neither can we! He has struck our lives, and we will never be the same!
Again, Hamblin believed the idea that “every Christian was a minister/witness” was instrumental in the early church’s success; and no doubt, that stance is still imperative for the church’s advancement today. As each believer is moved by his/her authentic experience in Christ, he or she naturally gives witness to that life change. And in the vein of New Testament believers, that distinctive witness finds expression in a variety of ways. Listen to Hamblin’s description of their efforts: “The church used many methods of evangelizing. They were personal soul-winners. They preached Christ. They went house to house witnessing for Christ, and they certainly used their impact on society as a method of evangelizing. . . In Acts itself, the believers use all of the facilities God gave them as tools for evangelism.” May we emulate that commitment in our day as we share the love of Christ! See you Sunday!