Sunday, 6 October 2013

Statistically possible

I am reading a book of sermons preached by Rev. David Neilson who was a Free Church minister in Renfrew, Scotland, in the nineteenth century. In one of them, he makes the following statistical suggestion:

‘If all true Christians were making a prayerful and believing effort, it has been calculated that the “glorious Gospel” might be carried to every human being, and every one be converted, in seven years. It is reckoned that there are about twelve hundred and eighty millions of people on the globe, and that of these there are about ten millions of living Christians. Suppose that each one of those ten millions of living Christians converted a single person during the first year, that would give twenty millions; let the twenty millions do the same during the second year, that would give forty millions. Let this proceed on the same principle: the third year would give eighty millions, the fourth year one hundred and sixty millions, the fifth year three hundred and twenty millions, the sixth year six hundred and forty millions, and the seventh year twelve hundred and eighty millions.’

He continued: ‘The Gospel is a personal message from God to every man, and the advantage of this way is that it would be conveyed as a personal message to every one, while the ministrations of the Church of Christ were maintained as heretofore for uniting, nourishing and strengthening the brethren. We cannot call a Synod of the ten millions of earnest Christians in order to adopt this plan, but each one in his own sphere can do his part under God, and work for a consummation so devoutly to be desired.’

We can see that he was a man with the need of the world in his heart, that he was informed about the places that needed to hear the gospel, and that he was aware of a fairly simple method to deal with it. Neilson was fully aware that it was not in the power of any Christian to give spiritual life to another person. But he was also aware that God can bless the simple act of telling someone else about Jesus.

The figures have changed dramatically since Neilson’s time and will continue to increase. Yet I think the percentages are the same, which indicates the same solution is suitable for today as it was in his time. His comments suggest that each true Christian was not witnessing, and perhaps it is the same still.