Love your neighbour

Dr Bill Hogg

The power of the spoken word

Dr Bill Hogg, a long-standing friend of Elim now ministering in America, stirs us with lessons from a true British hero.

Gary Oldman gives a stellar performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. With the threat of German invasion and pressure to pursue a negotiated peace with Hitler, the Prime Minister gives a historic speech. The effect is electric. His political nemesis, Viscount Halifax, is asked what happened. He responds, “He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.”

Churchill makes a fascinating leadership study. His courageous wartime leadership offers loads of lessons. Let’s settle on one: the power of the spoken word.

He used the power of the spoken word to fortify fearful Brits, and call a country to action.

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...”

I was inspired by Winston Churchill’s wartime oratory. As I watched Darkest Hour, I was reminded my homeland faced a huge, genuine threat. I was struck by the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who fought against Hitler. I was also reminded of the power of words. Churchill used words to address and de-fuse those who would undermine his leadership. He used words to infuse hope in the hearts of the British people. He used words to call people to a cause far greater than themselves.

I was also reminded that words really matter. Churchill’s oratory made a historic difference. Words count. Paul knew this. The gospel veteran wrote, “... faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ,” (Romans 10:17).

Paul is convinced of the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), and the necessity of preaching the gospel (Romans 10:17). Paul cites Isaiah the prophet as a reminder of the privilege and power of announcing the good news. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”(Romans 10:14 -15).

We need to lay claim to the ancient, timeless art of proclaiming the Word of God, ‘in season and out of season’. We need to commit to winsome and bold gospel proclamation. Lives can be transformed through the foolishness of your preaching.

If I had ten bucks for every time some would-be sage invoked St Francis of Assisi and said, “Preach the gospel all the time; if necessary use words,” I would be a wealthy man. I have read it on CD sleeves, in books, and heard these words dropped from the pulpit and in conversations. However, these words are mythical. Saint Francis, was part of a preaching order and may have preached up to twelve times a day, but never said them. They represent a post-Christian antipathy towards truth-claims.

Mark Galli helpfully debunks the myth of St Francis: “‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’ goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching.”

Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible, but the gospel is a message. It is news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.

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