In the Company of Preachers

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“The Lord gave the Word,” the basses and tenors boomed in unison. Then the choir joined in four parts, “Great was the company of the preachers.”

Handel made this chorus in Messiah sound like a great company of preachers by composing it mostly in sixteenth-note runs. I used to love singing it with Calvin College’s Oratorio Society during its annual rendition of this masterpiece. Hundreds of voices joined not only in singing but in “preaching” Psalm 68:11.

For the past 39 years I have been doing that pretty regularly—proclaiming the Word with the never-quite-numerous-enough “company of the preachers.” What a privilege! What a thrill! What a responsibility!

“That company can—and does—include you.”

And what an exciting time to be alive, when the “company of the preachers” is greatly increased not only by human involvement but by technological advance. No longer are we dependent on the human voice alone. Now radio and television and print and cell phone and Internet multiply the “company of the preachers” exponentially!

Now, by God’s grace and wonderful provision, that “company” can—and does—include you. The support we give to Back to God Ministries International allows us not only to underwrite a “company of the preachers,” but to join with them! Hundreds of dedicated staff in North America and around the world become thousands—and even more—when, through our support and prayer, we join in bringing as much of the world as possible “back to God.”

God allows us the joy of joining “the company” who proclaims “the Word,” from prophets and faithful believers in the Old Testament to all those welcomed into God’s household when Christ Jesus opened the doors of grace.

And with that great company of the preachers, we respond in faith to the question the apostle Paul asked of the Romans:

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 [they] preach unless they are sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

I am sure you will remember another “great company” mentioned in the opening pages of the New Testament:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).

You can read on the adjoining pages how God himself is fulfilling that promise to a world as greatly in need of this good news as it was more than 2,000 years ago.

The “company of the preachers” is growing even greater. God is using technology, along with our gifts and prayers, to do exactly what Handel has the choir sing next, after celebrating the “great . . . company of the preachers”:

Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps. 19:4, Rom. 10:18).

Celebrate what you read about here. Thank God. Pray for those whom God is using to make the preaching possible. Ask God for generous hearts and hands to make the “company” even greater. Do your part to let the Lord use you to bring this world “back to God.”

I really appreciate the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases the text with which Handel and we began:

The Lord gave the word;
thousands called out the good news
(Ps. 68:11, The Message).

I am so thankful “the Lord gave the word.” I am so grateful it is God’s Word and not ours. I am thrilled God gave it to us to share. And I am overjoyed that you and I are privileged to join that “great . . . company of the preachers” today to bring our world “back to God.”

About the Author

Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

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