Pastor: Gospel plow has two handles, not one

ARLINGTON  “Don’t be one-armed preachers” is the challenge Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., issued to pastors gathered at the SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference in February.

“Don’t tie your good works behind your back and just go with the Good News,” Traylor said. “But oh, don’t dare tie the Good News behind your backs and just go with good works. You’ll just dress people up and send them to Hell looking better. It takes both hands.”

Preaching from Luke 4:17-21, Traylor, a former Texas pastor, reminded his audience that all believers have an anointing from God for two tasks, sharing the Good News and doing good works. “We are to be gospel tellers,” Traylor said. “We are here to proclaim, to shoot forth, to herald out the gospel. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, the gospel will be able to touch you and save you.”

Traylor shared that after leaving seminary, he was concerned about what is known as the Social Gospel. “I thought it had more ‘social’ than gospel. I put my ‘good works hand’ behind my back. I became a one-armed preacher,” he confessed. “I preached so much grace that I almost preached myself into believing you could have grace and not even have to have good works.”

But Traylor was challenged over time to see that Good News and good works must go together in bringing others to Christ. “We don’t just need Good News. We’ve got to have some good works. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. The gospel plow has two handles on it and you’ve got to use both hands if you’re going to cut a furrow through the culture in which we live today.”

Traylor’s changed viewpoint has not come without uncomfortable moments. He shared the challenge that faced him just outside the property of Olive Baptist Church. On one side of the church property was a Starbucks selling $5 a cup coffee and on the other was a family living in a trailer with no electricity and water borrowed from the next door neighbor’s hose. He reached out to this family with food and concern.

“They were hungry,” Traylor said. “I didn’t know poor people. I didn’t know anybody in jail. I still don’t feel comfortable, but God said ‘go’.”

Another learning experience came from a member of his own church who was a social worker. She visited him regularly to encourage him to put a social worker on the church staff. Finally she challenged him.

“Preacher, have you read Matthew 25?”

Traylor recalls being a little offended. “I’ve read the Bible through several times, I’ll have you know,” he replied.

“Matthew 25 is the final exam and if you get to Heaven you are gonna have to pass that test,” she continued. “You may not pass. It says to do it unto the least of these.”

Traylor hired her, and she started winning people to Jesus, he explained.

In addition to a social worker, the church also has a ministry to women just getting out of prison. They own two homes where women can transition to a new life. The church has seen prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals come to salvation in Christ through its good works.

Traylor continues to point out that good works must always be accompanied by the Good News.

“It’s a two-handed gospel that we’ve got to take to this world.”

Even though Traylor is actively promoting the Good News and good works together, he’s still learning to look for opportunities everywhere he goes. Olive Baptist has a prison ministry and on the way home from preaching at

Online Editor
Aaron Earls
Lifeway
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