By J. W. Porter - (1863 - 1937)
“He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41)
For several decades past, emphasis has been laid upon salvation by the wholesale. Fortunately, the trend is now to individual evangelism. And while there is a place, and a great place, for the professional evangelist with sound doctrine and sane methods, much of professional evangelism has been rightly discredited. As this type of evangelism has grown in disfavor, in like proportion has personal evangelism increased in favor, apparently, with God, and certainly with man. To the shame of many modern evangelists, it must be said, they have made religion a joke and cheapened Christ in the eyes of the world. These men and their methods are being more and more discounted and discredited. Christendom can congratulate itself that there is promised a speedy return to the means and methods of New Testament evangelism.
The individual plan was used exclusively by the Lord Jesus. Christ, so far as the inspired record goes, never held a revival. It is true, He preached to five thousand, but far more frequently to one. The woman at the well, Zaccheus, Nicodemus, and the dying thief, are characteristic examples of His methods and ministry. Christ might be correctly termed a Conversational Evangelist. Think what it would mean to mankind should every Christian make Christ the chief topic of conversation. There is no record of any sermon ever preached by Andrew, but he led Peter to the Lord, and he spoke through Peter at Pentecost. The Pentecostal preacher is essential to Pentecost, and usually the result of individual effort. The “upper room” and the personal word is far more needed than the great auditorium and mechanical methods. Mr. Moody once said that he had never known a man to come to Christ who had not been personally spoken to concerning Christ. Certainly a great majority of those who been led to the Lord, have been led to Him by individual effort.
As a rule, the results of the personal plan are more satisfactory. Hand-picked fruit will keep longer. Such a plan is free from sensationalism and mass-psychology, and minus the high-pressure methods so characteristic of the modern revival. With the personal plan there is time for prayer and instruction. Many questions that may arise in the inquirer’s mind concerning the plan of salvation may receive proper attention. The chances of a mistake concerning conversion are greatly lessened.
One of the many advantages of the individual plan, is the fact that those who are thus led to Christ are also usually led to the church. It is a well known fact that only a small percent of the professions reported in great religious campaigns ever connect themselves with any church. Unless the reports of these meetings are purposely exaggerated, the proportion of additions to the number of reported professions is truly lamentable. One explanation may be found in the fact that many evangelists give much of their time to belittling and berating the churches. If the churches are so worthless and vile as frequently painted, it is not surprising that honest men and women, to say nothing of Christians, should care to cast their lot with them. There can be little doubt that the most effective opposition to the churches has been caused consciously, or otherwise, by off-color evangelists. Surely they have their reward.
Individual evangelism multiplies the number of evangelists. The work of evangelism should by no means be restricted to the preacher. In some real sense, every member of the church can do the work of an evangelist. A church with one hundred members should have one hundred evangelists laboring for the lost. The pastor and the evangelists are hopelessly inadequate to the demands of a dying world. Their ministry at best is circumscribed. If during the present year, every Christian would lead one soul to Christ it would mean a greater number of converts to Christianity than has been won by all the pastors and evangelists in the past fifty years. There are unnumbered chariots along the highway of life awaiting our coming. There are millions awaiting the word that only one can speak. Shall this word remain unspoken? It may be that in the day for which all days were made, we may realize for the first time the tragedy of the unuttered word. Though walking daily with Christians, many are saying, “No man careth for my soul.” Seemingly, at least, they are justified in making the declaration. The fields are white unto harvest, but those who are doing the work of an evangelist are few. In political, social, and business life there are numberless opportunities for evangelistic achievements. A mother realizing that her daughter must soon die, said: “I hope you will give your life to Christ.” The poor lost and dying girl replied: “Mother, I have been in your home for nineteen years, and this is the first time you have ever spoken to me about my soul. It is too late now.” Picture, if possible, the feelings of the mother when she meets her daughter in judgment! All mothers should be evangelists of whom the world is not worthy.
The qualifications for individual evangelism are few, but absolutely indispensable. First of all, one who would persuade others to commit their lives to the truth of the Bible must himself implicitly believe the Bible. Not that the Bible is inspired, here and there, and no one can certainly tell where. Not that the Bible “contains” the Word of God, but is, from Genesis to Revelation, the very Word of God. It is hardly possible that one could be influenced to accept as a Bible a book that is filled with truth and falsehood, strangely commingled. The best evidence of the truth of this statement is the fact that no destructive critic has ever been known as a soul winner. It seems that the author of the Bible has uniformly refused to bless the labours of those who deny the truth of any part of the Bible.
He must also have an adequate conception of the tragedy of a lost soul. With all his mind and soul he must believe that everyone dying without Christ, will rest in hell with the nations that forget God. The individual who does not believe the soul is lost, will, of course, deem it unnecessary to work for its salvation. Christ came to seek and save that which was lost, and only those who believe with Christ as to their lost condition will seek their salvation. The loss of conviction among Christians concerning the reality of eternal punishment, has gone far to quench the evangelistic spirit. A wife yearning for the soul of her lost husband, said: “Husband, I fear we will be separated.” The husband, astonished, replied: “How can you entertain such a thought?” “Well,” said the wife, “I am a Christian and expect to make my home in Heaven, and unless you repent and believe the Gospel, you will not be with me.”
There must also be proper preparation. Chiefest of all, we need to talk to God about every lost soul that we approach. We must go in the power of God. It is necessary that we tarry till we are endued with power from on high. Before we go to the lost, we must go to the Saviour of the lost. The proper approach can only be had as we are directed by the Holy Spirit. The lost will hear us after God has heard us in their behalf. We can only obtain power with lost sinners, when the power has been given, by the Saviour of sinners.
Having talked to God about them, we must go and talk with them. We may thus be used of God in answering our prayers. When Ananias had been instructed by God he was ready to go and speak to Paul. God had revealed Paul in a different light, and now Ananias could put his hand on him, say, “Brother Saul.” Paul was awaiting the word that only Ananias could speak. Many are today waiting the message that we only can bring. Saul felt that there was a least one who cherished for him a brotherly affection. Deep in the heart of a wrecked world there comes the question, “Do Christians really care if we are lost?” We can only convince them of our concern for them by efforts in their behalf. Were they in danger of temporal death, friend or foe would be ready to warn them of approaching danger, and yet they are in danger of eternal destruction, and we pass them by with deadly indifference. Let us snatch them as brands from the eternal burning!
Having done all, let us leave the matter with God. We should not, as sometimes claimed, “force a decision.” We should not attempt to force anyone to profess Christ. Such methods have already filled our churches with unregenerate members. It is not by might, nor power, but by “my Spirit saith the LORD” (Zechariah 4:6). It is our business to carry Christ to the world, and God’s business to bring the world to Himself. Unless God shall make them willing in the day of His power, better a thousand times leave them in the world where they properly belong. Unfortunately many of our churches have what is known as “Decision Day.” Such a day makes religion a mere matter of mental decision, and eliminates the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the redemption of the sinner. Our religion is not our work, but His work, Who wrought out for us the “finished” work of redemption.
“I am with you alway,” (Matthew 28:20) is the promise of Him Who made us colabourers with Him.
[From Christopher Cockrell, Editor: The Brerea Baptist Banner, January 5, 2021, pp. 1, 17-18. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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