The Advantages of Personal Evangelism (1)
Personal evangelism unquestionably has certain advantages over the more impersonal type of evangelism. But the church that depends entirely upon either approach to the exclusion of the other does not reap the maximum results. Both types of evangelism are indispensable to the work of a local church. So to speak of an "advantage" of one type of evangelism is not to present an argument in favor of dispensing with other types.
In the work of edification in the local church brethren generally have seen the importance of both public preaching and individualized Bible classes. Most of us would agree that there are advantages in the Bible class arrangement, but none of us would use these advantages to minimize the importance of preaching. Both arrangements are important; therefore both are utilized. This should also be the case in evangelism. Both the personal and impersonal types should be used to accomplish the maximum good. The tragedy is that many churches give little or no attention to the most advantageous approach.
What are some of the advantages of the personal type of evangelism?
1. Personal evangelism is something all can do. This is demonstrated by the example of the Jerusalem church. "They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). It was not the apostles who went, for they remained in Jerusalem (Acts 8: 1). It was the "men and women" who made up the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:3), and were able to escape the brutal hand of the persecuting Saul of Tarsus, who went about preaching the word.
Every Christian, including women, can teach the word to other individuals (i.e., Priscilla and Aquila, Acts 18:24-28), but not all can preach the word publicly (i.e., women have certain limitations, I Tim. 2:12-14; 1 Cor. 14:34-35). Furthermore, not even all the men of a local church can preach in the public assembly. The very nature of the teaching arrangement itself makes this impossible, and the abilities required for public preaching exclude many others. On the other hand, in personal evangelism every member of the church can be teaching privately at the same time; and this is a type of evangelism that does not require the special abilities which public preaching demands.
The fact that all Christians can do personal evangelism does not mean that all will be equally skillful or successful. It does mean, however, that this approach provides an opportunity for every member to function according to the various abilities each member has. Each person can do this work in his own individual way, and according to his own ability, and accomplish much good for the cause of Christ.
2. Personal evangelism is something all can do NOW. Every church should be deeply concerned about its efforts to reach the lost. But so few of us in the church are concerned enough about trying to reach the lost NOW! In personal evangelism we do not have to wait for the lost to come to us. We do not have to wait for our next gospel meeting, or until we hire another preacher, or begin a radio program. Besides, our prospects probably will not come to us if we wait. They may not attend the gospel meeting when we have it, they may not like the new preacher, and they may not listen to our radio program! In fact, the only guarantee we have that they will be taught the truth is for us to teach them ourselves and to teach them NOW! Personal evangelism alone makes this possible.
3. There are greater opportunities for personal evangelism. Nearly every Christian who is truly "soul conscious" has become greatly disappointed at times because of the few prospects they find in the church services especially where the church is small, and the meeting place is inadequate). The truth is, preachers have few opportunities to teach non-Christians from the pulpit, and still fewer are converted solely as a result of pulpit preaching. But some have been, and this is the reason pulpit preaching is an important part of our evangelistic program.
Only a small number of Christians have opportunities to preach from the pulpit or over the radio. But opportunities to teach individually arise frequently, if we will but recognize them and seize them. A very small number of Christians are looking for people to teach, a smaller number recognize an opportunity when they see it, and even fewer than this take advantage of an opportunity when they see it.
"The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Matt. 9:37). If we look only at the number of non-Christians who attend our church assemblies, we are likely to question the first part of this statement. It is only where the lost are that the harvest is plenteous, and it is there too where the laborers are few. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest" (Jno. 4:35).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 45, pp. 7-8