The Advantages of Personal Evangelism (II)
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
An advantage is "anything that places one in an improved -position, especially in coping with competition or difficulties." The gospel as God's power to save is sufficient to place the one who uses it properly "in an improved position, even in the most difficult cases. But other factors are also important if we wish to be even more effective. The type of evangelism we are using could well prove to be less effective than an alternate approach. In its difficult task of winning men the church must not by-pass the approach that will place it in a better position to win more souls.
In the first article on this subject we gave what we believe to be three definite advantages of personal evangelism. Consider also the following two advantages which we believe to be equally important.
4. Personal evangelism enables the local church to put its theory into practice. By "theory" we mean what we say the Bible teaches. For example, we preach and teach that the mission of the church is evangelism. But when we support a preacher to preach for us and it turns out that he alone is preaching (maybe privately as well as publicly, but maybe not!), who among us would be bold enough to claim we are practicing what we preach regarding the mission of the church? Only through personal evangelism (the activating, of the various members of the local church in evangelism) can we put our theory regarding the mission of the church into practice.
We also teach, and rightly so, that there is no special distinction in the New Testament between preachers and other members; at least, such as is commonly made in denominational circles. The New Testament knows no clergy-laity distinction. This is no distinction which gives the so-called clergy a sanctity which other members of the body of Christ do not have. Out of this false distinction the "pastoral system" developed. This "pastoral system" shifts to the "clergy" tasks which are equally the responsibilities of each member in the local church.
Now we say we do not believe in the "pastoral system." "We believe in the priesthood of all believers," we say; and rightly so (I Pet. 2:5, 9). If this is our belief, then we are firmly convinced that each member is responsible in the work of evangelism and that that responsibility cannot be fulfilled by proxy. As Homer Hailey (expressing the sentiments of J. E. Conant) says:
"The vast majority of Christians have never dreamed that the command (to "go," as given in the great commission, W. W.) is personal, individual to every child of God; that it is his responsibility to go into his own personal world and declare the soul-saving message of the gospel to every creature. It is out of this misconception that the popular but utterly unscriptural phrase, 'If we cannot go, we can send someone in our place' has been coined. But are we ever told 'either to go or to send'? Never! We are commanded to do one thing only, and that is to GO. That command cannot be obeyed by proxy; it can be obeyed only in person. This lays upon the heart of every Christian the sublime obligation to serve God as an individual herald of the gospel within his own personal world" (Let's Go Fishing For Men, p. 7).
5. Personal evangelism helps the church get away from the professional idea. Too often the non-Christian tends to look upon the preacher as a professional. He thinks of him in terms of a salesman. This may make him skeptical of the preacher. If this happens, it goes without saying; the professional concept in the mind of the prospect builds up a barrier that makes it difficult for him to receive the truth from the preacher. He may develop a fear of being sold something he does not want. The church must do everything within its power to prevent this false concept. It can do so by not depending solely upon the preacher to do its evangelizing.
Brethren also sometimes, get this mistaken idea about the preacher. They get it innocently most of the time because we tend to build most of our church activities around him. Because he does so much of the teaching in the local church many brethren come to think he is the only one in the church who can teach the Bible effectively. This is not only a mistaken idea, it is a dangerous one. The truth is, many in the local church will prove to be better personal evangelists than many preachers can ever hope to be. One does not have to be a professional to be an effective Bible teacher in our Bible classes or in personal evangelism. An active personal evangelism program in the local church helps the brethren get away from this professional idea.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 46, pp. 5-6