The Advantages of Personal Evangelism (III)
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
In two previous articles we have suggested five advantages of personal evangelism. In this final study of the subject we shall give three additional advantages of this type of evangelism.
6. Personal evangelism focuses attention on the individual and enables one to deal with individual problems. All prospects for conversion have two things in common: they are sinners (Rom. 3:23), and they are lost (Rom. 6:23). Beyond this, each person has his own individual personality and problems. This is what makes the task of public preaching so difficult. It is next to impossible to adapt our preaching to the needs of every individual in the audience. But in personal evangelism one has the opportunity to get at the individual needs of the prospect. Specific questions may be directed to the prospect which calls for an individual response. In turn, because of the informal nature of the teaching arrangement, the prospect also has an opportunity to ask questions. This enables the teacher to meet personal needs. No other arrangement makes this possible.
Another advantage in this connection is the fact that personal evangelism demonstrates personal concern for the spiritual welfare of the prospect. This is one facet of evangelism that is so essential for success, and yet it is one thing that is so difficult to provide through the more general forms of evangelism.
7. Through personal evangelism the local church can exemplify to others the importance of becoming dispensers of the word. Speaking of the church in Thessalonica, Paul says, "For from you hath sounded, forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything" (I Thess. 1:8). These brethren had received the word in much affliction and had shared it with others through the same difficulties. In this "labor of love" (I Thess. 1:3) they "became an example of all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia" (I Thess. 1: 7).
"In every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth," Paul says. Their faith had gone out even into the regions beyond Macedonia and Achaia, their home country. In other words, their fame in actively propagating their faith had been spread abroad. In their enthusiasm of "sounding forth the word of the Lord" they became patterns to believers everywhere.
Every local church should sometime reach the point of becoming an example to other churches in evangelism. But this involves much more than enlarging the common treasury to enable the local church to support a greater number of preachers in the field; although this is important and most commendable (Phil. 1:5; 4:14-17; 2 Cor. 11: 8). There is no indication anywhere that the Thessalonians had supported any preacher out of its common treasury. This does not mean that they did not do so at a later time, but it is a good indication they had not done so at the time Paul wrote this epistle and commended them as an example to others in sounding forth the gospel. The Thessalonians had not even been able to assist Paul while he labored among them. He worked with his own hands and received support from the church at Philippi 0 Thess. 2:9; Phil. 4:15-16). Nevertheless, they had faithfully "sounded forth the word of the Lord," even to the point of fatigue (as the word "labor" in verse 3 suggests). This they, must have done individually, and in this they became an example for believers everywhere. What about the church where you labor? Is it an example to others in evangelism? Through personal evangelism on the part of each member this is made possible.
8. Personal evangelism is the only effort that will meet the divine challenge - the challenge to take the gospel to every creature. The challenge is too great to be met by only a select few within the church. It demands total commitment and involvement from every member of the body of Christ. We must never become satisfied with what has been accomplished in the past or how much a few brethren are doing in the present. Brother Wesley Reagan has warned that the church has
"spoken rather smugly about the phenomenal growth of the church. It is easy to say the church has two and a quarter million members, that it is the ninth largest religious group in the United States, and that it has the fastest per capita growth rate of any religious group in the country. These statements are especially significant for what they do not say. They do not speak of the growth of the church in relation to world population. They do not say that there are more untaught people in the world today than there were before the Restoration Movement began. They do not say at no time in the world's history have so many lost people been left unaware of Jesus Christ. They do not say that this generation of the Lord's church, with its big buildings, big budgets, and big membership rolls, has let more unbaptized people die than any generation in the history of the church!"
With the involvement of every member of the Lord's church world evangelism would be a simple matter. Joe Gary has pointed out that since there are approximately 600 million households in the world and about two and a quarter million members of the church, if each Christian contacted forty households per day, in six days the whole world would be reached! Only through personal evangelism can the divine challenge be met.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 47, pp. 5-6