Personal Evangelism (III) Manner (Part I)
William C. Sexton
Having seen that personal evangelism consists of individuals contacting others and telling them the message of Christ as to his love for them and his plan by which they can be saved and having seen that this is a very important activity from the standpoint of the worker and the receiver, we now look at how it is done or the manner in which we may approach this all important activity. For every person who has been awakened to the identity and significance of this activity, there has been a burning desire to know as much as possible about how they can be an effective worker in this. And as the old saying goes, "where there is a will there is a way," is true here. If one has been sufficiently aroused regarding the great need for this, he is ready to not only receive all the information that is presented to him, he is ready to go to work searching for pertinent information which will aid him in achieving his goal. Thus, if is to this person that we turn our attention, for he who is not really interested will find more than enough excuses (Luke 14:16-24).
1. Preparation-twofold. If one is to be as efficient as he is capable of being, then he must prepare! And when one is dealing in the most valuable merchandise in the universe-the souls of people-then he ought to be as prepared as he can be. However, I believe that many back away and keep on feeling their inadequacy and never really get to doing the work; this must be avoided! It is true that each of us will always feel inadequate for such an important job, if we are really wise as to the true nature of the work. But we must avoid the pitfall of indefinite postponement. Many allow their feeling of inadequacy, their sense of unpreparedness, to keep them waiting until it is too late. Sometimes the Lord prematurely calls them or the person they were wanting to win for Christ home. Do not allow this pitfall to engulf you, beloved.
First, one must know his Bible and how to present it effectively. One may know his Bible quite well and yet not be able to present it effectively to another because he lacks the organization or arrangement of the facts in his mind so as to have command of them. Likewise, he may have just "read" his Bible and thus remembers a lot of "loose-ended" facts but when he talks to a person about them, he "just talks;" he says very little that can be seen as a unit of significant information. He really affirms no real clear proposition with materials to sustain it; he really leaves no clear and concise plan for the person to consider. Therefore, one needs to find the facts, arrange them in his mind so as to be able to draw upon them, and then develop a plan of presentation. As he goes along, he can see if he is departing from the planned journey, and if he finds that he is off the track or has left out something, he can make a correction. But if one does not know where he is going, he cannot possibly tell if he ever gets there or not.
Secondly, one needs to know his people, how they are likely to react, etc., and what a certain reaction indicates. None of us can be so expert on reading other people's behavior that we can always be absolutely positive that we clearly understand what is behind every act, but we can and should know that people will react in certain ways depending on their character, etc. We will not find all people to be the same (Matt. 13:3-23; Mark 4:2-20; Luke 8:4-15). Some people will not allow the word to penetrate their hearts, having been preconditioned by false doctrine, prejudice, and indifference. Others will receive the word emotionally and quickly but will not have root to stand the sun of hardship. Still others will receive the word and make some progress but then become involved in the cares of this life to the extent that the word of God is choked and they become "unfruitful." Nevertheless, there are those who will hear the word and allow it to penetrate their hearts and produce understanding and, the heart being "honest" and "good," will be moved to comply and continue to meet the difficulties of life and beat off the temptations to commit evil; this person will bring forth fruit! This is the person we are looking for. This is the character that we must seek out and communicate the message of salvation.
So, when we have seen the person reject the word, not understanding it, we need to know that such is an indication of the condition of the soil. We. need to remember, I believe, that in time that person's heart may be softened by events, experiences, and contacts with others. So, we need not write him off until he passes from the scene. However, we need not spend all of our time on such a character when it is clear that he is not so conditioned to be receptive to the word; there are others who are so conditioned. We need to find these and work with them
When one is converted and makes progress but falls away under the stress that is sure to come, we need to un- understand that some will act in this way. We need not accept defeat at the first "fall" because all stumble in their spiritual life and some can be rescued; thus we need to rally to their rescue. However, if we are unsuccessful in our attempts, let us not give up or in; instead, let us face reality and continue to seek out those who are receptive to the word of God, the seed of the kingdom.
So, part of the preparation is being prepared to accept partial success, knowing that there shall be different reactions. The reactions are indicators of the inner condition of the heart, and the inner condition determines whether they will accept or reject the word; their reception or rejection determines the benefit they shall receive from the Grace of God, the death of Christ, and the revelation of the Spirit.
2. Requirements. To be a successful personal evangelist, one must have "heart-power," plus "head power," plus "foot-power" (cf. Homer Hailey's book, Let's Go Fishing For Men, p. 15). One has to have committed his life to Christ and be putting him "first" (Matt. 6:33; 16:24). Only the person who has come to realize his sinful condition, has seen the terribleness of it, turned to the Lord, and experienced the remission of sins is capable of converting others. He who has had the impact of sin and forgiveness thrust upon him can feel no relief unless he tries to share with others the great relief that he has found. To this person, it is not a "job" to talk to others about their soul, it is something he "must" do.
Heart power, though, is inadequate. Fire can and will provide warmth which is needed when it is controlled but when it is out of control, it, is destructive. So, it is with a heart overflowing with the joys of the forgiveness of sins without some "head-power," some reasonableness, some real logical thinking. Trying to understand the prospect's background is essential to being successful in the activity of soul saving. He who will rush into a dangerous situation without recognizing the gravity of it is not wise and manifests no head power but rather a lack of it.
Having a heart overflowing with the joys of salvation, having planned and thought out the best way to approach a person and carry it through, one is still short of the goal: Nothing will take the place of "foot-power." One still must make the contact, arrange for an appointment, and keep the appointment. Some do well in the first two steps but then fail to complete the chain of steps which are essential to complete the conversion. Foot-power is probably the hardest to deliver. Developing the will to go, and then going is the only chain of events that will be successful.
Thus stated another way, dedication, information, and will are all essential elements of personal evangelism. If one is lacking in any of these departments, he will fail to be a successful soul-saver! These requirements are within the reach of each person who will endeavor to improve himself.
To be continued.
Truth Magazine XIX: 33, pp. 518-519