Why are not more people being baptized into Christ? Churches of Christ have moved into nice neighborhoods, constructed beautiful buildings, and have grown through efforts that have been used. But, it seems that the church is not reaching as many souls as would be desired, and that churches are not growing as fast as they could. Why?
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk. 19:10). He has bound upon the apostles and ultimately all saints the duty of preaching the saving gospel to the lost. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Mt. 28:19-20). The church is the ' . . . pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). God ordained that " . . . unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). The primary goal of the church is evangelistic: i.e., the preaching of the gospel. While the church is a worshiping institution in which individual Christians are edified, the purpose of this training and encouragement is to further the name of the Lord among the lost!
Congregational Problems in Personal Evangelism
Misplaced Emphasis. Too many churches are content with the status quo, and are simply keeping house for the Lord. A commodious meeting facility has been constructed, and if people genuinely desire truth, they can come to the building where the college-trained preacher will teach them. Churches contribute to this cold attitude by demands made upon a preacher relative to his work.
A pulpiteer is desired to spoon-feed the members. There is a definite place for the outstanding preacher among us! All preachers are not equally qualified. One is ready to stand for the truth before any person or group, but may not be fitted as a debater! One may enjoy the preaching of the gospel, but many who have spent more hours over books can do a much more capable work of public proclamation. Some preachers are capable writers; yet their ability in a congregation or in personal conversation is not conducive to bringing the lost to salvation. Each Christian should prepare himself to understand people, the subject, and the means of presentation that will enable him to reach the lost person.
Many churches are content with the numbers they have. Brethren form a clique of friends, and spend their social time together. By the time the required hours on the job are spent, family duties fulfilled, and social obligations enjoyed, little or no time is left to care for the Lord's work!
Lack of Faith. The Lord commanded Ezekiel, "O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou has delivered thy soul" (Ezek. 33:17-19). Paul commanded, " . . .Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:11-16). Christians must teach, reproving and exhorting, those who are walking in error with a view to leading them to Christ.
Establishing the power and adequacy of the gospel to accomplish the purposes that God had for mankind, Paul concluded, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13). If a Christian believes the truth, he will speak the truth. When one does not speak, he does not believe as he should! Thus, the closed mouth of the church is the product of a lack of faith! Men are to be judged by their human activity, " . . . knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11). If one believes that the neighbor, friend or family member is to be condemned, he will attempt to teach! Lack of faith is the indicting cause of apathy among members of the church!
Lack of Knowledge. Members are expert in secular fields, but babes in the handling of the word of God. Some have adopted the religion of their parents, know little about the truth, and are not interested in learning exactly what the Bible teaches. Christians should have the ' . . . eyes of (their) understanding...enlightened . . ." (Eph. 1:18). Paul wrote the revelation, and the saints were to read it: "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4).
The Bible and Personal Evangelism
Jesus taught the individual: Zaccheus (Lk. 19); Nicodemus (Jn. 3); and the woman at the well (Jn. 4). He commanded the disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . ." (Mt. 28:19). "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:15). The command is to go! Until members of the church go, the Lord's command has not begun to be fulfilled within our personal obligation.
Jesus told the apostles, ". . . ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Philip went to the city of Samaria to preach; later he met the Eunuch and taught him the truth (Acts 8). Paul told the Ephesian elders, " . . . I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (Acts 20:20, my emphasis, DW).
The Scriptures reveal that the early church conducted worship assemblies, but the burning desire of the hearts of those Christians compelled them to seek and save those who were lost. Twentieth-century Christians need to exemplify a God-concern toward the lost. The fields are truly white unto harvest, and Christians must become laborers to gather in the harvest (Mt. 9:37, 38).
Helps in Doing Personal Evangelism
One must become personally involved in the conversion of the lost. The greatest need in the church is a change of attitude toward the lost! Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10). Paul was a debtor to preach in Rome (Rom. 1:15). Knowing God's terror, one should persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11). Love must be exercised toward every soul (Jn. 3:16; Mt. 5:44). Some do not know what to teach, nor how to teach. The-re are three approaches with which every church should be acquainted and trained. It is possible for every Christian to be involved in teaching the lost!
1. Filmstrip. Several successful teaching filmstrips are available for the use of churches. Some of these use artist's concepts of events and persons. Others only use abstract art and/ or charts. Particular notice is here made of the Visualized Bible Study Series by Jule Miller.
a. Availability. The cost is approximately $300 for the filmstrip, a remote control projector and cassette recorder which is less than the expenditure for a gospel meeting, and less than the preacher's salary for one week. The filmstrip is in continued use for many years!
b. Adaptability. Any Christian can use the material! The necessary mechanical knowledge can be taught in five minutes. The young Christian can utilize the lessons, for all the instruction is on the record (disc or cassette). Questions can be deferred until the teacher has had time to study and / or seek additional aid. Even the mature Christian will find the filmstrip opens some doors!
c. Acceptability. The filmstrip in five lessons presents a well rounded course of study. There is no interruption until the slide is completed. Most students enjoy the materials. Churches would be wise to purchase extra filmstrip manuals and leave with the student for continued study. Within the manual is the text from the record plus additional scripture references that the student can study on a specific slide.
2. Charts. Maurice Tisdel published a good series of charts covering the history of the Bible and topic studies. Others have prepared their own series.
a. Availability. Chart-packets can be purchased for around $10. Student copies may be purchased. Each Christian can own his own set. It is self-contained and completely portable.
b. Adaptability. This type study requires a more able teacher-one able to follow an outline and cover material. The capable teacher is able to adapt this material to the specific and immediate needs of the student.
c. Acceptability. The student can have questions answered immediately. Areas of agreement may be skipped in order to spend more time on areas where specific help is needed. Topical studies enable the teacher to spend an entire period on one area of material and enables the student to completely understand.
3. Open Bible. This is the most difficult, but best approach!
a. Availability. Every saint has a Bible, and is to study (2 Tim. 2:15) with a view toward answering questions (1 Pet. 3:15). The maturing Christian needs a good Bible, dated, with center reference and concordance. One should use the King James Version when studying with people for this is the Bible that the prospect most often possesses. When a different translation is used, the prospect feels the saint has a different Bible. Each Christian should own several translations of the Scriptures, and should use them in comparative studies.
b. Adaptability. The fully mature Christian teacher is able to direct the study to the immediate needs of the student, and is not limited as with the slides and/ or charts.
c. Acceptability. The reading of the Bible by the student will build confidence in that which the Bible teaches. One is encouraged to believe, not because of the teacher, but the scriptures which are read.' The teaching 'is directed wholly to the Bible (instead of the filmstrip or chart). While both the filmstrip and chart teach the word of God, one has greater learning when he reads for himself that which the Bible says. Remember, "I'm not right and you wrong! The scripture is right!" Always present oneself as a continuing student!
Preachers, elders, deacons, Bible school teachers, and all interested members should have their eyes open to perceive opportunities to teach the word! Invest some money in Personal Work supplies. Train the members in the use thereof. Preachers could well use their time in setting up classes and using the members (two in each class) to conduct these classes. This will awaken the members to the power of truth, and lead many souls to Christ.
All materials can be ordered through Truth Magazine Bookstore, P.O. Box 403, Marion, Indiana 46952; or call Truth Magazine Bookstore (1-317-948-4472). Bob or Marilyn Whitehead will assist you in securing these materials as soon as possible. And use the materials! God's word will not return void!