By Peter McPherson
We Find What We Want To Find
When a man wants to get married, he ` findeth a wife” (Prow. 18:22). When we want to do something, “thy hand findeth” it to do (Eccl. 9:10). If we are after a certain thing, it is usually true that “he that seeketh findeth” (Mt. 7:8). When we lose something, we “seek diligently till (we) find it” (Lk. 15:8). We have little trouble to “find pleasure” (Isa. 58:3). Whenever Barnabas set out to “seek Saul …he found him” (Acts 11:25-26). An old car buff hunts until he finds the model he is looking for. The devoted stamp collector looks and looks until he finds that rare stamp. The coin collector enthusiast will find that special one.
We usually find what we really want to find. First. we have the desire to find and, then, we diligently search for it. You must want to find, more than anything else, personal work contacts-people to study the word of God. And, what better desire could a man have! What better search! What more important find!
Reality Versus Fantasy
There are few gospel preachers, Bible teachers and personal-work Christians that are over-flushed with contacts. And no one should over-simplify the matter by saying that finding contacts is a breeze. I could wax over-enthusiastic, become sales promotional and talk about all the people there are in the United States who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness; about the millions in Canada that are dying for the truth; about all the neighbors around you who are just waiting for you to talk to them; about all the fellows at work that are yearning for you to discuss spiritual things with them, etc. But we need to be practical, reasonable and tell it like it really is.
Brethren, in North America, there are few places that are truly “ripe unto harvest.” There are few places where people are just waiting for someone to come along and talk to them about Christ, Bible baptism and the New Testament church. And, may I add, there are few people who respond after they are told about the same. This is the bare, yet sad, truth. And for some preachers to not face reality but to cite a few rare instances of rapid growth and attempt to make such specific cases the general picture is to affect adversely the spirit of a steady, hard-working, personal-working evangelist. Certainly preachers need to be go-getters but this is not the only factor involved in this work as anyone with a little common sense and spiritual understanding full well knows (Mk. 1:38; Mt. 13:1-23; Mt. 10:14; Acts 17:33; etc.). I say this because I too have been the victim of suspicious looks simply because I mentioned that a certain area was a “hard” area. I realize that much of the problem is in attitude but that does not mean that it’s all a matter of attitude or that there are not actually and, in fact, “hard” areas. Do not always accuse us of a lack of zeal and effort.
North America however is not barren. All the soil is not “hard” or impossible to work with. And we do need to keep men in America; we do need to establish sound churches in more cities and villages as well as keep the established congregations active, alive and evangelical. So, how do we find contacts to accomplish this?
A Needed Quality
Ask any person who is dependent for his livelihood on direct sales if he can just coast along or if he has to really dig for his prospects. Ask any successful business man if he got where he is today by slouching, complaining, by negative comments, by “it’s no use” statements, by pessimism, indifference and negligence? It takes hard work, steadfastness, stick-to-it-iveness and dogged perseverance to be successful in almost any field of endeavor. We should not let realism (the fact that we do not have 100 hot leads on file) keep us from being positive and progressive (making one contact here and one there). In many of the areas where we find ourselves working for the Lord, it is imperative that we always and ever be optimistic. Enthusiasm is contagious. Zeal spreads. Eagerness is picked up. To make contacts the very first quality is that we be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18-19). Or, that we be bubbling over with “the word of God dwell(ing) in us ‘richly” (Col. 3:16). And, good friend, if you do not have that ingredient then you will not likely find a single contact to work.
“Seek, And Ye Shall Find”
When Jesus said, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Mt. 7:7), He was stating a general principle, truth, rule or maxim. And it works in personal evangelism too!
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? And He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him unto Jesus . . . .The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me . . . .Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see (John 1:35-42a, 43, 45-46).
Our motives in seeking contacts must be right. Not to get a big name nor to gain a personal following, etc. Some were “seeking for Jesus. . .because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (Jn. 6:24-26). Contacts should be sought for only one reason-saving their souls..One fruitful result will be a numerically growing local church (Mt. 16:26; Acts 6:7).
Contacts For Christ
We must learn to treat every person as a potential contact for Christ. In all honesty we have to admit a sense of failure in this matter. We do miss opportunities. We pass up some chances. Or, when we do make an approach, we feel that we did not have the right words. Vie did not say the right thing. I am not so concerned about the latter as I am about the former. We can learn to` carry on somehow and follow up someway on a contact after it has been made, but we must make that contact. This is the important thing: making the contact. Anti this is what Mike has asked me to write about. I tromble. I am no pro. I do not have any secret, sure-fire and smooth speech for this. And yet I do make a lot of contacts. I know that I must. I know that as a gospel preacher I just have to (no one but a “hireling” would read the work of a preacher any other way). I know that as a Christian teacher, I had better try. So, I try. I make attempts. I work at it. Let me give you one example of my feeble efforts to make a contact.
Our regular milk delivery man was sick. The supervisor was making the calls. I was in the house that day. I knew that I had a one-shot opportunity to try and talk to him about spiritual things. He appeared like a vary personable fellow. A little “gabby.” I thought probably he was quite worldly! But here goes, I must try. What do I say? Where do I start? First, I asked him hid name and introduced myself. Then I simply blurted out the question, “What church do you go to?” And then followed my next nervous un-necessary remark (yet not in a sarcastic tone, at least) “I suppose none.” He answered “Oh yea, as a matter of fact I am a member of the church.” Well from then on it was easy. We could talk. I asked him how long he had been a member of that church. I told him of my spiritual interests and finally, before he left, I told him that I would drop in on him and his family some evening. He said, “Sure, anytime.” Wow! How hard, but how easy! You see I just made the conversation spiritual. Few of us always have the ability to turn a conversation into a spiritual one like Jesus the Master Teacher did (Jn. 4). We can try but if it just does not turn out that way, We can open up on the prospective contact with a direct question. Say something! And then be ready to follow it up by listening as well as by talking! By just opening our mouths we can make more contacts. With real conviction coupled with true courage, we can do it. How many contacts do preachers pass up every week? What about the salesmen that frequent your house or office? Have you ever tried to make a contact of you mail-person? Why not?
I was determined to try making some contacts with the people sitting next to me on my flights to Columbus, Ohio from Great Falls, Montana and back again. I did. And I talked and talked for hours to three different people. One of these contacts is in the hands of another preacher in another city. Surely such contact making attempts for Christ was only what we “ought to have done” — especially when I was flying to and from holding gospel meetings.
Ways and Means of Finding Contacts
1. By Direct Questions To Strangers. You have a few quiet minutes with a person somewhere. Preface one of the following questions directed to this person with a “I hope you don’t mind me asking but. ..,” and then follow it with one of these: “What religious affiliation do you have?”; “Do you attend church?”; “Do you read the Bible?”; “Are you a member of any church?”; “What are your spiritual interests?” Whatever their answer might be, follow up the same by telling them your name, your spiritual interests, the New Testament plea for unity, etc. This approach can also be used on your friends and neighbors and on all “cold” calls. Sometimes this leads into an opportunity for Bible study or in them going with you to worship. (By the way, do not ask them questions that puts un-wanted ideas in their minds. A question like, “Would you like to help us start a new church in this town” is plain stupid when you consider it from their point of view. Why of course there are already too many churches in town! And never say, “Now I don’t want to cram anything down your throat ….” This is not helpful but only suggests something that they may have never thought about, till then.)
2. Bible Correspondence Courses. Usually those that finish a Bible course need further study before they are converted. Thus, the Bible course can serve as an effective tool in making contacts. Presently this is how most of my contacts are being made. Advertise a free Bible course regularly in your paper or over the radio or TV.
3. Personal Calling Cards. No one has to be a preacher to use a calling card. Advertise your church services, Bible courses, etc., and give your name, address and phone number for anyone wanting any spiritual help. Carry the cards with you always. Leave them all over town. Give them to clerks, attendants, waiters, etc. Contacts have been made this way. And, you have tried.
4. Cold Calling. Canvassing an area for Bible courses, for Home studies, for gospel meetings, etc., will turn up some contacts which show interest. Door knocking is hard work but I have done my share of it over the years. It is challenging, can be frustrating, but is also has its rewards. In spite of the arguments against it-most of the people not home; people sleeping in the day time due to shift work; inconvenience caused by interrupting family privacy; will be associated with the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., it is indeed an effective way to make contacts. And some have more success at this than do others. You might at least try it now and then.
5. Visitors Attending Services. This is a great way to make a contact. They have done all the work for you by dropping in. Now you must drop everything, greet them, give them your name, ask them for theirs and write it down(address too); do it right there in front of them, for they will not mind, and be warm with your handshake and friendly with your voice and manner (some of the handshakes that I have been given by some of our meeting preachers felt like a cold fish and their manner made them appear like a cold turkey!). Invite them back again. If they do not come then you had better “jump” on that situation right away. Do not let the contact get cold!
6. Leads From Members. Sit down with every member and ask them to give you a list of the names and addresses of their close friends and of their relatives. When you call on these people, you will have someone to relate to as a mutual friend. This “breaks the ice” immediately.
7. Fallen Away Members. Call on all the non-attending members of the church in the whole area. Some might be revived (James 5:19-20).
8. Do Good Deeds. My son mowed the lawn for an aged and crippled widow. This caused her to come to a gospel meeting and to her conversion. Before her death some five years later she had helped to convert about 10 others. Individuals should do good deeds whenever they can (Mt. 25). One never knows what good seed he is sowing by such good deeds.
9. By Living A Faithful Life. We must always keep in mind that there are people watching us all of the time. Our constancy at the services and our dedicated lives are telling someone something. “Let your light so shine before men” (Mt. 5:16). By doing so, a contact can be made with a sinner. He sees you with something that he does not have. Work on being a sincere, contented and joyful Christian where ever you are. You are bound to make contacts for Christ this way.
10. Through Un-important People. Many times we simply wipe off this one or that one because of their humble circumstances, poor education, etc. But let me tell you that contacts are made much easier with such as these-with the down-trodden, the poor and lowly than the intellectuals and with the sages of this age. Never discount a person because of his age, appearance, mental abilities or social prestige. I personally know of four elderly ladies which, from society’s point of view had nothing, but they were contacted, converted and they have become the back-bone in a congregation that started from scratch. Many of the people that I have baptized into Christ have been very poor and many have been in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s; a couple were even in their 90’s. And many of these so-called un-important people have served to be the door unto entire families, some of which were much young.
11. A New Neighbor Move-in. By warmly welcoming new neighbors, we are apt to make a spiritual contact as well. The fact is, keeping news on the move-ins all over town makes good sense. Strangers to a new area sometimes find it hard to make new friends. You can help in more ways than one.
12. Visiting Sick and Shut-in People. Personal evangelism contacts have been made by simply making a call on those you know to be sick or hospitalized. People appreciate this, remember it and will accept your invitation to “come to church” or have a Bible study.
13. Follow-up on Bible Class Student’s Parents. In many places there are children attending our Bible classes and/ or the V.B.S. Go and see the parents or guardians of these children. Try to get them as a family to “see the Jule Miller Bible films,” or to come to the services. Relate to them the child’s progress in Bible classes and how happy he or she is with learning about Christ, There is no question that, people do things for their children. We might as well take some advantage of that concept, right?
14. Fellow Workers, Associates, etc. I know that you cannot press a fellow about religion when you are supposed to be “on the job.” But, are you sure that you are taking advantage of the opportunities when they open up? What will we say in the Judgment when people with whom we work, play, hunt, fish, bowl and buddy-buddy point an accusing finger at _us and say, “You never told me”? These people ought to be your best contacts. After all, are they your friends? Well can you talk to them about spiritual things ever? Come on! Young people, you too, yes, you ever more so have an abundance of contacts. Your young friends are impressionable. Some are seeking. Pray to God to help you make a contact for the Savior. You can do it!
15. Keep A Contact Name List. Every concerned personal worker should have a little book in which are listed the names addresses and phone numbers of any person that might be a prospective student of the word of God. List them under various categories: Good Contact, Possible Contact, Un-faithful member, New Neighbor, etc. But keep a list. Go over this list regularly. This way you should never run out of people to work with.
Brother Peter Wilson stated in the preface of his book “Indestructible Foundations” (one use of which is for personal evangelism classes) that we should always be “class conscious.” We should try to arrange a home Bible class rather than just answer questions or discuss spiritual things with “a few hurried words. “Likewise, we need to ever be “contact conscious.” Treat everyone as a potential prospect for conversion and view all people as contacts for Christ. Make a contact today. Find one! And remember, “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again! “
Truth Magazine XXII: 18, pp. 296-298
May 4, 1978