GETTIN’ READY TO EVANGELIZE
By Richard S. Neihart
A member of the British Parliament once com pained to Queen Victoria, “Your Majesty, there are not many good preachers in England.” Her reply was, “Sir, there are not many good anything.” Excellence has and always will be a rare quality.
What makes the difference between the evangelist who excels and the one who struggles in mediocrity? While this book will consider many factors, let us here view the importance of preparation. Preparation has been defined as “our first step into the future.” It is a plan to reach a goal in an organized and objective manner. Preparation is the foundation upon which a person’s ministry will rest. No man, however intelligent, talented, sincere or motivated, can succeed with out a practical strategy.
How easy it is to see an evangelist at the height of his achievement and assume he was “born successful.” His skill and anointing cause us to overlook the principles that contributed to his success. We tend to forget the price he has paid and is paying in terms of discipline and preparation.
Many young men with a sincere desire to work for God have launched out into the ministry prematurely. After months or perhaps years of floundering, they were forced to concede defeat. They left the field in debt, their confidence shaken, and in some cases even bitter. How sad that their desperate lunge without adequate preparation brought much disappointment and neutralized the effects of their ministry.
The World Knows It’s True
The world recognizes the importance of preparation. Not long ago I attended an air show. Featured were the Blue Angels, the famous Navy acrobatic fly in team. Along with the crowd, I stood spellbound by their magnificent performance. Their maneuvers, carried out with such precision, seemed incredible. It was later while learning the background of these pilots that I could somewhat understand their extraordinary feats. The skill displayed by these men was the result of long and arduous training, dawn to dusk preparation, sweat, discipline and sacrifice. These make the difference between average and elite.
Just the Beginning
It is simply naive to think that the call of God in itself is enough. For three years after He called His disciples, Jesus taught, discipled and prepared them; they were transformed from a motley crew of fisher men and tax collectors into apostles of Jesus Christ— the foundation stones of His church. After his conversion, Paul spent three years in the deserts of Arabia before God let him begin his ministry. Face it, aspiring evangelist, the field belongs to the prepared.
No evangelist can expect to reach his goals with out experiencing some frustration and temporary defeat. His steps to prepare before launching out will give him the needed discipline to persist through any obstacle he may encounter.
It’s the Law
The law of life says that hard work and preparation must precede the joys and fulfillment of life. If young people are willing to spend years of study and practice to become doctors, lawyers and airline pilots, is it demanding too much of ourselves to spend the time needed to prepare for the highest calling on earth? We expect our doctors to be professional. How would we like to have our appendix removed by a man who skipped medical school because he just couldn’t wait to be a doctor, saying there are just so many sick people out there? An ancient proverb says, “What the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the begin nine.” This certainly applies to the evangelist.
This is the most vital aspect of your ministry. A doctor is trained to deal with physical defects. A lawyer’s expertise lies within the structure of law. The primary concern of a preacher is the spiritual need of the sinner.
The morals of the doctor or lawyer have no bearing on their profession. The absence of prayer will render them no less effective. Such is not the case for an evangelist. He ministers not only with the intellect, but by the Spirit. The evangelist can be no more effective as a preacher than he is a Christian. While there may be positive results in the beginning, the accumulative effects of attempting to overcome the powers of earth and hell without a close walk with God will eventually take their toll.
Spiritual Perception is Absolutely Imperative
The most important facet of revival lies in the dimension of the Spirit. It is imperative that you learn to minister on a spiritual wavelength. Otherwise you will find yourself attempting to meet surface needs relying upon human logic instead of spiritual discernment. Learn the discipline of prayer and fasting. The power you will need to counteract the indifference of the age in which we live must come from a spiritual anointing. Begin to pray now. It is a mistake to assume that you will spend more time in prayer as an evangelist. The habits that you form now will be carried over into your evangelistic ministry. If you cannot find time to pray now, you will always find a reason not to pray later. Then you will find yourself kneeling, mumbling for a few minutes before service, and then stepping up to the pulpit feeling inadequate to face the challenge.
Evangelist, you are in the soul-saving business! Those things that you say or leave unsaid within the context of an anointed message will affect not only that person’s spiritual welfare, but his eternal destiny. What an awesome responsibility!
It is important to live above carnality, to have a heart without offense before man and God. Guilt and condemnation will make it difficult for you to preach without distraction and will greatly diminish your effectiveness. Make sure there is nothing in your life to disrupt the flow of the Spirit. Before you embark on your evangelistic ministry, take full inventory to be sure your soul is clean and your heart and mind without offense.
It Starts Between Your Ears
Preparation for the evangelistic field is largely an internal affair, taking place within the strategy room of the mind. One aspiring evangelist’s idea of preparation was a constant chatter about fine luxury cars and flashy suits. While it is important for a man to have a good car and be well groomed, it is well to remember that these are only accessories. It may be important in some places to project an image of success, but don’t major on minors while ignoring those areas that are so much more important.
Get the Picture—Write it Down
Before you can achieve your goal, you must have clearly fixed in your mind’s eye what you desire and then concentrate all your attention upon that one thing. Many evangelists struggle in a vague way, not knowing what to expect, only hoping that something will happen. In the beginning there will be some uncertainty. However, through the medium of your mind you can “pre-live” your experience on the evangelistic field. It is good to sit down and concentrate on what you want. Be specific—write it down. If your goal is to preach a several hundred soul revival, then picture yourself preaching it. Do this every day while you pray and study and think of specific ways to accomplish your goal.
Guard Your Mind
A proverb declares, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). It is a law that you will steer towards what you fill your mind with. Do not launch out full of fear, picturing yourself a failure, returning home in shame, or that is just exactly what will happen.
You are at the same time your best friend and worst enemy. Stimulate your mind. Read about great revivals. Talk to successful evangelists. You must have about yourself a sense of destiny, a grim self-assured ness that will provide you with strength and courage. Don’t expect people to believe in you any more than you believe in yourself. God has given you a ministry. He expects you to promote it. Don’t be hindered by a false sense of modesty. To promote your ministry is not “tooting your own horn” unless, of course, you assume credit for the ministry God has given you.
Before you embark upon a journey, you must know something about where you are going, how you are going to get there, and when you expect to arrive. With your objective clearly visualized and greatly de sired, your success as an evangelist will become much easier.
Be Yourself, But Study the Masters
George Washington Carver once made the statement, “I have learned more from men than from books.” A young man is most fortunate if he has some great preacher to serve as a role model.
It has strongly emphasized that a young preacher should strive to be himself, and this, of course, is important. You are a unique creation of God. No one on earth will be able to preach quite the way you do. However, there is no shame in observing and studying the some successful preacher. You will greatly benefit by discovering the principles that contributed to his greatness. How does he pray? How does he structure a message? How does he give an altar call? What approach does he take in praying with a seeker? This is a common practice among aspiring artists and musicians who are instructed to study the masters. Relax and be yourself. Your own unique style will gradually emerge, but you cannot help but be influenced by the men you associate with.
Study to Show Yourself Approved
While the United Pentecostal Church has several fine Bible colleges, you may not feel that attending one of them is for you. The ministry is unique in the fact that it is not only how much you know, but how you can apply what you know. Many of our greatest preachers are self-taught. However, I’m sure most of them would highly recommend a Bible college education.
Learn to study. You can only preach what you know. Your thoughts will naturally be shaped by what your mind feeds upon. There are many good books in print. Be selective—study those subjects that will contribute toward reaching your goal. Memorize verse of Scripture—there is nothing you can say about the Bible any more powerful than the Word itself.
Develop the Habits of Success
If you aspire to greatness, then learn time control, health control, habit control—cut out of your life those things that are harmful. Preaching is not something you do, it is something you are! You are a preacher twenty-four hours a day. You cannot be great in the pulpit if you practice the wrong things outside the pulpit.
There is only one way to learn to preach, and that is to simply get up there, loosen up your tie, throw your ears back and preach! If you are like most of us, your first few attempts may seem disastrous. But just keep on preaching.
Remember that your ministry is a sacred trust. The evangelist who preaches simply for practice or be because he is fascinated with the sound of his own voice, does so to his own hurt. Preach every message with a strong sense of responsibility. Preach as if someone’s soul depended on your message. It does!
Financial Preparation—Setting Your House in Order
No true man of God is motivated by money. How ever, this is a factor to be considered as it may well determine your survival on the evangelistic field. How sad that some very capable evangelists have been for forced off the field simply because of a lack of financial resources. You would not start to drive across the desert with no spare tire. Nor would you feel safe on an ocean liner without a lifeboat. Yet it is not uncommon for an evangelist to be prepared in every other area and yet fail because he did not have a sound financial plan.
As a full time evangelist, you must accept a certain amount of insecurity. While several districts have had the foresight to establish a minimum, there is no guaranteed salary. Your income can range anywhere from “Hallelujah!” to “Lord have mercy,” depending on the pastor’s ability or willingness to pay. Remember to keep souls as your motivation. It is considered poor taste to discuss money, and the evangelist who does so is quickly branded as mercenary. Rest assured that where God guides He also provides.
As you read this chapter, your debut on the field may be some distance in the future. Now is the time to develop some sound financial principles.
1. Get out and stay out of debt! It is important that you launch out free from debt. The first year may be somewhat difficult as you attempt to “break in.” Benjamin Franklin’s rule was, “It’s better to go to bed supperless than run in debt for breakfast.” While credit cards can be a blessing in times of emergency, their indris criminate use can become your downfall. Learn the discipline of doing without until you can pay cash.
2. Form the habit of paying promptly. When you must go into debt (for a car, van, trailer, etc.), make those installments on time. Few things in life are more valuable than a good credit record.
3. Develop financial integrity. Some otherwise honest evangelists taint their reputation with sneaky little habits—not paying for long distance calls on someone else’s phone, charging far more groceries than you can eat during the revival, only eating when somebody else picks up the check, accepting offerings on the side without mentioning it to the pastor. Don’t be sneaky! You will find most pastors to be more than fair, and they expect to be treated fairly in return. Don’t have an attitude of getting something for nothing. As it is said out West, “Learn to saddle your own bronc.”
4. Travel Light. While you may choose to pull a trailer, it is still better to have as few encumbrances as possible. You can not travel all over the country and still have all the comforts of home. Be it trailer, motor home or evangelist quarters, the space will be limited. There some times tends to be a big difference between what you need and what you want. There will only be so much room for clothes, pets and gadgets. Sorry, but that is part of getting ready!
5. Learn to Save. For most evangelists, you’re income stops when the meeting is over. The only problem is, you must continue to live, and that takes money. Out of the fifty-two weeks in a year, there are at least six to eight weeks that you will be unable to conduct revivals due to camps, Christmas, and conferences. What should be relaxing times could be a financial nightmare if you’re not prepared. Before starting out, have enough money in reserve to cushion the shock of an unexpected cancellation or an emergency.
Form the habit of saving a portion of each week’s income. It will ease the pressure and give you a greater sense of security.
Whether your income is great or small, learn to spend a little less than you earn. By this you will retain your dignity and earn the respect of those you associate with.
First Comes Boot Camp
Between the raw recruit and the battlefield comes boot camp. An exhausting nightmare of midnight marches, obstacle courses, and garbage details. He learns survival skills designed, in words of a salty old drill sergeant, “to teach you sissies how to live to be old men.” Beatle Bailey and his friends from Camp Calamity may be cute in the comics, but in real life only the prepared will live. It requires rigid discipline to survive on the battlefield—be it natural or spiritual.
A Life of Service
Aspiring evangelist, learn to serve where you are. If you can not scrub the restrooms or help shingle the roof, then you do not have what it takes to evangelize. There are already too many would-be preachers, captured by the romance and glamour of the ministry.
They see the evangelist field as the quickest way to achieve fame and fortune. It does not take much money or education, and the honor and attention appeal to the young man’s ego. It is amazing that those who start out to set the world on fire that have never won a soul, taught a home Bible study, or even helped in Children’s Church
If you are driven by a desire to reach souls, then start winning Souls now! Make yourself valuable. Learn to perform on the highest level you can.
The Second Mile
Be determined to put more into your ministry than you take out. Give more than what is required. There is an unerring law to the effect that you will receive the reward you deserve. Be patient, the books of life are not balanced every week. The doors will open when God sees you are ready to step through.
I met a fellow at General Conference whom I had not seen for some time. I inquired about his family and asked where they were living and what he was doing. His reply and the essence of our conversation was as follows:
“Oh, I’ve started evangelizing!” he told me.
“Really? What part of the country?”
“Well, I’m heading for Louisiana. I hear there are lots of churches down there.”
“Who will you be Preaching for?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know any one. My plan is to just stop where I see a church and set up my little trailer on the parking lot.”
“Is that so? And then what?”
“Well, I’ll just tell the pastor I’ve come to preach for a few days.”
“Hmm, well it will be interesting to hear how things turn out.”
Now, maybe I’m wrong, since I haven’t tried it, but I can not imagine that a busy pastor would appreciate being placed in the awkward position of host to an uninvited guest.
Every preacher looks back with fond memories of the pastors who helped him get started. Thank God for their patience and generosity. But the need of the hour is for mature, dedicated men who are competent to do the work of an evangelist.
Evangelist, don’t launch out like some vagabond. You are not a charity case. If you are indeed called of God, then your ministry is a viable and much needed part of the church.
If you are young, give yourself time to mature. Don’t feel like you are dying of old age if you do not start evangelizing at sixteen. An athlete is considered aging at thirty-three, but a preacher is still a Pentecostal Conqueror! An athlete’s strength is his physical stamina. A preacher’s strength is his maturity and wisdom. These take time.
It is better to wade in rather than take the plunge. Before you sever ties with your job, spend some time going out for weekend meetings or three or four night revivals. You will gain experience and much needed exposure. Good news travels fast.
An evangelist needs a certain amount of name recognition. The pastors have to know who you are. Don’t feel hurt or discouraged if a pastor does not invite you to come to his church the first time he meets you. Most successful pastors are reluctant to turn their pulpits over to someone they do not know well. Remember, if you were a pastor, you’d feel the same way. Even the Apostle Paul had to be introduced to the churches!
Attend as many district functions as possible. Come to pray and worship, not just to “bird dog” meetings. Relax, be friendly, but don’t come on too strong. Don’t stand around looking like an orphan at a Father’s Day picnic. Project an image of confidence. Pastors, like anyone else, want to put their money on a winner.
When the time comes to launch out, go for it! And don’t look back! God wants you to succeed!
Richard S. Neihart