Preparing For Personal Evangelism
By J. C. MacAulay
When I came into a personal relationship with Christ at the tender age of nine, I immediately tried to win others. I have clear recollection of dealing with my playmate, and stubbornly holding him at the back door of his home until he consented to receive the Lord Jesus too. I admit that I had little preparation for that encounter. Shall we conclude from such experiences that no preparation is needed for the work of personal evangelism? If one is content to do it always on the basis of a nine-year-old child, perhaps so. But if we wish to be workmen approved, we shall seek thorough preparation-not before we ever begin, but while we are at it, striving to be ever more proficient
A Study the Word of God
This is basic and of supreme importance.
1 For Our Own Soul’s Nourishment and Sanctification.
If we remember that the soul-winner must be a man of character, and the kind of character which the soul-winner must be, we shall ever be turning to the Book which directs us in the pursuit of such character. Is not the Word the water of washing by which Christ sanctifies and cleanses His Church?’ We remember how Paul speaks to Timothy about the inspired Scriptures, affirming that they are “able to make thee wise unto salvation,” and that they are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”‘ We shall not very successfully apply the Word of God to the needs of others if we are not well practiced in applying it to our own needs. One who is neglecting the Word of God in his own personal life is incapacitating himself with respect to effectual soul-winning.
2 So That We May Better Understand The Gospel: Our Duty And Privilege To Present
It is because of this point that we gave a whole lesson to “The Message of Evangelism.” But let it not be thought that that one lesson exhausted the content of the Gospel! Someone may say, “I believe in the simple Gospel, and that does not need much study or learning.” It is true that what we generally present to sinners is “the simple Gospel.” We reduce the mighty scheme of redemption to its simplest terms to put it within reach of the mind unaccustomed to the things of God. But anyone who is content to abide in the first simplicities of the Gospel is not growing much, and very soon his witnessing will be a matter of a few hackneyed phrases that have less and less meaning for himself, and not much for those to whom he parrots them. The Gospel is a vast theme, worthy of our best study, and as we enlarge our own apprehension of its glorious truths, we shall be better fitted to present it in its various aspects according to the need of the hour.
Besides, there are so many misconceptions abroad that we must have sufficient understanding of the Gospel to apply corrective measures. These misconceptions range from an extreme legalistic view on the one side to a very shallow “believism” on the other side. We ought to arm ourselves against these with a clear understanding of the doctrine of grace and a correct view of saving faith. Otherwise we shall by leaving people in bondage, or with false hopes.
3 That We May Observe The Soul-Winning Methods Described Therein
There is no better textbook on soul-winning that the Bible. All we can hope to do in a formal course is to arrange some of the vast amount of Biblical material in systematized form, but this will never take the place of the Bible itself, with the Holy Spirit as teacher. Especially should we examine the work of our Lord and of the apostles in their dealings with individuals. In a later lesson we shall take up a few of the incidents which are particularly helpful in this sphere, but the student should regard these only as examples.
4 To Have Appropriate Scriptures Ready For Use
The great variety of problems which we shall face in the work of soul-winning require them and involve memorization. Memorizing Scripture effectively cannot be accomplished by occasional spurts, but is a matter of consistent, dogged keeping at it, and continual review. The card system is as good as any I know. I suggest that one seeking to engage in this work secure a supply of small cards with a hole punched near one end, and a key ring on which to carry them. He should not attempt to memorize many verses at a time. Begin with one, writing the text on one side of the card and the reference on the other side. Put this card on your key ring, learn it with complete accuracy and until the reference and the text are so married in you mind that you cannot think of the one without the other. When you have so learned one text, engage in the same process with a second. Now you have two texts on your ring. You do not neglect the first, but you continually review it so that the new one will not crowd out the old one. When these two are memorized so that there is no confusion and no mistakes in the reciting, you are ready for a third, and so on.
The question is: What texts will you learn? Later lessons will take up the various types with whom you will have to deal. Begin with one verse that is suggested in connection with the first group of people, then one of the texts suggested for the second group of people, and so on until you have on your ring, and in your mind and heart, one verse for each of the types described. This being done, get a second verse for the first type, and a second verse for the second type, and so on through the list. If you are ambitious you may go through a third time, thus adding to your store. It is wonderful how many verses, with their references, you will have at command in a short time: but keep in mind these principles: (1) do not attempt more than one verse at a time; (2) learn each one thoroughly before proceeding to the next; (3) keep reviewing.
B Study The Objections Of Sinners
No branch of an army is more important than the intelligence service, whose duty is to find out all it can about the enemy-his manpower and how it is deployed, the extent and whereabouts of his supplies, his defenses and his plans for offense. What resistance to assault can he muster at this point and that? What plans does he have for aggressive action? Everything which can be known in all these spheres is of priceless value.
If we, then, are going to assail the ramparts of the human soul for Christ, we had better have our intelligence service in operation, to know what resistance we are likely to meet. Only then can we have the appropriate weapons in readiness.
1 The Method Of The Apostle Paul
Have you noticed how Paul the apostle anticipated objections to his doctrines of grace, and prepared his artillery against them? We shall mention only a few as samples:
The apostle has been arguing that Jews who break the law are rejected, while Gentiles who keep the righteousness of the law are accepted, for it is not a mark in the flesh which makes a true Jew, but a contrite and humble heart. Then he anticipates the objection that in such case the Jew has no advantage, and he answers by showing that their being entrusted with the Holy Scriptures has given them a place of great advantage.
Again, he has shown that whatever man does, God shall be vindicated. Even our unrighteousness will turn to the glory of God, for He will be found just and true in His judgments. Immediately the apostle foresees an objection: “Then God is unrighteous to condemn men whose acts only add to the luster of His righteousness. Is it not after all a good thing to sin, seeing that good will come from it-the good of God being justified?” The apostolic answer is satisfied with reminding us that actually it is in the judgment of sin, not in the mere contrast between man’s sin and God’s goodness, that God is vindicated and glorified. If God did not judge sin, He Himself would stand condemned. This, of course, is unthinkable.
In his great declaration of salvation by grace, Paul rises to a climax in the statement: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” He sees that the natural heart will raise an objection to that, so he introduces it in the form of a question: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” The answer is given in the succeeding verses, which reveal that grace is not license to sin, since by the cross we are made dead to sin.
A similar problem arises in connection with Paul’s doctrine of our emancipation from the bondage of the law. “We are not under the law, but under grace,” he exclaims. In full expectation that such a position will be challenged, he himself raises the objection in the form of a question: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?” The answer is interesting. Paul declares that the issue rests on the question of whose servants we are. The servants of sin will go on sinning. The servants of righteousness practice righteousness. Since, then, we have been emancipated from the bonds of sin, we no longer serve sin, but have been bound over to a higher, nobler service, that of righteousness.
The apostle answers other anticipated objections to his teaching concerning the place of the law in the history of sin, his doctrine of sovereign election, and his statements concerning the unbelief of Israel.” For our present purpose, however, we are not so much concerned with Paul’s answers to specific questions, as with the principle of anticipating objections and having answers ready. He has given us an example in this respect. We ought, therefore, to arm ourselves with arrows in our quiver for every foreseeable occasion.
2 The Bible Has The Answers
We need hardly say, except for emphasis, that the best answer is the Word of God. Most people, even unbelievers, have a respect for the Bible, and what it says carries more weight than any argument which we can muster. But what about the objector who keeps firing back, “You are quoting the Bible, and I don’t believe the Bible”? It is not man’s belief or unbelief that makes the Word of God “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”11 It is that because it is the Word of God, and will pierce the unbelief of the objector more effectively than human persuasion. So, in any case, an answer from God is always best. That means, then, that as we study the objections of sinners, we bring them to the Holy Scriptures for reply.
C Study The Work Of Other Soul-Winners
1 To Keep The Fire Burning
There is so much in this world to cool our ardor, in addition to the natural inconsistency of our own heart, that we need all the stimulus and encouragement available. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to this end, but He also uses the experiences of others. To read of their conflicts and conquests, their determination and their successes, often revives our flagging spirit. I doubt if a true child of God can read a report of soul-winning without stirrings of heart. Sometimes there will be self-judgment for neglected opportunities, sometimes a longing for a deeper and truer passion for souls, sometimes an incentive to more diligent application. In some way the fire will burn more brightly, more warmly.
2 To Improve Our Technique
None of us has attained yet to the ultimate of efficiency in this work. What others have done, what approaches they have used, how they have applied the Scriptures to new and difficult situations, the errors in methods which they have discovered and corrected-these are all items of importance to every seeker after souls. Admittedly method is not the factor of first importance, but it is important, and can play a large part in determining our success or failure.
The literature in this field is so vast that an exhaustive bibliography would be impractical if it were available. Of more value to the student is a careful selection of books that will provide both inspiration and practical help. Such a selection I have attempted to give in the Bibliography.
D Study The False Cults
False cults are so multiplied today that to master them all would exhaust a lifetime, and prove to be of limited value. However, with a thorough grounding in the Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Scripture, one can very quickly discern the basic errors of the spurious religious systems which abound. While each has its own distinctive features, there are fundamental fallacies in them all. There are also features common to groups of them enabling one to classify them. In most eases, the errors of modern cults are not new, but old ones revived.
These facts make it unnecessary for the average soul-winner to spend too much time delving into the cults, time which could be more profitably spent in active witnessing. It may be required of some to make such study a special ministry in order to put into the hands of Christians in general a concise definition of the errors met with. This will arm the soul-winner with a knowledge of those features in the more common cults which are contrary to the Gospel, and enable him to bring the Scripture [of truth] to bear on these specific errors. A work which in my opinion does this very effectively is The Chaos of Cults, by J. K. VanBaalen.
A later lesson deals with the false cults.
1 Prayer To Keep The Heart In Tune
Without prayer, difficulties rooted in ourselves-our luke-warmness, our spasmodic disposition, our un-preparedness, our fear, our thoughtlessness or our over caution-will become insuperable, and we shall find ourselves totally unfitted for the sacred task. But prayer will maintain contact with those divine resources which keep us in readiness, “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Vigilance in prayer will fortify us against temptation to indulgences which weaken the fiber of the soul and make us unfit for high endeavor.
2 Prayer Is Part-A Large Part-Of Our Warfare Against The Powers Of Darkness
The apostle Paul, after describing the items of our armor in the fight against forces of evil, adds this as a necessary complement, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance. The emphasis here indicates the importance of prayer in this spiritual warfare, for, as we have already seen, soul-winning is a warfare.
We have a remarkable example of spiritual triumph through prayer in the life of Daniel. As he went to prayer, he was conscious of a deep depression of spirit, which caused him to continue in prayer, wrestling in sorrow and perplexity for three weeks, during which time he sustained life by the plainest and most meager diet. As he says: “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all.” At the end of the three weeks he was physically exhausted and emaciated, but he had prayed through to victory and was only then acquainted with the nature of the conflict which had been so intense in his own soul. The powers of darkness, represented by a spirit being described as “the prince of the kingdom of Perisa,” had fought the angel sent to minister divine truth to Daniel, until Michael came to his assistance.” It is a mysterious passage, but it indicates the reality of spiritual warfare and the place of prayer in that warfare. The hosts of Hell are interested in this work of soul-winning, to oppose it with all the power and cunning at their command. Our only answer is prayer, what John Bunyan calls the weapon of All-prayer.
3 Prayer Secures The Guidance Of The Holy Spirit
This is a necessary provision in personal evangelism. Many have been brought into real bondage in the matter of witnessing to others, believing that they should deal with all whom they meet regarding the salvation of their soul, and being terribly discouraged when they failed to do so. Now it is true that we must regard all whom we meet as potential recipients of our witness, but not apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Taylor Smith’s counsel to soulwinners was that they should never speak unless the Holy Spirit opened the way naturally.” Such leading is the privileges of every Christian, but it is the portion only of those who immerse their daily life in prayer.
4 Prayer Assures The Activity Of The Holy Spirit In The Heart Of The One Approached
We must remember always that it is not our wise approach, or our skillful instruction, or our earnest appeals that will win men to Christ. Important as all these are, they are but the highway of the Holy Spirit’s approach. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” The account of the conversion of Lydia is given in these words: “whose heart the Lord opened.” Now the Lord works in answer to prayer. We are just as true evangelists when we are praying for the souls of men as when we declare the Gospel to them. And it is certain that we are not as liable to false steps in praying for men as in speaking to men. Moreover, we should make fewer false steps if we prayed more and knew more of the Spirit’s workings in men’s hearts. This is the primary emphasis in L. S. Chafer’s great work, True Evangelism, which should be read by all who desire to be winners of souls.
Here, then, are four good reasons for making prayer a large part of our preparation for soul-winning: to keep our own hearts in tune, to wage effective warfare against the adversary, to secure the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to know the co-operating work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those to whom we witness.
This article “Preparing For Personal Evangelism” written by J. C. MacAulay is excerpted from Personal Evangelism written by J. C. MacAulay lesson 11.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”