A Guide To Personal Work
There has been a lamentable tendency to leave evangelism to the evangelist and to neglect personal witness. We believe that many who are awakening to the danger of this will welcome counsel from a personal worker. As a concession to his understandable sensibilities we have consented to withhold his name.
Soul winning is a great work, and personal work is one of the best ways of accomplishing this. But many find it hard to do, and therefore leave it undone. If every Christian became a personal worker we believe the face of the world would soon be changed. There are thousands who would gladly do this if they only had a better grasp of how to proceed, while many who are doing it would do it far better if they had clearer guidance, and this, it is the writer's desire to give.
There was a time when he found it to be one of the hardest things of his life, but after making a study of the work and following certain principles, he found it a great joy, and therefore, wishes to pass on to others some of his experience.
First, Do not make a point of speaking to everyone, or it will soon become a burden and you will find yourself avoided by those you meet; be Spirit guided. Even here there is a danger of waiting until God so lays it on one’s heart that one cannot refrain. This often means it is not done at all. Let us practice responding to the inward promptings of the Spirit at once, and soon we shall learn His voice.
A friend once told me that he had it much laid on his heart to speak to a certain man who was standing nearby, but he deliberately refused, saying to himself, “I know too much about him, he will only abuse me.” Then he had a long conversation with a young man who was anxious, but having grieved the Holy Spirit, he was powerless to help him. The next day when only a few feet from the man to whom he had refused to speak, he had the unpleasant experience of hearing him fall to the ground; on reaching him he found the man was dead, and he had the task of helping to carry away his body. The same evening he was led to cross the street to speak to a well-dressed gentleman and, remembering his experience of the previous night, he ventured to obey, and to his joy found him in deep soul trouble, and was able to lead him into peace.
It is also extremely important to be courteous; nothing will be gained otherwise, because we shall be disobeying the commandment of God—” Be courteous “—and thereby grieve the Spirit. It will also annoy rather than win the hearer. This covers much ground and it is advisable not to speak to such except in a natural way, that is, bring the spiritual into the ordinary conversation, as the Lord constantly did. Again, better do so with the person alone, people do not care to open up in front of others. Seek to gain people's confidence first by acts of kindness or words of sympathy; the world is full of sorrow and kindly words are never out of place. Finally, do not assume a superior position. Above all, do not sit in judgment. The writer has found it to be far wiser to assume, for purposes of conversation, that the one to whom he is speaking is a Christian. It gives confidence and hearts are opened which would otherwise be closed.
Often the mistake is made by saying too much. One word kindly and fitly spoken is worth far more than much talk.
A young lady, after being baptised, said to the writer, “I was brought to the Lord simply by your saying to me, ‘I am praying for you.’ I there and then decided if that were so, it was time I prayed for myself, and I did.”
To waste time arguing is useless, better give them the Word of God and let Him drive it home. A man who was arguing with a Roman Catholic, at last gave up in despair. Another quietly said, “Look, God’s Word says, ‘He that hath the Son hath life,’ now, have you the Son?” The Roman Catholic replied, “No, I have not, but I wish I had.” Then said the other, “Get on your knees then and tell Him so”; he did there and then, and was saved.
The aim should always be to find the state of the person to whom we speak, and it is imperative to start with conviction of sin; if this is lacking, the whole structure will fall because there is no foundation. Then repentance, which is a change of mind, leading to a change of affection, that manifests itself in a change of action, and it is not until the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the goodness of God is realised that repentance will lay the foundation for faith. As long as they refuse to repent they will not believe (Matt. 21. 32).
To press people is fatal. Let the Word of God do its work; there must be sowing before reaping. Pressure only tends to place people on a false foundation, whereas a steady going on with God will be rewarded by Him, and we shall not be disappointed by unreal cases, such as is inevitable when undue pressure is brought to bear.
How many of us Would have acted as our Lord did in the case of the rich young ruler. He allowed him to leave while under conviction of sin. He did not even present “faith” to him, but only “law,” then left him to learn his titter helplessness to get eternal life by works. How wise He was!
We cannot do better than close with an illustration from the life of the Lord in John 4. How did He do this piece of personal work? First, He honoured the woman at the well by appealing to her generosity—“Give Me to drink.” Then, to her curiosity—“If thou knewest.” Next, to her soul's deep longing—“Shall never thirst.” Now, her conscience—“Go call thy husband.” Finally, He leads her to Himself—“I that speak unto thee am He.” How great His wisdom and how perfect His example! May He help us to do likewise.