Evangelism

John E. Todd, Chesterfield, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

The suggestions made in this article are concerned with evangelism not soul-winning. Both are equally important subjects, but must be distinguished in our thinking. Evangelism is telling people the good news of the Christian Gospel, and good evangelism is telling every one, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature", Mark 16. 15. Soul-winning is helping an individual to an experience of conversion by faith in Christ; good soul-winning is when the profession is genuine. Gospel activities taking place in the building where the local church meets provide ideal conditions for soul-winning; but these activities leave the problem of the unevangelized millions of our land untouched. Even revival does not solve the problem of evangelism. In the mid-nineteenth century when revival came to our own land, although people attended meetings in their hundreds of thousands, and their souls were won by the tens of thousands, nevertheless there was still the great task of evangelizing the millions who did not attend the meetings.

Many Christians have begun various types of evangelism and then given up the work because of the meagre results in terms of souls saved. This is another reason why we must distinguish between evangelism and soul-winning. Soul-winning is not the sole purpose of evangelism. The first reason for evangelism is to obey the Lord's command to tell the good news to every member of the human race, Matt. 28. 19; Mark 16. 15. The second reason is that every lost sinner has the right to hear the free salvation which God has pro­vided for him in Christ. So evangelism is a necessary work in its own right, irrespective of the results. In other words, the very fact that people are hearing the good news is itself successful evangelism, irrespective of what they do with that knowledge after they have received it. To realize these distinctions will save us from disappointment in evangelistic work.

The Great Problem of Evangelism is how are the

indifferent millions of our land to be reached? The Scriptures not only give the message to be carried to them, but also the method by which it is to be carried. The first step is to "Go", Matthew 28. 19; Mark 16. 15. We cannot wait for them to come and hear the gospel; time is too short for waiting. We cannot pray them in; the buildings would not be large enough to hold them. We are commanded by the Lord himself to go to them, to carry the gospel to where they are. But where are we to go? The Scriptures tell us, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ", Acts 5. 42. The apostle Paul said, "from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ", 20. 20-21.

If we consider this carefully, we shall realize that this is the only way to reach every one, by bringing the gospel to each and every home. It is the one place every one visits, at least from time to time even in these days! There are a number of possible methods of evangelizing from house to house.

The "Letter-box" Method, namely to place the gospel tract or paper through the letter-box of every home in the district. A large number of homes can be reached in a short space of time. No experience or ability in personal conversa­tion is needed. The literature used can carry an invitation to the local Sunday School and Gospel meeting, also an offer of further literature for those who write for it. This information can be printed on the tracts and papers by means of a rubber stamp. Numerous tracts are available for this type of work.

The "Door-bell'* Method. This is to ring or knock at each door, handing over the tract or paper with a personal word of introduction. A word such as this, "We are distributing Christian literature in the district, with an invitation to our services at 'Such-and-such' chapel or hall". This can open up a personal conversation on spiritual matters. Interested contacts can be revisited. This method is much slower than the first, but it is deeper. A certain ability is needed to pursue a helpful conversation with the householder. No place here for the short-tempered or the argumentative! The Christian worker using this method can further arm himself with gospel booklets for those who are really interested.

The "Regular" Method. An initial visit is made to each home with a free copy of the chosen magazine. A few days later a second visit is made to ask if they would like to take the paper each month. For those who do (and as many as one in five may want to) then the paper is delivered each month. Whether the monthly paper is given away or sold is for the distributors to decide. Alternatively, the regular method can be carried out with a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly duplicated assembly newsletter. This would contain invita­tions both to the weekly and special meetings. Or more ambitiously, a printed leaflet could be published at regular intervals containing a gospel message as well as an invitation to the meetings. If more than one assembly uses a similar leaflet with the same gospel message, it would reduce printing costs.

But to engage in this regular monthly distribution requires gifts that seem rather rare. The worker must have the initiative and conscientiousness to deliver the paper regularly at the beginning of the month (remember secular newsagents deliver monthly magazines at the beginning not the end of the month). And to do this month after month, year after year, without the aid of a taskmaster! Erratic and irregular distribution will create a bad reputation in the district. But such a work carried out faithfully over the years will bear fruit. The experience of our own assembly has been this. When people have been converted and children brought into the Sunday School by the various assembly activities, the majority have come from homes regularly visited with a gospel paper. It seems that the Holy Spirit can use this ministry as a background for His own ministry.

The "Colportage" Method, namely, to go from house to house with the purpose of selling the Scriptures and suitable gospel books. The writer of this paper has no practical experi­ence of this particular method, but we all know of those, full-time and part-time, who witness to the fruitfulness of this work.

Nothing that has been said so far is new. Indeed, it was all summed up many years ago by Mr. W. E. Vine, "House to house visitation! That is what tells. Here lies a secret of effective gospel effort. More converts are obtained, more solid church building done, by this means than by any other. Today the house-to-house visitation and conversation method is backed up by a constant and abundant supply of literature". {The Divine Plan of Missions). But perhaps the following will be new to some.

Two Closing Suggestions. Firstly, if every local church with a zeal for evangelical work undertook door to door work, then our own generation can be evangelized. It can be done with the materials ready to hand. There is no need for new organisations or new methods. All that is needed is the will, the literature and a strong pair of shoes.

Secondly, it should be done on a regular basis, "Daily . . . they ceased not", Acts 5. 42. The house to house evangelism should be as much a regular part of assembly activity as the Sunday School or Gospel meeting. Indeed, in the light of our Lord's command to "Go", is not failure to go from door to door with the gospel a failure in the witness of a local church? Many assemblies have done house to house work on a sporadic basis, but this paper is a plea that it should be done regularly. For this is the only way to reach a lost and disinterested generation with the good news which is specifically for them.

AUTHOR PROFILE: John has been constributing articles to assembly magazines since 1986. together with his wife he began work amongst children that led to establishment of the assembly. Now he serves the assembly as an elder and in the ministry of God's word.