Conclusions on any subject are largely determined by individual point of contact. It is alleged that seven blind men attempted to describe an elephant. One of them, bumping into the side of the great beast, said, " Here is a creature resembling a wall." Another, feeling the elephant's trunk, likened the elephant to a serpent. Another, touching a tusk, announced that the animal resembled a spear. And still another, grasping the ear, compared the elephant to a large leaf. The man who got hold of the tail, thought the elephant was like a rope, while he who embraced the elephant's leg thought it resembled a tree, and he who crawled over his back declared that an elephant resembled a hill. The seven different comparisons were the natural result of seven different points of contact.
In considering this most important subject — how to conduct a successful evangelistic effort — as it relates to workmen commissioned of God to deliver His last message to every kindred, tongue, and nation, it will be expected that different men will lay stress on different essentials to success, according to the individual point of view. A mutual exchange of views should therefore be helpful. What I have to say is suggestive, rather than dogmatic. Every individual evangelist has been endowed by the Creator with his own special gift, and has developed his own personality. To attempt to require one minister to work according to some other minister's plans would be as inappropriate and as distasteful to the worker as was Saul's attempt to place his suit of armor on young David in preparation for the encounter with the Philistine champion. But, on the other hand, a setting forth of certain principles which, by experience, have been proved to be essential to success, will be profitable to every worker.
In the first place, let us make sure as to the fundamental purpose of an evangelistic effort. Is it to secure an audience for a sufficient period of time to enable us to deliver a series of sermons to explain the message of Revelation fourteen? Is the purpose of an evangelistic effort to add a number of people to the church? We may answer this threefold inquiry by asserting with the utmost confidence that the gathering of an audience, the preaching of the message of Revelation fourteen, and the adding of people to the church are necessary features of a successful evangelistic effort, but not one of these, or all of them combined, constitute the fundamental purpose of evangelism. What is the basic purpose of an evangelistic effort? It is to save souls for the kingdom of God. Aside from this, there never would have been any evangelistic effort in this world.
Some may feel inclined to say, "Why spend time on such a commonplace point as that, when it is results that we are after anyway? " Because first things must come first, if we would advance on right lines. If the foundation is not secure, the. superstructure cannot stand. The fact as to whether a man is working merely to gather an audience for a few weeks in order to add a number of members to the church, or whether he is really working in the Spirit of Jesus Christ to save souls for the kingdom of God, will make a tremendous difference in the how and the what of his preaching during the evangelistic effort. This is a matter which will also influence his conduct, his method of doing personal work, his carefulness in preparing the people for baptism and admission to the church, and in diligent educating, training, and guiding the converts into all that pertains to the Christian life under the third angel's message.
This fundamental purpose the saving of souls for the kingdom, must be ingrained by the Spirit of God in the evangelist's heart, and never for a moment be lost sight of. This must be the controlling factor in all preparation and preaching of sermons, in the prayers, the personal work, and in everything connected with the effort. Let the great purpose of the apostle Paul be uppermost in the mind and heart of the evangelist, as stated in the Corinthian letter: " Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." 1 Cor. 10: 32, 33.
The real heart adoption of this basic principle of evangelism would automatically eliminate from our ranks those cheap, coarse, grandstand, claptrap, theatrical, sensational, and superficial methods which are so objectionable. Until the minister gets a clear idea of this fundamental principle, and builds everything in proper relation thereto, he will not and cannot have that true success which God requires of His workmen.
Among the factors essential for successful evangelistic effort, eleven points stand out prominently, any one of which could be elaborated to considerable length, but for lack of space we must deal with each point briefly:
1. Consecration.—The nearer we live to God, the more we shall accomplish for our fellow men. The closer we live to Jesus, the better we shall know how to come close to men in that heart-to-heart work which counts more than anything else. The evangelist must reveal that the truth has gripped his own heart if he would cause others to be gripped by it. He must have Christ enthroned within, and Christ revealed through him, if he would really lead people to the Saviour. He must be a Spirit-filled messenger in order for the message to have compelling power leading to lasting decision. " The Saviour knew that no argument, however logical, would melt hard hearts, or break through the crust of worldliness and selfishness. He knew that His disciples must receive the heavenly endowment; that the gospel would be effective only as it was proclaimed by hearts made warm and lips made eloquent by a living knowledge of Him who is the way, the truth, and the life." —" The Acts of the Apostles," p. 31.
The crying need of the hour is for men who are thoroughly converted and can teach others how to give their hearts to God. When the minister has the right experience himself, then he can teach transgressors God's way, and sinners will be converted. (See Ps. 51: 10-13.) When we abide in Christ and He abides in us, we will bring forth "much fruit," and the fruit will remain. (See John 15: 5, 16.)
The Lord has sent us definite instruction: " The measure of capacity or learning is of far less consequence than is the spirit with which you engage in the work. It is not great and learned men that the ministry needs; it is not eloquent sermonizers. . . . The Lord has need of men of intense spiritual life." — " Gospel Workers," pp. 63, 64. We are also told what determines the degree of success of the worker for God: " His success will be proportionate to the degree of consecration and self-sacrifice in which his work, is done, rather than to either natural or acquired endowments."—Id., p. 70. We are used of God in exact proportion to our consecration. Every worker determines his own degree of success by the degree of consecration he maintains toward his God. The prime essential for success in an evangelistic effort is consecration-- first, last, and all the time.
2. Enthusiasm, Perseverance, Energy, and Willingness.—" In proportion to the enthusiasm and perseverance with which the work is carried forward, will be the success given." " Success depends not so much on talent as on energy and willingness."—"Prophets and Kings," pp. 263, 219.
3. Cooperation.— Another essential to success in an evangelistic effort is the active, whole-hearted, united cooperation of consecrated workers in the company. The number of workers must naturally be governed by the size of the projected effort and the financial ability of the conference. A true-hearted, consecrated evangelist will cheerfully accept and do his best with whatever the conference can provide in the way of means, equipment, and helpers. There should be a daily meeting of the workers for counsel and prayer. If there is an organized church in the city in which the effort is to be held, the first work of the evangelist is to train the whole church for co-operative effort. (See " Gospel Workers," p. 196.) The most talented preacher should ever bear in mind that " the humblest workers, in co-operation with Christ, may touch chords whose vibrations shall ring to the ends of the earth, and make melody throughout eternal ages."—" The Ministry of Healing," p. 159.
4. Prayer.— To Elijah the Lord said, " Go, hide thyself." And later He said, " Go, show thyself." As Elijah is a prototype of the messengers of the advent movement, we may learn from the twofold nature of his divine call that he who does not first hide himself in the secret place alone with God, is not fitted to show himself in the public place of mingling with men. Through the spirit of prophecy we are admonished that " God's messengers must tarry long with Him, if they would have success in their work." " Those who teach and preach the most effectively are those who wait humbly upon God, and watch hungrily for His guidance and grace."—" Gospel Workers," pages 255, 257.
"Whitefield's unparalleled success in evangelistic labors," we are told, " was plainly traceable to two causes, and could not be separated from them as direct effects; namely, his unusual prayerfulness, and his habit of reading the Bible on his knees." Effectual prayer is indispensable to success in evangelistic endeavor. There may be a seeming success without it, but it will turn out to be only seeming. True success in winning souls, which is broad and enduring, cannot be obtained without prevailing prayer.
Let all workers connected with an effort unite their prayers in asking that God will use the effort to reach honest souls. " The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.", 2 Chron. 16: 9. And as Peter was guided to Cornelius, and Philip to the Ethiopian treasurer, who were ready to receive the gospel, so today angels will guide our footsteps to the honest in heart, if we will permit the Holy Spirit to sanctify, refine, and ennoble our hearts. (See " The Acts of the Apostles," p. 109.)
(To be continued)