Reaching the People
Human creatures are all of a common family. Nationality does not alter this fact. They each have the same foes within and without. All are born in sin, and all need the Saviour. These are some of the thoughts which run through my mind when I arrive in a city to begin evangelistic work. How shall I reach these people? Building on past experience and studying local conditions, I make my plans.
Finding a certain city a place where religious sentiment is strong, I am guarded lest I unduly arouse prejudice. I advertise and announce subjects in harmony with the prevailing spirit. In my opening addresses I endeavor to work in something concerning the grand work of the Reformers, the Wesleys, John Knox, Calvin, etc., thus leading the people to see that I aM orthodox; for I believe that of all people we are most in harmony with the Reformers and denominational founders.
People appreciate a charitable spirit, and we are in harmony with the Saviour in exercising great care in this respect. The disciples wished to rebuke the Samaritans for their treatment of Christ, but such a harsh spirit was foreign to Jesus. Those who did not labor as they were instructed were forbidden by the disciples to do any work. But Jesus said, "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us." Luke 9:50.
"Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," is the advice of the Master Evangelist. If we would obey this word, we might look for greater success. Instead of seeing how far away we can get from the beliefs of the people, we are to make our appeal as near to their preconceived ideas as we can legitimately go, and to deal with them as gently as possible. We must avoid shocking the minds of the people, especially with our introductory subjects, and follow rather the example of Jesus, who spoke the word to His audiences "as they were ready to hear it I have found it an advantage in beginning an effort in a religious center, to give one or two addresses of a timely evangelical nature, in which the beauty of the Saviour's character, and the greatness of His sacrifice on the cross, are emphasized and re-emphasized. This knocks away the foundation of later vituperations of the usual type.
When Jesus began preaching the gospel of the kingdom, He did not immediately unveil the real meaning of the terms He used. He wished first to establish the fact clearly in the minds of His hearers that the kingdom was at hand. Again and again He preached on this theme, and commanded the disciples to go around Palestine with the same wonderful good news, before He finally unfolded to them the deeper significance behind His messages. Nor did those who heard Him at first, even among His closest friends, dream of the events that were included in His inaugural addresses, but which lay beyond their understanding at that time. Jesus veiled the sterner facts until their minds were ready to receive the additional features which would call for greater vigilance and sacrifice on their part.
Even in the study of the Bible the Holy Spirit gives additional light as we grow stronger. How many of us who have been studying "present truth" for many years really understood the great depths in the mine of truth when we first began to study? Even in the familiar phraseology we learned on our first acceptance of the message, we now see a deeper meaning than our minds conceived then. We cannot force a larger vessel into a smaller. Neither must we try to force great truths upon diminutive receivers. We must so present the message that the mind will open naturally to receive the instruction.
To illustrate: It is becoming more or less common to speak of the second advent. But what is the popular conception of this momentous event?—A hazy indefiniteness which must make angels weep. Right here we must exercise all the caution possible. No missionary would think of landing on a heathen island, and rushing up to the first idol he saw and smashing it. He must use discretion and tact, leading the people along carefully step by step if he eventually and effectively abolishes idol worship. So must we in the presentation of the points of the message.
I seek to establish the positive nearness of the Saviour's return by many up-to-the-minute evidences before I think of speaking on how He will come. To many people it is almost a test of faith to accept the truth of the manner of Jesus' coming, especially when it means a rejection of well-established theories. The subjects, "How Will Christ Come?" and "The Millennium," constitute testing truths to many, and I do not usually give them until other themes have been presented.
When I preach on Daniel 2 early in a series of addresses, I make the certainty of the establishment of the kingdom, and the nearness of that event, stand out, but do not emphasize the dramatic results of that coming. Such consideration I leave till minds have been prepared by subsequent studies. So, too, I do not dwell on the destruction of the wicked, for the time at my disposal is too limited to do justice to this theme and to the unveiling of error, but defer such consideration to a later day. Thus I try to keep in the background as long as possible some of these truths until the minds of the people have been prepared to hear them, meanwhile improving every opportunity to make friends of as many of the visitors as possible.
Were I to begin operations in a rough mining or industrial center, where religion was little considered, my plan would be in introductory meetings to awaken interest in a series of proofs on the inspiration of the Bible, such as archeology and the Bible, astronomy, war topics, etc. I am not in favor of holding back any of the distinctive truths that have made us a peculiar people with a "come out" message; but I believe we should follow the example of Jesus, and give as the people are able to hear.
Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
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