The Small Effort Essential

Two mistaken concepts are reacting un­favorably against the holding of small evangelistic efforts.

By J. L. SHULER, Southern Union Evangelist

Two mistaken concepts are reacting un­favorably against the holding of small evangelistic efforts. First, there is a growing tendency to regard evangelism as work for a few specialists, who apparently have been en­dowed with a special gift for winning souls to the Lord. This is a wrong concept. The great commission, as recorded in Matthew 28:19, 20, reveals evangelism to be the work that Jesus Christ assigned to all His followers, and it is the only work that He assigned to them.

John Wesley once said to his preachers: "Your business is not to preach so many times, and to take care of this and that society, but to save as many souls as you can." It is by winning souls that the preacher furnishes the full proof of his ministry. This is what Paul evidently meant when he admonished Timothy, a pastor: "Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." The apostle was not advising Timothy to leave the churches placed under his care, and to travel into new fields to hold evangelistic meetings. But he was advising him to make his pastoral work evangelistic. He was to win souls in these churches while caring for them as their pastor. A pastor can make full proof of his ministry only as he is a soul winner.

Second, there is an ever-increasing trend to­ward the holding of big efforts. Let nci minister conclude in his own mind that if he cannot hold efforts which involve the spending of plenty of money and the help of a large corps of helpers, there is no use for him to do anything. Let us forever keep such reasoning as this out of our minds. Every man should do what he can to win souls wherever he may be. As a rule, men are entrusted with large ef­forts only as they show themselves successful in small efforts. The way into larger evangelism is usually by the route of faithfulness and fruitfulness in small efforts. If we cannot preach the message in Symphony Hall or some other mammoth auditorium, we can preach it in a schoolhouse. We can always conduct cottage meetings and community Bible schools. I verily believe that the minister who wilt con­duct three or four community Bible schools—in each of which forty or fifty people are en­rolled and taken through the course of sys­tematic study in this message—will baptize as many converts as are baptized from the aver­age public effort, and perhaps more.

We must remember that success in evan­gelism is not something that pertains only to a large effort which brings in several hundred souls. I hold that the young intern evangelist who can go into a new town 'here there are no members and raise up a new church of twenty or twenty-five, is holding ari effort which is just as successful in its. sphere as th-at of a city evangelist who brings in seventy-five or a hundred from a city effort where there is a large church.

In a large city church there are always menon the border line who can be :gathered in quite easily. Then there are the children and young people of Adventist families Who can be gathered in. A church of three hundred to five hundred members ought to have a normal growth of twenty-five or thirty new members a year from the Sabbath school and church school and souls won by the laity, without the pastor's holding any special evangelistic effort. Heaven is interested in the small effort. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and the foolish things of the world to confuse the wise. It is written large all through the Book of God that if you will take what you have at hand and use it for God, the Lord will give the victory. When Moses was called to lead a forward movement in God's work, he was somewhat hesitant about launching out. But God said, "What is that in thine hand?" It was just a rod or stick taken from the bushes by the wayside in the wilderness of Midian. But God took what Moses had, and as he yielded himself to God, this rod was used to open the way for the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of heathen darkness.

Gideon took an army of only three hundred men, without weapons, with nothing but pitch­ers and, burning torches, and routed a vast host of the enemy. Sampson took the jawbone of a beast of burden and slew a thousand of the foe. Ordinarily, none would choose that kind of instrument as a weapon of war. But he took what was at hand. A young lad named David overcame the great giant Goliath by using what he had—a sling and a few smooth stones.

Christ held a small effort at Jacob's well in Samaria with a fallen woman as His only hearer. But look at the great number of con­versions that came from that small effort. A preacher in England had just one boy for his audience one rainy Sunday. He preached as earnestly as if there had been an audience of five hundred. That boy became the great Charles H. Spurgeon. Do small efforts pay? These illustrations all prove the value of the small effort. Do not wait until you can hold a large effort, but do what you can where you are with what you have in hand.

Nearly all divine programs have begun in a small way. The kingdom of heaven is com­pared to a mustard seed and not to a coconut. The evangelist in a small effort has the ad­vantage of being able to do a more thorough work for his converts than the evangelist could possibly do in a large effort where he is dealing with such large numbers. So the losses from small, efforts will be and should be of smaller percentage than those from large efforts. Let us hold more small efforts. A few may hold large efforts, but let all the rest be holding what efforts they can wherever they may be.

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By J. L. SHULER, Southern Union Evangelist

April 1939

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