The matter of leading our church members into evangelistic activity is one that presents a mighty challenge to every minister and worker in the cause of God. I firmly believe that the speed at which we shall finish the work of God upon this earth depends to a large extent on how we relate ourselves to this problem.
The church was called into being for no other purpose than to evangelize. The command is clear : "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." But how few there are who properly understand the full import of that commission. It is so often supposed that this is an appeal to enter the ministry, and especially to go as a missionary. I think it is true to say, without exaggeration, that the vast majority of Christians have never dreamed that it is a personal, individual command to every child of God to go into his own personal world and be a soul-winning witness to every creature.
It is through failure to realize this that many say, "If we cannot go, we can send someone in our place." But nowhere are we given this option. It is only God who can send. We are commanded to do one thing only, and that is go.
How can the work be finished in this generation? It can never be done if it is left to what we term "the ministry" only. Bishop Thoburn has said : "If Christ had started on the day of His baptism to preach in the villages of India and had continued to the present, visiting one village each day, healing the sick and proclaiming the gospel, He would still have left unvisited 3,000 villages in India."
Our people need to be educated more and more to understand the real meaning of evangelism, and their place in it. It is generally believed that evangelism consists principally of formal public gospel preaching in a meeting place where a congregation has been gathered by some form of invitation. But this is only one aspect of evangelism.
We have the illustration given us of what true evangelism really means in the experience of Pentecost. On that day the formal and public witnessing through the preaching of Peter came as a climax and culmination of that private and informal witnessing by the disciples after their enduement by the Holy Spirit. It is in the personal work that the way is prepared for the public work, and it is to this personal evangelism that every member is called.
There are two fundamentals that must be brought home to the heart of every believer. The first is the authority for every member to engage in evangelism. The second is the motive to do the work. The great commission is the authority, but it is not and cannot become a sufficient motive. The power to go does not lie in a command but in a person. It is Christ Himself who does the soul winning through the lives and lips of yielded disciples.
Most people have supposed that it was the powerful preaching of Sputgeon that resulted in the great numbers brought to Christ through his wonderful ministry. That is only part of the secret. For many years, we are told, more than three thousand of his members came forward in a church service, and solemnly pledging themselves, took his hand as a token that for another year they would together give themselves to the work for the lost. Wherever Spurgeon stood up to preach, there were in his congregation scores of unsaved people to whom his own members had been witnessing for Christ in their own homes. They had felt their need of salvation to be so great that they had come to the church services to have that demand satisfied. Like the sermon of Peter on the day of Pentecost, the sermons of Spurgeon were the climax of the witnessing to Christ that had preceded privately, and a wonderful fruitage resulted.
House-to-house work is the most effectual means of soulsaving for any worker for God. That great evangelist, the apostle Paul, worked in this way. In Acts 20:20 we read that he taught "publicly, and from house to house."
Such a conception of complete evangelism opens up before us wonderful opportunities. This is the only way to solve the problems that more than a thousand unwarned cities present to us in our own field. As we set to work, however, to answer the challenge presented to us, as we lead every member into evangelistic activity, we must work by a program. Merely to arouse purpose in the heart of every believer will not accomplish the task. A purpose may start us toward a task, and even get us to work on it, but we will not work very long without a program. We must work systematically. A hit-or-miss method is sure to defeat us.
We must first be systematic in the division of our field. Jesus has set the example. He divided the world into four districts and commanded the disciples to bear the message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. So we must divide the field in which we are located into districts, and systematically cover the whole with our message. We must be systematic in the division of our labor. The course of action must be well planned There can be nothing haphazard in doing the work of God.
The great problem of warning the world is before us. It demands our earnest, urgent attention. God give us wisdom as we apply ourselves to it.