The greatest word in the minister's vocabulary is evangelism. This is true because the world needs salvation more than it needs anything else. Evangelism is actually fitting the gospel of Christ to the spiritual hunger and need of every human being. Evangelism is a living flame of truth. It is combustible, charging men with a message which has in it dynamic gospel power. It is not just rhetorical, pulpit preaching. Whenever the evangelist speaks, his words must burn into the human heart.
The message of the Master to His disciples during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension was: "Go . . . preach. ... Ye shall receive power."
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15.
"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
"And when he had spoken these things, ... he was taken up." Verse 9.
There are many worthy pursuits in life, but for the minister there is one which is supreme in the heart of God and of utmost importance to the whole church the preaching of the good news of salvation from sin. The salvation of the lost is God's great assignment to His chosen ministers. The salvation of the lost cost our heavenly Father more and requires more from man than any other achievement in all human history. In order to bring the world into existence, God had only to speak a word; but to save men from sin, He had to permit the crucifixion of His only-begotten Son. This program of evangelism required on God's part all the power of heaven, and demands from the evangelist all his life, strength, love, and energy.
Our world today is suffering from sin- sickness sick with sin, hate, tyranny, intrigue, corruption in high places, and exploitation of others. Everywhere men are unsettled and unhappy. It is into this kind of world that more than twenty new babies will be born during the time it takes you to read just this one sentence. Our population is increasing by 10,000 births every hour, about 233,000 each day. Allowing for every death, there will be 25,000,000 more people by this time next year.
In reducing the problem to one country, let us take the United States for example. Here every single day 3,961 people die, and 8,000 living ones reach the age of account ability. A gigantic task yes! Impossible no! Impossible by the human ministry alone, but thank God for His assurance that "he [God] will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." Rom. 9:28.
What an opportunity for evangelism, my brethren! Spirit-filled, God-empowered evangelistic preaching! Let us take courage, let us have faith, and let us say with Rupert Brooke, "God be thanked, who matched us with this hour!"
Souls! Souls! Souls! should be our cry in this hour. With hearts aflame we must now proclaim this message everywhere. There is no other message like ours. No other people have ever attempted to preach the full prophetic message that will make men ready to meet the Lord. Entrusted with this message, our evangelists should be the strongest, most powerful preachers the world has ever known. Our preaching should now shake the world!
How Can We Meet This Challenge?
At the last General Conference session in San Francisco our beloved colleague, H. M. S. Richards, said, "Our greatest need for the task today is a converted ministry." This, my fellow minister, is the first essential. Jesus said to the apostle Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." In order to bring others to Christ, the evangelist must know conversion by experience. He must himself renounce sin. That includes all selfishness and worldliness, permitting the Lord Jesus Christ to have absolute lordship over his thoughts, purposes, and actions of life.
The second great essential is love for souls. Without loving lost men all efforts for their salvation will become merely mechanical and eventually powerless. If we, like Paul, have "a great heaviness and un ceasing pain in our hearts" (German translation) for the unsaved, there will be in our tone and manner the kind of earnestness that will impress the most calloused sinner.
The third is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." This is the supreme condition of soul winning. The prophet Zechariah has expressed it perfectly when he said, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord." Zech. 4:6. There are no substitutes for this power! Eloquence and charm of speech and song may momentarily sweep a man off his feet, but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of soul and regeneration of life. This power is not given unless there is complete obedience to the divine will. Yes, even more than obedience we must know in our deepest spiritual nature a divine mastery. Christ delights -to give power to the life in which He has been glorified. In proportion as we care for the souls of men will we cry out from the depths of our own hearts for power to win them.
We have chosen to place a knowledge of the Bible as the fourth essential. The evangelist should be a master of the Word of God. It is the instrument to bring conviction of sin, to reveal Christ, and to regenerate man. One quotation from the Scriptures is better than a thousand words of mortal man. Quoting a text while seeking for a soul's decision will do more to bring that decision than any line of argument or reasoning that we might present.
Fifth comes prayer. Solid work in soul winning must be accompanied by prayer at every step. Truly, prayer is the evangelist's most glorious privilege, for it opens the door of communication with his divine Leader. Prayer opens doors, convicts of sin, and brings decisions. Far better than mere logic in argument is the suggestion to the prospective candidate for baptism to kneel in prayer, asking God for courage to take his stand for Jesus Christ and His teachings. Yes, there is great power in prayer? Prayer breaks down resistance and softens the most obstinate heart.
As a personal stimulant let the evangelist keep a prayer list. Write upon it the names of those for whom you are laboring in search of decisions. Someday God may say to you as He did to Hezekiah, "I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears." Isa. 38:5. Not that prayer changes God, for He is the unchanging one; but prayer will so change our lives that we will make everything secondary to the important task of leading souls to Jesus Christ.
Faith is the sixth and perhaps the mightiest lever of power for service. It made Moses the conqueror of Pharaoh, gave Joshua the power to cross Jordan, and stimulated Daniel as he stood before kings. With faith weaklings are made conquerors, and without it giants are reduced to pygmies. The apostle John expresses it well in these words: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even ,our faith." 1 John 5:4.
God's promise to give us the power of the Holy Spirit does not preclude the necessity for prayer and the exercise of faith. How do we receive the Holy Spirit? In exactly the same manner that we receive the forgiveness of sin. We read in Mark 11:22-24:
"Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. . . . Therefore I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
A German translation of this text renders it, "Whatsoever things ye desire, when you pray, believe as though you have already received them." Is that presumption? No. That is absolute faith.
But not least in the list of requirements for successful soul winning is a personal experience in the saving power of Jesus Christ. We must personally be able to look at Christ through the eyes of repentance and faith and know what it means to claim Him as Lord and Master. We must know the way of salvation if we are to lead others over that way. Indulgence in worldly pleasure is suicide to our influence in winning men to Christ. The harboring of secret sin is spiritual paralysis to the preacher. Those who bear the vessels of the Lord should be unstained by that which is unclean. We must not permit impure thinking or impure living to clog the channels of power from heaven. Our ministry must be pure, refined, purged by fire, clean, consecrated, dedicated to the task of saving the lost and preparing a people for eternal life.
A friend of mine in the insurance business in the city of St. Louis expressed it very well. He was telling me why he had chosen the slogan "Moon Insures Everything Under the Sun." The name of this agent was L. E. Moon. He said, "Whenever people think about insurance, I want them to think about L. E. Moon; and whenever they think about L. E. Moon, I want them to think about insurance."
Should it not be the same way with us evangelists? Whenever people think of our name they should think about the saving power of Jesus Christ in our ministry, and whenever they think of Christ they should think of our preaching, wherein Christ is so beautifully uplifted in every sermon.
"God of Elijah, hear our cry, Send the fire! To make us fit to live or die, Send the fire! To burn up every trace of sin, To let the light and glory in. This revolution now begin. Send the fire!"
A young man was talking to a teammate playing baseball on one of the sand lots of a great city. "Come on, John, go to church with me this Sabbath and hear our preacher. He has just what we need. But I'm warning you that when you do come, he'll get you, because he's got Jesus Christ in his heart, and he's putting Jesus Christ into the lives of everybody who comes to hear him preach."
May the people who come to hear us pro claim our wonderful truth see demonstrated in us a life of such complete devotion to the Saviour that they will not be able to escape the necessity of embracing our message.