Convinced that the term "personal worker" requires a new emphasis in an hour when there is true need for this type of worker, we have good news for the field. Our Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., is now demonstrating that its course in personal evangelism is attracting many young men. College graduates receive postgraduate credit on completion of their classwork. The caliber of those desiring these classes compares favorably with the quality of those in various other fields of concentration. It is being increasingly recognized that soul winning is the very life of our work and that it is basic training for Seventh-day Adventist workers. However, this developing interest includes men as well as women.
Personality is expedient in personal evangelism. Training for it is the best way to develop personality. The personal soul winner does not have the backing of a trained choir to prepare the mood for the reception of the message. Unlike the pulpit evangelist, his work is with individuals or smaller groups. He must proceed without fanfare and without the help of gifted assistants. His work at the fireside, in the homes of the people, is solely his responsibility. But he is God's contact man, a gospel salesman. He either wins his man for the Lord, or loses him; there is a tremendous amount at stake. However, there are successive thrills as day by day he helps to decide eternal destinies. This calling of the Lord is a wonderfully satisfying service.
Bible teaching in such a personal way is not just talking to people. Much of the Bible instructor's energy must be spent in meditative listening; not the listening of the professional psychiatrist, but a detecting of the still small voice of God. The personal worker does not always talk to the one to be helped, whose flow of words about apparently small things may pour forth like a wild cataract over a precipice; he talks to God, pleading for the right words for his next remark.
The role of personal worker hardly suits the "naturally quiet" or "wallflower" types, for it requires rare conversational art. It is far afield from the ordinary cheerio chatter often aptly defined as "small stuff," or the various platitudes of many who also run errands for the Lord while lacking a message from His throne. The true personal worker must present his mission in the assuring conversational tone of a kind friend who has something very wonderful to reveal to the listener. This cannot be accomplished with vivaciousness and sparkle, for the worker has a "life and death" message. It may need to be presented as urgently as the bleating of the Iamb's mother, or it may need to reveal the characteristic strength of a lion. The conversational skill of a real personal worker is fascinatingly powerful and surprisingly effective. It is developed through much prayer, Bible study, and experience.
Urgency and Authority
The personal worker is more than a peddler of doctrinal facts; he handles the precious gems of truth. His casual doorstep chats, his fireside Bible studies, are not just aimed to get people "into the truth." Each is freighted with the worker's heart burden to save lost men and women out of this "untoward generation." His mission is that of ambassadorship, for which he carries a heavenly portfolio. He may be handling grave truths, but these are most attractive to him. So the profession of the personal evangelist is very inspiring, despite some of its unpredictable elements.
Preparation and Background
In addition to a pleasing, soul-winning personality and teaching skill, the personal worker needs a profound knowledge of his message. In the informal setting of a fireside Bible reading there is no telling what queries may be produced. The public evangelist is usually spared the possible embarrassment that may result from conflict in the mind of a listener, but not so with the personal evangelist; he must be heard from on that very point. Therefore it behooves him to be informed to the extent of either knowing or being able to find the answer. The worker must be a good student of the Book as well as of human nature. In evangelism today it is necessary that he teach convincingly. If he is to win to Christ the type of people that first investigate well what they later accept, he must be thorough and organized in every phase of his work. This in itself inspires confidence in the instructor's ability to teach a special message from God.
Patience and Poise
Personal evangelism now faces a vast array of competitive forces. Among these we might list many modern gadgets and inventions that claim attention and too often distract from solid Bible investigation. We might here merely mention radio and television with their "spots" and sports and shallow thinking. But there are many other distractions, such as the upsets of otherwise adorable babies, the tantrums of spoiled children, the whims of adolescents, the prejudice of wives, husbands, and relatives generally. One is ever conscious of the casual "dropping in" of neighbors and friends at the most inconvenient time in a Bible study. How necessary, then, that the personal worker be kind, patient, understanding, and well poised!
Sharpening Our Tools
The reader will readily see that the personal evangelist claims an important calling in the work of our closing message. His work is an artistic science-the science of the ages to come. It is a most satisfying lifework, hardly to be compared with any other, yet it is basic in the training of all Seventh-day Adventist workers. This work is built on contacts with individuals, everywhere and always. Helping others to develop character to live with Jesus forever does much for the worker personally-it shapes his own character daily. The skills of personal evangelism are never exhausted, and those who have already entered this calling will be wise to sharpen their tools occasionally for this most delicate work of soul winning. To you personally we extend the invitation to keep well in mind this opportunity at our Theological Seminary.
L. C. K.