Evangelism in its broad aspects includes all efforts designed to bring man to a knowledge of, and fellowship with, God. It is the fountainhead of the Christian religion, the spring of all its growth, conquest, and expansion. Only as lost sheep are sought for and saved, is the kingdom of God to be established.
Personal evangelism is a must to every Seventh-day Adventist minister. The successful preacher or pastor-evangelist finds a place in his program for personal work. His responsibility extends from the pulpit into the homes of the people. Many of those who have no church affiliation are unable to attend a public meeting and must be reached where they are. In the work of ministering to souls no one whom it is humanly possible to reach should be left out. Our responsibility necessitates entering the homes of the people. We must come into close personal touch with the high and the low, the rich and the poor.
Only as the flame of evangelism burns brightly in the pulpit can it be transmitted to those in the pew. Unless the preacher is willing to preach for souls—earnestly, convincingly, and passionately—the layman is not likely to experience evangelistic desire or impulse. The minister as the spiritual leader should always be on the alert to connect individuals to the living Christ. If he has no passion for souls, his congregation will reflect his lack of zeal. Church members need to see their pastor aflame with the soul-winning fire that will stimulate their love for the lost and arouse them to action.
Meet the Needs of the People
The absence of the spirit of personal evangelism may account for the irrelevance of many sermons, which often do not meet the needs of the people. Such sermons leave the impression that the pastor is merely presenting something to fill the allotted time, rather than thinking in terms of the audience and its needs.
Visitation among his members helps the pastor to discover their needs and more adequately to fill them in his presentations from the pulpit. A pastor's knowledge should be both theoretical and practical. Active labor for others enriches his own experience, and blended with the theoretical, enables him to present messages that are ever fresh and stimulating. Messages based on personal experience are easily understood by the layman and give real inspiration for effective service to others.
More souls are won to Christ by personal, house-to-house evangelism than by many other agencies combined. The pastor is the church's chief recruiting officer and is expected to lead out in this endeavor. There is an indescribable joy that comes with winning a soul to Christ. Spiritual enrichment is the reward of the pastor who continually goes forth into the highways and byways in search of those who may be led to Christ in the surrender of their lives to a living God. In this manner the minister is doing the work of a true shepherd, one who is willing to go to any length, breadth, or depth to reach his sheep. Those converts who have been won through personal work are more likely to remain faithful to the message—there are fewer apostasies among them.
Essential to Evangelistic Success
To do such service requires a consecrated, willing spirit, and a sense of one's divinely appointed mission. Personal evangelism gets down to the grass roots of human need. It is the secret of winning personal decisions for Christ. No form of evangelism is complete without it. In the Apostolic Church it was the spontaneous personal witness resulting from the outpouring of the Spirit of God. When Christians become Spirit filled they are motivated by such a love for souls that they are on fire for Christ. They become trail blazers for God.
This desire to witness comes not only from moral obligation but primarily from divine compulsion. Only by consecrated effort can one become efficient in this highly specialized type of calling. One must not merely display zeal without knowledge. Personal evangelism opportunities call for time and strength, for diligence and tact. "There is need now to give to the people patient, kind instruction; . . . great tact and patient effort are needed by those who shall present the truth in any manner."—Evangelism, p. 228.
The Bible instructor also is like a sower who goes forth sowing seed. In entering the homes of the people and by saying the right word at the right time she helps to break down barriers of prejudice, ignorance, and wrong living. Thus, persons are won who might never have been reached had not the message been taken directly to them. As the personal evangelists meet the people in their homes and present the truth with simplicity and sincerity, God's Spirit will move upon hearts.
Bible studies and counsel in the homes enable the instructor to assist each one with personal problems—in the making of the proper decisions and consequent adjustments in living. Through earnest prayer and direction by the Holy Spirit such a worker can discover the fundamental problems of the individual and change the tenor of his thinking. These decisions made in the homes bear fruit in public evangelism.
In the book Evangelism the author says, "There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen... We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit."—Page 459.
The woman Bible instructor keeps in close contact with those who attend the public meetings. She places herself in the position of a receptionist and becomes acquainted with the people, learning their names and their faces, using these contacts as an entering wedge to make admission to the home easier.
Reaching the Heart
The art of personal work is the art of reaching the heart. A worker or minister might possess high degrees of learning, the gift of oratory, well-polished manners, and remarkable teaching ability, but he must learn the art of dealing with the spiritual needs of the individual in a personal, heart-to-heart manner if he would become a successful soul winner. Self, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, is powerless. Human efforts alone are useless. If the individual's heart problem is not solved, the soul will not be helped spiritually. To merely convince a person of the truth of the doctrines and leave his heart empty and void of the love of Jesus, is to fail utterly in our evangelistic endeavors.
Constant Learning in the School of Christ
The young minister must constantly learn in the school of Christ the lessons taught by Jesus. The Master Teacher set an example of successful personal evangelism in His one-soul interviews with the woman at the well, Nicodemus, and many others. His personal appeal reached the hearts of some of the coldest and most prejudiced peoples of His day, both Jews and Gentiles. His words and His love penetrated the inner recesses of the soul with a wooing and tenderness that led each to the discovery of personal needs and to a complete surrender to the living God.
Constantly we hear of members who backslide and fall by the way. Other millions almost overwhelmed in degradation and sin are also desperately in need of help. The all-absorbing ambition of both minister and laymen should be to carry God's last gospel invitation to these lost souls. Time's growing challenge calls the young minister to unite his personal efforts with the Master Teacher and become a coworker with God for the salvation of his family, his neighbors, and his friends. Why is it that we who would put forth almost superhuman efforts to save men and women from death in a burning building or a flaming automobile are prone to hesitate in rescuing them from a world soon to be enveloped in flames? This urgent hour calls for the greatest efforts in our history.