Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE ‘PERSONAL’ IN PERSONAL EVANGELISM”

 

The way you can tell the difference between a guy’s love for his girl and a fellow’s lust for some trashy tramp is his willingness to take her everywhere he goes to introduce her to everyone he can. You see, real love is always sharing, whereas lust is selfish and grasping. Therefore, when you see two young people standing off in a corner, or when a guy has a girlfriend that he refuses to invite to church, you know you are dealing with lust at some level rather than love at some level.

It is not terribly different for the Christian and the great love of his life, the Lord Jesus Christ. When someone comes to Christ and consciously experiences the love of God in Christ Jesus, he then begins to love God for the first time. Lost people will say that they love God. However, they are mistaken. The Apostle tells us in First John 4.19, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Thus, our love for God is a reactive and responsive love that does not truly arise in the bosom of a man until he knows the love of God in Christ. It was to lost men who sincerely thought they loved God that Jesus said, “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.”[1]

Think about it for a moment. Does this not make perfect sense when considered in this light? How can a man possibly love God while refusing the clearest expression of God’s love for him, which is His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ? No, it is when you know Jesus as your personal Savior that you first begin to truly love God.

It is along this line of reasoning that the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 5.5, declaring to the Romans “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Since the Holy Ghost is not given to us until we come to Christ, it is quite clear that there is no love from God shed abroad in any sinner’s heart. However, once the Holy Spirit indwells the new Christian, things begin to change. The indwelling Spirit of God begins to bear a certain kind of fruit in the Christian’s life, referred to as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22-23, which includes love. Indeed, the indwelling Holy Spirit gives the child of God a capacity for love that is not possessed by that same person prior to his conversion.

Consider what happens in the sinner’s life who is converted to Christ. He is somehow exposed to the gospel and comes to saving faith in Christ. At that moment, he is indwelt by the Spirit of God and begins to know God’s love for him, reciprocating with love for God, love for Christ, love for the brethren, and even love for unsaved men. Remember what Jesus said in John 13.35? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Thus, the chief characteristic of the genuine Christian is his love for God, his love for Christ, his love for Christians, his love for his church, and even a love for the lost he previously did not have.

It is this love that God’s people have for the lost that I want to speak to you about tonight; in a message I have titled “THE ‘PERSONAL’ IN PERSONAL EVANGELISM.” It is a given that who you love you want others to know and to love. It is a given that when you love two individuals you want them to know each other, especially if one who you love will greatly benefit from knowing the other person you love.

This is the dynamic behind a Christian’s efforts to reach the lost, as Second Corinthians 5.14,15, 20 and 21 shows:

 

14     For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15     And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

 

20     Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21     For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

 

Therefore, you see, believers in Jesus Christ are doubly motivated to evangelize the lost. Not only are we so commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, but we are also powerfully prompted by our love for Jesus and the lost to so please the Savior and so benefit the lost by giving ourselves to bringing them together. So, what about those who declare their love for Christ, but who do not obey His command to evangelize the lost? What about those who claim to be branches attached to His vine, but who not only bring forth no fruit, but who do not obey Christ’s command and attempt to bear fruit? In Luke 6.46, Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” As well, listen to what the Apostle John writes, in First John 5.3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”

Love for God, then, is far more substantial than feelings one has toward Him. Love for God is not only shown by actions, love for God is actions. Therefore, Christian, evangelism is not only an integral part of the Christian life; it is one of those crucial markers that proof the existence of real Christianity. Indeed, a Christian who refuses to evangelize at some level shows himself to not really be a Christian at all.

That said, there is a great deal of confusion in evangelicalism about what evangelism is and what it should be. Those of us who attended Bible college were taught that personal evangelism is accomplished when you go door to door, when you succeed in persuading someone to listen to you make a brief presentation of the basic facts of the gospel, and when you then illicit from them a positive response in the form of some variation of the sinner’s prayer. Do all of that, we were taught, and you are a soul winner. A notable a figure in contemporary fundamentalism once wrote me a very strong letter in which he vigorously rebuked me for daring to wonder whether all those who prayed the sinner’s prayer were actually saved, as though false hopes did not exist and as though such examples in the Bible as Judas Iscariot, Simon the magician, and the Corinthian fornicator did not really exist as men with hopes that proved to be false.

Now is not the time to deal with false hopes and the errors of decisionism.[2] This evening I want to bring before you a consideration of the Christian’s involvement in and participation in personal evangelism. In particular, I want to offset the tendency that exists these days to depersonalize evangelistic activity and to put the ‘personal’ back into personal evangelism. Christopher Matthews, the liberal commentator and host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” wrote a book twenty years ago titled “Hardball: How Politics Is Played - Told By One Who Knows The Game.” In that book he introduced a concept that was new to me, it was the concept of the words “retail” and “wholesale” as applied to your dealings with people.[3]

We know that a company that sells a case containing forty-eight items sells the case wholesale to a company that opens the box up and then sells the individual items to customers like you and me as a retailer. Thus, wholesale is bulk and retail is more individual, ones, and twos. Pepsi sells wholesale to Albertson’s, who then sells retail to you and me. Take that same concept of wholesale and retail, dealing with groups and dealing with individuals, and consider with me how this concept applies to Christ’s command to evangelize the lost.

 

First, THERE WAS THE PATTERN OF THE SAVIOR

 

Read the gospel accounts of the life and earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will immediately notice that He constantly dealt with people on two levels, wholesale and retail, the multitudes and the individuals. Why don’t we keep things simple, by turning to Matthew and staying there for a while?

Can you call to mind those situations in the gospel of Matthew in which the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with multitudes? Look at just a few of the many examples that exist. Turn to Matthew 5.1-2 and read along with me:

 

1      And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2      And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

 

Now, turn to Matthew 11.1: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.” Though there are many other instances in which the Lord Jesus dealt with multitudes of people, when He wholesaled the multitudes, we will stop for now with Matthew 13.1-3:

 

1      The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2      And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow. . . .

 

Clearly, obviously, the Lord Jesus frequently dealt with great multitudes of people at a time, whether preaching to them, teaching them, or feeding them, as when He fed 5,000 and then 4,000.

Now, consider several examples of the Savior engaged in retail, dealing with individuals one-on-one. In John chapter 4, the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with the woman at Jacob’s well, one-on-one, while His disciples were in town purchasing food.[4] As I mentioned in the message this morning, in Luke chapter 19, the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was surrounded by a large throng of people, looked up into the tree to speak to Zacchaeus, and then went to his home, dealing with him very personally.[5] Remember the incident in John chapter 8, where the woman caught in the very act of adultery was brought to Him in the courtyard of the Temple? Though many people were surrounding the two of them, the Savior spoke to her as if there was no one else in the world but her.[6] What about the Syrophenician woman who approached the Lord Jesus Christ when He was in a house in Lebanon, Matthew chapter 15? She spoke to Him. He spoke to her. She responded. Then He not only commended her faith, but granted her plea and cast the demon from her daughter.[7]

Clearly, the Savior reached out to the multitudes, and also reached out to individuals. On many occasions, there are subtle patterns of reaching out to individuals in the midst of large crowds of people, as well as speaking to individuals within earshot of large crowds, so that there was a mixing of wholesale evangelism and retail evangelism, what might be called mass evangelism and personal evangelism. The point is that He did not engage in one approach to the exclusion of the other.

 

Next, THERE WAS THE PRACTICE OF THE APOSTLES

 

Can it be disputed that the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul engaged in what we might call mass evangelism, preaching to large groups of people in an effort to bring them to Christ? The prime example of Peter being engaged in wholesale evangelism was the Day of Pentecost, at which time three thousand men were converted to Christ.[8] Perhaps the best illustration of the Apostle Paul’s efforts at mass evangelism took place in Athens. Beginning with Acts 17.22, we read that Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ Hill and preached to the Athenians concerning their worship of the unknown God. Though the crowd was considerably smaller when Paul spoke to a group of women by a riverside at Philippi, he did see Lydia come to Christ by means of this type of evangelism.

However, the apostles did not limit themselves to mass evangelism. They did not restrict themselves to wholesale work, but also sought to bring folks to Christ at the retail level. Can we address this topic without mentioning Philip’s dealings with the Ethiopian eunuch? The Spirit of God removed Philip from Samaria, and a great revival, for a personal encounter with one lost man. It is one of the best examples of personal evangelism found in the Bible, and can be read in Acts 8.26-39 when you get home tonight. Paul was imprisoned in Caesaria on trumped up charges. While there, he was brought to Felix for an interview. In Acts 24.25, we are told what happened when Paul spoke to Felix man to man: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”

So, you see, both approaches to reaching the lost for Christ were employed by the apostles and their co-laborers, stressing the importance of preaching to crowds of people, as well as looking men and women in the eye and dealing with them in very personal and intimate fashion.

 

Third, THERE WAS THE PRACTICE OF THE THESSALONIANS

 

It is in First Thessalonians chapter one that the Apostle Paul commended those babes in Christ, only weeks old in the faith at the time of his writing them, for their efforts to reach the lost in their community. If you read that chapter through, you will see that Paul’s conviction that they were the elect of God was the result of three kinds of behavior found in their lives, their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patience of hope. Consider the first two with me, since the patience of hope has to do with courageously enduring persecution and great opposition while waiting for Christ’s return, not something we are presently facing here in southern California, but a real factor with Christians in other parts of the world:

First, there is the work of faith. Mentioned in First Thessalonians 1.3 and alluded to in verse 8 of that same chapter, I am convinced that the work of faith is evangelism at the wholesale level. Not restricted to preaching, like Jesus and His apostles did, but in some way getting the gospel out to the mostly nameless and faceless multitudes, as Jesus did, and as the apostles did, broadcasting and reaching out to people who, in the main, you do not know.

The labor of love, on the other hand, is directly mentioned in verse 3, and then more obliquely alluded to in verse 9. My opinion is that the labor of love is that facet of evangelism that is more personal, that tends more toward ministry to the known individual, and that is your service to God by means of loving efforts expended for the direct benefit of those whose faces you recognize, whose names you now know. It would be a mistake to think this approach to evangelism requires that you sit down and try to present the gospel to someone. I rather think it is more along the line of meeting someone, developing a friendship over time, and laboring to nurture that relationship so a person either comes to church with you or comes back to church again.

Think about what Paul likely means here: The Thessalonians were energetically and enthusiastically seeking to bring everyone to Christ. To be sure, they witnessed to those they already knew. It goes without saying that you strive to bring those you know to church. However, the outreach to those you do not know frequently develops in the stages intimated by what I have already illustrated.

If you are preaching to a crowd and a Lydia comes to Christ, you have reason to celebrate. However, most people who eventually come to Christ do so as a result of a series of discreet responses. When the church is engaged in mass evangelism in some way, wholesale you might say, while some might come to Christ, most who respond will respond by accepting an invitation to church, or by accepting an invitation to return to church. It is when that person comes to church that the work of faith can transform into the labor of love, so that person’s name is now known, one or two friendships can tentatively be established and cultivated, and a more personal evangelism can begin that will hopefully lead to conversion. I do hope that you do not think this approach is in any way mechanical or contrived. Instead, it is the instructed outworking of behavior by those whose faith is willing to work and whose love for the lost is willing to expend labor.

The Thessalonians, though only weeks old in the faith, engaged in both wholesale and retail evangelism, both mass evangelism and personal evangelism. I base this assertion not only on the text, but also the practice of the Apostle Paul who initially reached them with the gospel, and who briefly discipled them for obedience to Christ’s command, as well as Christ’s example. They did things the way Paul did things, and Paul did things thy way Jesus had done things.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE PLAN YOU SHOULD EMPLOY

 

Obviously, the case has been made for a Christian to put forth the effort to reach the lost. As well, the case has been made for a Christian to engage in both the wholesale approach as well as the retail approach to reaching folks for Christ. There are people you can have a part in reaching when you participate in wholesale evangelism even if you are not a preacher, just as there are people you will only have a part in reaching when you employ the more personal retail evangelism even without counseling for conversion.

Our church’s approach to wholesale evangelism takes place on Saturday night at 6:00 PM. I encourage you to participate. Perhaps there will come a day when we have both the manpower and the opportunity to engage in other forms of mass evangelism, other approaches to the frankly impersonal outreach that serves as the basis for initially contacting the lost we hope to bring to Christ. However, at present this is what we do, so let us throw ourselves into doing this as a church congregation with one mind and heart to reach the lost. We begin by going out and hanging door hangers, but that is not all that we do. Our effort lasts three hours, concluding with a serious challenge to the faulty worldviews of those we are trying to reach, and typically wrapping up just before 9:00 PM. The last half of our evangelism time is actually recognized by those with discernment to be more important to reaching the lost than the first half.

Our church’s retail approach to evangelism can take place in two entirely different ways: On one hand, you can make it your personal mission to welcome everyone who visits our church. From time to time, as you greet someone you will discern a personal connection-taking place that may lead to a friendship being established that will be useful in bringing that person to Christ. Praise God when that happens, and it certainly does not happen when you isolate yourself from everyone before or after the services. Mix, mingle, and be friendly. Another way to get personally involved is to meet someone before he or she comes to church. A new neighbor, a relative, a new co-worker, or some other person whose acquaintance you have made that forms the basis of a friendship you can cultivate and deepen over time. Eventually, as you share your life with your new friend, you will engage that person in conversations that can lead to discussions of eternal things and an eventual invitation to church.

 

Turn in your Bible to Ephesians 4.11-12, where we find one of many places in scripture, which establishes a pastor’s with his people in relation to what we have considered this evening:

 

11     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12     For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

 

Especially verse 12 shows that my charter is to perfect you, literally to equip you, for the work of the ministry, so the body of Christ, so the congregation, so this church, will grow.

Recognize that, just as evangelism is supposed to take place at the wholesale as well as at the retail level, so is pastoral training and equipping supposed to take place at the congregational level and the individual level. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that because you feel good about how you evangelize that you are complying with Christ’s wishes, just as it is a mistake for people who are happily married to erroneously think that they, therefore, have a good handle on marriage. The criteria are not personal happiness or a sense of personal fulfillment. The criteria are obedience, compliance with God’s will for our lives. You see, we are not the arbiter of what is right. God’s Word is.

Therefore, let me suggest that you strongly consider participating not only in the approach to evangelism you feel most comfortable with, but also the other part. Some of you are more comfortable working an individual relationship, but do not like all-church evangelism. Others of you like all-church evangelism, but you are uncomfortable with more personal dealings with people. God’s plan is for you to be involved in both at the same time.

Two more general comments and I am finished: First, with respect to personal evangelism, what I have termed retail; it is only possible when you are meeting new people. That is a real problem if you are a longtime Christian and you mistakenly presume that living your life in a tightly organized routine of scheduling is the same thing as redeeming the time. They are not the same thing.

God’s will is for you to so order your life that you are constantly meeting new people that you can pray for and deal with about church attendance and responding to gospel preaching. Consider getting a pastor to help you with that aspect of your life.

And last, with respect to you bearing fruit as a Christian by whatever means, please recognize that God’s will is clear. Therefore, if you are not actively engaged in seeking the salvation of the lost, something is terribly wrong. And by seeking the salvation of the lost, I am not referring to continually praying for and talking to the same person for ten years. If you are not actively involved in bringing people to Christ, it may be that someone needs to bring you to Christ.

You see, evangelism is not so much what Christians do in our church, as it is what we are as a church. Saturday night at 6:00 PM for wholesale. Retail can take place before and after every service, as well as at other times. Perhaps going to the gym and working out on your own is not enough for you. Perhaps you need a trainer to help you get in shape. In the spiritual realm, that is what pastors do. We function as trainers to Christians being shaped up to effectively serve God. It is what Christians who love God and who love Jesus do.



[1] John 5.42

[2] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

1  

2 Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

[3] Christopher Matthews, Hardball: How Politics Is Played, told by one who knows the game, (New York: HarperPerennial, 1989), pages 23 and 31.

[4] John 4.1-42

[5] Luke 19.1-10

[6] John 8.2-11

[7] Matthew 15.21-28

[8] Acts 2.5-41



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org