|Volume 17 Number 8 August 2015||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
This article deals primarily with teaching every person who may be teachable. Prospects may be located through friends of members, visitors at church services, a religious survey, through responses to a mass mailing or many other ways. However, we need to be aware of the vital urgency of following up all who may be teachable, no matter from where the names come.
Let us consider some principles and procedures that need to be understood and applied with regard to those who respond from close by as well as those who respond from another locality. We also need to consider responses in terms of helping the person with his problems as we strive to lead him to Christ, then helping him to become an active member of the local congregation. This, of course, is in keeping with the Great commission, which has to do first with making him a disciple, then teaching him to observe all things commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
Let us first address the issue of what may happen when 100 to 300 million persons grasp the simple message of the Gospel, with an awareness that the Creator and Lord of the universe is concerned about them personally, and offers a solution to their problems. We anticipate that up to one million or more may respond to that message, for there are millions who are not aware that there is One who cares about them or has any real solution to their problems.
Some will respond who are merely curious about that concept, for they are like the Athenians of Acts 17:21 who spent their time either to tell or hear some new thing. There will be others at the bottom of the cesspool of human depravity, having tried drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, prostitution, abortion and crime of all sorts, and yet, they have found no peace or answer in their search for happiness. There will be alcoholics, victims of AIDS, and abandoned wrecks and derelicts on the shores of humanity.
Others will be more respected members of society, disillusioned by denominational dogmas, frustrated by the fanatical foolishness of false teachers, or they will simply be searching for some meaning to life. Some will be looking for salvation from sin.
Because many of us have been accustomed to dealing with a select group of picked persons from the upper class, short-haired, suited, salaried and satisfied group who might be expected to blend well into a staid, self-satisfied, smoothly operating religious community, we will be totally unprepared, and in many cases, unwilling, to deal with the dregs of humanity whom Jesus loved and for whom He died.
Our first need, then, is to be aware that showing a film strip or giving a guided tour through an open Bible study will not be sufficient to meet the needs of many of these persons. This is not to suggest that the Bible does not have the answers to the many problems of life, or that we need some different message. It is to suggest that we may need a different mindset, and that a simplistic or conventional approach to a prospect’s problems may be inadequate. We will be in the same sort of situation of many churches that enthusiastically started a bus program to bring in children. Then, when poor, dirty, undisciplined children came in droves, the church members were so shocked and unprepared that they cancelled the whole program. I do not have space in this article to give detailed instructions about how to deal with all such problems, but surely those who read this will be aware that special attention needs to be given to those problems in order to be ready for them.
Now, let us address some specific techniques and methods of operation under different circumstances. Suppose your congregation has chosen some specific mission area as your special project and want the responses from that area to come to you. There are at least two kinds of situations that need to be addressed. If there is no faithful congregation in that mission area that can assist, then the congregation choosing that area needs to be ready to do some of the following things immediately.
First, before you have time to visit them personally, put each of those persons on a mailing list to receive Gospel literature on a regular basis. If the bulletin merely has news items and such things as are of interest only to the local members, you should design a different bulletin for these new responses in mission areas. Permit the recipients to get acquainted with or connected with the church before they visit it. Try to make sure your bulletin has some message of hope and biblical help for their needs.
Second, be prepared immediately to send a team of workers to that area to conduct a teaching campaign. If you wait until the responses arrive to “get in gear” for the effort, many of those who first respond will not be available when you get there – if you ever do get there.
Third, there should be a sample correspondence course sent to each person who responds, even though he has not requested it, for he may not know enough about it to make a request. Be prepared.
If there is a faithful, active congregation in the area you have chosen as a “mission area,” help them to apply some of the following ideas that may be useful to any local congregation concerning responses in their immediate area.
First, visit immediately to ascertain their specific needs and confront them with God’s saving message. If they have other apparent needs besides salvation from sin, be prepared to minister to those. There will be all sorts of things from hunger and poverty to alcoholism and homosexuality with which you need to be prepared to deal.
We must try to keep in mind that we need to show an attitude of loving, compassionate concern without condoning sin or compromising doctrine. Too many times we show the self-righteous disdain we feel for those who are involved in sins that are especially repugnant to us rather than ministering to them as Christ did. When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Christ, and in His conversation with the woman at the well of Samaria, He neither accepted them with an “I’m OK, you’re OK” approach, nor did He send them off with a harsh rejection because of their aberrant and abhorrent life styles. Rather, He discovered their needs and ministered to them in love as He revealed eternal truths to them.
No matter what their lifestyles, we must be able to treat each person with the dignity due one created in the image and likeness of God – one worth so much that Christ was willing to die on the cross to redeem him or her. Someone said, “God didn’t make no trash!”
Second, in many cases, instead of simply coming to their homes with an open Bible study, which may leave them still feeling lonely or isolated from caring Christian families, it may be wise to first invite them to a less structured Bible study in your home where you have a small picked group of loving families who discuss the Bible as it relates to their lives. You must still confront them (as with every other class member) with the question of “What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” (Matthew 27:22), but it will be with a different atmosphere and approach than the usual one-on-one open Bible study, which may need to come later.
It may take a little longer for them to obey the Gospel this way, but they will feel more at home when they do and be more integrated into the life, fellowship and worship of the church when they do. Thus they will likely be more stable, productive members.
Third, we need to get the new convert, from whatever kind of past life he may have come, integrated into an active program of church activity. You need to plan at least two kinds of special classes to which you assign these new converts, but do not call either one of them “New Converts Class.” One of them should be a class having to do with the Bible facts and principles that have present, positive and personal application to their lives. The other one should deal with the principles, necessity, joy and value of personal evangelism.
One reason for having this personal evangelism class immediately is that if they do not get it immediately, they will become like most of the other members of the church – casual, indifferent, untrained and uncaring about those who are lost. This would be a tragic shame. We must be very careful that the terrible statement of Jesus to the Jews in Matthew 23:15 never applies to us. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves.”
If you need more training in the kind of special personal evangelism that will be necessary in teaching every teachable person, seek out someone else who can give you some help. You need to be ready now to do the job that we should have been doing all along.