by George R. Jaffray, Jr.
The previous chapter has explained the need for a carefully worked out method for personal evangelism. The method should be based on the principles discussed there. It would be a great mistake to follow the method given here without understanding the principles. Some readers may have been tempted to skip over to this chapter without looking at what has preceded it. This is a serious mistake. It is most important for any method to be consistent with the Biblical message and Biblical principles. The method given here is not intended as a complete prepared package, but as an aid to help a Christian prepare himself. As a Christian prayerfully plans his own presentation he must be sure that he does not make basic errors, so it is necessary for him to use the principles himself. To follow without modification the approach given in this chapter would be foolish, because each person has his own way of saying things and some questions are more suited to one personality than another.
The most important reason for a Christian worker to have a method of personal evangelism is his need for confidence. There is much piousness on the part of some Christians on this, who say with sarcastic overtones that all one needs to do is to be "led by the Spirit," indirectly charging anyone who tries to prepare himself with lack of spirituality. Rather, those who discourage Christians in this way show a lack of spirituality, because they show a great lack of understanding of how the Spirit works. Notice that the promise of Jesus to his disciples indicating that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things John 14:26), referred to their future work as apostles in being able to recall what Jesus had said so that they could leave it for Christians afterwards as Scripture. To apply that verse to Christians in general is to give them inspiration on a level with Scripture, depreciating both the apostolic office and Scripture. In contrast, Christians today, who have not had three or four years of daily instruction from Jesus Himself, are to prepare themselves to give exactly what they are commanded, and for this they must study what to say so that it will correspond to the truth of Scripture. Furthermore, this kind of preparation will give them confidence when they speak, and they need this desperately before they go out. Christians are to be thoroughly prepared beforehand, and they know it.
Instruction in personal evangelism often has been limited to the presentation of the message, but preparation must go much beyond this. Five different phases of the conversation with another person are distinguished in this chapter. These include the preliminaries, the approach, the presentation of the message. the Gospel call, and the follow-through for the case of one who responds. The next chapter deals with certain problems and what a Christian can do in the case of those who do not respond to the call.
It is clear that a Christian cannot do personal evangelism if he finds it impossible to meet people and enter into conversation with them. But because a person can talk easily with friends is no sign that he will find it easy to meet strangers. Many however, find it difficult to express themselves in more than a sentence or two with anyone. Yet all Christians, including those who are like this, are to develop themselves and learn personal evangelism. They must learn what to say in order to meet others and converse with them.
What follows are some guidelines for engaging strangers in a conversation and getting acquainted with them. Strangers are wary and suspicious of sudden displays of friendship, so the proper way to begin is obliquely: by making an observation about something that is going on, about the weather, and about current events. Keeping up with fresh news and asking another if he has heard about it is one of the best ways to get conversation going after an introductory remark. If the other person hasnít heard the news, one should tell a little about it; if he has, he should be asked what he thinks about it. Be sure not to stay on any subject too long, even if it is easy to do so. The reason for this is that the Christianís purpose is not simply to engage in conversation, in order to be well thought of. He wants to find out about the other person, so that he will be able to reach him with Godís message. The other person should be put at ease by clearly relaxing in his presence. One should therefore start out with a certain amount of physical tension so that relaxation can take place from this. Also, do not try to get on a first-name basis until the conversation turns to topics closely related to the other person. One of the best ways to direct the conversation toward this end is to continue by commenting about something the person is wearing or something he has or owns (how pretty, unusual, fine, or nice it is). But donít embarrass him with comments on the cost of what he owns. The next item depends on the circumstances. If the person is away from home, he may be asked where he is from; then, how long he has been in the community. It is at about this time that it is proper to introduce oneself with common first name and last name together. Then, if the other personís name is not known, it may be asked. The Christian should use whatever name is given.
In many situations the conversation should probably stop at this point. The Christian should take his leave by telling the person, "Well, It has been a pleasure meeting you. I guess I should go now. Iíve enjoyed talking with you, and I hope to see you again soon." A Christian should do this when he is surely going to see the person again a number of times and have an opportunity to talk with him further. If the other person knows that there are likely to be further contacts, it is important not to rush things. People do not like to be pushed into close relationships. If the conversation has been fairly brief and pleasant. the next contact will not be strained. If, on the other hand, the Christian has been pushy, the other person is likely to be cool, especially if the first contact was time-consuming or uninteresting to him. This is another good reason for talking about the other personís background and things that he owns. because most people are intensely interested in themselves. This is especially true if the items that they prize most can be spotted and admired. However, some people are entirely idea, or job, oriented. The introductory conversation will be completely unappealing to them, and this possibility must be kept in mind on the next contact.
In succeeding contacts a Christian should find out what the other person is most interested in and what he has in common with him. Once this has been determined he can develop his relationship with the person through the common rules of social interaction. In cases where there is continual or considerable contact with the other person this is quite important, because his willingness to listen to what the Christian says will depend on the interpersonal relationship that is established. Strange as it may seem, complete strangers are often more open to listening to a Christian, when approached properly, than acquaintances. To find out the other personís interests, a series of questions and conversation pieces should be developed for different situations in which the Christian will talk to others. There is no way to give such a series that will fit every situation. The ideas given here should be extended and adapted to the Christianís particular need. The Christian should learn to prepare himself, praying over what he will say to that he may properly apply the principles to his own situation. This is what it means to be led by Godís Spirit. One must apply right principles rather than be controlled by the impulse of the flesh, which is what the inspiration of the moment often is.
With what was mentioned earlier in mind, a second contact of a person should probably begin with a question about the personís job. (For a housewife the corresponding topic might be the children or plans for the house.) After a brief comment about the weather, etc., the question might be "Mr. . . ., What kind of work do you do?" If on the job, "You seem to take pride in your work. Tell me, What do you like best about your job?" If it becomes clear that the person doesnít like or doesnít care about his job, the subject should be dropped. Asking him how he likes his job, of course, should be asked only by someone not connected with his employment. The next thing to ask might be about trips and places the person has been to or lived in. Talking about trips and vacations would lead to the personís family and hobby activities. After that, activities with a lodge, church, or other group could be the topics of conversation.
In the process of talking to the person about these things the Christian should find out his accomplishments. It is then proper and wise to ask about and give him recognition for them. If it concerns something that the Christian himself could benefit from, it would be complimentary to ask him advice about it. It is important to listen with real attention to what he is saying, and show that by interacting with him. The Christianís side of the conversation must not simply be inquiries; he must carry some of the burden of the conversation by expanding on a topic himself occasionally. On the other hand, he must not speak or comment with so much knowledge on every subject that he makes the other person feel inferior and ill at ease. The Christianís purpose, after all, is only to lead up to the point where he will be able to present Godís message. Everything else is subsidiary, which means he must always be on guard to avoid disagreement with the person on matters of politics, social problems, and every other subject on which he may differ with him.
When the other person has been contacted through oneís job, or in the community, further preparation is needed. In addition to general conversation, which is carried on mainly to establish rapport and get background information about another person, the Christian should prepare for the time when he can present the full message of God to him. This may be done through witnessing, or discussing what the Bible says on a topic, and visiting in his own home. This is usually the best place to present the message, but often there is more actual privacy in a public park or restaurant. The important thing is to get the person away from possible interruptions when there is time enough to go all the way through the presentation. This requires prayerful consideration. Sometimes the best way is just to stop at the personís home unannounced.
Once he enters the home of an acquaintance, the Christian should use some of the same rules that he has used before. He looks around the room for objects of interest on which he can comment and start the conversation. After going from this to one or two other topics of interest that he knows they have in common, the Christian is ready to make his presentation.
When visiting a stranger, a slightly different, but similar, approach to meeting and conversing with them should be used. As mentioned before, amazingly it is easier to talk to a stranger than to an acquaintance. As a consequence, the amount of time needed for introductions and general conversation can be much less than in other cases. The same rules of social interaction apply, but the goal of presenting the complete message can be reached in one visit. This is providential, since, in practice under present-day conditions, the Christian may have only one opportunity for a hearing with strangers.
When approaching the home of a stranger, as much information as possible should be obtained by careful observation. The visit should be made by two (or three) Christians going together. Of course, they should not stop and pray in front of the house, but they should prepare themselves before leaving to make the visit, learning the names if they are available and praying ahead of time. It is also wise to have a check list of items that should be taken along. Items to be looked for in approaching the house or residence include the type of neighborhood, type of house, landscaping, to indicate a particular interest in gardening, car, boat, or camper in view, and toys or pets in the yard or house. (See C. S. Lovett, Visitation Made Easy.)
There should be no conversation on going up to the house; and after the bell is rung, the visitors should stand back away from the door. Voices and people crowding near the door only cause alarm. When someone answers the door the words of the plan should be followed exactly: "Good evening. We have been sent out by the . . . church. My name is . . . and this is . . . (Is this the residence of Mr. and Mrs. . . .?) If you folks arenít too busy, weíd like to come in and visit for a little while." Notice that the opening statement indicates that the visitors did not come to visit on their own and that the church connection of the visitors is clearly identified. Also, visitors must be sure not to go in if it is likely that there will be an interruption. Some people cannot turn away others even when they have responsibilities. When this is clear, the lead-visitor must take the initiative to apologize and leave. If the visit was rejected, a record of this should be made afterward. If there was something else blocking the visit that also should be noted.
After being invited to come in, the visitors should concentrate on preparing for conversation and the best location for seating. If the room is not tidy, any remarks about it should be ignored. Instead attention should be focused on some item that can be admired, in order to start a conversation. If the TV is on, move toward it as you talk and lower your voice. After giving an opportunity for the person to turn it off, if he still leaves it on, nod toward the TV and offer to come again another time. Donít sit down or accept excuses that the program will be over in a few minutes, since those who say this rarely turn the TV off afterwards. Just say, OK, and that you will try to make it back that evening and then leave. Donít compete with the TV. Unless asked to sit differently, take seats so that the lead-visitor sits on the couch where he can sit comfortably next to the person being visited. The other visitor has already taken a place near a single chair to sit there. If this seating does not come about, the second visitor brings up a straight chair for the lead-visitor at the time of the approach to the presentation (see below).
The conversation may proceed along the following lines. After the initial conversation and seating, the conversation most naturally drifts to family interests; ask about the children, hobbies, vacations, where they have gone, and where they have lived. A married person may be asked how and where he met his spouse. By talking about where he has lived the conversation naturally leads into the reason most people move around ó their work. The easiest way to steer the conversation toward a presentation of the message is to inquire about the personís church background. This may be asked in a natural way of adults, if in the preceding conversation something has been mentioned about a personís early life. He may be asked if he went to church in those days, and then briefly about church ties since. If there is mention of criticism of a church, it is handled by agreeing that there can be problems with churches. But regardless of what is brought up, the visitors should never disagree with the person or try to defend the Christian position on a matter. It is not their purpose to discuss particular ideas on any subject, but to present Godís message. The visitors must also avoid being led into talking about themselves, their own families, jobs, or church, even when asked. If they succumb to this, the time will disappear, little will be learned about the person visited, and the conversation will drift away from the place where the message can be easily introduced. Answer as briefly as possible, and then ask something else in return while having the floor to speak.
It is important to realize that the visitors can control the conversation by asking questions. As mentioned in the preceding chapter, a question generally gets the other person to say something on the topic of the question. By having an orderly plan to ask about various things, such as the family, past residences, jobs, and church background, the conversation can be led by the visitors from a complimentary interest, in something pleasant to the other person, to a consideration of his general religious background, and then the consideration of Godís message. Each of the visitors, if they know the plan, may enter into the conversation, first one and then the other, each leading it along in turn. Then, when it comes to the presentation of the message the lead-visitor takes over and the other drops into the background, merely nodding occasionally and giving the first support, by looking at the Christian worker as he presents the message.
The second visitor may also "run interference." This means to head off possible interruptions ó talking to the spouse in the kitchen, entertaining the children, or even answering the phone. If there is nothing of this sort that has to be done, he assumes his support role mentioned above.
As mentioned before, another way in which the second visitor helps is to bring up a chair for the lead-visitor when the seating is poor. While making the presentation the worker wants to sit near to the other person so that there will be a sense of personalness and to be able to show him Scripture when it is needed. He also wants to be close if he has decided to include drama in his presentation, e. g., to illustrate receiving salvation as a gift in Christ. The new seating may be accomplished by showing the person something from the visitorís church, such as a schedule of activities or a bulletin, just before the presentation. At the same time the first visitor is bringing the schedule over to show it to the person, the second visitor, lagging a bit, brings up a chair. The first visitor then gets seated naturally while he is pointing out items in the schedule. After finishing with the schedule he then proceeds with the approach questions and the presentation of the message from his new location. This is the appropriate time to ask if one may call the other person by their common first name, if that has not already been established.
Christians must not be left wondering how to approach people in order to reach them with Godís message. Many think it a strange thing that Christians can get acquainted with others and are able to talk with them about most other things that interest them, but they are not able to talk about Christ. Much is made of this; Christians are blamed for being "ashamed" to confess Christ and are warned of the eternal consequences of denying Him (Luke 12:8). But the problem is not that simple. There is good reason for them to be reluctant; God keeps them from doing what they are not prepared to do. A person may have a deep inner love for Christ and not be prepared to talk to others concerning Christ. In order to be used by God, he must first learn how to approach people about their spiritual needs.
Preparation of oneís approach to people is important, because they are rightly sensitive over religious things; people have intense personal fears and hopes in relation to them. It is all too easy to say something that will permanently close the door of conversation concerning an individualís most important need. This is the reason most Christians are reluctant to talk to others. They do not want to be the ones God uses to seal a personís doom, but hope that God will be merciful and give them an opportunity to communicate the message.
To approach people in such a way that he will be able to continue the conversation, the Christian uses the principles of the last chapter. Questions are used in such a way that the subject of conversation is introduced indirectly, partly through the question and partly through the other personís response. The conversation is directed step by step, fleshly antagonism is diffused, and the attention is kept on the thoughts that are introduced.
The following approach questions are designed so that regardless of how the other person answers the Christian worker can proceed with the next one. The first problem is to break the ice with regard to the message of the Bible:
It is very important not to give the Biblical answer at this point. If the other person had answered something different from it, this would only be resented. The purpose at this point is to introduce the presentation, not to give it.
Each of the approach questions gets the conversation a little further into the area of conversation where one could begin presenting the message. But this must wait, because two other things must come first, a diagnosis and clarification of the personís spiritual condition.
The questions in the approach above allow the person to give his understanding concerning sin, Christ, and Godís requirements for salvation. The last is most important in determining his spiritual condition. If a person says that God accepts a person on the basis of works or religious observances, etc., he cannot himself be trusting Christ, regardless of what he may have said previously.
The other person may interrupt the flow of approach questions with the counter-question "What is your answer to that question?" The Christian worker must not proceed yet with the answer until diagnosis and clarification have taken place, otherwise he will go through the presentation mechanically, without knowing where the person stands. He should continue with the approach questions by saying ó
It is important to get answers, especially to the last question. The Christian does not want to come to the Gospel call and find the other person saying, "Oh, I think I have already done that," which could mean anything. It is important for the other person to know what he is trusting, so that he will later come to see that his trust is misplaced. This is what is meant by clarification (See D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion).
The clarification is done by reflecting carefully on what the other person has answered. The Christian could reflect what he has said as follows:
This response must be included to make clear to the other person what he has said. And this must be done whether he is quick or hesitant to respond.
Suppose he is hesitant to answer. The importance of the question should be pointed out.
If there is still no answer, it is not wrong to lead the person along, as long as there is a careful enough reflection on what the person agrees to, afterward. Depending on his background words such as the following could be used:
Finally, if there is still no clear-cut response, even that must be made clear and brought out into the open. The Christian worker should say something like the following:
Those readers who are familiar with other methods should notice the difference at this point. There has been no mention of heaven, death, salvation, eternal life, etc. Though the clarification procedure is used by others, the emphasis is completely different, because it stresses oneís relation to God rather than one s eternal destiny. It is oneís acceptance by God and His requirements for salvation that are crucial in the Gospel call, not the acceptance of eternal life on the part of the hearer. This is a most important point. He must be acceptable to God totally, not just when he dies. The thought, of course, is not to depreciate Godís provision of eternal life, but at this point the most important thing is to focus on manís basic personal need in relation to God ó that God must accept him.
In a number of cases the Christian worker will run across "Christian" answers to the approach questions, in which case he will not know if the person has truly understood the message of God and trusted Christ, or has simply had enough Christian teaching to be able to answer, without true conversion. Additional questions are needed to determine his spiritual condition.
Suppose that a person has answered that a personís greatest spiritual need is Godís salvation, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that a person must accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior for God to accept him. This might be the typical answer of a faithful, evangelical church member. An unconverted "soul-winner" could also give this answer. To diagnose further, one should ask questions such as follows:
The personís background, of course, will give clues as to the significance of his answers at this point. In giving a works response, however, he has shown a clear deficiency in understanding. It may be that he has misunderstood the question, and this is the reason for the reply, which asks for a new answer to the question. If the person thinks only to distinguish hypocrites from Christians by their outward actions, he will list certain virtues and works. The Christian worker should proceed with the clarification-reflection step ó
He should attempt to draw the person out until he has understood the person and reflected his ideas accurately. He may even add, "Are you sure, I have it right?" If the person above answers that accepting Christ means that a person is sincere in asking Christ to come into his heart, there is still a question whether he has understood the requirements of true repentance and faith. After this, the Christian worker could still continue with óLet me share with you what I have learned about presenting Christ to others. It is tremendous to know how to meet them and have them see Christ as He really is. (then start the presentation)
One may also take this approach if the person misunderstood the first question but thought that a hypocrite is different because of his motives.
Many evangelical church members have never considered the possibility of self-deception. There is great doubt that the question of self-deception should be raised at this point, however, because the Christian worker does not know how much understanding the person has concerning the nature of God and sin. He must be sure to lay the foundation of the message first, in case he needs this in presenting Godís requirements and the Gospel call.
After the approach questions, there is still the problem of how to launch into the presentation. If the hearer has asked the Christian worker for his answer to one of the approach questions, that is a natural place to introduce the presentation. He would proceed as follows:
But the Christian cannot count on having the hearer ask him his answer to one of the approach questions. The usual way of handling this problem is to simply ask the hearer to allow the Christian to make his presentation, such as ó
The hope is that after expressing himself, the hearer will not turn the Christian worker down. This works most of the time but closes the opportunity on the whim of the hearer. Another way to introduce the actual presentation is to start with the good news of Godís grace. The Christian worker tells the hearer that he has some good news for him after having heard his answer to the last question ó"that according to the Bible heaven, eternal life, is absolutely a free gift" (See again, Evangelism Explosion). He is telling the person that he is wrong and making it doubly clear that he had given the wrong answer, but he is telling him in such a way that the hearer is glad to hear it. The problem with this method is that the emphasis from the outset is on the gift of eternal life instead of God. The good news is that God accepts men by grace in Christ. The attention must be on Godís action: not the gift but the giver. The way this can be done is as follows:
Then one follows with:
Notice that the good-news approach given here does not overly stress the good news of salvation. It is worded in such a way that for the ordinary person there is going to be a certain amount of mystery about it. This is exactly what should be done. A clear-cut statement about eternal life could be seriously misleading, so much so that the hearer could draw a wrong conclusion from the start that could not be straightened out at the end. Furthermore, the expression "in Christ" is Biblical and focuses attention from the start on Christ Himself, who is the Good News.
The presentation of the message given below does not give all that can or ought to be understood by one who becomes a Christian, truly converted to Christ. It gives, however, the essentials that are needed by men today. These include the truths that God is the eternal, holy Creator and Ruler; that man is rebellious and depraved, though in the image of God; that Christ as Godís Son is the Redeemer of those who become truly converted, who are born of God and who turn in repentance and faith to Christ; and that Christ will come to right all things, and that He will judge sinful men who reject His Gospel. Each of these must be included for men to understand the message as it is given in the Scriptures. For some, further background concerning the Jewish people and Jesus is needed. In that case more than one meeting will be required. But in most cases the presentation and Gospel call should be presented in one sitting.
People do not have the right notion of God, today, because they have been mistaught by Christians for such a long time that He is only love. But the non-Christianís concept of love today is so distorted as to be almost wholly useless in making the message clear. Furthermore, the teaching of Scripture that God is love is for Christians, who have received Christ and can appreciate what He did for them while they were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). In addition, the love of God is not among his most central attributes. To counterbalance the notions that non-Christians have of God, the Christian ought to concentrate on His primary attributes and not mention His love at all. Furthermore, the wrath of God now abides on those who do not believe in Christ (John 3:36). Scripture nowhere says that God loves the sinner but hates his sin; God is angry with the sinner continually.
In presenting the message to modern man, then, Christians must find a way to make clear that his conception of God must be inherently wrong. Fortunately, there is a way to do this that non-Christians themselves bring up. They often raise such questions as, "How could a good God allow physical evil?" and "How could He allow sin?" These are attacks on the Godhood of God and show a basic misunderstanding of the nature of God. Sin does exist and suffering exists. Therefore, if there is a God, He is not the "good god" that men think. The Christian can proceed to raise the question himself, as follows:
No matter what the hearer answers, Yes, No, or even "What if God doesnít exist, then what?", the Christian can continue óIím glad you are thinking about it. Letís lay to rest the idea that God can be anything else than what He reveals Himself to be. He reveals in the Bible that He is sovereign: He has the right to create, to rule, and to set standards according to His own will. He must be sovereign, or He wouldnít really be God. Doesnít that make sense?
If he still says, "Yes, but what if there isnít a God?", say ó
If he says, No, ask, "Well, what do you think?" Then, after he replies proceed as with a yes answer ó
Some will wonder if it is really necessary to introduce Godís sovereignty in the way that has been done here. The attempt, however, is to counter the very stubborn notion many have that God wouldnít judge men. Later in the presentation they are likely to think in the back of their minds that they donít have to face up to Godís judgment.
Another thing has to be done. Though it has already been stated that the good news is that God accepts men in Christ, it must be pointed out that, according to the Bible, all men outside of Christ are lost. Otherwise, even after presenting Christís work, many will think that there may be another way, if they work hard enough at it. The nature of sin and depravity must be presented in such a way that it is clear that the situation is hopeless outside of Christ. To do this, proceed as follows:
If he gives a non-Biblical answer at this point, the Christian worker must go back to the ideas already presented, saying that what he has said could not be true if what the Bible says is so. If he mentions something about Christ, then skip to the next point and ask how Christ could make a difference. Then, regardless of what he answers, continue with John 14:6. Otherwise, continue with ó
At this point, the Christian worker must listen carefully, to see what the person answers. He should go back over points that seem to have been confused. If, however, the other person brings in extraneous ideas, which do not come from Scripture, he should tell him that he is not asking for his own opinion at that point, but is asking him what the Bible teaches as it has been shown to him. The first time through, the Christian worker has not looked up the verses in the Bible to show them to the other person; when there is confusion, however, he should turn to the passage and have the other person read what it says. The reason for not looking up Scripture first is that there is simply not enough time to stop and flip to the places, even if tabs have been attached to the pages of the workerís Bible in order to locate them quickly (a good idea, however, in case there is a need for them and to avoid difficulty in finding them because of a faulty memory).
Let it be pointed out here that the Christian worker will find some people who will not accept the statements he has made about the nature of God and His judgment on sin. It must be strongly emphasized that the Christian must not hesitate when they do this but go right ahead boldly to proclaim it anyway. It is the Word of God used by the Holy Spirit that will bring conviction of the truth, not the Christian working out an agreeable understanding with the other person. The emphasis must be kept on sin and righteousness in the same way that this is found in Scripture, if the worker is to honor and glorify God.
These words of the message are among those most frequently omitted, but there is no substitute for them. The Gospel includes the Resurrection of Christ and its significance, and it may not be left out without making salvation merely an internal, psychological matter. The hearer must have the same perspective concerning Christ as is given in Scripture if he is to trust Him as He truly is.
THE GOSPEL CALL
The reason that Godís requirements are put first, before the presentation of Christís exalted position, in this method is to point out that man stands under Godís judgment if he does not obey the Gospel, as well as standing under judgment for sin. This requires presenting the requirements for salvation before presenting what will happen consequently. In this way, also, the contrast between believers and unbelievers is made very clear. Now, however, the call for the person to respond must be emphasized.
A positive response to this question is not the same as making a commitment. The commitment is made to Christ. This is why Scripture says that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10), because the person must call upon Him (Rom. 10:13). This is why prayer to Christ is important, not that the outward act of saying a prayer saves a person; the confession of the heart to God, normally expressed with the mouth, saves. Scripture simply states that it is "with the mouth," and that is what Christians should follow, unless the circumstances are very unusual. If the hearer answers, Yes, the worker continues
The Christian worker should then continue immediately without a break with a prayer such as the following:
Remain with head bowed and continue ó
In no case should the Christian put words in the other personís mouth. If the understanding of Godís requirements is not there, it is of the utmost harm to lead a person mechanically through a prayer and in that way give him the impression that he has done what God requires of him. Not knowing that there is a commitment involved, he can rest content and secure; but because he does not take any heed of the teaching of Scripture, there is no way of shaking him out of his complacency. It is different with one who is lacking in understanding about essential points of the message but understands the basic elements of the requirements of repentance and faith. If his faith is faulty, the commitment to study the Scripture can result in him coming to understand his lack so that he may come to true faith.
There ought to be no hesitation about initiating the close with Christ as given above. Yet experience indicates that there are many Christians who are reluctant at this point, and some who are strongly opposed to this action on the part of the Christian worker. Christians hesitate here because they know that they are on holy ground; the actual close is the province of Godís Spirit. They are therefore even more sensitive at this point than they are in delivering the message, for which they have a clear mandate. But the mandate for this step is unclear to them. Those who strongly oppose this do so because they believe that they have sound Biblical and theological reasons. In the first place, it is pointed out that there are no examples in Scripture of any such procedure. On the contrary, there was always a direct response to the preaching of the word (Acts 2:3641; 8:35-38; 16:14; 28:23-24) or a spontaneous request in some unusual circumstance (Acts 16:30). Furthermore, since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God being preached (Rom. 10:14-1 7), they claim that there is no need for a further step to bring a person to a true faith-commitment. Either the person has faith by the preaching of the Word, or he doesnít; and a further step only induces a commitment without true faith. What the Christian worker should do, then, according to these people, is to wait patiently for a faith-response to the presentation. Then, and then only, should the Christian worker proceed with instruction in discipleship. In other words, they say that a correct, God-honoring method will not include any initiation of the close. However, as high-sounding as this may seem ó and the desire to base oneís practice on Scripture is fundamental and good ó there are strong Biblical reasons for the practice of initiating the close.
Included among reasons for initiating the close are the Biblical statements that calling upon the Lord and confessing with the mouth are a means of salvation (Rom. 10:8-13). First, the context shows that these words do not refer to the outworking of salvation, but the initial application of it to the individual (vs. 14). Also, the confession of the mouth does not refer to confession before men (Matt. 10:32), which undoubtedly follows later as a step of discipleship; but it must refer to confession to the Lord, because the reason given for this confession is that He is rich to those who call upon Him (vs. 12). The English translation Ďbe ashamed" is entirely misleading in the preceding verse (vs. 11). The classical Greek usage, to be sure, includes the idea of embarrassment, but this does not make sense in terms of what follows. The translation should reflect Hebrew usage of "be made ashamed" or simply "be disappointed." Whoever believes can count on Godís promise and will not be disappointed. Secondly, it must be made clear that closing with Christ involves communication with Him. It is at this point that the person who has heard the message needs help. He is not, m many cases, accustomed to praying; but even if he were, his past performance of prayer would be of no help. The key matter, here, is encouragement of the expression of faith. This is what is overlooked by the critics. Faith does indeed come by the hearing of the Word of God, but that does not mean that there is nothing else. Salvation is also through faith alone, but that does not mean that the faith can be one that involves no expression to God in prayer. This passage in Romans makes it clear that the Christian worker ought to lead the person to express himself to God as a means of salvation.
The reader should reflect on one more item included in the call to a faith-commitment given in the presentation above. The commitment to Christ as Prophet and King (trusting Christ and doing whatever He shows him in the Bible) ties the two offices of Christ together. This is important because many have the idea that they can follow Christ somehow apart from the Bible. They are led to look for a mystical discipleship, rather than one grounded in the Word of God. True discipleship and obedience, however, is to base oneís life and actions on Godís Word, depending on the Holy Spirit to illumine the words of Scripture, which is what it means to be led by the Spirit. This kind of commitment to Christ means that the Christian worker can appeal immediately to the person to follow the teaching of Scripture. If the person will not do this, it becomes immediately apparent to the worker that there was a false commitment. But just as important, the falseness of his commitment becomes immediately apparent to the person who made it. The lordship of Christ is connected to Scripture and makes it imperative for the person to study it to be true to Christ. The study of the Bible, then, is not just something added "to help the new Christian in the Christian life." When he commits himself to Christ, he commits himself to the Bible as well.
The Christian worker must not stop when he leads the other person to express himself to Christ in prayer. As intimated above, there is the question of obedience to Christ as lord according to the teaching of the Bible. The Scripture is very clear on this. Believing in Christ and baptism are so closely connected that there is no doubt whatever that baptism as a step of discipleship must be the first concern after a person responds. However, baptism is itself wholly suitable as a test of an individualís obedience to Christ. As with all ordinances, it is a positive law; there is no point of morality involved, but the ordinance depends for its validity only upon the words of Christ Himself. Therefore its duty is very clear-cut. If Christ said for those who become believers to be baptized, that is all that is needed to know what the duty is. With this in mind, the following could be used to follow-through and get the person started in discipleship to Christ.
If they have already been baptized then that worker can say, "Then you would still like to study the Bible to understand the story of salvation, wouldnít you?" Then continue ó
This follow-through step assumes that the person should not be baptized immediately as was the New Testament practice. There are two reasons for this change: difference in background and lack of understanding of the symbolism involved. Should it be objected that the command of Christ is sufficient reason to perform the rite, the reply is that Christianity is not a mystical religion. Baptism has a meaning that should not be isolated from its application to the individual who believes. It was connected with the remission of sins, and those baptized were to understand this (Acts 2:38; 22:16). And it was connected with receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2-3), which was also supposed to be understood by those who had been baptized. This is reason enough to postpone baptism until the person has been instructed in these things. Baptism is also, however, performed in the name of the triune God and Christ Jesus. The meaning of these names must be further explained to the person before he is baptized. For this reason, he should be carried back to the Old Testament to see how Godís salvation was revealed and how the promise of Christ was given.
Directions should now be immediately given concerning the Christian life. The following is suggested to help in the matters of prayer, reading the Bible, temptation and confession of sin, and love for fellow Christians.
The person prays, and then the Christian worker does, too. Then the worker may continue:
Tom, I believe the Lord Jesus is doing something very wonderful for you.
Iíll be praying for you.
The reader should notice that throughout the call and follow-through the Christian worker has not said that the other person is a Christian, that he is saved and has eternal life, or that God has accepted and forgiven him personally. This is because the conviction and assurance of salvation should be based on the testimony of the Word of God that he reads during the coming few days. There is such a tendency for people to believe the best about themselves that there should be no problem at this point. The Christian worker should only continue with the matter of assurance if pressed.