- the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.
- zealous advocacy of cause.
The Need for Personal Work
As noted, God does not need us to do His work of redeeming His good creation. He lets us. He, in fact, uses this work as much to build us up as his followers as to reach those who have yet to hear his name.
This work of evangelism comes in many shapes and sizes. My bookshelves are filled with books on evangelism. Google evangelism and the range of articles seems endless. Authors divide evangelism along with a myriad of principles, processes, and more. Some list specific techniques, others segregate along with age. The ways to slice and dice are large.
I expect most of those methods have proven effective or they would not be cited. I love the creativity of all the varied ways. I love the passion. I must tell you, many of them don’t fit me.
Yet, as put forth in chapter one, I am convinced that we need to do evangelism as much for ourselves as for those we are trying to reach.
I want to begin to unpack something called Personal Work, and our need for it. Personal Work is the work we do, as a follower of Jesus, in reaching out to another person in love, to invite them to consider the person of Jesus.
In chapters three and four, I am going to propose one straightforward method of personal work. However, let me first unpack this idea.
Personal Work is first and foremost you and me, individually or in a small group, “going”. We are going to another one person or possibly a small group. Personal work is when we look at a person face-to-face. We do this with the motivation of love. When we are face-to-face, our intentions are immediately obvious. Do we see the person as a person? Does our genuine concern for them show through? Are we more enamored with ourselves, seeing them as another possible notch on our belt of conversions?
Here is where we get a glimpse of Jesus. We have so many stories of him being face-to-face. The woman at the well, the Synchro-Phoenician woman begging him, Jairus, the unnamed woman with the blood disorder, Martha, Mary, Lazarus…the list goes on. In each instance, Jesus meets those people right where they are.
The more we meet others, the more we are turned outward, and the more we are internally transformed. We need this transformation.
Our going does have a specific purpose, to invite them to meet Jesus, to be sure, many wonderful acts of mercy are done in the world. Fewer extend a real invitation to the Savior. Personal Work may be done amid works of mercy, but those works of mercy always have the express intention of inviting someone to consider Jesus.
Now, as you read this, you might not be doing evangelism. If so, your natural reaction might be a sigh, or frustration, or even defensiveness. You feel like you have been sucked into reading a book that is seeking to make you feel guilty. If you are, hold off.
Before you get frustrated by this direct push and before you say to me (and yourself) “I am not an evangelist, I don’t have that spiritual gift”, let me tell you in that chapters three and four, I lay out the great news about how simple (not easy) it is.
Believe me; I know those feelings. I am one late to this world of Personal Work.
For now, if you feel the guilt, just rebuke Satan. The last time I checked in Galatians 5, guilt is not a fruit of the Spirit. Further, you might need to push away from your mind bad experiences you’ve had and consider this idea. The idea that it might become one of the great blessings of your life.
Billy Graham, a giant in the world of large-scale evangelism, taught that personal work was the best way of reaching people.
I have thought about Graham’s comment a great deal. I find it remarkable when I consider Charles and Helen Alexander’s similar point of view.
Unlike Billy Graham, you probably don’t know what Charles Alexander and his wife Helen Cadbury spent much of their energy on. They are the founders of The Pocket Testament League. Much of their life’s work was in Gospel Crusades. They travelled around the world four times between 1902 and 1913. They were part of huge campaigns that reached hundreds of thousands of people. They witnessed many people make professions of faith.
And yet, like Billy Graham, with all that electrifying experience, they too concluded that personal work was the most important.
I add to Graham’s and Alexander’s experience my own since leaving the pulpit. In this season of my life, I have met more people who do this personal work than I have ever met before. Most don’t consider themselves evangelists. They consider Billy Graham an evangelist. They consider themselves followers of Jesus.
Yet when I look at the definition above, “zealous advocacy for a cause”, they certainly are evangelists. Perhaps because they don’t take that title upon themselves, their genuine love for others and their humility shine through.
As I said, coming out of the pulpit, leading Bible studies, even being part of large-scale missions have caused me to think about Graham’s and Alexander’s relentless belief, which is magnified in light of their own life’s work. I add to their strong conviction my own witness of meeting these humble evangelists and their simple method that you will soon learn about.
But I go back to a question that early on this journey rattled around my brain. It is this question. “Is it really important for me? Me, who does not feel himself an evangelist.”
Helen Alexander described how her husband processed this question. “He always felt too much effort was made in the usual work of the churches to produce upon people a deep and powerful impression, without giving sufficient opportunity for expression.”
“A sufficient opportunity for the expression”, I love this turn of a phrase. How can I express to others, and to God, that I love Him, that I love Jesus?
My conclusion is that as adults, we learn best by doing. We can read all sorts of books on evangelism. We can listen to sermons; even take notes! We can attend seminars and conferences and more. Yet as an adult, knowledge takes hold of us when I put it into action.
Yet, it is more than learning. We show what really matters to us by what we put our time and energy into. Is our obedience to God visible in where we spend our time, talent and treasure?
Yet, and we should not be surprised, God knows that when we fulfil what we need to do as his sons and daughters, we reap benefits. Now we should not be motivated for the benefits. However, I want to highlight them in the following post because Personal Work will lead you to be a person of depth and joy.
 Michael Green. One to One: How to share your faith with a friend. Moorings Publisher. Nashville, TN. 1995. p. 11.
Alexander, C. (1995). A Romance of Song and Soul Winning. Sword of the Lord Publishers. Murfreesboro, TN 37133