Soul Surgery: Part 1
Part 1 of a 9-part series by Pastor Alan Redpath given over the course of 1959.
The Challenge And Significance Of Personal Testimony
What generally passes for personal work is a double misnomer, for it does not really take account of the individual nor is it really work. Along with Bible study and prayer we include personal work as one of the three primary essentials of the Christian life. But are we not thankful in our hearts that those to whom we recommend these practices do not know how shadowy is their presence in our own living: Personal Work, Bible Study, Prayer.
The kind of work in which we engage in connection with the first of these would be no more accepted as work in a business office than would the kind of study which we pursue in relation to the Word of God be accepted as study in any real school or college. Surely personal work is more important than any other of our regular activities. Why then should we judge it by such low standards?
In his essay on “Spiritual Diagnosis” which marked the beginning of what we might call Scientific Personal Evangelism, Henry Drummond wrote, “The true worker’s world is the unit.” Recognize the personal glory and dignity of the unit as an agent. Work with units, but above all work as units. The capacity of acting upon an individual is now almost a lost art—it is hard to learn again. We have spoiled ourselves by thinking to draw thousands to public work by what people call “pulpit eloquence”—by platform work—by conferences—and so on.
We must begin again and begin far down. Christianity began with one. We have forgotten the simple way of the Founder, how He ran away from cities, how He shrank from mobs, how He lagged behind the rest at Samaria to have a quiet talk with one woman at a well; how He stole away from crowds, entered into the house of one humble Syrophoenician woman and would have nobody know it. In small groups of two’s and three’s He collected the church around Him; one by one the disciples were called and there were only twelve in all.
A further testimony to the importance of this form of Christian service which was followed primarily by our Lord and the early church is to be found in a recent book of Dr. John R. Mott, entitled The Present World Situation. He writes, “Some missionary methods are more highly productive than others. These may be characterized as the most vital process and in all cases when other methods are employed these vital processes should be employed with them or related to them. The most important and productive method of all is that of relating men, one by one, through reasonable and vital faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. By ‘reasonable faith’ is meant the faith for which men can give reason which will stand. By ‘vital faith’ is meant a faith which actually transforms life. This individual work for individuals was the method most constantly employed by Christ Himself and has ever been given a large place in the activities of the most helpful spiritual work. It is the crowning work—the most highly multiplying work—the most enduring work.”
It is not great preachers that we need, but men who can talk familiarly face to face with others as individuals wherever we meet them, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every great forward movement of the Holy Spirit has been due to an awakening in the heart of a Christian to the fundamental importance of personal work. The old time hit-or-miss revival does not do for today. It is easy for men to be swept off their feet by an emotional appeal. The results are thus easily seen: of course they must not always be minimized but it is easy to be overpowered in a crowd and to be almost satisfied with the blurred vision of seeing men as trees walking. The time has fully come when we must take time to see every man clearly.
Nothing is more urgently needed in the life of this church than the mobilization of every member and worshipper in the sphere of personal evangelism. There is nothing like it to drive one continually to the Lord in prayer and to the study of His Word. There is much laxity in both of these things because we regard them too often as ends in themselves instead of preeminently being the means of daily equipment and guidance for effective personal work. Henry Drummond once said that “every atom in the universe can act on every other atom but only through the atom next to it. And if a man would act upon every other man he can do best by acting on one at a time upon those beside him.”
One of the great preachers of this country in the days of the Civil War was Henry Ward Beecher. He once said this, “The longer I live the more confidence I have in sermons preached when one man is the minister and one man is the congregation. Then there is no question who is meant when the preacher says ‘thou art the man.’” How many a public evangelistic campaign conducted by distinguished leaders has accomplished little because it was not undergirded by a continuous campaign of personal evangelism in which large numbers of Christian workers participated.
Now most of us shrink from personal work for one of three reasons. Laziness, cowardice, or a sense of impotence. We do not wish to do it, or we are afraid to do it, or we are not able to do it. Often the reason for the latter is that some sin has paralyzed our energy.
Dr. John R. Mott, soon after his graduation from Cornell University, gave the following hindrances to personal work: natural diffidence, self conceit, love of ease, consciousness of an inconsistent life, an inconsistent life though unrecognized by the man himself, false courtesy, lack of experience, ignorance of the Bible, failure to recognize opportunities, and Satan’s active interference. This list probably includes the most important hindrances: all of which point back to a lack of a vital experience of the living Christ, out of which must flow the zeal, the courage, the tact, and consistent Christian living which makes personal work possible and fruitful.
The terms Christian and Personal Worker ought to be interchangeable. A professing Christian who is not busy to some extent in the work of witness-bearing to individuals can be no true follower of Christ, who declared, “My Father worketh even until now and I work” (John 5:17). “And who bade us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:9). We can hardly have any title to accept His invitation to come to Him unless we are prepared to accept the responsibility to go for Him. The one to whom the Gospel is genuine good news then passes it on to others and it is primarily through such personal witnessing that the Christian religion spreads abroad.