Soul Surgery: Part 5
Part 5 of a 9-part series by Pastor Alan Redpath given over the course of 1959.
Confidence In Soul Winning, Part 2
We must remember that the amount of spiritual longing in the world is absolutely incredible. No one can even faintly understand the intense spiritual unrest which seethes everywhere around us. No one, that is, except the one who has tried to discern—and who has begun by the private experiment of looking into his own life—by taking observations upon people near him and known to him, and has witnessed enough to call forth his heart the most emphatic desire and determination to win others for the Lord.
There is, of course, a natural reticence in speaking of spiritual things, and the barrier of reserve that holds people apart, and shuts them in within themselves, has to be broken down. Perhaps the most vital factor in that is the infectiousness of our own faith and love for the Lord Jesus. When you have found Him to be so valuable and indispensable—indeed, not only that but your very life—then you must be eager to share with others all that you have found Him to be. By some way or another you must break through reserve, and share your treasure.
If we are willing to do this out of hearts that love the Saviour, that is the basis upon which men do not resent being approached. Indeed, I think many wonder why we do not open the conversation; someone has to take the initiative. It is not likely that the man whose life is all tangled and tied up is ready to discuss his problems with a stranger, but when that stranger comes to him with an openness and a radiant Christian testimony which manifestly is real and vital in his life, there is an immediate point of contact which brings confidence and a willingness to open up in conversation. How many chances and opportunities we must have missed through failure to seize them! One can understand the reserve of the man whose need and life are so complicated and desperate that he is reluctant to express it, but why should the Christian have the same reserve when he himself has found the answer?
At a recent student conference a young man from Yale University stated that he had come with a delegation thinking that surely someone in that atmosphere would speak to him about the Christian life, and that he tried in vain to make others talk to him about the Saviour. Although they were supposed to be Christians, they would talk about anything except the Lord. What must people think of the value we put upon our Christian experience when we are so slow to share its blessings? In another university in this country, after a visiting evangelist had won a student to Christ at a campus meeting, the college pastor stopped to shake his hand by way of congratulation. The student refused to take it until he had told this man (to whom was entrusted the religious life of the students of the university) his honest opinion of one who had been so closely associated with him ever since he had entered college, and yet as he expressed it, “would have seen me go to Hell without telling me personally about the Lord.”
All of us who would seek to be personal soul-winners need to recognize that we are surrounded by hungry people who are dependent upon us, whether they realize it or not, for finding the way to the great Shepherd of their soul.
Undoubtedly one reason why others do not confide in us more when they are longing for help is because of our own reserve, which in turn holds them back. If the personal worker’s message is to strike home to the heart of his hearer, it must be understood that it comes from his own heart. That which comes from the heart reaches the heart. It is truth through personality, and must come charged with the authoritative power of personal experience. There must be an abandonment of self-giving. This is a costly business and an exhausting one, and unless the worker is living in close touch with the Lord Jesus, it is a dangerous one too.
Remember, sin is infectious. The personal worker must be prepared to give himself and his own treasured experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, and share it with others. This is much more difficult to do in personal conversation with another than in the pulpit, where the conversation is essentially one-sided. With most of us this willingness to give ourselves and share our experience is lacking, possibly because we do not really care enough for the need of others; our passion for souls is theological rather than personal.
Henry Drummond’s biographer writes of him at the age of 23 that “he was interested in us and his interest, being without officiousness, won our confidence and made us frank with him. We could tell him, as we could not tell others, the worst about ourselves. The worst, and just as easily also, the best—our ideals and ambitions, of which men are often as ashamed to speak as they are about their sin. Concerning our sin, he was never indulgent, or anything but faithful with those who spoke to him about it, but in every man he saw possibilities for good, which the man himself had either forgotten or despaired of, or never knew.”
One of the secrets of the success of the Salvation Army in the early days was the deep personal love involved. General Booth wrote, “The first vital step in saving outcasts consists in making them feel that some decent human being cares enough for them to take an interest in the question of whether they are to rise or sink.”
It was because the pastor cared for individual men and women that under the ministry of the late Herbert Rothwell Bates, the Spring Street Presbyterian Church in the tenement house district of New York City grew rapidly from a dejected remnant of a congregation to a powerful church of 600 members. One of his fellow workers tells this incident: “One event which made a lasting impression upon me I would like to share with you. It was during an illness when we lived together in the annex of the neighborhood house, and I had been helping to care for him. One evening as he lay on his bed he asked me to bring him his little book which contained the names of all the members of his congregation. As he held it in his hand, I sat by his side and he told me of his love for them all. He said, ‘I know what it means when I read those words of Scripture, He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, for I, too, have tried to carry their sorrows and bear their burdens.’
“He told me how he used to spend hours on his knees praying for each one by name, bringing to God their trials and temptations. He said that at first they had been like one great family, and then he broke down (for he was very weak at the time) as he told how the church had grown so large that he could no longer bring to God each one by name as he could before his work had grown to such proportions. That little talk gave me an insight into the heart of a man who was the kind of minister I longed to become.” How often that pastor, Herbert Rothwell Bates, could be found at conference centers sitting in some quiet spot in earnest conversation with a single individual about the deepest things in life.
The very surprise of learning that somebody cares so much as to want their salvation with such an earnestness that they pray for them, may begin to lead that person to pray for himself. I feel all this, in order to make it perfectly clear that a personal evangelist, if he would win the confidence of others, does not simply possess a kind of abstract love of a crowd and of a congregation, but a warm, sympathetic, personal interest in the individuals around him which expresses itself in varied ways, and to such people the confidence of others naturally comes.