by Jefferson David Tant
And just what job am I writing about? Washing cars? Washing dishes? No, I”m writing about something infinitely more important than earthly tasks. I”m writing about “washing souls.” Paul wrote in Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men …”
We are aware that “Christ came into the world to save sinners,” for so Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:15. It was such an important mission that Christ literally gave his life, having endured unimaginable pain and suffering by being scourged and nailed to the cross. Now, if the salvation of sinners was so important to God, how important is it to those of us who have benefitted from this marvelous act of grace? How important is it that we share this good news with those who are lost and will spend an eternity in the fires of hell?
Someone might say, “Oh, we support our preacher to spread the good news. He has a good knowledge of the Scriptures, and has done good work in sharing the gospel with the lost.” Is that it? Is that what it”s all about? Are preachers the only ones responsible to carry the message?
Let”s be reminded of the words in Matthew”s account of the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
OK, we've got the charge to the apostles to “make disciples of all the nations,” but note that the charge doesn't stop there. Christ goes on to say that when they “make disciples,” they then should teach the new disciples to do what the apostles were doing, going and teaching!
Doesn't that make it the responsibility of every one of us, every Christian, to be active in seeking souls? Yes, the “preacher” may have more time to do this, but that doesn't excuse anyone else from fulfilling what they have been commissioned to do by Christ.
An interesting connection is found between Acts 8:1-4 and Colossians 1:23. “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles….Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
Notice that a great persecution followed the stoning of Stephen, and the disciples were scattered. This may have been just a year following the crucifixion. Notice two things:
- the apostles (the preachers) stayed in Jerusalem, at least for a time, and
- the disciples, ordinary Christians who, Paul wrote, were “scattered, went about preaching the word.”
Now note Paul's letter to the Colossians in 1:23: “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
This may have been written some 31 years after Pentecost, and in one generation the gospel had spread to the whole known world. No TV, no internet, no air travel or engine powered vehicles. Travel by camel was pretty common, and a camel would cover about 20 miles in a day.
So how did the gospel spread so rapidly without all the modern conveniences we have today? It is quite probable that some of those converted at Pentecost stayed in Jerusalem for a time, as they would have been eager to learn more, and the apostles were there to teach them. Acts 2:44-45 mentions that the Jerusalem disciples sold possessions, evidently to supply the needs of those from other nations who didn't come prepared to stay any length of time.
And then when the persecution started, they went home. And what did they do when they reached home? It should be quite obvious that they were so excited about the “good news” that they began to share it. They talked to their next-door neighbor, the grocery store clerk, the person sitting at the next table in the neighborhood café, the Rent-a-Camel operator, and whoever else they could find. This is what we call “personal evangelism.”
We are reminded of Paul's charge to Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). We see the same process — Paul teaches Timothy, Timothy teachers others, who then continue the chain.
And today? Well, that's the preacher's job. Except for those who think otherwise. An older gentleman (I don't know his name) was an atheist in his younger years and was converted to Christ at age 80. He was bedfast for 3 ½ years related to heart surgery, and at 89 was burdened with palsy and cancer. From his hospital bed he had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye as he remarked, “Since I have obeyed the gospel of Christ, I have led 21 souls to Christ, and if the Lord lets me live a little longer, I have 12 or 14 more just about ready to obey.”
Too young? I knew of a young man 11 years old who invited a school friend to church, which resulted in her and her mother being converted. 17-year-old Janet Mitchell in Cincinnati got 25 children in her neighborhood to go to VBS and then had Bible classes for 20 of them through the summer in her back yard. Nancy Harber Picogna invited two high school friends to my gospel meeting in St. Louis. They were both baptized. 13-year-old Love Joy Bada in the Philippines invited two friends to my meeting. They walked for some distance over a dirt road, and then we went to another spot to baptize her friends.
Arie Brannan spent some years in an assisted living home until she died recently well over the age of 100. I don't know how many of her caregivers were converted, but I know some were, and at least one after she turned 100.
Donnie and Norma Lott were baptized in November 1969. In January, they were instrumental in converting another young couple. In July Donnie asked me to help teach one of his contacts, who was then baptized. Three days later they brought Jimmie Nell Duvall to be baptized. Three days later her husband M.G., a Jehovah's Witness was baptized. Then the next month Jimmie Nell brought Barbara Meredith to be baptized. These are new converts bringing others to Christ. I knew of a sister in a convalescent home in Texas who was paralyzed from the neck down. She taught visitors, fellow patients, workers, and would call someone to come and baptize them.
Now, what was your excuse? So, how are contacts made? Obviously, many converts are friends, neighbors, or family of Christians. But there are other ways to find souls who are open to being taught. I will make note of my approach that has been fruitful through the years.
When out and about, I will try to engage in conversation with those that are serving me — restaurant waitress, bank clerk, drug store clerk, etc. I may begin with “Let me ask you a philosophical question. What's the meaning of life?” That gets different responses, with some being the “deer-in-the-headlights” look. Then I ask if they believe in God and believe the Bible to be true. That often results in their email address to which I send material on the existence of God, or proof the Bible is all true. I always try to leave a tract for them to read. My booklet on “Where Did They All Come From?” has borne fruit through the years. Such conversations have resulted in conversions through the years.
One unusual situation had me seated next to a young woman on a bus. We had a good conversation, and then I reached my destination before she did. But I was to hold a gospel meeting soon in a town near where she lived. She and her boyfriend drove several miles in spite of the dense fog. Lunch at the local preacher's home and a study afterward resulted in us going to the church building to baptize both of them. As I came through her town on my way home, I stopped to see her in the store where she worked. She told me that during her lunch hour she and her boyfriend were doing to get their marriage license. They had been living together.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. There are people all around us who are prospects. If you will always carry some small tracts with you, you can leave them in places where you might not even see who picks them up. Where to leave them? In shopping carts, with a generous tip, in restrooms, in envelopes with bill payments, on hotel dressers for the maid, on seats at airports, on busses, in airplane seat pockets, inside magazines. They should have contact information, either for the local church or to connect with you. Dale Smelser wrote a short tract many years ago called “We Are Simply Christians,” with multiplied thousands of copies printed through the decades, and it has caught the attention of untold numbers.
In the days of my grandfather, J. D. Tant, a gospel meeting might run for two weeks, and at times maybe 30 or 40 people would be converted. In the days of my father, Yater Tant, the Jules Miller filmstrip five-night series was responsible for the conversion of thousands. Many are too busy or too involved with the internet, etc. to first agree to five nights. So a simple, personal approach is what we must do and evidently was what was working in the first century among the converts from the 16 nations that were present at Pentecost.
Sometimes during church services, we sing the old song “You Never Mentioned Him to Me.”
"When in the better land before the bar we stand,
How deeply grieved our souls may be;
If any lost one there should cry in deep despair,
“You never mentioned Him to me.
You never mentioned Him to me,
You helped me not the light to see;
You met me day by day and knew I was astray,
Yet never mentioned Him to me.”
(James Rowe, 1929)
Dear Reader, the Lord's church's future depends greatly on Personal Evangelism. The great gospel meetings of yore are gone. People are busy, busy, busy these days, and churches are dying because they are not adding souls. We cannot depend just on baptizing our own children.
“Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest”? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” " (John 4:31-35).
Whose job to help wash? Yours and mine!