At the 2014 Ohio Winter Lectureship I was invited to speak on the topic “The Christian and Opportunities for Outreach”. When I research a topic, I like to consult a variety of sources. Of course, I always place a premium on brotherhood materials. One year at the Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship I was introduced to the new editor of The Gospel Gleaner, Andrew D. Erwin. I obtained a copy of his book as we got acquainted. When I was preparing for my lecture, this book is one that I found to be very practical and helpful without all the unscriptural approaches and falsehoods of church growth groups outside of the church. For example, I read one book from a denominational/community church author. The writer did not mention baptism a single time, ever. There was an emphasis on loving the Lord, how to help develop this love in others who need to obey the gospel, but no reference to baptism at all. One wonders if they have not read what Jesus said on more than one occasion--“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15, NKJV.) Perhaps they have read this, but they failed to notice that baptism is a command given by Jesus Christ just prior to His ascension—“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, NKJV.)
Another of the books I read spoke of a national survey that concluded two surprising statistics. One was that 82 percent of the “unchurched” would be “somewhat likely” to come to worship if they received a personal invitation. The other statistic found that only 21 percent of people invited anyone to church within a year. Someone commented to me that they thought these numbers were too high, but I asked which number—the people who would come if asked or the people who were doing asking? The point remains—when is the last time you personally invited someone to church! Sometimes we can become pessimistic. Now, the person who commented to me about these numbers was not asking out of pessimism; however, we sometimes allow ourselves to become pessimistic. One of the quotes I wanted to read during my lecture from Erwin’s book, but was unable to because of time, was this one: “Pessimism is never kept quiet. When a brother is pessimistic, he will no doubt discourage another brother (see Numbers 13—14). As Christians, we are commanded to encourage and provoke one another unto love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). When a brother discourages another brother because of his lack of faith in things good, he is sinning against God. It is no doubt disturbing and discouraging to Christians who want to see the church grow and yet are privy to the many times their congregation’s eldership’s business meetings are filled with discussions critiquing why good work(s) cannot work. We ask, instead of thinking about all the reason why a good work cannot work, why not discuss all the reasons why a good work can work?” (p. 41). The question remains on the table—when was the last time you personally invited someone to worship services? By personal, this does mean the sign out front, the service times in the bulletin or on the web site. Those are impersonal invitations. We are speaking of personal invitations. Of course, the more you know the person, the greater the personal invitation has of succeeding!
Erwin’s Each One Reach One contains several excellent chapters with discussions questions at the end of each chapter. There are also five lessons in the back of the book to assist a person to do a personal Bible Study with someone. This book would make an excellent Bible Class study to train workers for the vineyard. Beware—personal evangelism involves you, personally. I always have appreciated the title of Ivan Stewart’s book, Go Ye Means Go Me. We must go!