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Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Preach the Gospel to Turn Many to Righteousness

This article is from Watchman Gospel Signs - the men at our church use homemade signs every friday and saturday night in major downtown areas within a few hours of the church. They find that using signs is the most effective way to reach others. One of the families here has signs on their vehicles as well. Some of their signs can be viewed on Watchman Gospel Signs' website here. (their's is the red minivan)

How to Preach the Gospel

To Turn Many to Righteousness
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

One of the most glorious gifts ever given to the children of God has been the awesome privilege of “turning many to righteousness” as this verse puts it. However, if we are going to take part in this activity, we had better start soon. Because as the writer of one book puts it, it’s something we won’t be able to do in Heaven. In Heaven we can worship, praise, serve, love, sing, rejoice, and, as Daniel 12:3 says, maybe even shine. And these things will go on for ever and ever. But if we desire to turn anyone to righteousness, we will need to do it during the few short years we have left on this sin-cursed earth.

But what is going to be necessary for us to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity? What methods ought we to use in our efforts to “convert the sinner from the error of his way”? Is there only one right way to “preach the gospel to every creature”?

Picture a divided highway with lanes headed both north and south, with the southbound lane heading toward some sort of danger. To turn a speeding vehicle off of the southbound lane and onto the northbound lane will prove to be a tremendous challenge, and a number of different strategies could be used. Some folks may start by placing speed bumps across the southbound lanes. Others will choose instead to erect full concrete barriers. Still others will build exit ramps which will guide cars gradually off the southbound lane and onto the northbound lane. Still more people will decide to put up warning signs about the need to get off the southbound lane or with information about how to get onto the northbound lane. These methods, though different, would all be designed to work toward the same goal: changing the direction of as many of the southbound cars as possible.

Similarly, there are numerous methods that could possibly be used to turn sinners to the way of righteousness. And because we as humans are limited in time and resources, we will need to pick and choose between the various methods we have available. This leaves us, then, with a question: which evangelism method or methods would God have us to use? Are there some methods that are more effective than others? Are there some that are more efficient than others?

Just to get us thinking a little, let’s suppose that God would come to you with a mandate similar to that of Jonah old regarding a city near you. “Yet 40 days and the city of, say, Pittsburgh will be destroyed!” Furthermore, God says, it is up to you to warn the people of Pittsburgh of the coming destruction. You will not be held responsible for their response; you are only responsible to deliver the message. How would you respond to such a call?

Suppose further that as you examine your resources, family needs, and other commitments, you determine that you can free up one hour per day for spreading this message. The next decision you have to make is this: how will you spend this one hour per day that you have available?

On the first day you go out on the streets of Pittsburgh and find one person who seems open to your message. For the next hour you talk to him one-on-one, pleading earnestly for him to repent and turn to Christ. As you drive home you thank God for the opportunity to talk to this man; there is no doubt that you have touched him in a powerful way and you have high hopes that he will soon give his life to Christ.

On the other hand, you think to yourself, I have only touched one soul today. Only one person out of a population of over 300,000 has heard the warning that I am responsible to deliver. If I keep this up it will take nearly 1,000 years to warn everyone just once of the coming destruction. And I have only 39 days left before judgment comes.

On day 2 you change your methods somewhat. Instead of talking to only one person, you gather ten people together for a Bible study, and expound to them as a group about sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Again, your hour seems fruitful; yet at this rate it will still take almost 100 years to share the gospel with everyone in the city.

On day 3 you change your methods again. Finding a high place above a crowded sidewalk, you call together a group of people and begin to preach to them. Gradually more people join the audience, and by the end of the hour you have given your message to at least a hundred different people. Things are going better now, but you will still need close to 10 years to reach everyone using this method. And you have only 37 days yet to go.

On day 4 you try something different. First, you write out your message on paper and get it reproduced in tract form. Then you go back to the crowded sidewalk and begin distributing these tracts as fast as you can. People are unusually receptive, and you are able to distribute nearly 1,000 tracts in an hour’s time. You go home excited about this great evangelism tool you have discovered, and you pray for fruit in the lives of those touched. Yet you still have to acknowledge that at this rate, only one person in ten will have heard the message by the time judgment comes.

On the morning of day 5 you begin to ponder. “Isn’t there some way that I can touch, say, 10,000 people in an hour instead of only 10, 100, or 1,000? Some way to get the warning not only those who would take a tract from me but also to those who would refuse? Some way to plant a seed in the mind of thousands of people who would rather not think about eternity?”

If you seriously would like to accomplish all of these things, here is something you ought to try. Go down to a local sign shop, or even to your own computer, and get yourself a sign made with a gospel message in really large letters. The message will need to be pointed, yet short enough to be read in just a second or two. “PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD (Amos 4:12)”, “REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL (Mark 1:15)”, “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH (Romans 6:23)”, or “CHIRST DIED FOR OUR SINS (1 Corinthians 15:3)” are good ones to start with. For best results, make a double sided sign with a different verse on each side.

Next, take your sign to the busiest intersection in the city during rush hour. Park your car in a nearby parking lot, pick up your sign, and step out of the car. (Your legs may, at this point, try to refuse to step out of the car, but you’ll just have to be firm with them. After all, they are your legs, and they need to learn to do what you tell them.) When you have found the spot on the sidewalk which is visible to the maximum amount of passing traffic, hold up your sign, smile, and give a friendly wave to each car as it passes. (Don’t be too disappointed if not everyone waves back at you, or if the waves you do get are not particularly friendly.) Keep some gospel tracts in your pocket and a testimony on your lips in case there are people that come by on foot. If a Christian friend sees you and asks you why you’re out here making a fool of yourself, just offer him another sign and invite him to join you.

As you stand there waving at the traffic, take the opportunity to spend time in prayer. (I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind when He told us not to pray on the street corners.) Prayer for the effectiveness of the message you are sharing. Prayer for protection for you and your family. Prayer for more laborers to be sent into the harvest.

When your hour is over you can drive home with a joy in your heart for the privilege of sharing the gospel of with so many. Meanwhile, ten thousand other people are also driving home, and because of you they are thinking about things they have not thought about for a long time: sin, death, judgment, eternity, and the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ.

After you arrive at home, build a small frame at the end of your driveway mount your sign on it for the passing motorists to see. You might as well be planting seeds all day (and, if the letters are reflective, all night) in the minds of the several hundred drivers who will be passing your house during the next 24-hour period.

Perhaps you’re wondering whether this method of evangelism actually yields fruit, whether souls will really get saved as a result of it. (In fact, if you do get involved in sign evangelism, you will be asked this very question by many well-meaning Christians. They will even hint that perhaps you are driving people away from the gospel by getting in their face like this.) Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what the answer is to this question. Instead we can read the testimonies of pioneers who went before us in this field and received definite confirmation that such signs do indeed bear fruit to everlasting life.

In the book A Sower Went Forth (available from Rod & Staff publishers), Martha Palmer tells about how her husband Ralph placed gospel signs all over the United States during the mid- 1900s. The most exciting part, however, is when she recounts a number of testimonies they received from people who had surrendered to Christ as a result of reading his signs! Today, therefore, we can go forward with the full assurance that God’s Word will not return void, even when delivered by means of a gospel sign.

I would like to suggest especially that this last method, gospel signs, could be a much more powerful force than it is during these last days both to warn and to win people for God. (We are called to do both, you know.) They may also help provide a cure for another problem: that twinge of conscience we get when we read in 2 Timothy that all who will live Godly will suffer persecution. Most of us in America have to squirm just a little when we think about the distinct lack of persecution we are facing. Is it possible, however, that this would all change if we each had a sign in our yard stating that “THE FOOL HAS SAID THERE IS NO GOD (Psalm 14:1)”? How about “WITHOUT HOLINESS NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD (Hebrews 12:14)” or “HE WHO MARRIES A DIVORCED WOMAN COMMITS ADULTERY (Luke 16:18)”? Our mission field would include both the unbelievers around us and also the backslidden church, and much of the persecution we would receive would doubtless come from the latter. (It’s true, God is not asking us to invite persecution just for persecution’s sake; on the other hand, the history of Christianity has shown that preaching the pure gospel and “inviting persecution” are almost synonymous with each other.)

All of the evangelism methods mentioned above have proven in the past to be effective ways of turning people to righteousness, and we ought to be using all of them as the Lord leads. One-on one conversation (such as with the Samaritan woman or the Ethiopian eunuch) is undoubtedly the most powerful way to touch the life of one person. Yet we ought to consider using some of these other methods, such as tracts or signs, both to warn those who are closed to the gospel and also to open up conversations with those who are searching.

I can almost picture Noah using all of these forms of evangelism during the 100 years he was building the ark. Perhaps he spent the first 20 years talking to people one on one; then, as he realized how closed people were to his message, he moved on to ten people at a time, then to a hundred. Then he began to realize that he would never be able to WIN all of these people, perhaps he switched to tracts and signs (the ark itself was like a huge gospel sign) in an effort to be faithful to at least WARN everyone of the coming judgment. And in the end, God was pleased with this “preacher of righteousness” even though the number of those won was very few. Will God be pleased with you and me?

In the first section of this article we discussed a number of powerful ways to share the gospel with the lost, including street preaching, tracts, and gospel signs. Let’s suppose you have taken to heart some of these thoughts, and have decided that you will use whatever method you can to win, or at least to warn, as many people as possible before Christ returns.

Imagine that you have set aside an hour or two to do some evangelism in your local city. You pick up a box of tracts, find a busy sidewalk, & pass out about a thousand of these pieces of literature during the time you have available. When you arrive home, however, you discover that you had mistakenly grabbed the wrong box of tracts on your way out the door. You had picked up a box of BLANK tracts that were waiting to be sent to the printer, and had just spent the last couple of hours passing them out to pedestrians. What kind of thoughts would you be thinking?

Imagine another scenario. Instead of tracts, you grab a gospel sign and head for town just in time for rush hour. After spending the next hour holding the sign beside a major intersection, you drive home believing that you have prompted thousands of people to consider the condition of their eternal soul. But then you discover that you had picked of the wrong sign, a BLANK one, and had just spent the last hour holding up a sign with nothing on it. How would this make you feel?

If you are like me, there would be one sad thought going through your mind in each of these situations: “Wasted Opportunity”. Instead of a thousand people going home and reading a tract with a gospel message, they are wondering what kind of an idiot would hand them a blank piece of paper. Instead of ten thousand people driving home thinking about death, judgment, and their condition before God, they are thinking the same sinful thoughts that they were thinking before they saw you and your sign. The entire hour or more that you have just invested in what you thought was witnessing has turned out to be nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Perhaps you’re thinking that these stories are ridiculous, and that you would never be so careless as to waste your witnessing opportunities in such a way. Yet I would like to suggest in this article that many of us similarly are wasting many of our greatest witnessing opportunities on a regular basis.

Let me explain what I mean by asking a question. On a typical trip that you take into town for shopping, business, or recreation, how many people see the vehicle that you are driving? I’m not asking for the number of people who notice your vehicle, but rather for the number of people who have your vehicle pass in front of their vision at least one time during the day. A thousand people? Maybe even ten thousand? Whatever the number is, I would suspect that it is far more than most of us realize.

In a sense, your vehicle is a huge sign-board that you are holding in front of thousands of people every week. If it is a blank sign, then thousands of people go about their lives with the same thoughts of lust, hate, greed, or whatever thoughts they were thinking before they saw your vehicle.

If, on the other hand, you have short passages from God’s Word printed in large letters on the exterior of your vehicle, these same people are instead driving home with God’s Word imprinted on their minds. Many of these same people would never have accepted a gospel tract from you had you offered them one. But now, willingly or unwillingly, they have read the messages on your automobile and are stuck with thinking thoughts about God for a while.

How many of these people will respond to the messages they’ve read? The answer to that question lies between them and God. We do know this, though, that God’s Word is quick and powerful, that it will not return void, and that it is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. We also know there have been people who committed their lives to Christ as a result of seeing gospel messages printed on vehicles. The book “A Sower Went Forth” (available from Rod & Staff) records some true accounts of this sort of thing happening.

A godly brother from another state recently told me that he believes every church community ought to have its own sign-making equipment. With the technology available today, attractive, high-quality yard signs, vehicle signs, and magnetic signs can be made with a minimal amount of experience.

We are privileged to live in a land where the vast majority of the people know how to read. Let’s use this fact to our advantage as we look for ways to reach the ungodly with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Though there will always be witnessing opportunities that we, being human, will miss, perhaps as we work together we can recognize and put to use some of these opportunities that are sitting in our laps. And as we do so, we can take steps toward changing from being the “quiet of the land” to those who have “filled Jerusalem with their doctrine”. May God help us to this end. —Roger Hertzler


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog - it's always fun to meet others, and we're both Missourians! I actually met a blogger at the library the other day - she has a weight loss blog and she lives right in my town. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend ~ ♥

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