Part 4: Leading a Person to Christ
Make Sure You Have Only One Purpose
Leading a person to Christ is leading a person to Christ. It is not teaching him about the latest Christian fad. It is not telling him all the ways in which you think his life needs to change. You need to discipline yourself to focus on your one purpose–you want to lead him to Christ.
There are plenty of tangent issues you can get into. There is no group in the world that gets off on more wild horses than Christian groups. Go down to the Christian bookstore and see what most of the materials are about. At one time, tongues are in; a little later healing is in; the next year body life is in; then Christian fellowship; then baptism; then the Second Coming is the big thing. If you just watch, you’ll see that Christians will just confuse you with all these side issues and their “in” subject of the year. You’ll just be riding one wave after another.
Added to these Christian fads, you will have more pressure coming from whatever is the “in thing” on the streets. For a while, massage parlors were all the rage. Some Christians wanted to crusade against them, but if you build your ministry around a cause like that, it will soon be irrelevant. Massage parlors are no longer in. Other fads, like nightclubs and psychedelic shops, have come and gone. If you make sure your ministry is directed toward helping lead people to Christ, you’ll be effective year after year, having results for God, whatever the current issues are.
Right now, a lot of Christians are busy fighting homosexuals. We’re not called to fight gays, we’re called to win the world to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what a person’s hang-up is. The guy driving a new car who’s hung up on money is just as needy as a homosexual. Even little children who are not saved are in the same shape. Our attitude toward the community is to win individuals to Jesus Christ. I could be out fighting all the gays on Hollywood Boulevard. As it is, we’re down there witnessing to them every night. And they are listening. If I’m talking with a guy and he says, “But, I’m gay,” I respond, “Praise the Lord, I’m happy too!” And then we get back to the subject of how he can receive Jesus Christ. We’re not called to preach Anita Bryant; we’re called to preach Jesus.
Some people just want to talk. They’ll get you into politics or sports or different religions, and before you know it your conversation is roving all over the world and you never get to Jesus Christ. If you’re not careful, the devil will have you yak, yak, yakking about every other subject under the sun.
So, learn to stick with what God has called you to do–to lead people to Christ. After they’ve received Him, He will open their eyes and begin to rebuild their lives. Then they can start dealing with the various problem areas in their lives.
When I go out to witness I intend to lead to Christ every person I witness to. That is my objective. My goal is not to lead to Christ half of those with whom I share Christ, or one out of every ten. I pray and plan to win every person I talk to. I want them all to be saved. I believe that’s the scriptural viewpoint. God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), so I shouldn’t be willing that any perish. You may know in your mind that not all will respond, but in your heart, you are anxious to win everyone. So, at the beginning of every conversation, you should visualize the person praying to receive Christ at the end.
The Time to Witness Is Now!
You don’t know whether the person you’re talking to will be alive or dead tomorrow. So, unless he stops you, lead right through to the point of receiving Jesus.
Some people have a casual attitude about witnessing. “I’m going to sow a little seed and share a little word about Jesus. Then, maybe someone else will sow a little more seed, and another person a little more. Someday one of those seeds will grow and the person will be saved.” The purpose of a Christian doing this kind of witnessing is not to lead people to Jesus, but to kind of sow a little seed and put a little word out. Well, I believe you can sow a little seed, and God can water it and it can spring up and bear fruit within three minutes, or in even a shorter time. It doesn’t take days, weeks or years. A person can be saved in one conversation, and that should be our objective. Maybe they won’t respond as we know they can and should. Then we should keep the door open so that we can come back again and try to win them then. But, at the beginning, our purpose should be to go all the way through with them, that they might be saved.
The importance of pressing for decisions now grows as we remind ourselves that everyone needs to be saved. The Bible convinces us that people without Jesus are lost. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); “The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die” (Ezekiel 18:20). And
Just as clearly as the Bible teaches that every person without Christ is lost, it also teaches that any individual can be saved right now: “Behold, now is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time” (2 Corinthians 6:2). So, I assume it is God’s will for me to witness to every person I meet unless God specifically tells me not to.
Many Christians wake up in the morning with no intention of sharing Jesus Christ with someone during that day. They’re going to wait for a tingling of the Spirit in their backbone, or some super emotional experience that turns them on. Otherwise, they won’t tell anybody about Jesus. There’s no indication in the Bible that the only time you are to witness is when you feel some tingling or a special feeling or have a vision or see fire dancing over someone’s head that tells you, “That’s the one!” Now, God does lead us by His Holy Spirit, but He doesn’t want us to sit around passively until He zaps us. The normal policy of a believer’s life should be to share Jesus Christ with everyone he meets during the day until God’s Spirit clearly tells him not to. Everyone is a prospect for salvation.
Speak to a Person’s Heart, Not to His Appearance
If you’re not careful, you will treat people differently just based on their appearance. Train yourself to speak to their hearts, not to what you see on the surface. You meet a big guy, about 6’7″ tall and 290 lbs., muscles bulging out, and a big full beard. Your natural response may be, “Wow, that guy is tough and mean.” So, you may not try to witness to him. And yet under that big body may be a person who’s scared of life and hungry for salvation. Inside, he may be just a big baby, but you’ve been intimidated by his physical appearance. Or, you may be talking to a girl who you figure will just be the next Miss America. She’s a knockout. And yet in her heart she may not have any beauty at all. She may feel dirty and sinful and ashamed.
Don’t let people’s outside appearance intimidate you–their build, their skin color, their style of clothes, their language. Speak to their hearts. They may try to put you off with conversation, saying they’re not interested in religion at all.
Yet, the person inside may be crying out for you to keep talking about Jesus. They may be talking from the head about all sorts of things, but you just keep talking to their hearts about the love of God. They may run down churches, preachers, Christians. Just ignore their words and keep talking to their hearts.
I met a guy on the beach once who was giving me a hard time. He said, “I’d like to get some little green devil badges and follow you around. I’d put one over every one of your Jesus stickers.” He wasn’t smiling, he was serious. I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, you must have a millionaire financing you to put all these out.” I said, “More than a millionaire. God’s financing me; you know, the One who runs this world. Maybe you can get the devil to finance your green ones.”
I could see he was interested, or he wouldn’t still be talking to me, so I said, “Listen, I’d love to have you follow along behind me with your green stickers. You’re liable to be saved. I’ve never seen the devil follow a Christian long, because he’s scared.” And, I started talking to his heart, sharing Jesus with him. He was really open and we talked for a long time and parted as friends.
One time on Sunset Boulevard I met a girl outside of a club and started to witness to her. She was dressed and made up in a way that indicated she really thought she was something. She tried to act as if she wasn’t interested in what I was saying, but I could tell she was, so I kept talking to her heart. All of a sudden, her boyfriend returned from parking the car and tried to take her into the nightclub. She said, “Wait a minute. I’m talking to this guy.”
When he left, she told me, “I was in a convent for three years. It was the happiest time of my life. I used to sing about Jesus, I used to study about Him. It was just wonderful.” Tears welled up in her eyes. She said, “I wish I could live it now that I’m out of the convent. I wish I had that now.” She had been talking up on one level–chat, chat, chat, chat, chat. But, I was down on another level, talking to her heart. All that sophistication was a cover-up, because she’d been with people who knew Jesus, and she knew that was real life. Finally, we had a prayer together and she felt wonderful. She said she was going to go back and talk to some of her old friends in the convent so that she could continue her Christian growth.
I found that many of the dancers in nightclubs grew up in fundamentalist Christian homes. In their hearts, they feel that they’ve stumbled and they’re unworthy. They feel totally rotten. They try to come across as very hard, but they’re not. Many times the people who appear to be the hardest are really the most sensitive.
Henry was one of those tough looking guys. He was in our center on Sunset Boulevard one night and he really tore into another guy. We had to call an ambulance for him. Afterwards, I called Henry into my office and said, “Henry, you know how hard it is for us to keep this place going. I can’t afford to have trouble in here. Why’d you hit him in this place where we’re trying to work for the Lord?”
Do you know what happened? This tough, mean-looking guy couldn’t even talk. He became all choked up and started to cry. He said, “He was making fun of my girlfriend who’s in jail.” He cried like a baby, because that’s what Henry was inside–a big baby. He had grown up on the streets without a mother or father. He was a terribly lonely person. Then he met a girl who had been kind to him and loved him. Now she was in jail–the only person in the whole world who had ever cared for him. A guy made fun of her, and whammo! Inside the tough hard Henry was a lonely, hurting Henry. I talked to that inner Henry, and he gave his life to Jesus. Since then, he’s been witnessing all over.
Don’t Wait for the Ideal Situation
The best circumstance for witnessing is when you’re one-on-one with another person and neither of you is distracted by anything. I would consider the ideal situation to be sitting down in someone’s living room, where he’s comfortable. He has called me and invited me to come to his house and explain to him how to be saved. The television is off, and the children are asleep. There is nothing to distract you from quietly opening the Bible together. Once in a while you’ll get that kind of an opportunity, but not often.
Most of your witnessing will be under one kind of pressure or another. That’s the way life is. You may give a tract to the driver of a bus you’re on. You ask, “Do you know Jesus in your heart?” “No, I don’t, I really don’t.” “Well, you can open your heart to Jesus Christ and be saved right now.” By this time, you may be getting off the bus. You’ve got an airplane to catch, and he’s got to continue on his route. Cars are piled up behind him. You don’t have the time to go from Genesis to Revelation. You don’t have the time to do anything but pray right now. You either have to do it quickly or not do it at all. So, you say, “I’d love to pray with you right now,” and the guy agrees. Tears are streaming down his cheeks. You grab his hand, and lead him in the sinner’s prayer. You give him a gospel tract and a follow-up tract and say, “my address is on the back.” The guy’s revving up the motor. He’s got to go. Cars are honking. “God bless you, brother.” And you step off.
Often in Hollywood we see a big limousine pull up to pick up people from a nightclub. I greet the people as they’re getting in and stick a tract in the window.
Maybe one girl in the back seat will show an interest in receiving Jesus. The driver is saying, “Come on, let’s get out of here. We don’t need to listen to a blankety-blank preacher.” The girl says, “That’s exactly what I need.” So, as the driver is trying to pull away, I pray with her as fast as I can. Believe it or not, God saves people under circumstances like that.
Sometimes in clubs the music is so loud you have to shout to be heard. The people are jammed in body to body. You give out tracts and stickers until someone seems to show a little interest. Then you cup your hands to his ear and ask, “Are you saved?” These aren’t ideal conditions for witnessing, but you still try your best.
Sometimes you’re talking with someone who’s so drunk he can’t stand up. You’re talking to him, and the guy’s drunk, and his hearing aid’s out of his ear, and his glasses are on crooked. Most Christians would walk by him. He’s too drunk, no hope for that old guy. Let me tell you, when he buys a cup of coffee for twenty cents and he gets back twenty cents change from a half dollar, he’ll put up a squawk. Who are you to determine that he can’t be saved? Nothing’s lost if you pray with him and he doesn’t understand you.
I’ve prayed with people others thought were dead. I knelt down and whispered a prayer in their ear, and invited them to trust Christ. If they’re not conscious, nothing’s lost, and if they are, it’s worth the effort. Sometimes when a guy is dead drunk, totally incoherent, I stick tracts in all his pockets. Then I wheel off a bunch of Jesus stickers and stick them all over him. When he sobers up the next day he’ll think he’s been to church.
You’ve heard of a pickpocket. Well, I’m a “putpocket.” I can stand and talk to a guy who doesn’t want a tract, and I’ll guarantee that I’ll get five on him before he knows. A guy will say, “Listen, I don’t want one of those stickers.” I pat him on the back and say, “God bless you, brother,” and he’s going on down the street with one on his back. I’ll have one in my hand and shake hands with a guy, and he’ll have a sticker on his hand. Then, when he’s looking at his hand, I’ll put one somewhere else. A putpocket for the Lord.
Deal with Distractions
Even though you shouldn’t wait for the ideal kind of situation to witness, quite often you can improve the atmosphere for witnessing by a little creative thought. For instance, if two of you are witnessing to a little group of people, and one seems very interested, but the others are arguing and causing a problem, one of you can draw the arguers away so the other can lead the interested person to Christ. You can just throw out a question to get them talking to you so your friend can be free to deal with the sincere seeker.
Maybe two of you are witnessing to a lady in her home. She’s interested, but the baby is fussing and that distracts her. One of you can pick up the baby and cuddle it. You may even learn how to change diapers to see someone’s soul saved. Just work on it until you figure it out, while the lady is listening to the message of Jesus Christ.
If a guy’s stuck by the road with a flat tire, don’t just preach at him while he’s sweating to fix it. Get down there and work with him–in fact work harder than he does. Then he’ll be more likely to listen as you share.
When you visit someone in the hospital with broken bones from an accident, don’t talk about his physical problems: “How’re you doing today? Oh, you look a mess, don’t you? Tell me what happened.” They don’t need that. With the joy of the Lord, just visit them a minute and then start sharing about Jesus Christ. You don’t have to rehash everything that’s happened. All their friends have already been in and asked them what happened to their leg and their arm. They’re tired of telling the story. They want a little good news. Concentrating on their physical problems distracts them from their deeper spiritual need.
There Is No Magic Plan
There is no one plan or program for leading a person to Jesus Christ. A lot of people have been through a training session and have learned a way to share Jesus. Then they conclude that’s the only right way. Now, every method that works is good. There’s no bad way to lead someone to Christ. If you’re using an approach that shares how to receive Jesus and it’s working for you, then Praise the Lord. But don’t think yours is the only way. You may be a four-step person. Don’t try to persuade others that four steps are better than seven steps. These methods are just man’s way of trying to share God’s truths.
I am going to share with you the method we have developed, but I want to make it clear that this is a way to witness, not the way. The outline in our method is just there as a simple guideline so that you can take an interested person through to the place where he is sure he’s saved. After you use this awhile, you may want to expand on it or discard it completely and just use your Bible.
The Big Question
Our introductory tract, “The Big Question,” has been described earlier. Now I want to tell you how you can use it.
When I give one of these to a person, I don’t use the word “tracts,” because most people don’t know what that means. I say, “I’d like to give you this handbill.” I’ve found it even simpler just to say, “I’d like to give you this.” “This” calls his attention to the piece of paper you’ve put in his hand, and he’s almost forced to look at it.
Sometimes a person will ask what the big question is, and sometimes he’ll open it and find out for himself. But quite often you’ll have to take the initiative. “Do you know what the big question is?” then, tell him.
If you had died the minute you started to read this, do you have the assurance that you would be in heaven?
The reason we start off with this particular question is that it immediately gets away from questions about denominationalism or church affiliation. You’re not dealing with whether the person is Protestant or Catholic; you’re not dealing with the person as Protestant or Catholic; you’re not dealing with his church situation, but with his relationship with God. If you start by inviting a person to your church or outreach center, you’ll get into one big fuss after another. Most people aren’t interested in your building. They go to ballgames on Sunday. What have you got that’s attractive to them? Only Jesus.
Most people respond to the big question by admitting that they don’t know. Some people will say, “I hope so,” or, “Well, I want to.” Very few will say, “Yes, I know if I died I’d go to heaven.” You might get that answer if you were around churches, but in the streets you seldom do.
If the person says, “Yes, I do have the assurance that I’d go to heaven,” then I prod them in a kindly way. “How do you know that you would spend eternity with God if you died right now? What do you base that on?” If the person is a Christian, that will give him an opportunity to give testimony. If he’s got something to say, he can say it then. If he’s not a Christian, he may say, “Well, I’m as good as anybody around here, and if anyone makes it, I will.” Now, you know that that’s not what’s going to qualify him for heaven. It’s receiving Christ, and knowing Him. But it’s not wise to say, “Hey man, you’re a liar.” You know from his answer that he needs to understand how to receive Jesus, so you very politely say, “Well, I’d like to show you a scripture verse here. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner . . .” and you just go right into the witness as though they’d said they didn’t know where they were going after death.
If the person has shown by his testimony that he’s saved, that’s an ideal time for you to say, “Well, wonderful. Are you active in sharing Jesus Christ?” And many times he will say, “I do know Jesus. I’ve trusted Him as my Lord. But no, I’m not actively sharing Him.” You say, “Well, listen, let me give you a few of these, and you can give some of them out on the street yourself. Take these and tell your friends about Christ.” That way you get him started witnessing. You get him involved. If you meet a person who knows Christ, don’t have the attitude, “I can’t talk to you because there’s nothing wrong with you.” Let the Lord use you to get him involved. Ask him if he’s regularly attending a local fellowship, and if he’s not, encourage him into it. And pray with Christians you meet. Sometimes the person has really backslid and meeting you is an important part of his coming back to the Lord.
The Four Salvation Verses
In our tract, “The Big Question,” the way of salvation is presented through four simple Bible verses (see above). I encourage you to open the tract when you’re witnessing and point to the verses one at a time. It’s even better if you flip to the verses in your Bible while they’re following them in the tract. That makes it clear to them that the verses actually do come from God’s Word.
The first thing a person must know in order to go to heaven is found in Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Read the verse, then tell the person, “It says that all have sinned. That means that I’m a sinner and you’re a sinner.” When you begin this way, you overcome the attitude that just because you’re witnessing, you think you’re more righteous than he is–holy, holy, holy. You’re admitting that you’re a sinner, and that makes it easier for him to admit that he is, too. Quite often at his time the guy will actually be nodding in agreement.
Sometimes a wise guy will say, “I’ve never sinned; I’m no sinner.” I just tap him on the chest and say, “Hey, man, you’re smarter than that. You know better than that.” Then I move right on to the second verse without arguing with him. Deep within, every person knows that he’s a sinner.
At this point, some people will want to begin talking about their specific sins, saying, “I’m this,” or “I’m that.” Just say, “Listen, God says He will deal with all our sins,” and move on. Don’t let them get you off on a tangent, dwelling on their sins.
The second thing a person needs to know is that the wages of sin is death, but God wants to give us eternal life through Christ (Romans 6:23). This shows the seriousness of sin, that it has built a barrier between us and Him. The consequence is death and hell, separation from God.
But the verse also shows that God has done something about the barrier. He has given us a gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. So, there’s a choice here–death or life, sin or Christ.
I move pretty quickly on to the third thing a person needs to know. “But God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). I tell the person, “God loves us, and He did something about our condition.” I explain as much as I can about who Jesus is and why He died.
Then, the fourth verse brings them to the point of decision. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Tell him, “You can be saved now. You can receive Him as your Savior this moment.” I don’t spend a lot of time talking about it; I just invite them to do it.
A Salvation Diagram
Sometimes I use an even simpler approach, based on only one verse, Romans 6:23. I do this when I am really rushed and don’t have much time to get the message across.
I’ll grab a piece of paper–maybe a napkin, or the back of a tract–and draw this diagram:
I talk about it as I’m drawing. “We’ve all sinned, haven’t we? When you sin, you receive wages–death. On the other side is a gift. God has already offered it to you. You haven’t earned it; Jesus did. But, you must receive Him.” At this point, I usually hand the person something to show how he has to receive it.
I continue, “Everyone is by nature on the left side (LOST!). But, we can get across the barrier to the other side (SAVED!). We can’t do anything to get across–the CROSS of Jesus is right here in the middle.” Then I complete the diagram:
Now I zero in. “Right now, which side are you on? You want to be over here, don’t you? Then why don’t you ask Jesus to put you over here right now?” At this point, I press for a decision just as I would using “The Big Question.”
Praying for Salvation
I always invite a person to pray for salvation right there on the spot. Some Christians are nervous about praying in bars or places like that. I say you can pray anywhere. At times, the person you’re leading to Christ will say, “I can’t pray in a bar.” I say, “Then let’s go outside.” And we do. One night a guy said to me, “The Bible says you should just pray in your closet.” I took him by the arm and said, “Let’s go find a closet.” The guy said, “No, no, that’s not what I meant.” He was just trying to get out of making the decision.
Sometimes a person will say, “I’m not worth praying for. I’m just too bad.” I respond, “Don’t say that. God loves you. If He wants to live in you, you must be good enough. He said, ‘Whosoever.'”
People need a little prodding at the point of decision. Don’t give them a whole lot of time to consider ways out. Just say, “I’d like to pray for you right now, and I’m sure you don’t mind. I want to pray for you first, and then I’ll lead you in a simple prayer to help you accept Jesus.” Don’t ever stop at that point and say, “Would you rather wait or would you like to do it now?” That just is giving the devil an opening at the last minute. Just go ahead and pray. You know
that in his heart he wants to receive the Lord, so you pray with him right there.
I like to take the person’s hand while I’m praying. Holding his hand doesn’t make him any more saved, but it does communicate love. That’s why I was arrested years ago in Jackson, Mississippi, for shaking a black man’s hand. It communicated too much love. I didn’t realize a handshake was that powerful, but it is. The sheriff told me I couldn’t do that anymore, but I said, “I’m going to shake hands with everybody unless you cut it off. And then I’ll stick my nub out. I love people.” So, it’s a natural thing for me to hold a person’s hand while I’m praying for him.
Now, if you feel it’s going to cause a problem, don’t do it. If you’re witnessing to a girl, and the boyfriend’s standing over there, prancing around and pouting because he thinks you’re liable to get his girlfriend saved and upset everything, you may decide it’s wisest not to take her hand. He might think, “I knew it, that guy’s just trying to pick her up.” Don’t get into circumstances if you feel that your actions might be misinterpreted.
When you pray, pray for them. Don’t pray about your own problems, the church’s problems, the world’s problems. Sometimes I’ve been witnessing along with another person, and I want to encourage him, so I ask him to lead in prayer. And he starts in, “Oh, Lord, I’m such a mess. Our church is about to fall apart, God. Revive our people . . .” and, in my heart, I’m praying, “Lord, get him to shut up.” Here is a person who wants to get in, and my friend is telling him how bad things are inside. Just pray for that person’s salvation; that the power of Satan will be broken in his life, that he’ll be free to respond to Jesus.
And, then finish your part of the prayer with, “. . . in Jesus’ name.” Don’t say, “Amen,” because then he’ll think the prayer is over and start looking around. Without any pause, go on and say, “I’d like to lead you now in this prayer and help you to give your life to Jesus. Now, the prayer is not to me, the prayer is to God. By this prayer, you are inviting the Lord to take over in your heart. I want to help you do that right now.” And then pray as though you were him praying, and ask him to repeat the prayer out loud.
This is one good thing about worship in the Catholic Church–they have the people pray out loud. Most Protestant churches don’t do this. They believe prayer should be spontaneous. I think that’s the ideal, but there are many times when people don’t know how to pray or what to pray for. They need to be directed towards specific areas of need.
Some Christians prefer to have a person pray to receive Christ with his own words. I’ve found that when I do that the person wanders around. He tells the Lord how bad he is, how bad he feels about his old mother he ran away from, and so forth. That’s why I’ve come to use the directed prayers. It gets the person to the point, which is inviting Jesus into his heart.
Emotional Responses Vary
Not everyone has the same emotional reaction after accepting Christ. Some Christians feel that because a person doesn’t have tears in his eyes, then God must not be dealing with him. They look for signs and wonders to indicate whether the Lord is working or not. It’s not tears that save, it’s not a smile that saves, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. You can’t tell what’s going on in a person’s heart just by looking at him.
Many times people do become very emotional at their conversion, and that can be a beautiful thing. I love to talk to somebody and see tears well up in his eyes before we start to pray, then hear him cry while we pray, and then finally see that he’s smiling after the prayer. But the night that I trusted the Lord, that didn’t happen to me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t smile, I just prayed and I believed that God was with me. Then I went on home without much emotion. But He was with me and He still is. Some people may laugh, some people may cry.
Our emotional make-up varies from person to person. Someone may come in right now and say, “Arthur, your wife was just killed,” and I would probably start crying. But someone else might react to the news that his wife was killed by immediately working things out in his mind: “Who’s taking care of the kids? What funeral director should I call?” Still another person may react by laughing and saying, “Praise the Lord, she’s with Jesus.” All three of us may love our wives equally, but we have different ways of expressing our emotion.
Review What He’s Done
It’s good to go over with the new convert what he’s done and what has happened to him. After I have prayed with an individual, I look him in the eye and say, “You’ve received Jesus Christ. Now, God wouldn’t lie to you, would He? The Bible says God has forgiven your sin. What’s happened to your sin?” “He came into my heart.” “If you died right now, where would you go?” “Well, I hope it would be heaven.” “No, don’t hope about it. Jesus is in you, right? Then, if you died, would you take Him to heaven?”
I want to leave a person with the complete assurance that God has heard his prayer and saved his soul.
Get Him Started in the New Life
Then I try to help the person in his first steps in the Christian life. He needs to be told that his new life means following Jesus. I read over with him the suggestions on “The Big Question” tract for beginning a Christian walk (see above). I encourage him to get into his own prayer and Bible study, be baptized, become part of a local fellowship and live a life of obedience to Jesus’ commands.
I think it’s a big help to a new convert if you can get him witnessing right away. Sometimes I’ll explain to a person that he needs to tell someone about what he’s done, then I’ll stop the next person who walks by. “Just a minute, brother.” The guy will stop and look around, and I’ll say, “This friend just did something wonderful. Tell him what you just did.” “Well, I just gave my heart to the Lord.” Praise the Lord. He’s just witnessed. Now, he’s broken the ice and the fear is gone. He doesn’t have to wait until he’s 70, like some people do, before he starts to witness for the first time. If you get him started right, he’ll continue doing it.
Sometimes in other countries, I lead a person to the Lord, teach and train him, and send him out to witness. Then, I just pray that he’ll never meet any other Christians and learn how red hot he is. He’ll think it’s normal for a Christian to pray an hour a day, read a few chapters in the Bible, and lead someone to Christ before he goes to bed at night. But if he gets with other Christians, they persuade him he’s weird, saying, “You’ll mature.” That’s another way of saying, “You’ll soon be dead like me. Then, I’ll feel more comfortable around you.”
Don’t Be Hung Up on Words
No one is saved by using certain words, and no one is lost because he uses other words. A person is either saved or lost because of his heart’s response to God. So, a person may have a Christian vocabulary that’s different from yours, and yet be just as saved.
As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve met people who have never heard the word “saved,” and yet Jesus is their Savior. Others are not familiar with the term “born again.” The terminology is not important; it just is one way of expressing the miracle that happens inside a person.
Now, I like the word “saved.” I know a lot of people prefer other words, but I like “saved” because it’s a biblical word. I like to ask someone, “Are you saved?” Then explain to him how it can happen. But there are people who say the words and have never given their heart to Christ. You’ve got to get deeper than mere words–to genuine experience.
Don’t Argue About the Bible
Sometimes as I begin witnessing by quoting Romans 3:23 from the Bible, the person will say, “Well, I don’t believe the Bible.” I just ignore it the first time they say it. Then when I read Romans 6:23, they’re likely to say again, “I don’t believe the Bible.” At that point, I will say, “Well, if you don’t believe it, then it won’t hurt you.” And again, I just move ahead with the witness.
If the person is persistent and brings this up the third time, I ask him, “Have you read every word of it?” “No, not every word.” “Well, let me read you a little section and see whether it’s true or not.” I put the Bible right in his lap, and we read the next verse. I ask, “Have you ever read that before?” “No.” I’m not arguing with him, but I’m illustrating that he’s rejected the Bible without even reading it. In 95% of the cases this kind of approach avoids an argument and allows you to keep witnessing.
Of course if you have to, you can prove that the Bible’s the true Word of God. Our faith is based on a solid foundation. But I don’t believe very many people have ever been saved by someone sitting down and going through historical documents that prove the Bible is God’s Word. When Christ is preached, He draws people to Himself. Then, He’ll change their hearts so they accept what the Bible says.
Take Time to Explain Who Jesus Is
A person may be quite ignorant without the Bible and still be saved, but knowledge about Jesus Christ is something else. I believe a person must understand what the Bible teaches about Christ before he can accept Him. If I am witnessing and I feel the person is confused about who Jesus is, I take the time to explain. I tell him that Jesus came in the flesh, was born of the Virgin Mary, lived without sin, died on the cross, rose again and ascended unto the Father. I explain that His Spirit is here now and will dwell in us as we receive Him.
A lady came up to me in England while I was carrying the cross and said, “Can you tell me the end of the story?” I said, “The end of what story?” She said, “I’ve heard about Jesus being born on Christmas, and I know about Easter when He died, but what ever happened to Him after that?” And, the lady was serious. So, I told her.
On another occasion, I was witnessing to a girl, and we got to the point where I was talking to her about praying and inviting Christ into her heart. She said, “Can I ask a question just before we pray? How can a dead man help me?” I was shocked. She really didn’t know that Jesus had risen. I had presumed on her knowledge and she had no idea that He was still around. So, we had to back up and talk about who Jesus is and what He’s doing.
Witnessing is sharing Christ. If either you or the person you’re witnessing to is ignorant about who He is, then you won’t really be sharing Him very effectively. So, take the time to make Jesus Christ as clear and understandable as you can. Then, the person will be aware of Who it is he’s accepting into his life.
Your Personal Life
The first step in any believer’s preparation for witness is his own spiritual growth. A new Christian can live off the momentum of his conversion for a few days or a few weeks. He can live on the excitement of having just received Christ, on the knowledge that he’s just come into the family of God. But a Christian cannot be an effective witness on a long-term basis without a continuing vitality in his life. A new convert can be as effective as anyone in sharing about his conversion right after he’s been saved. He will naturally want to go out and share Jesus. But if he doesn’t ever move on from his conversion experience, then he will not mature and develop as he should and he will soon have nothing fresh to share.
The Bible–God’s Word to You
It is vital that a person who wants to be a continuing witness become a student of the Word of God. I believe that the Bible is God’s word. It is God’s message for us. It is the truth. It is infallible in its teaching. It is unerring in its commandments and its direction for our lives. So, in order to be a strong witness for Jesus, a person needs to be a good student of the Word of God. Jesus said, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” I cannot emphasize the importance of the Bible enough.
You need to study the Bible in depth. Learn everything you can about it. The best book you can read to learn about the Bible is the Bible itself. There’s no book that I, or anyone else, has written about the Bible that can substitute for reading it directly. I meet a lot of people who read every book going and don’t spend much time in the Word. Some of them constantly study cults and doctrines. And they are always running from one Scripture to another without ever studying the Bible systematically, a book at a time. It was written a book at a time and each book contains a specific message because it was written for a particular purpose.
As you study the Bible, focus your attention on the life of Christ. You need to know about Jesus. You should read about Jesus. His life is a well that will never run dry, as you come to understand more and more about Him.
Prayer–Your Words to God
I remember when I was really anxious for the full power of God in my life. I wanted to be the most effective witness possible, a powerful prayer warrior for Jesus. I would meet with some spiritual leader who would lay down and pray. I’d lay down and pray too, but I’d just go to sleep. I’d see others who prayed with their hands up, so I’d raise my hands up, and I’d pray looking up, but I got a crick in the neck. Others would pray with their heads bowed. I’d do the same, but I’d go to sleep. I didn’t get the power they had.
Then one night in my dorm room at college, I locked the door and experienced an awesome night. I was alone, and I said, “Lord, I’m not leaving this room until I know what it means to be filled with Your Spirit, to walk in Your Spirit, to find that consistent, victorious life.” As I was praying, I suddenly clearly understood what a fool I’d been. It seemed as though the Lord said, “You’re so hard-headed. If you want to know how to pray, pray like me.” And I realized that I had never thought of that. Oh, Jesus was my Lord, but He wasn’t my example. So I started studying all the passages about Jesus praying. I analyzed when He prayed, and where He prayed, and how long He prayed. I just decided I was going to pray as Jesus did, and I have had a glorious and marvelous experience since then.
Jesus went off and prayed all night in the mountains, and we also should occasionally go off and pray in the mountains all night. We see Him praying alone. We see Him praying in public. Look at Jesus, then pray as He did.
You need to develop a life of prayer, just as Jesus did. This requires discipline. I don’t like to waste any time. It took about twenty minutes to drive from my house to where I was working on Sunset Boulevard, so that became my regular prayer time. If someone was riding with me, I’d explain to him, and we wouldn’t talk as we drove. Even though my life is busy, I have to get off to spend time in prayer. I have to go away alone at times for a day or two just to pray and be with the Father. The rush of life gets to me. Prayer is a necessity in my life.
One of the great joys of walking with the cross as I do is that I get to pray all the time while I’m walking. I usually walk from five to eight hours a day. That means five to eight hours for prayer along the road. Sometimes I’m having so much fun visiting with the Father that I almost hate to see a car stop. I don’t even care to fellowship with Christians walking along with me.
Sometimes people will say, “I want to just walk along and talk.” Well, if I let them do it, it’s so that I can minister to them, but for myself, I’d rather walk alone with the Father.
When you are in prayer, you don’t have to talk all the time. And you don’t ever have to sign off. Sometimes we sign off with “Amen.” Then, later we start again, “It’s Arthur Blessitt coming to you now from Hollywood, California.” If you’re saved and filled with the Spirit, then you can pray without ceasing. Even when your mind’s on something else, you can be in an attitude of fellowship with God. If you’re really close to someone, you don’t have to go yak, yak, yak, yak all the time you’re with them, do you? If you’ve got to talk and reassure someone that you love him, it begins to be boring. If you really love him, you can simply be close without talking all the time. It’s good to be in quiet communion with God, fellowship, visiting with Him, listening to the voice of His Spirit. Many times I don’t even feel that I’ve begun to pray until after I’ve run out of steam, until I’ve unloaded everything I need to say and ask. Then, the Lord starts ministering to me. That’s when real praying starts.
A Loving Attitude Paves the Way
You are not ready for a life of witness until you are a loving person, inside and out. You may have to take a strong stand on some issues, but it must always be done in love. You need to be a person of love. That doesn’t mean you should be a weakling. There’s nobody who was any stronger than Jesus, and yet He was a loving person. He was a person of conviction, and yet the overriding emphasis of His life was love. People knew that He loved them. It is in the same way that a non-violent person can be a powerful witness for Jesus Christ.
I’ve had to prepare the people who minister with us in Hollywood to face some very difficult situations. I have to tell them that they may hear some of the dirtiest language they’ve ever heard. They may be physically threatened. Their response to such a mistreatment will be their most important witness for Jesus Christ. If you are steaming inside, people will sense it. You don’t have to say anything. So the most effective way to be sure people won’t be coming to you for help is just to resent them inside. They won’t come around. But on the other hand, an inner attitude of love will attract more people than you will be able to minister unto.
Jesus Is an Emotional High
If your mood depends on your success in witnessing, you’ll always be up and down. The Bible tells us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is consistency in Attitude (Galatians 5:22-23). Such consistency comes from the Holy Spirit, not from success or failure.
If you’re up on cloud nine when you lead someone to Jesus, but become despondent and miserable when you don’t, you’ll never be an effective witness. You’ll always be up and down, just depending on whether you have had success or failure. There is no success or failure in evangelism. There is only witnessing and living to serve God. Then as you obey Him, there will be results, there will be fruit, people will be saved. But your life should have the same emotional tone all the time. Isn’t it wonderful to know someone who has the same positive attitude whether they’re tired, or whether it’s early in the morning, or whether circumstances have gone against them? If you’re witnessing consistently in a local area, those are the people who will be noticed.
I heard a song, on a Christian radio station, that I couldn’t believe had been written by a believer in Jesus. It talked about the mountains and valleys in life, and thanked God for both kinds of experiences. The songwriter said, “I’ve been in the valleys, so it makes me feel good to go up on the mountains. I couldn’t appreciate the ups if I didn’t have the downs.” In my opinion, that is straight from the devil. It isn’t Biblical.
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). It is easier to live the Christian life than it is to live life for the devil. If you don’t believe it, I defy you to come along with us sometime and look at all the people who are lost. Then look at a bunch of really spiritual witnesses for Jesus and tell me which is the happiest group. It’s not easy to live with the deep knowledge that you’re going to hell. It’s not easy to live with the deep knowledge that you’re not right with God. It’s not easy to live without the Spirit of God. It’s abnormal. We were made to have God dwelling in us, and it’s abnormal if He’s not dwelling in us. It’s easier to live life with God.
Suppose you were counseling with someone who had pointed a pistol at his brain. He’s in trouble, about to commit suicide. He has dialed the telephone and called your number. He says, “I’m about to die because life is nothing. It’s so hard. I’ve got a .45 magnum at my brain and I’m fixing to blow my brains out. Can you help me?” Suppose you answered, “You think you’ve got troubles now. Wait ’til you get saved! It’s harder to be a Christian than to live for the devil.” What’s he going to do? Bang! He’ll blow his brains out. There’s no point in living if it’s harder to be a Christian than it is to be a lost person. It’s not. It’s easier. “My yoke is easy.” “The way of the transgressor is hard.” “There is no peace for the wicked.” There is peace for the righteous, so you live in that peace, that happiness. You live in Jesus. Christianity is an emotional high, not a drag.
Focus on Christ, Not the Devil
Concentrate on Christ in your life, and not on the devil. Some Christians are involved full-time in fighting the devil, always talking about the devil. They’re scared of demons and are constantly looking for unclean spirits. They are so used to looking for what’s demonic and evil and wicked that their eyes are no longer on Christ. They do not see the glory of God. They cannot appreciate the beauty of people, because all they can see is wickedness. This is not healthy, and cannot lead to a positive witness for Jesus Christ.
Just take a look at Christian television programs. On all the successful ones, the evangelist or teacher focuses on sharing the good news, sharing the victory of life. This is because even the lost don’t want to hear about the devil all the time. They want to know about the victory that is in Jesus Christ. So let your vocabulary be full of words about the Lord, and let your thoughts be on Him. Then you will be able to walk right into the middle of the devil’s territory without fear. If you’re right with God, you don’t need to worry at all.
When I was walking through East Africa, I came across big warning signs: STAY IN YOUR CAR–WILD ANIMALS. But I prayed, “God, you made these animals and you made me, and you can keep them from eating me.” I hadn’t run from anyone, so I wasn’t going to let animals scare me off. And none of them bothered me.
We walked right through Northern Ireland, where people warned us, “If you try to go in with all these people, either the IRA will kill you or the Protestants will kill you.” But, we went right through. I spent three and a half months in Northern Ireland, and never had anyone even cuss me out. At one time, I preached to over 200 IRA gunmen at their invitation.
When Billy Graham called and wanted to minister with me over there, I said, “You can come if you don’t bring any news media.” That was all right, but his people wanted him to have bodyguards with him. I said, “No. He and I go alone or we don’t go at all.” They said, “We’ve got to protect him.” I said, “If the British army can’t get through without snipers hitting them, you’re not going to get Billy through with a bunch of bodyguards. He’ll get killed. But if he goes alone, you’ve nothing to worry about. They’re not going to want to kill a couple of unarmed preachers. It wouldn’t put points on anyone’s merit badge. I’ll tell the IRA we’re coming, and I’ll tell the Protestants.” They asked, “You mean you’ll tell them?” I said, “Sure, I don’t want to just spring it on them. I want them to know, and then there won’t be any shooting. They’ll watch the whole area we’re going through.” Finally, Billy Graham’s people agreed to it.
When he came, I gave Billy a roll of stickers, and I told him to put one on his jacket. He stuck it down a little low, so I told him, “No, no, up here on your chest.” He asked, “Why there?” And I said, “Well, if one of the snipers decides to kill you and he sights on the sticker, you’ll die right away. If you have the sticker on your stomach, it’ll take you all day to die.” He put the sticker over his heart and never took it off.
No one bothered us during that walk in Northern Ireland. There was hatred all around, but none of it touched us. You can go right into the devil’s territory without fear, if your attention is always on Christ.
Self-Consciousness Is Really Self-Centeredness
If you’re going to be an effective witness, you need to get rid of the most subtle kind of self-centeredness–self-consciousness. If you are always putting yourself down, that means self is too important in your mind, and you won’t be able to share Christ very well.
I was working on Hollywood Boulevard when a Christian lady came up. She had seen our ministry on television, and she was thrilled. She lived right in Hollywood, and she’d been walking with the Lord, so I said, “Why don’t you come down and witness with us?” She said, “I can’t.” I asked why. Do you know what her answer was? “I’m too fat. I’m too self-conscious about my weight to witness.” Now, she is a very large lady, but she was letting that fact control her life. I said, “My, that’s a self-pitying excuse. You get your Bible and meet us back here on the sidewalk, and let’s go to work for God.” She hesitated, so I said, “You’re feeling sorry for yourself and running yourself down. Who’s in you?” She said, “The Lord.” I asked again, “Who? Say it louder.” She said, “The Lord!” Then I said, “If you’re good enough for God to live in you, you’re good enough to tell others about Jesus! Forget whether you’re a skinny stringbean or whether you are fat, whether you’re short or tall. God loves you; go to work and serve Him.”
You’ll never be an effective witness for Jesus if you’re running yourself down. If you’ve got the attitude, “I wish I were as good-looking as this other lady, I wish I were as young as her, I wish I was as muscular as him,” you are too attached to your own ego. If you feel run down and run over and humiliated and worthless and valueless, you’ll never be able to help another person understand that God loves and values him. Now, we do need to be convicted of sin and to repent and get sin out of our lives. We should feel bad about that which is wrong. But, what I’m talking about is something deeper than that–a hatred of yourself, not just your sin.
If you look at yourself as worthless, then you will be worthless in the service of God. Instead, you should look at your body as the temple of God, and feel good about it. “Praise the Lord, thank you God, You live in me.” I’ve got a crooked finger, and when my children are misbehaving and I point and say, “Straighten up now,” the children always say, “Daddy, will you use the other finger?” I’m going to have a crooked finger until I meet the Lord. The doctor said that for $500 he could straighten it out, but it wouldn’t bend; it would be permanently straight. Well, I’d rather be able to bend it, even though it’s crooked. Maybe there are some crooked things in your life that you would like perfected. Don’t worry about them. Don’t let them keep you from witnessing and sharing Jesus Christ.
Things vs. People
When I was carrying the cross in Africa, I went through an area in Sierra Leone that is one of the richest diamond mining regions in the world. Yet, I was amazed to see the most extreme poverty imaginable. The people were poor and starving, since they lived in the Savannah drought belt. The diamonds here are close to the surface, some even lying on the ground. So, people have poured in from all over Africa to find their fortune–tens of thousands of them. They’re seeking an escape, a dream, a possible way out of poverty into success.
I walked through the region with my cross, wearing short britches, a T-shirt and boots, and thousands of people followed me. I could preach anytime and have a guaranteed crowd. We gave out Bibles and won many to the Lord.
One day, a Methodist missionary insisted I put down my cross, get into his Land Rover and see the other side of life. He took me to the headquarters of the diamond mining company. Around the compound there was a high barbed wire fence. Patrolling it were soldiers carrying rifles. We drove up to the gate, and since we were the right color, they opened the gate and we drove right on in. They knew the missionary anyway.
The stark contrast that I saw left a lifelong impression on me. Outside was literal starvation and absolute impoverishment. Every inch of dirt in the surrounding hillsides had been dug up in a search for diamonds. People were out there with shovels, hoes and makeshift tools trying to find someway to get out of their misery. And yet inside the compound, behind the fence and behind the patrolling soldiers were a beautiful golf course, a swimming pool, a huge supermarket with all the food you could want from Europe or America. There were doctors, nurses, a hospital, air-conditioned homes, a bar and nightclub, and a movie theater. Every symbol of the same wealth or success that we have in America had been transplanted out there in Sierra Leone right in the middle of the starvation belt.
As I saw it, my heart was grieved. They were glad to see me come. They said, “Well, it’s good to have a new preacher around. Will you preach for us tonight? We’ll get everyone together in the bar and lounge area and you can speak to us.” I’m always witnessing but that afternoon I didn’t witness at all. I just listened to try to understand their minds. I knew I’d have a captive audience that evening, and I wanted to be on target. I listened to big groups of whites and the handful of Sierra Leone blacks who were living inside the compound. The night when I got up to speak, I think I was more burdened than I’ve ever been in my life while sharing a message to a group of people. I stood up, and tears started streaming down my cheeks. I said to them, “Men and ladies, I want you to know that you are blind, you are blind. You hate these jungles, you hate these rocks, you hate the malaria, you hate the tse-tse fly, you hate being here. The only thing that’s brought you here is these little rocks that sparkle. You are blind, because the only thing in Sierra Leone of any value at all is not the diamonds. The only thing of any value is the people, the men, the women, the children. Those little children have swollen bellies because of malnutrition. And you’ve been blinded by the attraction of little rocks. The only thing that is of value is the people.”
I want you to know that there are many attractive and sparkling things that can hold your attention and your mind and your energy in America today. There is every sort of recreation imaginable, there is every sort of thrill you can conceive of, every kind of sensation you could imagine. But, I tell you, the only real value in the world is people–be it the governor or a woman on the night, the impoverished or the rich, the only value is people. God so loved the world, God so loved the people, that He gave His only begotten Son for us. He sent Jesus for people, not to save the rivers or the streams. Jesus didn’t come to die for the snow-capped mountains or the beautiful valleys. He died for people who have rebelled against their Creator and need to be saved. And He said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). Our hearts must throb with His love for people, and that’s why we should reach out to share Jesus with everyone.
That diamond mining company had set up a fence, separating those on the inside from those on the outside. I said, “Thank you Lord, there’s no fence with you. You haven’t erected a barrier; you love all. Whosoever will may come, and drink of the water of life freely. God’s diamonds are for everybody. God’s diamonds are free. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain, but Jesus washes white as snow.” He has His diamonds for you. You may look at someone whose dress or behavior or vocabulary is exactly the opposite of what you think it should be. But, God loves them. They’re God’s diamonds, and Jesus is seeking to save them. He wants to reach them because He loves them. He wants their stomachs full, He wants their wounds bound up, He wants their loneliness cured, He wants their guilt erased, He wants them to have hope, He wants to wipe away the tears and give them joy. He’s interested in where you live and in what kind of clothes you wear. God’s interested in everything, the very hairs of your head are numbered. God is interested in people, and therefore our interest must be in people. They are not vague souls that need to be saved. They are not figures that are moving up and down the freeway. They are human beings like you and me, with the same needs. God wants to give them all of His blessings, just as He does for you.
Jesus told a story about a shepherd who counted his sheep to see that all were safely in the sheepfold. But he found that one was missing. He left the 99, and he went out and searched until he had found that one that was lost. He did not rest until he had found that one that needed him. Our call in life is to move through the streets and roadsides, and through the businesses and the schools and everywhere else we go, to find those that are lost and bring them into the family of the Father.
When you do this, some may feel that you are being radical. But if there’s a fire burning in a house, and you know there are people in it, you will explode into action even if you’re a mild-mannered person. You won’t just park the car and knock softly on the door so as not to disturb anyone. You become a raging fanatic, and people accept it as normal, because you’re trying to save them from dying. You wake them up and you get them out of the house. Well, the world is on fire, and people are being snatched into destruction moment by moment. We’ve got to reach out and share with them the living good news.
Many years ago, a wise, old priest lived in a mountain monastery in Greece. A young priest came to him one day with a problem. “I’ve been trying to carry out the commands of Jesus, and live like our Lord and Master, but people are laughing at me. They’re joking about me and calling me abnormal. I find it hard to be like Jesus and to be considered normal by the people in my parish.” The old priest told him a story that happened in Jerusalem. Now, you’ll be sure that he made it up because it’s such a strange story, but here it is.
“There was a temple priest in Jerusalem who had special power from God. He was able to deal with people who were unbalanced or abnormal and correct them so that they were normal. People were brought to him for prayer and counsel. A man and woman once brought their young son to him. The boy’s name was Jesus. They said they were having all kinds of problems with him. He wanted to teach and preach in the temple without even telling his parents where he was going. He was very abnormal, wanting to talk about the Kingdom of God all the time. He wasn’t like all the other boys in the town of Nazareth where they lived, and they wanted to see if there was anything that the priest could do with him. The priest said, ‘Let me keep him for a month.’ After a month, Mary and Joseph came back and took Jesus back home. He was just as normal as can be. The last anyone ever heard of him was he was the best carpenter in Nazareth.” The young priest got the message. He went back down to live like Jesus.
You see, if Jesus had been normal you wouldn’t be here today. He would have been like every other little boy in Israel. But he wasn’t. If you are His follower, you’re not going to be normal either. I hope you let your normality be judged by Jesus, and not by the community around you.
Sometimes I’ve gotten complaints about all the stickers and tracts that show up along Hollywood Boulevard. My answer is, “We’ll quit giving out tracts and stickers if you’ll clear up all the filthy, dirty books that are on all the stands. If you’ll remove all those offensive newsstands all down the sidewalk, if you’ll shut down all the immoral stores, if you get rid of all that filth, then I’ll gladly quit printing stickers. But until then, Praise the Lord, we’re going to keep passing them out. And if someone litters the sidewalk by throwing a tract down, Praise God. People are always throwing all kinds of dirty magazines on the pavement.” We are disciples of Jesus and it is our aim to be like Him. That’s not considered normal in this world.
There’s only a fine line between a saint and an insane person. It’s no wonder that people can’t tell the difference. Both the saint and the insane person are dealing in the abnormal; they’re both dealing with another world. The insane man is always talking about things the average person can’t see, and so is the saint. His life is full of things that can’t be seen by the eye. He is always talking about God working and God doing miracles and God changing lives. To the average person, it sounds like he’s talking about outer space. Sometimes he may be labeled as crazy. And the more spiritual he becomes, the more insane he appears to be. Anyone who starts living like Jesus will have to accept that kind of misunderstanding.
Even Jesus had to put up with this kind of reaction. The people who saw His miracles said He was doing them in the name of Beelzebub, the devil. Jesus is God, and here they were saying that He is the devil. It shouldn’t be too surprising then if the more you become like Jesus, the more some people will think you’re of the devil.
That’s why on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Spirit, the people thought they were drunk. They were abnormal. They weren’t behaving like the normal person in Jerusalem on that day so the people figured something must be wrong with them. If you go around happy, people will swear that you take acid, or stay high on grass, or pop pills. They’ll say, “No one can stay up that long and be that happy without turning on to something.” They can’t understand that being high is normal for a Christian.
Do You Have Time for Your Family?
When you become involved in a witnessing ministry, especially if it involves night work, you’ve got to be very conscious of your family’s needs. It’s usually the wife who is constantly stuck at home caring for the children. If the husband is always going out to help others, she sooner or later begins to resent the fact that he’s never around to help her.
Some families have a problem because the wife is very possessive in the relationship. She has never had any trouble trusting her husband, and suddenly he’s staying out all night. He comes in and she asks, “Where have you been?” “Well, I took this woman across town because she was drunk.” “Well, what were you doing there?” Once this kind of pattern begins, the trust in the marriage is undermined. I’ve seen homes destroyed by this problem.
It’s the person who’s left at home that has the hardest time. It’s not nearly so bad for the one who is out working. He can say, “Have supper ready at 7:00,” and then get involved in helping someone and be out until 6:00 the next morning. But his wife just waits hour after hour after hour. This happens over and over again, and one day she doesn’t make supper. That’s the day he comes home on time, and now there’s a war going.
Another pressure on your family is that your home can easily become an extension of your ministry. You want to be available so you say, “Come over or call any time.” And they do. Every time you sit down to eat, the phone rings and rings. You stay out all night and when you come in, someone is waiting to eat breakfast with you, besides your wife. You go to sleep after a night’s work, and you wake up at 1:00 in the afternoon. You look up and there are ten people sitting in the living room ready to visit you. “We’ve been waiting for you, Praise the Lord.” Before long, you are going day after day, and you’re never alone with your children. You’re never alone with your wife. You’re never even alone with yourself. Your home becomes a motel, with nothing personal about it at all.
Now, it’s good to reach the point where there are many people wanting your help. But then you will probably have to reach another point, the point where you have to say, “Don’t come to my house, don’t come and visit. I need to have some time with my family.” Don’t call on the telephone. Just sit around all afternoon in peace and quiet.
If you have children, you must spend time with them. If you don’t, they’re going to find someone who will. If they don’t have a good time with Daddy, then they’re going to have a good time with something else. If it takes acid for them to have that good time, they’ll turn to acid. So you’ve got the choice of either spending time with them all along the way or regretting it for years of agony and heartache. You need to spend quality time with your family, just with them.
Worn Out Tools Don’t Do Good Work
We really need to be fresh in order to do our best work for Jesus Christ. The Lord will use us in spite of our physical weakness for a short period of time if there’s nothing we can do to avoid the circumstance. There are times when I extend myself far beyond what I would normally be doing, but it’s because there’s a crisis at hand. There are nights when I work right through till morning because of some special needs. But that can’t be my continual pattern, or I’ll lose my effectiveness.
One practice that’s helped me is to take an extra day at the end of the month of crusades or rallies before I come home. I spend that day sleeping. If I were to come straight home, the kids would want to play. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, let’s go here, let’s go eat out.” I’ve been eating out, I’ve been running. So it’s better for me to stay an extra day and get a day and night’s sleep. Then I can come home to my family rested, wide awake and ready to enjoy them. If you don’t do something like this, you’ll always come dragging in, and that’s not good for the family situation.
Sometimes, I’ll schedule a day off after a period of going strong and hard. I may get in at 4:00 in the morning and sleep till noon. Then I’ll roll out of bed, get a bite to eat, and go back to bed again. I just sleep and store up energy all day long.
No one can be involved in ministry 24 hours a day. You have to figure out your kind of ministry. If you stay out all night, then you need to sleep all morning. It doesn’t matter when you get your sleep, but somehow you need to get the same amount of rest that you normally would.
When I’m carrying the cross during the day, I don’t usually do much at night. Most often, I’m in bed an hour after I’ve finished the day’s walk. I’m exhausted physically, and I have to have a full night’s sleep. And when I am really worn out, I go to sleep even during the day. If there’s any way, then I find that the Lord will let me do it, even though I’ve gone to sleep. I’ve lain down and gone to sleep when there were hundreds of people standing around wanting me to preach. If they come in, I’ll preach a brief message and have to go to sleep because I may have walked 30 miles that day with a 90 pound cross, and my body is done in. I share a brief message and then tell them, “I’ll preach to you more at breakfast.” And I lie down.
The Secret of Relaxation
Not only does an effective witness need to get enough sleep, but he also has to learn to have a relaxed attitude about life. When you learn to live relaxed, it doesn’t matter how fast things are popping around, you’ve got double the strength. Sometimes I have people working with me at rallies and crusades keeping me on schedule and helping me get my work done. They’ll go with me for three days, and then they’re dead tired. But I may leave there and go to another crusade. I may wear out 15 or 20 people, one after the other, and I’m still going strong, because I am relaxed. I’m not running around full of tension. When your muscles are tense and you’re tied up, you burn energy. But when you live relaxed, you save energy. Your mind is at rest, you’re sharp, you’re effective. But if you’re all tensed up, tied up, knotted, you aren’t going to attract many people to Jesus. Look at yourself in the mirror sometime.
I’ve seen people who are always tensed and tied up in knots. It looks like they’ve got handcuffs around their throat, their face, their hands, everything. They’re just burning unnecessary energy. They’re full of tension. You need to learn to rest in the Lord and have peace in your soul. There’s no merit in fizzing, just standing there like a bomb ready to explode. Save your energy. If you’re not going anywhere, stand still and relax.
If you’re full of tension, you can wear yourself out just riding thirty minutes to work. But if your mind is at rest and at peace in the Lord, that same ride can be a refreshing experience, even if the traffic is terrible. A traffic jam can make a spiritual spastic of you, but if you rest in the Lord you can fight off life’s tensions.
Don’t Be Afraid of Hard Work
There is a time for rest and relaxation, but there is also a time for good, honest hard work for the Lord.
You ought to do a good job for God. A person goes out and works eight hours a day digging ditches or pouring cement, or pushing papers in an office. And if you’re in a full-time ministry, you ought to put in some solid hours for God. Don’t mind working for the Lord, and don’t even back away from doing physical work.
I feel better when I’m walking with the cross than I do at other times because when I’m physically exerting myself, I’m stronger in every other way as well. After a few weeks of walking with the cross, I have to start exercising again, running, doing push-ups, etc. Your body needs a good physical burning out; it needs a good sweating. So don’t mind working for the Lord. If you have to wash dishes to make a living so you can witness at night, do it with enthusiasm. Whatever you do, do it well, because that’s part of your Christian witness.
Success May Be Failure
Be careful not to fall into the trap of gimmick evangelism and addiction to numbers. Many ministries lose their spirited power when they begin to play the numbers game. If there is one area where the cult of success is totally out of place, it is in Christian ministry. But many leaders treat Christianity much like McDonald’s hamburgers. You always look at a McDonald’s restaurant to see how many more billion hamburgers have been sold. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick–each number change means one more hamburger has been eaten. Now, having a desire to see people saved is good. But you’ve got to be careful. Before long you’ll start counting the converts. You’ll start publishing a little sheet on how many you led to the Lord this month. Of course, the next month, there has to be an increase. The third month it may be way down. You may have 75 saved one month and 150 the next month. But then it may drop to 35 the next. You don’t want to put that 35 in your newsletter. It looks like you weren’t spiritual that month, and that’s why the number of converts was down. You may even begin to exaggerate a little bit, because you’ve caught the success fever.
Some Christian ministries are always spouting numbers, numbers, numbers. I have the feeling that God is sick of it. I know it turns me off and it does most non-Christians as well. People aren’t just numbers; they’re human beings.
The numbers game can lead to a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction. You may have 500 attending your meeting one Sunday. The next Sunday you drop to 495 so you start a big drive to get over 500 again. You can’t even rest. You can’t even enjoy being in the house of God without feeling guilty. “We were 500 last week. Got to get ten more than we had last week. We’ll give you a super burger if you’ll bring somebody. You’ll win a bicycle if you get someone saved. You’ll be given a free trip to Israel if . . .” And before long, the poor people are only pawns in a big chess game played by Christians trying to reach another record.
Our whole Christian movement is caught up in this numbers game. You can read a Christian magazine and find a score card on churches–which ones give the most money, which have the highest attendance. I’ve heard preachers that say, “Our church is only number twenty-four on the score card, and we want to move up. We ought to be number one.” I want to ask, “Number one what?” You ought to be the church or the evangelist that God wants you to be, and let that be your witness. You’re not in a rat race, competing with everyone else.
I’ve been in it. There was a time, years ago, when I was caught up in the whole success game. My motives were pure, but I was treating people as numbers. I printed the number of conversions in a monthly newsletter. Then one month the number dropped, so we changed the count from conversions to decisions. That made the number bigger and more impressive.
A preacher gets all kinds of mailings. He reads in one evangelist’s literature that he is having about twenty-five conversions each month. Another claims 250 each month. He says, “Our church is about dead; I’d better call up this guy who has 250 a month.” So, for the evangelist, the number of conversions gets to be a kind of scorecard by which he is rated.
In my street ministry, I have deliberately avoided talking about how many have been led to the Lord. There will be some weeks in which very few are led to Christ, and there will be others when there are a lot of conversions. That doesn’t say anything about your witnessing. You’re probably just as right with God this week as you were last week or will be next week. There’s no reason for you to feel guilty or intimidated when results are lower, or to feel that you deserve a merit badge when they’re higher. You can see how childish and unspiritual all this sounds, and yet much Christian ministry is run that way.
I praise God for everyone who is saved. I’d rather win 20 a day to Jesus than one a day, wouldn’t you? But it’s wrong to be constantly aware of numerical success. It robs you of the peace of mind and the relaxed attitude that produces the best Christian witness.