Some Hints and Suggestions for Personal Work

‘A few general suggestions that will be helpful to the personal worker remain to be made.

I. AS A RULE, CHOOSE PERSONS TO DEAL WITH OF YOUR OWN SEX.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. One should always be looking to the Holy Spirit for His guidance as to whom to approach, and He may lead us to one of the opposite sex, but unless there is clear guidance in the matter, it is quite generally agreed among those who have had much experience in Christian work that, on the whole, women usually do the most satisfactory work with women, and men with men; especially is this true of the young. It is always a bad sign when a young man is always looking for women to deal with, and a young woman looking for young men to deal with. Many exceedingly unfortunate complications have risen in actual life from young men trying to lead young women to Christ, and vice versa. Of course, an elderly, motherly woman will oftentimes do excellent work with a young man or boy, and an elderly, fatherly man will sometimes do good work with a young woman or girl.

II. AS A RULE, CHOOSE PERSONS TO DEAL WITH OF ABOUT YOUR OWN AGE.

A young man as a rule can get hold of young men better than any one else can, and a man of mature years can handle a man of his own age better than a young man, or better even than an old man. It is not wise usually for a young and inexperienced person to approach one very much older and maturer and wiser than himself, on such an important subject as this. The older person naturally looks with a good deal of distrust, if not contempt, upon those much younger than himself. There are, of course, exceptions even to this rule. Frequently a man who has gained wisdom by years, and who has the confidence of people, can do excellent work with a young man or boy. As a rule people do the best work with people of their own class, educated men with educated men, business men with business men, workingmen with workingmen, women of position with women of similar position to themselves. There are many exceptions to this. Many a servant girl has been known to lead her mistress to Christ, and many a laboring man his employer.

III. WHENEVER IT IS POSSIBLE, DEAL WITH A PERSON ALONE.

No one likes to open his heart freely to another on the most personal and sacred of all subjects, when there are others present. Many will from mere pride defend themselves in a false position when others are present, who would freely admit their error or sin or need if they were alone with you. It is far better for a single worker to deal with a single unconverted person, than for several workers to deal with an inquirer, or a single worker to deal with several inquirers. Nothing can be more unfortunate than for a number of workers to swarm around one poor individual who is trying to find the way of life. If such an individual is a person of any independence of character, he is very likely to feel that he is being hectored and bothered, and for that very reason take an attitude of opposition. If you have several to deal with, it is better if possible to take them one by one. Workers often find that they have made no headway while talking to several at once, but by taking the individuals off by themselves they soon succeed in leading them one by one to Christ. Where two unsaved people are being dealt with at once, oftentimes each is afraid of the other, and they bolster one another up in their false position.

IV. LET YOUR RELIANCE BE WHOLLY IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND IN THE WORD OF GOD. HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF.

One of the greatest hindrances to successful personal work is self- confidence. But while there should be no self-confidence, there should be boldness, boldness that comes from believing in the power of the Holy Ghost, and in the power of the Word of God. No matter with whom you are dealing, or how stubborn he may be, never forget that the Spirit of God and the Word of God have power to break the hardest heart. Be always looking to the Spirit to produce conviction of sin, and expect Him to do it, but let your whole dependence be in Him, and in His Word alone.

V. HAVE THE ONE WITH WHOM YOU ARE DEALING READ THE PASSAGE HIMSELF.

Do not content yourself with merely reading passages from the Bible, much less with merely quoting them, but have the one with whom you are dealing read the passages himself. In this way the truth finds an entrance into the heart through the eye as well as through the ear. It is remarkable how much deeper an impression the Word of God oftentimes makes when it is actually seen with the eyes, than it does when it is merely heard with the ears. Sometimes it is well to have a marked Bible, with the word that you wish especially to impress marked in some striking way so that it will catch the eye, and thus the mind and heart of the reader.

VI. IT IS OFTENTIMES WELL TO USE BUT A SINGLE PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE.

One verse of Scripture iterated and reiterated will be burned into the memory and will haunt the one with whom you are dealing long after you have left them. I have known a passage to haunt a man for weeks and finally result in his conversion. Do everything in your power to drive it home and clinch it so that the one with whom you are dealing cannot forget it, but will hear it ring in his memory long after your voice has ceased.

Dr. Ichabod Spencer tells in his “Pastoral Sketches” of how he dealt with a young man who had many difficulties. Dr. Spencer kept continually quoting the passage, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” {2 Corinthians 6:2} The young man tried to get Dr. Spencer off onto something else, but over and over again he kept saying the words, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” The young man returned the next day rejoicing in the Lord, and thanking Dr. Spencer that he had “hammered” him with that text. The words kept ringing in his ears during the night, and he could not rest until he had settled the matter by accepting Christ.

It is a good thing when a person can point to some definite verse in the Word of God and say, “I know on the authority of that verse that my sins are forgiven, and that I am a child of God.” Indeed it is well never to let persons go until they can point you definitely to the verse in God’s Word upon which they rest their hope of salvation. Be sure that they grasp it, so that if Satan comes to them when they are alone, and asks them how they know that they are saved, they can open their Bible to that verse, and put their finger upon it and defy Satan in all his wiles.

There are times, however, when a powerful effect is produced by piling up passages along some line until the mind is convinced and the heart conquered. Especially is this true in showing people their need of a Savior, and showing them Jesus as the Savior that they need.

VII. ALWAYS HOLD THE PERSON WITH WHOM YOU ARE DEALING TO THE MAIN POINT OF ACCEPTING CHRIST.

If he wishes to discuss outside questions, such as the claims of various denominations, or the mode of baptism, or theories of future punishment, or fine points about the higher criticism, or any other question than the central one of his need of a Savior, and Christ the Savior that he needs, tell him these questions are important to take up in their right place and time, but the time to settle them is after he has settled the fundamental question of accepting or rejecting Christ. Many a case has been lost by an inexperienced and foolish worker allowing himself to be involved in a discussion of some side issue which it is utter folly to discuss with an unregenerated person.

VIII. BE COURTEOUS.

Many well-meaning but indiscreet Christians by their rudeness and impertinence repel those whom they would win to Christ. It is quite possible to be at once perfectly frank and perfectly courteous. You can point out to a man his awful sin and his need of a Savior without insulting him. Your words may be very searching, while your manner is very gentle and winning, indeed the more gentle and winning your manner is, the deeper your words will go, for they will not stir up the opposition of those with whom you are dealing. Some workers approach those with whom they wish to work in such a manner that the latter at once assume the defensive, and clothe themselves with an armor that it is impossible to penetrate.

IX. AVOID UNWARRANTED FAMILIARITIES WITH THOSE WITH WHOM YOU DEAL.

I have seen many workers lay their hands upon the shoulders of those with whom they are dealing, or even put their arms around them. Now there are cases in which that is proper and wise. If a man is dealing with an old wrecked and ruined drunkard who thinks he has not a friend in the world, it may be well to place your hand upon his shoulder, or over his shoulder, but one needs to be exceedingly cautious about these matters. A man of fine sensitiveness is repelled when a stranger takes any familiarities with him. This is even more true of a lady of good breeding. I have even seen a male worker so indiscreet as to lay his hand upon a lady’s shoulder. There is no place where good breeding counts for more than in personal work.

X. BE DEAD IN EARNEST.

Only the earnest man can make the unsaved man feel the truth of God’s Word. It is well to let the passage we would use with others first sink deep into our own souls. I know of a very successful worker who has for a long time used the one passage, “Prepare to meet thy God,” {Amos 4:12} with every one with whom she has dealt. But that passage has taken such complete possession of her own heart and mind that she uses it with tremendous effect. A few passages that have thoroughly mastered us are much better than many passages that we have mastered from some text book.

One of the great needs of the day is men and women who are thoroughly in earnest, who are completely possessed with the great fundamental truths of God’s Word. The reader of this book is advised to ponder upon his knees such of the passages suggested in it as he decides to use, until he himself feels their power. We read of Paul that he “ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:31.) Genuine earnestness will go further than any skill learned in a training class or from the study of such a book as this.

XI. NEVER LOSE YOUR TEMPER WHEN TRYING TO LEAD A SOUL TO CHRIST.

How many a case has been lost by the worker losing his temper! Some persons are purposely exasperating, but even such may be won by patient perseverance and gentleness: they certainly cannot be won if you lose your temper, nothing delights them more, or gives them more comfort in their sin. The more irritating they are in their words and actions, the more impressed they will be if you return their insults with kindness. Oftentimes the one who has been the most insufferable will break down in penitence. One of the most insulting men I ever met, afterward became one of the most patient, persistent and effective of workers.

XII. NEVER HAVE A HEATED ARGUMENT WITH ONE WHOM YOU WOULD LEAD TO CHRIST.

Heated arguments always come from the flesh and not from the Spirit. (Galatians 5:20,22-23.) They arise from pride, and unwillingness to let the other person get the best of you in argument. If you care more about winning him to Christ than you do about winning your case, you will often let the other man think that he has the best of the argument, absolutely refusing to argue. If the one with whom you are talking has mistaken notions that must be removed before he can be led to Christ, show him his error quietly and pleasantly. If the error is not on an essential point, refuse to discuss it at all, and hold the person to the main question.

XIII. NEVER INTERRUPT ANY ONE ELSE WHO IS DEALING WITH A SOUL.

Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon this point. You may not think the other is doing the work in the wisest way, but if you can do any better, bide your time, and you will have the opportunity. Many an unskilled worker has had some one at the very point of decision, when some meddler, who thought he was wiser, has broken in and upset the work. Do not even stand by one who is talking to another and listen to what he is saying. Incalculable mischief may be done in this way. The thought of the one who is being dealt with is distracted, his heart is closed up, and a case that might have been won is lost.

On the other hand, do not let others interrupt you. Of course, sometimes it is not possible to altogether prevent it, but stop the interruption just as soon as possible. Just a little word plainly but courteously spoken will usually prevent it, but at any cost insist upon being left alone.

XIV. DON’T BE IN A HURRY.

One of the commonest and gravest faults in Christian work today is haste. We are too anxious for immediate results, and so we do superficial work. It is very noticeable how many of those with whom Christ dealt came out slowly; Nicodemus, Joseph, Peter, and even Paul (though the final step in his case seems very sudden) were cases in point. It was three days even after the personal appearance of Jesus to Paul on the way to Damascus, before the latter came out clearly into the light and openly confessed Christ. (Acts 22:16.) One man with whom slow but thorough work has been done, and who at last has been brought out clearly for Christ and who knows just where he stands and what to do, is better than a dozen with whom hasty work has been done, who think they have accepted Christ, when in reality they have not. It is often a wise policy to plant a truth in a man’s heart and leave it to work. The seed on rocky ground springs up quickly, but withers as quickly.

XV. GET THE PERSON WITH WHOM YOU ARE DEALING ON HIS KNEES BEFORE GOD.

This rule has exceptions. Sometimes it is not possible to get the person to kneel, and sometimes it is not wise; but it is wonderful how many difficulties disappear in prayer, and how readily stubborn people yield when they are brought into the very presence of God Himself. I remember talking with a young woman in an inquiry room for about two hours, and making no apparent headway, but when at last we knelt in prayer, in less than five minutes she was rejoicing in our Savior. Sometimes it is well to have a few words of prayer before you deal with an individual at all, but of course this is not at all wise in many cases; however, in almost every case it is wise if the person is willing to pray, to have a few words of prayer before you close. If the way of life has been made perfectly clear to the inquirer, have him also lead in prayer. There are those who object to getting an unsaved person to pray, but there is clear Bible warrant for it. Cornelius was not a saved man. This is perfectly clear from Acts 11:14, nevertheless he was sincerely seeking the light, and God sent him word that his prayers had come up for a memorial before Him. Now, any one who is honestly seeking light, even though he has not as yet that knowledge of Jesus that brings salvation, is in practically the same position as Cornelius, and one of the best things to do is to get that one to pray. It is certainly right for a sinner seeking pardon through the atoning blood to pray. (Luke 18:13-14.) Some may say, “One who has no faith has no right to pray.” But such a one has faith, his prayer is the first evidence of that faith. (Romans 10:13-14.)

XVI. WHENEVER YOU SEEM TO FAIL IN ANY GIVEN CASE, GO HOME AND PRAY OVER IT AND STUDY TO SEE WHY YOU FAILED. NEVER GIVE UP A CASE BECAUSE OF ONE FAILURE.

If you have been at a loss to know what Scripture to use, study this book to see the different classes we meet and how to deal with them, and find out where this person belongs and how to deal with him, and then go back if you can, and try again. In any case you will be better prepared for the next case of the same kind. The greatest success in this work comes through many apparent defeats. It will be well to frequently study these hints and suggestions, and see if your failure has come through neglect of them. But be sure to take to God in prayer the case in which you yourself have failed.

XVII. BEFORE PARTING WITH THE ONE WHO HAS ACCEPTED CHRIST, BE SURE TO GIVE HIM DEFINITE INSTRUCTIONS AS TO HOW TO SUCCEED IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

These instructions will be found at the close of Chapter Five. It is well to give these instructions in some permanent form. For this purpose two tracts have been written by the author of this book, one called “The Christian Life Card,” and the other “How to Make a Success of the Christian Life.” Either of these can be secured from the Bible Institute Colportage Association, Chicago.

XVIII. WHEN YOU HAVE LED ANY ONE TO CHRIST, FOLLOW HIM UP AND HELP HIM IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS CHRISTIAN LIFE.

There is nothing sadder in Christian work today than the number who are led to Christ, and then neglected. Such are almost certain to get on very poorly. No greater mistake could be possible. The work of following up those who are converted is as important as the work of leading them to Christ, and as a rule no one can do it so well as the person who has been used in their conversion.

All the methods of dealing in personal work, given in the foregoing chapters, will suggest texts and lines of thought for helpful sermons.’

source: R.A. Torrey, Personal Work, chapter 15: Some Hints and Suggestions for Personal Work, p. 178-186.

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