The Great Commission

Among the closing recorded words of Jesus at Nazareth at the end of His earthly ministry are those that commission Christians to witness to Him (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples for Him and with Him (Matthew 28:19,20). That commission is as relevant today as when the Lord Jesus first announced it; for God's people face an unfinished task. Any Christian who is not committed to introducing others to his Divine Master is being disobedient and his silence is a guilty one.

However, the means of fulfilling the Saviour's commands are many. This article concentrates on one vehicle for evangelism only - the Christian Home. In recent years in England a number of professional people who had only formal or nominal acquaintance with Christianity have been brought to an authentic faith in Christ as a result of being invited to hear a clear, graciously presented proclamation of the Gospel in a Christian Home. We should not be surprised at this, for evangelism in the home is as old as the New Testament itself. We are told (Luke 9:27-32) that Matthew (or Levi), although only a recent follower of Christ, invited many of his professional colleagues and acquaintances to his home in order that they might meet the Saviour.

How we could fulfil the commission at home

This CROSSFIRE article is written to advise officers and their wives how to arrange an evangelistic meeting in their homes. It is hoped, however, that bachelor officers may find the principles which run through this article applicable to organising a similar sort of meeting in an officers mess. The writer also wishes to emphasise that, although this advice is based on many years of observance and experience of such evangelism, individual readers will wish to apply this advice with prayerfulness and discretion as their own situation warrants. A knowledge of the principles of Pray-and-Plan will help in this which will be covered in the next issue of Crossfire.

Preparation and Planning

There are several key factors which must not be neglected in praying and planning over evangelism in the home. Among these are those relating to culture, professional life and a spiritual approach.

Cultural
The apostle Paul was very sensitive about the cultural factor. He knew that those listening to the Gospel can be confused by the evil one into believing that allegiance to Christ will involve abandonment of their culture at all points. Thus the Holy Spirit moves him to write to the Corinthian Christians (1Cor.9:19-23) words which reflect his respect for different cultures - unless they came into collision with the law of Christ. He knew that it is moral repentance and not necessarily cultural reform which is mandatory for spiritual blessing. Christians must take care not to let the unbelieving world be confused in this respect.

Some years ago a young, retired Guards officer was taken to hear an evangelist at a meeting held in the theatre of a country town. As he sat counting the cost of discipleship, he was gripped by two fears:

  1. Would he have to wear a Salvation Army hat? (He reflected afterwards that he had worn everything from a bearskin on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace to a paper hat at a party!)
  2. Would he have to become a missionary?
Fortunately the grace of God prevailed that evening to bring him into the Kingdom of Heaven and in the years that followed, he was raised up to become an accomplished drawing room evangelist and a Chairman of a well-known missionary society. The point of this anecdote is that a potential convert to Christ felt threatened unnecessarily at a cultural level. In arranging evangelism in the home, love, courtesy and wisdom demand that Christian hosts endeavour to bring their guests into a setting in which they will feel at ease and unthreatened at a cultural level. A natural, uncontrived atmosphere is highly desirable.

Professional
In seeking to win their professional colleagues for Christ, officers will do well to avoid acting in a manner which would be contrary to the customs of the service. Accordingly, before organising a meeting, it will generally be appropriate and courteous to secure the approval of the local Chaplain and Commanding Officer. If it is intended to use a public room in an officers' mess, the PMC must be approached also.

It is the custom within the Armed Services for collective entertainment and social intercourse to be provided for each level in the chain of command and this is reflected in the respective messes. The mixing of officers with ratings, soldiers and airmen is generally limited off-duty to sport and fixed occasions in the unit forecast of events. There are sound, professional reasons for this and Christians who seek to witness within their profession are strongly advised to remember this. It would seem wise for officers who wish to use their homes for evangelistic purposes to do so with officers and their wives only. Evangelism among ratings, soldiers and airmen should be warmly supported, but in an alternative and more appropriate setting. Experience shows that those who discard these principles do themselves, their professional colleagues and their Heavenly Master a disservice.

Spiritual
Prayerfulness and the humble seeking of the Lord's guidance are crucial in all forms of Christian service, and evangelism in the home is no exception. Christians are dependant on the Holy Spirit to make their witness frutiful, for as Jesus Himself said, "Without Me, you can do nothing". (John 15:5) . Anything which would grieve Him or show a dependence on worldly means for success must be discarded.

The occasion itself

With these factors in mind, hosts can turn their attention to the structure of the occasion. Generally a welcoming drink, followed by a fork supper before a 35 minute talk and then coffee has been found to provide a structure which flows naturally and one with which guests will feel at ease. One variation that has often worked well is to put the speaker on between the main course and the pudding. This provides a natural break at the end of the talk when people know what is expected of them (helping themselves to the next course) yet also the opportunity to mingle and to ask personal questions of the speaker.

The question will arise as to whether or not it is appropriate to serve alcohol. For example, some Christians will be happy to offer the choice of a white wine cup or soft drinks; others will feel this is unacceptable and that soft drinks only should be available. Hosts who prayerfully seek their Master's will in this matter can be assured of His guidance and peace as they obey Him.

It is not within the terms of reference of this article to commend a menu for the fork supper itself or a logistic system to support it! However, these again need prayerfulness and planning. The fork supper lends itself to entertaining more people than a dinner party, provides informality and expense can be reduced by two or more couples combining to act as hosts. Several officers and their wives in BAOR recently successfully organised 2 identical evenings of home evangelism with different guests on consecutive nights, providing a fork supper on both occasions.

A large drawing room is ideal for the talk itself. Ladies seated on chairs and officers, if necessary, sitting on cushions on the floor can be comfortable and yet squash up (hence the historical name "A Squash" given to these types of meetings) so that a relaxed and informal atmosphere is created for the speaker.

It is usually desirable for the speaker to speak from one corner of the room so that he does not have to "pan" too widely in the course of his talk.

The introduction of the speaker by a host must be done thoughtfully and graciously. He will wish to be warm and friendly in his word of welcome and in his introduction which must be brief. He will wish to avoid the Prussian stiffness of a soldier, the heartiness of a salesman and the sloppiness of the uncouth! The relaxed friendliness of the Englishman standing at his fireside is recommended! If humour is used, it must not be undignified.

The host is advised to confer with the speaker to find out whether or not the speaker will close with prayer at the end before coffee is served. Opinions vary on the usefulness of questions after a talk. If such a period is used, they must not be allowed to deflect attention from the main issue.

Invitations

Experience shows that it is worth taking special time and trouble with invitations. Well-worded and tastefully printed RSVP cards are strongly recommended. It is important that no one invited to a home for such an evening is in any doubt that there is a Christian talk involved. A suitable illustration of the invitation card is shown in the examples at the end of this article.

It is also valuable to include with the invitation card a slip of paper with a Curriculum Vitae on it. The wording of this again needs care and attention so that there is sufficient material presented to guests which will make the speaker of interest and yet unworthy salesmanship is avoided. Two fictional examples are provided at the end of this article.

It is important to plan an evening of this sort well in advance. It is advisable not to hold an evangelistic "squash" in the early months of a tour before prospective guests have got to know their hosts in the natural course of events on and off duty. Experience shows that, provided good judgement is used in timing such a meeting and that hosts have lived consistent lives before their fellow men and women, 60 per cent of those invited will accept. Provided those invited have something in common at a secular level and some know each other already, there is no reason why the occasion should not proceed fluently, happily and profitably.

Selection of Speaker and Subject

This article would be seriously incomplete if some guidance was not given on the selection of a speaker: for not every Christian speaker is necessarily at home speaking in an officers' drawing room to his professional colleagues and their wives. Some who open God's Word faithfully Sunday by Sunday in churches with evident blessing are less at ease in other situations.

The Lord does occasionally choose unlikely men in unlikely circumstances to represent Him so that no man may "glory in the flesh" . Nevertheless, in general, sanctified commonsense suggests that the following questions need to be asked in selecting a speaker. Is he obviously a man of God? Does his life speak well? Less importantly, is he a "draw" - does he command himself as someone of interest and worth coming to hear? Can he speak graciously in a drawing room? Is he sensitive to cultural, professional and spiritual issues already mentioned? Can he handle the Bible so that Christian Truth is proclaimed clearly and with the proportion that the Bible gives it? If all these questions after prayer appear to lead to affirmative answers, it may be that this is the man whom the Lord will match for the moment.

Choice of subject will inevitably need consultation with the speaker. Wisdom dictates that it should stimulate interest, be relevant to the needs of a prospective audience and be a vehicle for conveying the Gospel.

Concluding Comments

This article has endeavoured at some length to provide guidance to those seeking to use their homes in evangelism for Christ. The length of the article probably reflects the writer's conviction that this work is sensitive. It requires humility, prayerfulness and wisdom.

And yet scores of professional men and women have cause to be grateful to Christians who asked them to a "squash" organised on the lines covered in this article. It goes forth with the writer's prayer that it will stimulate readers to act so that further numbers may be added not least among officers of the Armed Services.

Example 3

Our Speaker

The Rev. Michael Williamson was born and educated in Yorkshire. After reading Mathematics at Cambridge University, he became an actuary working for Lloyds the underwriters, in the City of London. In his early thirties, he gave this up to get ordained and after a curacy in Cheltenham, and a period as Assistant Chaplain at Stowe School, he became Rector of St. Matthews, Canterbury in 1979. He is married with 2 children and his recreational interests include squash and writing short crime stories.

Michael Williamson values opportunities to speak of his Christian faith on informal occasions. We have asked him to do so after we have had a fork supper. He has taken as his subject: "Is Christianity founded upon a lie?"


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