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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"