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How To Start Evangelistic Ministry – 8 Considerations By Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon offers some suggestions for pastors who are unsure how to start evangelistic ministry in their churches. Certain principles can be beneficial for individuals when they reach out to others.

Now I want to discuss with the young Pastor how we make our people soul-winners?

Unless the Lord calls you to be evangelists or missionaries to the heathen, you want to be pastors of churches. So you start out as single sowers of the kingdom’s good seed, distributing your own handfuls from your own basket. 

You want to be spiritual farmers and have a specific amount of land that you would not sow yourself, but with the help of servants. 

Then you will try to teach them the skill and secret of seed-sowing so that eventually you will have a huge number of people doing this wonderful task, and so a far larger acreage will be cultivated for the great Husbandman. 

Some of us have been so richly blessed by God’s favor that we have a great number of people around us who have been spiritually stirred by our ministry, who have been instructed and strengthened by us, and who are all doing excellent service for God.

#1 It Takes Time

Take Time when Pastor a new congregation

Let me advise you not to seek all of this at once, since it takes time. Expect nothing less than the prize of twenty years of constant toil in one location in the first year of your pastorate. 

Young men occasionally make an enormous error while talking to someone they haven’t seen in six weeks. They cannot speak with the authority of someone who has been with his people for twenty or thirty years as a father; if they do, it becomes a sort of foolish affectation and it is equally foolish to expect the people to be the same as they might be after a quarter-century of training by a godly minister. 

To enter a church where someone else has dutifully labored for many years and long sowed the good seed is to enter a blessed and successful condition, and happy will you be if you can thus leap into a good man’s shoes and follow his path. 

But the likelihood is that you will go to a place that has been allowed to run virtually to ruin, if not completely forgotten.

Maybe you’ll strive to mimic the principal deacon’s seriousness. You’ll be like a hot iron plunged in cold water when you discover him cold as steel. He may recall others who started off as hot as you, then cooled off quickly, and he won’t be shocked if you do too. 

He is a good man, but he is old and you are young, and we cannot put young heads on old shoulders. But they do not comprehend you. They are backward and retiring, and they soon go off on a tangent. If this is your experience, you are not alone. You will probably be involved in nearly all aspects of the job. If this is the case, expect it and you will not be disappointed. 

You will be wise if you enter the ministry expecting little or no help from the people in the process of soul-winning. Prepare yourself because you will have to do it alone, sow the seed, tramp the field, always looking to the Lord of the harvest to bless your labor, and looking forward to the time when through your efforts, under divine blessing, instead of a plot of land covered with nettles, stones, or thorns, or partly trodden down, you shall have a well-tilled farm in which you may sow the seed to the best advantage, and on which you shall have a little army of fellow-laborers to aid you in the service. All of this, though, results from time.

Happen Few Months After Your Work

I should warn you that none of this will happen until at least a few months after your work. If revivals are genuine, they do not always arrive when we call for them. Whistle for the wind to see if it will appear. The big rain came because of Elijah’s prayers; it was not the first time he prayed, and we must pray again, and again, and again until the cloud appears and the showers fall from it. Wait a bit, keep working, plodding, pleading, and the blessing will come in due time, and you realize that you have the church of your dreams, but it will not come all at once. 

For many years, I don’t believe Mr. John Angell James of Birmingham saw much fruit from his ministry. Carr’s Lane Chapel, as far as I recall, was not well known when he preached there; but he persisted in preaching the gospel and eventually attracted to him a group of virtuous people who contributed to make him the greatest force for good in Birmingham. Try to do the same and don’t expect to see all he and other loyal pastors have been able to do through the years all at once.

#2 Not To Follow Any Set Rules

Because what is correct at one moment may not be sensible at another, and what is best for one area may not be ideal for another, I advise you not to follow any set rules when going to work. 

The ideal approach is to gather the entire church, express your desires, and urge them to become soul-winners for God. Say, “I don’t want to be your pastor only to preach to you; I want to see lives saved and saved people trying to win others for Christ. 

With one accord in one place, praying and pleading, the Pentecostal blessing was delivered. Thousands were converted. Can’t we all pray together for a blessing?” That might arouse them. 

Calling them together, and earnestly pleading with them about the matter, pointing out what you wish them especially to do, and to ask of God, maybe like setting light to dry fuel; but nothing may come of it because of their lack of sympathy in the work of soul-saving. 

They may say, “It is a very nice meeting, and our pastor expects a good deal from us, and we all wish he may get it,” and there it will end so far as they are concerned.

#3 Begin With One Or Two Members

Then, if that should fail, God may lead you to begin with one or two. 

There is usually some “choice young man” in each congregation; and as you notice deeper spirituality in him than in the rest of the members, you might say to him, “Will you come down to my house on such-and-such an evening that we may have a brief prayer together?” 

You can gradually increase the number to two or three godly young men if possible, or you may begin with some gracious matron, who perhaps lives nearer to God than any of the men, and whose prayers would help you more than theirs. 

Having secured their sympathy, you might say to them, “Now we will try if we cannot influence the whole church; we will begin with our fellow members before we go to the outsiders. 

Let us try to be ourselves always at the prayer meetings, to set an example to the rest, and let us also have gatherings for prayer in our own houses, and seek to get our brethren and sisters to them. 

You, good sister, can get half-a-dozen sisters together into your house for a little meeting; and you, brother, can say to a few friends, ‘Could we not meet together to pray for our pastor?‘ 

Sometimes, the most effectual way to burn a house is to do it by pouring petroleum down the middle of it, and setting fire to it, as the ladies and gentlemen (!) did in Paris in the days of the Commune; and, sometimes, the shortest method is to light it at the four corners. I have never tried either plan, but that is what I think. I like to burn churches rather than houses because they do not burn down, they burn up and keep on burning when the fire is of the right sort. 

When a bush is nothing but a bush, it is soon consumed when it is set on fire; but when it is a bush that burns on and is not consumed, we may know that God is there. So it is with a church that is flaming with holy zeal. Your work, brethren, is to set your church on fire somehow. 

You may do it by speaking to the whole of the members, or you may do it by speaking to the few choice spirits, but you must do it somehow. 

Have a secret society for this sacred purpose, turn yourselves into a band of celestial Fenians whose aim is to set the whole church on fire. If you do so, the devil will not like it, and you will cause him such disquiet that he will seek the utter break up of the union, and that is just what we want; we desire nothing but the war to the knife between the church and the world and all its habits and customs. But again I say, all this will take time. I have seen some fellows run so fast at first that they have soon become like broken-winded horses, and truly that is a pitiable sight; so take time, brethren, and do not look for everything you desire to be secured all at once.

#4 Keep Up With The Prayer Meeting

I suppose that, in most places, there is a prayer meeting on Monday night. If you want your people as well as yourself to be soul-winners, try to keep up the prayer meetings all you can. Do not be like certain ministers in the suburbs of London, who say that they cannot get the people out to a prayer meeting and a lecture, too, so they have one week-night meeting for prayer, at which they give a short address. He has a prayer-meeting and a lecture together, and it is neither a prayer-meeting nor a lecture, it is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor excellent red-herring; and he will soon give it up because he claims it is no good, and I am sure the people agree. Then why not miss one of the Sunday services? The same logic might apply to the weeknight meeting. I read today in an American newspaper: “The well-known truth that every three months, the regular hearers of Mr. Spurgeon’s church in London leave and outsiders take over the place is circulating again. English ‘boasting is excluded’. Every Sunday night of the year, thousands of Americans give up their seats to strangers.” I hope not, brethren, regarding Sabbath services or prayer gatherings.

If I were you, I’d make that prayer meeting a signature event of my ministry, a prayer meeting unlike any other within 7,000 miles. Make the prayer gathering entertaining for everyone who is there, and don’t be afraid to inform good Mr. Snooks that he shall not pray for twenty-five minutes, God willing. Ask him to stop, and if he doesn’t, stop him. And I love the church almost as much as I adore my darling wife. If a man wants to pray long, he may do so somewhere, but not during my gathering. Tell him to finish it up at home if he cannot pray in public for a reasonable length of time. Encourage them to sing Moody and Sankey hymns until they know them by heart, then switch to your own hymnbook.

Keep up the prayer meeting if the rest of the meetings fade. It is the finest service between the Sabbaths; make it so. If your folks can’t come in the evening, attempt to arrange a prayer gathering. Maybe a good meeting in the country at half-past four. Why not? You’d get more people at 5 a.m. than at 5 p.m. I believe a prayer gathering for farmers at 6 a.m. would draw many; they would come in, say a few words of prayer, and be grateful for the chance. Or you might have it at twelve o’clock at night and get folks you couldn’t get otherwise. If they won’t attend the meetings, go to their houses and say, “I am going to have a prayer meeting in your parlor.” “Oh, dear! My wife will be in a state.” “No! Tell her not to worry; we may pray in the coach-house, garden, or wherever else.” Even if fifty of us go walking down the street and have a prayer service in the open air, there may be worse things. Remember how the women battled the booze merchants in America? The prayer gatherings must be maintained, for they are the hidden source of influence with God and men.

#5 Set Earnest Examples 

We must always be earnest examples ourselves. I’m confident a slow-coach pastor won’t have a zealous church. A man who is indifferent or who conducts his work as if it were easy shouldn’t expect to be surrounded by individuals who care about soul salvation. I know you, brethren, desire a band of Christians who long for the salvation of their friends and neighbors, a group who will always expect God to bless your sermons, who will watch the faces of your hearers to see if they are impressed, and who will be distressed if no conversions occur, and troubled if no conversions occur. If that were the case, people may not complain to you, but they might pray for you. They could also talk to you about it. “Governor, this won’t pay.” one of my deacons said one Sabbath evening as we went down to communion with just fourteen to receive. We were used to forty or fifty each month, and the good man would not accept less. I agreed with him we needed more in the future, if possible. I suppose some brethren would have felt annoyed to have had anything like that remark made to them; but I was delighted with what my good deacon said; for it was just what I felt.

#6 Gather Christians Who Are Willing To Do

Then, next, we want around us Christians who are willing to do all they can to help in the work of winning souls. The preacher cannot contact many individuals. You need Christian workers who will “button-hole” individuals. Holding a friend’s hair or coat button is a pretty close job. Absalom struggled to escape as he was trapped in the tree by his hair. So, go near to sinners; softly speak to them until you have whispered them into the kingdom of heaven until you have given them the blessed story that will bring them peace and joy. We want, in the Church of Christ, a band of well-trained sharpshooters, who will pick the people out individually, and be always on the watch for all who come into the place, not annoying them, but making sure that they do not go away without having had a personal warning, a personal invitation, and a personal exhortation to come to Christ. We want to teach our entire community to be Salvation Armies. Everyone in our churches should work for the Lord. Then they won’t enjoy the excellent sermons that Americans seem to like so much, but remark, “Flummery! We don’t want that.” What do harvesters desire with thunder and lightning? They only want to sit beneath a tree, wipe their sweaty brows, and refresh themselves before going back to work. “There is the enemy; do not let me know where they are tomorrow.” We should preach. Our people want something quick and sweet, something that stirs and inspires them.

#7 Favorable Atmosphere To Soul-winning

Preach Where There Is Dew

We will get the blessing we are seeking when the entire atmosphere in which we are living is favorable to soul-winning. “There will be sure to be a blessing tonight, there is such a lot of dew about.” one of our friends said one evening. May you frequently preach where there is dew! The Irishman stated it was useless to irrigate in the sun since anytime it rained, there were clouds around, hiding the sun. There was a great deal of sense in that observation, more than appears at first sight, as there usually is in Hibernian statements. For example, if you poured the same amount of water down while the sun is shining, the leaves would likely turn yellow, shrivel, and die because of the heat. Any gardener will advise you to water the flowers late at night when the sun is down. For the plants and flowers to benefit from the moistening, there must be a favorable effect on the entire atmosphere. So it is spiritually. People are in a prayer attitude when God blesses my ministry unexpectedly. Preaching in a Spirit-filled setting is a joy. I understand how difficult it is to preach with it; and, alas! I’ve preached without it. So it’s like Gilboa, with no dew or rain. You can preach and pray for God’s blessing, but it’s useless. I hope not, brethren. Maybe you’ll be blessed when a beloved brother has long toiled, prayed, and labored for the Lord.

Favorable Circumstances 

I often feel, when I go out to preach, that there is no credit due to me, for everything is in my favor. Almost everyone there expects me to say something positive, and since they are all seeking it, it does them good, and when I leave, they keep asking for the blessing, and they receive it. That’s how it’s often been with me, the blessing provided because all the circumstances were favorable. You may often trace the happy results not only to the preacher’s discourse but to all the circumstances connected with its delivery. It was the same with Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, which brought three thousand souls to Christ; there had never been a better sermon preached; it was a plain personal message likely to convince people of the sin of their treatment of the Saviour in putting Him to death; but I do not attribute the conversions to the apostle’s words alone, because there were clouds about, and the entire atmosphere was damp; as well, there were clouds around, and the entire atmosphere was damp; as well, there were clouds Hadn’t the disciples been praying for the Spirit’s descent for a long time, and hadn’t the Spirit fallen on them all as well as Peter? The Pentecostal blessing came in plenty. Whenever a church gets into the same state as that of the apostles and disciples at that memorable period, the whole heavenly electricity is concentrated at that spot. Remember that even Christ could not perform many great deeds in some locations because of the people’s disbelief, and I am convinced that all His faithful servants face similar challenges. However, I am not convinced they should run away from them; I believe they should stop and attempt to make them more Christlike.

Be Aware of Ground Not Receptive To Gospel

I have had the other sort of experience, as well as the joyous one I have been describing. I remember preaching, one night, in a place where they had not had a minister for some time. In fact, they said that most of the church meeting had agreed of inviting me, but the deacons objected because they did not think I was “sound.” Others from other churches were delighted and benefitted, but the locals did not get a blessing; they had not expected one, so they did not receive one. After the service, I approached the vestry and saw two deacons on either side of the mantelpiece. “Are you the deacons?” I asked. Yes, they said. “The church does not prosper, does it?” I said. No, they said. “I should not think it would with such deacons,” I answered. “Did I know anything against them?” they inquired. “No, but I knew nothing in their favor,” I answered. I thought that, if I could not get at them in the mass, I would try what I could do with one or two. I was pleased that my sermon or subsequent words helped and that one of our brethren is still alive and well. One deacon was enraged enough to leave, while the other deacon was enraged enough to stay and work and pray until better days came. It’s difficult rowing against the wind and tide, but it’s considerably more difficult if a horse on the bank is dragging your boat. So, brethren, if such is the case, labor harder and drag the horse into the water. Remember that once a favorable atmosphere is formed, the challenge is to keep it. You’ll note I stated, “When the atmosphere is created,” and that reminds us how little we can do, or rather, how little we can accomplish without God since He alone can create and sustain atmospheres, so we must keep our eyes on Him, from whom all our help comes.

Spiritual Support

Some of you may teach well and sincerely, yet you may not see sinners saved. “I must try to gather around me several people who will all pray with me and for me, and who will talk to their friends about the things of God, and who will so live and labor that the Lord will give a blessed shower of grace because all the surroundings are suitable for it, and help to make the blessing come,” he said. I’ve heard pastors claim that something in the congregation had a great powerful effect on them when they preached in the Tabernacle. I believe it is because we have good prayer sessions, a sincere prayer attitude among the people, and many on the lookout for souls. I call him my hunting dog, and he is always ready to pick up the birds I have shot and bring them to me. So I’m glad I have more friends like him. “The precipitation of decision.” was described by one of our brethren, Fullerton and Smith, during a special service for a famous preacher who is fond of lengthy words. He meant the Lord blessed them in converting men to Christ. “Well, friend, did you enjoy that discourse?” Was there a catch for you? Are you saved? Do you know the way of salvation?

Bible Open To The Popular Verses

Always have your own Bible handy and open to the portions you wish to cite. I saw my friend who I mentioned before frequently opening his Bible at the most opportune passages as if he had them all ready and convenient. You know the messages a searching soul craves:—Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He who believes in the Son has eternal life. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” “Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.” The Lord’s name saves all who call upon it. Well, this brother has a lot of such passages written in strong font within his Bible, and he has thus guided many troubled souls to the Saviour. You won’t be fooled if you follow his lead.

#8 Be Not Afraid In Bad Condition

Now lastly, brethren, do not be afraid when you go to a place and find it in a very bad condition. It’s a good thing for a young man to start with a truly hopeless situation because, with the right kind of work, things will eventually change. If the chapel is nearly empty when you arrive, it cannot be in much worse shape, and you may help improve things by bringing others in. To operate among the worst of sinners would bring more glory to God than anywhere else. Those who are long-time Christians but lack grace, have a name to live but are dead, are the worst kind of people to minister to. Unfortunately, there are people like that among our deacons and churchgoers, and we can’t get them out; and as long as they’re around, they have a really negative impact. There are many examples of lifeless members where every part of the body should be imbued with divine life; we are helpless to cure evil. We must allow the tares to grow until harvest; but, if you cannot dig up the tares, the best thing to do is to water the wheat, since nothing will keep the tares at bay like healthy, robust wheat. I’ve seen ungodly men who were delighted to leave the church because it was too hot for them. They have said, “The preaching is too strong for us, and these people are too Puritanical and too strict to suit us.” That’s a blessing! The truth did not drive them away, but because they left of their own accord, we will leave them where they are, asking the Lord to turn them from their errors and bring them to Himself, and then we will gladly welcome them back to live and work for the Lord.

This article is an edited version of the article “How to Induce Our People to Win Souls” from Charles Spurgeon’s book “The Soul Winner”. Check out our related posts for more information on this topic, or get a copy of the book from Amazon.

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