By John A. Snyder
I’ll never forget a session of the North American Christian Convention held in Indianapolis a number of years ago. The speaker was the senior minister of a large and growing congregation in the Indianapolis area. In his message he said, “The E-string on my violin is evangelism.”
That line has stuck with me through the years. What does the church need today? What will get the church moving and growing? We need to tune up the E-string. We need to make the main thing (winning the lost) the main thing. There are people in every community who are just waiting to hear the gospel.
Afraid to Die
In 1965 I was leading the singing for a two-week revival in Littleton, Colorado. Stan Bouchard was the host minister, and my good friend Sherman Nichols was the evangelist. I was assigned a calling partner, Dr. Bob Allen, a dentist who was an elder of the church.
Several afternoons Dr. Bob and I made evangelistic calls together. One day we were given the name and address of a prospect, a lady who had attended the services at Littleton Christian Church.
After a few pleasantries, I explained that we would like to share God’s plan for her life. At first she hesitated. I told her it wouldn’t take long and that we could sit under a tree in her beautifully manicured backyard. She accepted, and so I began to make my gospel presentation. I hadn’t gone far when the lady said, “You know, I’m tremendously afraid to die.”
I responded, “We can help you with that.”
When I finished sharing God’s plan, I asked her to make a decision to confess Christ and be baptized into him. She said she would and then she said, “I have a favor to ask of you. Would you please come back later and share what you have shared with me with my two teenage children?” That week the three of them were baptized into Christ.
Ask for Decisions
The gospel is powerful, but for the power to be manifested we must tell the story and ask for decisions. In order to have a harvest of souls, the seed of the Word must be sown. During my ministry I preached on two magical three-letter words, ask and try. I believe there is a third magical three-letter word: sow. Sow the seed of God’s Word, pray, and God will give the increase. Growing churches are evangelistic churches.
Preachers need to rub shoulders with ministers who have been blessed in their ministries. Joshua was blessed and encouraged by the ministry of Moses. Elisha imbibed of the spirit of Elijah.
B.W. Carrier, my predecessor at Hessville, was a masterful soul winner. He took me calling with him and he was a great encouragement and blessing to me. I accompanied him on a day in which he preached two funerals and then made an evangelistic call. Wow!
Early in my ministry I determined I would pick the brains of as many preachers as possible, to learn all I could about the ministry. I’ll never forget seeing T.K. Smith, minister of the First Christian Church of Columbus, Indiana, sitting alone in a parlor during a North American Christian Convention. I walked up to him and asked him to share with me about ministry. He graciously agreed, and I was blessed. Most preachers welcome the opportunity to share their experience and knowledge with younger preachers.
I have one vital piece of advice to share: Don’t be ashamed to ask people to become Christians. The biggest reason for failure in selling is the failure to ask for the order, and the main reason we fail at evangelism is we don’t ask for a decision.
Once, while staying at the Williamstown Hotel in Williamstown, Kentucky, where I was holding a revival with the Roanoke Christian Church (my first ministry), I ran into a man from Cincinnati whom I had met before. He had been a high school principal but was now selling life insurance and having trouble making sales. Learning of my background in selling, he asked if I would go with him on a call and then tell him what he was doing wrong. I went and observed that he wasn’t asking for the order.
What is my advice to preachers and churches who want to minister well? Tune up the E-string. Devote time to calling, presenting the gospel, and asking for decisions. The church will grow because God’s Word is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.
Tuning the E-string will resolve many of the problems that plague churches. Nothing helps a preacher’s enthusiasm like knowing there will be responses to the invitation. This spirit of expectancy will bring new enthusiasm to your worship services. God will richly bless as people come up out of the baptistery to walk in the new life in Jesus who forgives sin, provides hope, and quenches fear.
Let’s tune up the E-string!
John A. Snyder in retirement continues to live in Hammond, Indiana.