Person-to-Person Evangelism by Dr. B. Gray Allison (1966)
Mid-America just completed another memorable Founders’ Days week, and in recognition of our founder, Dr. B. Gray Allison, we publish this special blog article. It is an excerpt from Personal Evangelism, a book comprised of material from Dr. Gray’s Personal Evangelism course which he taught for almost 47 years. The book is edited and revised by Mid-America President Dr. Michael R. Spradlin. See the end of the article for more information on the book. Though the original article was written nearly 60 years ago, even before Dr. Gray founded Mid-America, its message still rings true today and has never been more relevant and needful.
The following article is from the Royal Service Magazine of the Woman’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention, Vol. 60, Number 7, January 1966, under the title “Person to Person.” At that time, Dr. B. Gray Allison was the professor of missions at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The original article incorrectly listed his name as “Gray B. Allison.” The article follows in its entirety.
Often in the Gospel record of the life and labors of our Lord we find Him bearing witness to individuals. How easy it is in our day to look at people, to preach to people, to think in terms of people. Perhaps we need instead to look at a person, to witness to a person, to think in terms of a person. We need to come out of the abstract into the particular and see people as individuals.
A poet imagined the Apostle Paul saying, “Only as souls I see the people.” Oh, that we might see them like that! We do not find it difficult to go through the motions of religious activity. We joyfully participate in missionary reading “round tables,” weeks of prayer for missions, special offerings to meet special needs. But when it comes to translating concern into daily, person-to-person witness for Christ, most of us no doubt would feel ourselves miserable failures. I have attended many WMU [Editor’s Note: Woman’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention] meetings which thrilled my heart, but the thrill soon left as I realized that these women were talking about missions and praying about missions, but most of them were not “doing” missions. How can this be changed?
There are three words which furnish us the key—Lost, Lord, and Love. We must believe people are lost, we must acknowledge Christ as Lord, and we must love. My beloved professor, Dr. Roland Leavell, put it like this: How much do I care? How much of Christ do I have to share? How far will I dare?
We must believe that people without Christ are lost. Until the lostness of people is real to us, we will never really try to bring them to Christ so they can be saved. The Bible is filled with passages describing the lost condition of those who have not Christ. Paul said, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Corinthians 4:3 KJV). To be lost means that one has missed the way, he does not know the way home. Jesus said, “I am the way … no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 KJV). John said, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23 KJV). How plain could the Bible make it? People have missed the way—the only way—to God, and are lost!
We must understand something of what it means to be lost. To be lost means there is a lack of peace in the life. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth” (Proverbs 28: 1 KJV). “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest” (Isaiah 57:20 KJV). To be lost means loss of the Presence, in other words, the loss of real life, for when one is not related to God, he has no life—he is separated from life (see Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; James 1:15). To be lost means lasting punishment. Hell awaits at the end of a Christless life (see Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). A realization that our friends who are without Christ are lost, and a realization of what it means to be lost, will give us an imperative to win them for Christ.
General William Booth of the Salvation Army once said he would like to send all his candidates for officer positions to Hell for twenty four hours. He felt that this would be the chief part of their training and would make them able to reach the lost.
We must unreservedly accept Jesus Christ as Lord. This will do many things. It will make us diligent students of the Word of God. It will make us people of prayer. The combination of these two things will help us grow in Christlikeness. The more we become like Him, the greater will be our burden for the lost ones around us, for Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19: 10 KJV). He came “to call … sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9: 13 KJV). When we unreservedly accept Jesus as Lord, it will compel us to go as witnesses for He has commanded it. Oh, can we not hear His words: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” If He is Lord, we must witness for Him. There can be no holding back.
We must love. The most compelling force in the world is love. Victor Hugo said, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.” Preaching may fail, singing may fail, but individual concern does not fail. I saw a hardened sinner come to Christ because a man named Vince Sparks cared for him and wept over him because of his heart-concern. J. H. Lowett said, “We cannot heal the wounds we do not feel.”
Down in the human heart, Crush’d by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touch’d by a loving heart, waken’d by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
—Fanny J. Crosby
It was a heart of love that made Jesus weep over a city. It was a heart of love that made Paul plead earnestly with sinners “night and day with tears.” Peter urged, ”Above all things be fervent in love.”
The German philosopher Heine stood once, disillusioned and in despair, before the statue of Venus de Milo. He said, ”Ah, yes! I suppose you would help me if you could, but you can’t. Your lips are still and your heart is cold.” May it not be that our lips are still because our hearts are cold!
Would you care if some friend you had met day by day
Should never be told about Jesus?
Would you care if she in the judgment should say
No one ever told me of Jesus?
—Carrie E. Beck and Charles H. Gabriel
The real question is: How can I love sinners? The answer is: Fall in love with Jesus! A real love for Him will result in a real love for them! May God help us as we meet people in a doorway, in a supermarket, in a home, to be so in love with Jesus that we will cry with Jeremiah of old: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9, RSV). For you see,
He is counting on you,
On a love that will share
In His burden of prayer
For those He has brought
With His lifeblood, and sought
Through His sorrow and pain
To win home again.
He is counting on you—If we fail Him,
For decades, Mid-America students have taken the legendary “Personal Evangelism” course taught first by founding President Dr. B. Gray Allison and now by current President Dr. Michael R. Spradlin. It is training not just for practical missions, but a lifetime of soul-winning ministry.
Essential for all believers who desire to be obedient to the Scriptural call to make disciples, the content for this course has now been compiled into an engaging book edited and revised by Dr. Spradlin. Learn how to witness in a simple, biblical, and effective way in this inspiring and informative resource.
The book Personal Evangelism by B. Gray Allison, PhD; edited and revised by Michael R. Spradlin, PhD, is available at the Mid-America Bookstore or online book retailers, such as ChristianBook.com or Amazon.