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Personal Work

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Personal Work

The information I am going to give you is borrowed from a book entitled "From House to House," written by Ivan R. Stewart. But I think it is such good information that I wanted to share it with you. Personal work is almost a lost art today. And the main reason is that we just don't know what to do, or how to get it started.

—Raymond Stiner

Personal work will accomplish on a personal level what public work will not ac-complish. In Acts 20:20 we find Paul used both methods: "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house." The pulpit, of course, will also reach many that personal work will not. That is why both are needed. In the public assembly the listener may be a hundred miles away day dreaming, but usually on a one on one basis you have the attention of the listener.

Personal work does not leave the individual untaught. After a sermon there may be many questions that an individual might have and not be able to ask them. But in a private discussion these questions may be asked and answered.

Personal work will strengthen the individual for continued faithfulness long after baptism, since the individual is in a pattern of personal study, he will want to continue this pattern.

The private study allows the student to cover more material in a few hours then would be possible in hearing a sermon, although I am not discrediting the force of a sermon.

Private study allows God's teacher to appeal for action. This can also be done in the public assembly, but often when in the home there is a warmer and more comfortable climate.

Personal work will assist in the restoration of the wayward as well as give in-struction for entrance into the church. In fact, James lays upon us this responsibility in James 5:19-20 "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."

Often these people, when they are sitting in the public assembly, feel that you are preaching right to them and become offended, but in a private atmosphere they know you are addressing their sin, but are not offended.

How Many Do You Need for a Study?

One is a good audience. Large numbers do not have to be assembled to have a good study. In fact when the group gets too large the study becomes rather difficult.

There are examples showing that one is a good audience. Insurance companies and car salesmen are taught in their training that one or two people are all that should be in the listening group for best results. Look at Jesus and even though he spoke to the multitudes he also was on a one on one basis with the woman at the well, Nicodemus, the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus and many others. It was one on one in the terrific story of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. There was also the Philippian jailer. So as far as personal work is concerned, actually the smaller the number the better the discussion will go because you do not have several people interrupting the discussion.

Personal Work Is More Than a Social Visit

It is presumed by some that personal work is a presentation of a watered down gospel, therefore no one should attempt to do it. It is wrong to water down the gospel in personal work just as it is wrong to do so in the pulpit. The desire to win public favor is wrong wherever it is.

Personal work takes a lot of time. You will have to make some sacrifices to do this work. The best time is between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. depending on the availability of your student. Just visiting a person to show your interest and love for them is important, but you must be able to set up that time to sit down and personally study the Bible with them. This is the only thing that will produce the faith that is necessary to save their souls.

The Personal Worker

We must have a good attitude toward winning souls. If our attitude is: "it will never work," then we will not accomplish much. First our attitude must be that whatever the Lord says we can do. Why would we say "Lord, Lord," and do not the things that he has commanded? We must truly realize that it is a necessity of saving our own souls and the souls of others to go out and seek and save the lost.

We must have a good attitude toward the lost. Christians should love souls and especially lost souls. Jesus said of himself in John 15:13 :" Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Certainly allotting a few hours to study with a friend is not laying down your life, but it is better than taking no time at all.

The personal worker needs to know his Bible. Probably one of the reasons we don't do more than we do is because we are afraid we will not know the answers to their questions. We can never be better teachers of the Word of God than we are students of it. How can we teach that which we do not know. In a study, quoting the Scriptures is not good enough. It is better to turn to the passage and let the student read it for himself. Thus you will need to know where to turn. The personal worker needs to become acquainted with the sword of the Spirit. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 10:3-4, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds...)" To pull down the strong holds of error and prejudice you will need a knowledge of the Word of God.

You need to know what your student basically believes. Although this is not a necessity it helps so you don't "put your foot in your mouth." It's like being a doctor, if you know the problem, then you can work on the problem and make the right adjustments.

Another consideration when studying with an individual is personalities. It should not be above the Christian to change an aspect of his personality when it does not involve sin. The apostle Paul did this in 1 Cor. 9:22: "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."

The personal worker must set goals. Many would not continue in this effort if they thought there was no end, no reward, no pleasure of winning a soul. We should not set our goals beyond reach but winning just one soul a year is better than none. Speaking of goals we should accomplish certain things with the prospect. There are three goals actually to set and they are: gaining the appointment, causing the prospect to listen, and causing the individual to act.

Getting the Appointment

At least 50% of the effectiveness of any conversion is due to the proper laying of the ground work. Many salespersons go from door to door utilizing the hit and miss method, trying to interest people in an article without any prior preparation. Statistics show the rate of sales in such approaches are very low.

Where then do you get the prospects? Christians who have spouses who have not obeyed the gospel are good prospects. The visitor who has attended church is a good prospect. Those who call you on the phone and ask some Bible question are good prospects. Those people getting married are good prospects because they are starting a family and may have thoughts of going to church as a family. Those who complete a Bible correspondence course are good prospects. Of course you have to have some Bible correspondence course available for people to work. Co-workers are good prospects. Getting the information of the church in front of the public will often cause people to call you or visit the church. I think one of our great failures as a church is not utilizing the advertizing mediums we have to get the name of the church out in the public eye as well as a phone number to contact. Young people can be of great assistance also. They have friends. Don't be ashamed to invite them to church and perhaps, through their association, an opportunity might arise for a study with their family.

Method of Actual Study

The place of study is very important. If the home environment is such that the prospect cannot study, such as a mother tending to her children then perhaps inviting the prospect to your home would be best. The atmosphere is important wherever the study is conducted. If the lights or the ventilation are not good, try to change them so they are not a hindrance. When arriving at the prospect's home talk on generalities for a period of time but make sure that you make the transition over to the subject for which you have set up the meeting. The personal worker should take the initiative to start the study.

The discussion should be at a table where books and writing material can be laid out for use. People are very much at home at the table and feel freer to talk there than at any other place.

The items to be used for the study should be arranged before entering the home. Of course the personal worker should have his Bible. A small concordance is very valuable along with writing material. If the prospect is not familiar with the Bible you may want to take other Bibles with the same page numbers so that he will not be embarrassed about searching for the Scriptures. Make sure he reads the scriptures you are looking at.

Opening remarks are very important. By all means do not plunge into the study with your first remarks. Of course confidence should have already been gained, but that confidence needs to be furthered by "getting close" to the prospect with your opening remarks. Prayer is very much in order. Especially if it is a scheduled discussion. It marks the opening of the discussion and calls upon God to help us all.

Remember the name of your subject. Get permission to call them by their first name. This provides a comfortable atmosphere. By sure to advise the prospect that you want to answer any questions he might have, but inform him that you want to stay on the topic at hand. Say for instance you are studying with him at a particular setting about the name of the church. And he asks you why doesn't the church of Christ believe in instrumental music? Tell him or her that this is a good question and let's write it down and in our next study we will address that issue. Try to keep them on the topic at hand.

Try to use illustrations in your study. The best illustrations come from every day life, and try to use them from the life of the prospect—maybe something from his job or hobby that he can relate to.

It is wise to leave the reference that you have talked about by writing them down and leaving the paper there. Better yet if you have an outline, make enough copies for everyone to follow and leave it with them. They can study it later at their own leisure.

The closing is very important. The manner of coming to a close and calling for obedience is so important that if it is not done just right we can undo all that we have done beforehand. A doctor who can operate, but is not able to close the incision is not much of a doctor. If the subject is near baptism don't be afraid to suggest it that very night.

Even as it is getting more difficult to get people out to our gospel meeting it is also getting more difficult to get people to study the Bible with you. But that doesn't mean that we ought to stop trying and so I hope these few pointers will encourage you to start doing personal work. —Box 4, Lecontes Mills, PA 16850



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