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DR. ROBERT L. SUMNER GIVES TIPS
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
I have been re-reading a book by Dr. Robert L. Sumner, Evangelism: The Church On Fire (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1981 edition). Dr. Sumner gave Acts 5:42 as the opening text of Chapter Five, “Regular Evangelism in a New Testament Church.” Please turn to it in your Bible.
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
Dr. Sumner could also have given Acts 2:47,
“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
Dr. Sumner said,
The early Church made evangelism their “daily” business. There was no letting up; in season and out of season the [Christians] were constantly and consistently about the business of [winning souls].
It was also an “every member” business. New Testament Christians did not consider the task of winning the lost to Christ merely the duty of the pastor; each one faced it as his own personal responsibility and obligation. As Dr. [Theodore] Cuyler expressed it, “The Acts of the Apostles is not a history of churches, but of individual Christians…each fisher [for souls] dropped his own hook, baited with love” (ibid., p. 65).
Again, Dr. Sumner said,
…the program our churches need is the one in Acts 5:42, a program of evangelism: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Such was the program of the fast-growing New Testament Church! They called Spurgeon’s church a “soul trap.” Oh, that today’s churches might earn the same kind of reputation!
The early church grew – it multiplied – on a daily diet of evangelism. They did not have the benefits of our day to help them…They had no Sunday School buses, no…literature [not even personal Bibles – no printing presses!]…Yet Romans 1:8 tells us that the faith of the Christians at Rome was “spoken of throughout the whole world.” The same was true of the Christians [in the church] at Thessalonica – and when Paul wrote to them he [said that] in every place their “faith to God-ward (was) spread abroad” (I Thessalonians 1:8). Not only so, but when Paul wrote to the church at Colosse he informed them that the blessed truth of the gospel, even in that early day, had gone into “all the world” (Colossians 1:6).
Can our churches today have a successful program of evangelism? The answer depends, of course, on the people in our churches. If we aim for success and pay the necessary Scriptural price, it will be ours…The church which puts… much effort into evangelism…will accomplish a mighty job for God (ibid., pp. 86-87).
Dr. Sumner went on to tell us who are the prospects. He said,
…your main prospects will be the unsaved [those] outside of Jesus Christ…the unsaved should be considered as prospects regardless of whether they are members of other churches or not. It is too bad when we let so-called “ministerial ethics” consign people to Hell! The lost person in a liberal church or a false cult should be considered just as much a prospect as the individual who does not even know what the inside of a church looks like (ibid., p. 88).
I agree with him that all unsaved people should be considered prospects, even if they are members of other churches. But it has long been our practice not to allow someone, who claims to be saved, to “transfer” into our church from another nearby fundamental Baptist church. We accept no such transfers – period. We tell them to go back to their own church if they claim to be saved. If our churches across our nation did that it would prevent a great many church splits. Therefore we do not take in disgruntled members from other nearby churches. Someone has said, “Once a leaver, always a leaver.” We have found that to be true across the years. As Dr. Sumner said, “Your main prospects will be the unsaved.”
Dr. Sumner went on to say that “follow-up includes all that parental responsibility entails”…But how is this to be done? “Is the answer merely material to distribute…? No, it is obvious from experience…both in the New Testament and out of it, that follow-up is done by someone, not by something” (ibid., p. 206). “The [people] who stick will be those who start out without delay to go on with the Lord. Therefore it is the responsibility of the church to encourage each one in obedience…his ‘parents’ will need to look after him carefully” (ibid., p. 207).
Dr. Sumner then said that we should “Teach them the importance of the local church. The overwhelming majority of references to the church in the Word of God have to do with local churches…Every [new person] should be taught that he has a responsibility to God, his community, his church and to himself that can be fulfilled in no other manner than by membership and active participation in a local congregation. The Word of God says of the [new converts at Pentecost], ‘And all that believed were together…And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:44, 46, 47)” (ibid., p. 213). Let us stand and sing the chorus of “Bring Them In.”
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
(“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).
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(END OF SERMON)
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