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by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan,

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 16, 2020

This message may be useful for pastors and other Christians in the United States and in other countries where people use their mobile phones, but do not answer them when you call them to invite them to church. May it be a blessing and a help to you as you seek to win people to Christ!

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (I Thessalonians 2:7, 8; p. 1268 Scofield).

Paul wrote this to the church at Thessalonica. He reminded them of how he (and Timothy and Silas, his helpers) had acted when he was with them. He didn’t pass out a tract and walk away. He didn’t take their name and pass it on to someone else, and nothing more. He treated them as people. He treated them as much more than strangers. He was kind and gentle with them, “as a nurse cherisheth her children.” The Greek word translated “nurse” means “nursing mother.” Paul gave his care and his life to them just as a nursing mother gives her milk and her love to her children. He gave them the Gospel, but that wasn’t all. He gave them “not the gospel of God only.” Paul and his partners also gave their own souls, because the people were dear to them.

That’s how Paul and Silas and Timothy won souls in Thessalonica. They put themselves into it. They got involved with the people. They took care of them. What the people got was far more than just processing a name. That’s why Paul won souls there.

Jesus said to His Disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; p. 998). Christ made His Disciples fishers of men. But what Jesus said wasn’t just for the twelve Disciples. It was for all Christians in all times. All Christians are called to go out and fish for men. This doesn’t apply only to pastors and Christian workers. I’m talking to all of you. Jesus calls you to fish for men yourself. That means to win souls. Go out and bring them in. Pull them out of the ocean of this world. Bring them to church. Start with one person. Bring one person to church. Then take care of him and bring that one person to Jesus!

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Someone says, “But how do you do this?” That’s what I want to talk about this morning.

How do you catch a fish? How do you fish out a person? In 2020 everyone is scared of people they don’t know. Most of them don’t answer their phones unless it’s someone they know. They get robocalls, made by a computer, all the time. They get calls from people who want to sell them something. They get political calls. And there are bad guys out there who have a bad idea in mind. People are scared. They stand away from people they don’t know. What do you do? The answer is in our text.

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (I Thessalonians 2:7, 8).

You say, “I can’t give my whole life to everyone I invite. I can’t pour out my love and empty my heart to everyone I meet.” No, you can’t. But you can do something. You can be more than a robocall to them. Become a person they know – at least a little. Then they are much more likely to come to church. You will be a person to them.

We used to just get names and phone numbers. The person who got the name forgot all about the one he’d talked to. Then someone else – who the lost person never met or talked to – called him. In business that’s a “cold call.” Salesmen, telemarketers, political people, and computer robocalls do that. You get those calls all the time. Do you answer them? Do you send money? Do you do what those people want? No. Well, the lost people didn’t answer our calls either. They didn’t answer. Voice messages were left. Very few people called back. We have to do better than that.

We have to do better than a robocall. We have to be wiser than a robocall. To win souls requires wisdom. The Bible says, “He that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30; p. 680). This verse can be translated, “He that is wise wins souls.” To get a name and hand it in and never think about the person again doesn’t require wisdom. But to win a soul – or even bring a person to church – does require wisdom. You’re going to have to think, “How can I bring this person?” That takes more wisdom and thought than handing the name in, forgetting about it, and letting someone else do a cold call. No, you have to do more. You have to be more than a robocall.

How do you do that? Think of how any relationship develops. It grows by steps. So you connect with the lost person by stages. That is, go step by step. Think of how that happens in the world. For instance, think about dating. Nobody walks into a crowd asking one stranger after the other, “Will you marry me?” and hoping somebody will say “yes.” That would be crazy.

How do people get to dating and marriage? Not by a robocall. Instead, you become someone he or she knows (a little at first, then more) and the other person becomes someone you know. Maybe you meet at school, at work, or some other place. You talk a little – not about big things. You text or phone each other. You talk again. If you’re at school or work together, life brings you to talk with each other from time to time, maybe every day. You don’t know all the private things in their life and they don’t know yours, but as you go you can see if you like each other. You go on a date.

Yes, I know about online dating. I know some people go on dates without meeting the person face to face first. I don’t recommend it. You could wind up with the wrong person. There’s all kind of things that happen out there online. But even in online dating, there’s a process of knowing and testing each other. There are emails, private messages, even phone calls, before there’s an actual date.

When you go on a first date, don’t make a big commitment. Don’t get physical. Just have a nice time and get to know each other. The question is, “Do I want to go on with this?” “Do I want to do this again?” If you don’t, it ends there. If you do, it goes on to a second date. As the dating goes on, both people are deciding if they want to have a relationship and be together. I’ve used this illustration when people wonder about coming to church. I’ve told people who are scared, “It’s like dating. You go out with a person once. You don’t make a commitment right away. You either like the person or you don’t. If you do, you go out again. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s the same way with us. Come see us. You’ll like it.” That makes sense to lost people.

Let me talk about dating again. Even when people go out regularly, they don’t get married instantly. They may be too young for that. But even if they’re ready for marriage, they spend time getting to know each other. They ask themselves, “Do I want to go on to the next stage?” It goes on like that until they get married or they don’t.

It’s the same way with church. People decide to come to church in stages, just like they do in dating. “Who is this person?” “What does he want? What does he want me to do?” Then, “Will I come to see his church?” And then, “Do I want to come again?” From the first time he comes, from the first few minutes, the person is thinking, “Do I like this? Do I like these people? Do I want to come and be with them again?” Pretty quickly the person is dealing with the question of relationship – “Do I want to come in?” “Do I want to join this?” “Do I want to be one of these people?” That’s why it’s important to be nice to him right away. He is checking the church out. It starts in the first few minutes. There’s a saying in business, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Do your best to make a good impression.

Let’s get back to bringing a person by steps. How do you move someone from not coming to church – who is just a name and number – to come to church and then come again? A cold call from someone he doesn’t know at all is not very effective. It jumps ahead too far. It has no foundation. The person who calls him is not human to him. You have to be human to the people you want to bring. Our text says,

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (I Thessalonians 2:7, 8).

They were human to those people. They gave of themselves. You can’t go as far as they did, certainly not to everyone. But you can be human. You can be more than a robocall. Again, I’m not talking only to pastors. I’m talking to every Christian here. I’m talking to you. You can bring a person to church. How do you do it?

Do it step by step. Become someone he knows – at least a little. Be more than a cold call – at least a little. You don’t have to become his close friend. And don’t expect him to become your close friend. You don’t have to share your deepest secrets. But you do need to be a more than a cold name and number. And you can be.

When you do evangelism and get a person’s name and phone number, give him yours. Call his phone to make sure it’s the right number. Put the person into your list of contacts – and see if he’ll put yours into his list.

Yes, turn in the name and number to me. But keep a copy for yourself, stored in your phone. Say, “Can I send you a text?” or “Maybe I’ll send you a text.” Almost everyone is fine with that. Your contact with him is very important, more important than the phoner’s call. You text him and call him. Be more – even just a little more – than a cold name and number.

Don’t wait long. Send him a text first, before you phone him. People will look at a text even if they won’t answer the phone yet. In a text the phone acts as a shield. Your voice doesn’t go to him and his doesn’t go to you. The interaction of a voice call is not there. A text is much less invasive. It doesn’t “get to” the person. You can’t hear each other’s voice. You stay at a distance. A text is easier to handle than a voice call. It’s much easier emotionally for people to read a text than answer a phone call. That’s why texts get read and answered. Your text is important. You can’t put all your heart into a text. But you can put something of yourself into that text. You can be more than a cold call.

In the text, remind him of who you are. He hasn’t been thinking about you. Give him your name. Tell him where you met him and when. Otherwise he won’t know who you are. In your first text, just be friendly. Don’t push him. Get to know him a little, and have him know you a little. Don’t just go through a series of standard questions like “What’s your major?” If he tells you something, make a note so you don’t ask him the same thing again. Tell him a little about yourself. Have him tell you something about himself. Have a conversation, what’s called a “light conversation.” Don’t get into the inner secrets of your life. Don’t try to get into his. But do have a text conversation. After that, talk on the telephone. The person will be more likely to answer your call if he knows you from texts. He will be more likely to answer your phone call if he knows who you are and has a little interaction with you.

Move past a robocall. Promote your status from number to person. In other words, become human to him. Don’t be phony in your talk. Don’t say, “I love you.” Let’s face it, you don’t love that person deeply and he doesn’t love you. But do add some humanity to your name and number. That goes a long way.

After a time or two, say that we have a party at our church and tell him a little about it. Invite him. Say that a friend of yours will text him about it, or call him. That way, when we call him, he’ll connect it to you. It won’t be a cold sales call.

Keep in touch with him after he is called by me or someone else from the church. If he has no interest in coming to church, you can stop it after a while. But if he is coming, or might come, stay with him. Don’t consider the person as handed off into the machinery.

When he does come to church, sit with him. Have him meet other people. But don’t say, “I handed that name in, and now the machinery will take care of him.” We tried that. It doesn’t work.

After the person comes, still be someone he knows – and go deeper. Do more texts and more phone calls. Maybe you can meet with him and do something together, like going to a boba shop. The first time you get together, it should not last for an hour, and it should not be something big or “heavy.” A boy should not be with a girl alone, nor the other way around. Bring a friend along from church. Bring the person into our friend group.

You ask, “What if he doesn’t come to church? What if he doesn’t stay?” Let’s face it, that will happen. Most people will not become Christians. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; p. 1030). You may feel like quitting when someone doesn’t come, or if he comes for a while and then stops. Or you may feel like pulling back and being like a robot salesman. Don’t do that. Remember that Jesus told you what would happen. Remember that Jesus gave the Parable of the Sower. He said that people are like four kinds of ground. The word is the seed. Some people are like the side of the road. They hear the word, they are invited, or they come a few times, but the Devil snatches the word out of their heart and they forget about it. Some are like stony ground. They seem to receive the word, but it has no root in their heart. Later something happens and they fall away. Others get tied up with the cares of this life. But some are good ground! They receive the word and keep it. They remain Christians all their lives. That’s worth it.

How do you handle it when people aren’t interested, or stop being interested? Remember that Jesus told you about it in advance. And remember, trying to win souls is not just something you “do” professionally. It’s a part of you, like being nice to people you meet. Be nice and friendly to everyone. If one person is not interested, be nice to another. Mrs. Song does that. She can’t be cold to people. That’s not the way she is. She’s nice to everyone. That’s the way she is. She doesn’t stop. Each time I speak with her on the phone she says, “Hi, Dr. Cagan!” with a big, happy voice. That’s the way she is. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t just get names. She brings people to church!

When I was a young man, I spent time at a church where they did not reach out to me. The people my age in that church were all church kids. They grew up in that church. They had known each other from childhood. They let me come to their church. They were polite to me. They processed me by their church “machinery.” But they did not take me into their friend group. I was a good prospect for them. But they did not take me into their circle of friends. If they had taken me in, I would be there today. They didn’t and I’m not there. I found our church and I’m still here!

When do you let go of the people you bring? If they stop coming to church and won’t come back, let them go. But otherwise keep on with them. For how long? A long time! Don’t think, “He’s in now. I don’t have to think about him.” It takes a long, long time for a person to really, solidly come in to church, even after he seems to trust Jesus. Keep on after he trusts Jesus, and after he is baptized. Keep on for years. Keep taking care of him. Then you will be like the Apostle Paul,

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (I Thessalonians 2:7, 8).

How do you fish for souls? How do you become a fisher of men? Why, the same way you fish for fish! The fisherman throws out his line with bait on it into the water. Most fish don’t bite it. But one fish does. That fish doesn’t want to be pulled out of the water. It will fight and try to get away. If it’s a big fish, it can fight for a long time. It’s a fight. Sometimes you pull the cord in. Sometimes you let it out. Finally you bring in the fish. That’s how you fish for men too! Go after them. Connect to them. Do it one stage at a time, like I said. There will be a struggle. But pull one in! Bring in a fish! You can bring in a fish! Reach out and bring in a soul!

A few of you have not yet trusted Jesus. He died on the Cross to pay for your sin. But you still resist. You will not listen to the Holy Spirit. Your heart is not right. You need Jesus. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please come to the front of the room. Amen.