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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A lesson adapted from D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion,
taught at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, November 15, 2020

Chorus Sung Before the Lesson:
“I Will Make You Fishers of Men” (by Harry D. Clarke, 1888-1957).

From time to time I have been criticized for listing my academic degrees after my name. But there are two things those critics don’t realize: (1) My academic degrees were hard-won. I had to work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week to get through school; (2) those degrees never helped me at all in the ministry. I am now about to enter my 81st year of life, with my 62 years of ministry, only to find that people alone could help me.

I have many books in my house library – but I seldom consult them. Instead I spend hours alone reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, the writings of A. W. Tozer, and E. M. Bounds.

Bounds was an attorney for three years before he became a preacher at the age of 24. Then Bounds became a chaplain in the Civil War. After the war he became a pastor and evangelist – and wrote his classic book, Power Through Prayer (Moody Press, 1979).

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Wracked with pain, unable to stand when I preach, weakened by cancer, I have found great strength in that book by E. M. Bounds. Here are a couple of quotations from Bounds that have helped me:

(1) “The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”

(2) “The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. The pride of learning is against the dependent humility of prayer.”

(3) “Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry…is powerless to advance God’s cause in this world.”

I have a pastor friend who has lined every inch of space in his library with commentaries and books on preaching. But the poor fellow has no power at all in his preaching. None! You cannot learn to preach living sermons from the books of dead men! You cannot learn to preach in a dead seminary or Bible school!

That leads me to tell you that a godly minister in Florida has taught me more about soul-winning than all the other books I have read in the last 62 years. It is Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy. Here are some of Kennedy’s thoughts:

Pastors Must Equip Their Lay People

Lay people need to be trained. It is the task of ministers to train their lay people to evangelize. Satan has deceived most pastors concerning the basic purpose of their ministry.

The Purpose of Ministers

Please turn to Ephesians, chapter 4 (p. 1253 Scofield). Christ

“gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Dr. Kennedy said, “A more literal translation would be that Christ has given pastors and teachers to the church ‘for the equipping of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the body of Christ.’”

A Revolutionary Concept

Such a concept would completely revolutionize our churches and ministries. Then the criteria for determining the successfulness of a pastor would become “How many [church members] have I equipped to do the work of ministry?” Ministers then would see themselves as coaches of well-trained personal evangelists!

On-the-Job Training

It has been observed that “evangelism is more caught than taught.” This describes fairly well the method Christ used to train His followers.

Dr. Kennedy has asked thousands of ministers whether they have preached sermons on the need to witness. Most of them have raised their hands to say “yes.” But when I ask them how many are taking their people with them when they go out to evangelize, only 3 or 4 will usually respond.

The average person can no more learn to evangelize in a classroom than he can learn to fly an airplane in his living room. The missing link in modern evangelistic training, which was so thoroughly provided by Christ, is “on-the-job” training!

Training Soul Winners is More
Important than Winning Souls

You will make a far greater impact for eternity by training soul winners than by just winning souls yourself. Since about 95 percent of church members never win a single person to Christ, because they are not trained to do so, it is obvious that training a person to evangelize effectively will be far more fruitful than winning one person to Christ yourself. Since winning one person is so important, training someone to win 10 or 100 people to Christ is much more important. These are basic principles we feel need to be accepted if a church is to have an effective ministry of evangelism.

Obtaining the Prospects

The best people are:

     (1) Church visitors
(2) Friends