Effective personal evangelism: tenacity

So far in this series we have set out our stall and considered love as the first mark of the effective personal evangelist.

The second mark of the effective personal evangelist is tenacity. This is the spirit of a dog with its bone, fiercely attached to it to the extent that you could probably lift the dog off the ground simply by lifting the bone. It is a grip that is not easily broken. Fear, laziness and false expectations hammer at our tenacity. Perhaps rudeness and anger make us afraid to return to a certain house. Perhaps it is too much like hard work, and other things are far easier or bring more prominence or applause. Perhaps we have read of men in the past - men like Hobson or Spurgeon or Whitefield - and heard stories in which men and women and children are converted through their ministry at the drop of the hat, under the most inopportune circumstances, and seemingly without them trying. I would love to have such experience! I would love to knock on a door, hand out a tract, sit down for a chat, and find people rooted to the ground, overcome with the truth, turning immediately to the Lord, eagerly seeking baptism to be admitted to the church. You might have heard of Spurgeon testing the acoustics in a new environment by calling out, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" and a workman hidden somewhere in the place hears the words and puts his faith in Jesus Christ. But these, remember, are not the norm even for these men. It is not how they began and it is not always how they continued. Read carefully, and you will see that they needed tenacity. For example, Spurgeon in Waterbeach - a village proverbial for its wickedness - spent his first weeks and months asking if there were any converts. Had Spurgeon simply wandered about testing his voice in the hopes that someone would overhear he probably would never have seen any converts. It was continual, laborious witness that won him his souls. He is not easily dissuaded, is ready to return to the hard cases. He will go again and again, in wider and wider circles. When the master sent his servants to gather guests for the feast (Lk 14.15-24), they first encountered all manner of excuses. The ineffective evangelist stops at that point, and begins praying mournfully about the day of small things. The effective man returns to his master and goes out again, and then - after a reasonably successful expedition, having caught something of the master's mood - reports that there is still more space, and so goes out again to compel others to come in. The effective personal evangelist keeps going back, to the same people and to new people. In Acts 17 Paul arrives in Thessalonica with the fresh pains of Philippi in his flesh, earned in preaching Christ. Would you not be inclined to find a way to avoid such pains in the future? Not Paul! He is tenacious - he enters the synagogue and preaches the same message that brought such trouble and such fruit in Philippi. Or again, in Acts 5.28, the authorities are infuriated that the tenacious disciples have gone on preaching Christ despite all formal and informal opposition, to the degree that "you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine." That's the spirit! For you and me, it might mean going back to the same house that you have visited twice before to see if they might heed you this time. It means going back to preach in the street when months pass with little or no response. It means sustaining a pattern of family worship when your children make it clear that they have no appetite to learn of Christ. If you know that making known the truth is too important to let go, you will hold fast. This is an unwillingness to be put off by opposition and difficulties.