Effective personal evangelism: consistency

So far we have considered love, tenacity and boldness as some particular features of the effective personal evangelist.

The fourth mark of the effective personal evangelist is consistency. If tenacity is an unwillingness to let go in the face of pressure and opposition, consistency is the simple virtue of endurance over time, just keeping going, maintaining the appointed means, method, manner and matter of God's gospel ministry, going back day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. If our tenacity can be undermined by our fear or doubt or laziness, so our consistency can be undermined by seemingly slow progress and apparent fruitlessness. But the effective evangelist keeps on going on, seeking but not demanding immediate results or definite responses the first time around. He keeps chipping away, not in the nagging sense, but there is something of the graciously dripping tap about him (giving forth living water, naturally!): he will be back running in the same places and flowing down the same channels. He will not readily give up. In Mark 4.26-29 we read that the kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. Many commentators suggest that he is not ignoring the seed, but going about his business. He takes care of the general business of the farm consistently because he knows that his task is to sow the seed and to anticipate the increase. So with the effective personal evangelist: he keeps sowing and keeps going about his business, urgent but not desperate. He keeps going on to the streets, he keeps inviting his friends to hear a man who can speak the truth, he keeps knocking on doors to tell people about the Lord Jesus, he keeps asking new neighbours into his home, he keeps engaging in the means that a lively local church uses to make Christ known, he keeps maintaining family worship so that his children might go on hearing about the Saviour. It is not always huge great hammer-blows that break the heart, but repeated taps with the gospel hammer. How long did Paul labour in Ephesus and what was his pattern of work? "For three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20.31). The disciples did not fill Jerusalem with their doctrine by working in fits and starts, but by loving, tenacious, bold consistency, speaking the truth in love again and again, in this place, in the next place, to the first person and every other person, at every door and every day. You may be at times discouraged by slow progress, but you will not abandon the appointed means, method, manner and matter because there are no immediate results and definite declarations, because sometimes conversion is the result of countless hours of patient and prayerful instruction, progress comes about after weeks and months of tireless labour. We would love to see rapid results, and they are well within God's power and grace. But that is not the only way God works. Sometimes our consistency is itself a persuasive. Sometimes people will be more suddenly converted because they see and hear us going back repeatedly, or because we did not give up, and there came a day and hour when one of God's elect was in the appointed place at the appointed time, and what previously fell on deaf ears now falls into an opened ear. Whether it is in the sense of keeping doing it in the hopes of some particular barrier being broken down over time, or keeping doing it because God may change the circumstances and dynamics of a situation more suddenly, the effective personal evangelist is a consistent man. God gives us the message and we need to carry it forth, trusting in God to give the increase.