Why We Need A Plan: 2 - Something Below The Surface


Note to the reader. Everything in this blog is based upon experiences elsewhere. No references to Salem Chapel are intended, nor should they be inferred.


We were looking last time at what R. A. Torrey has to say on the subject of “The Importance And Advantages Of Personal Work”, also known as “personal dealing”, or “personal evangelism”. Whatever you want to call it, Torrey is all in favour of it. He remarks on its simplicity, its efficacy, and its vital rôle in revival and in God’s greater plan for His people. Look back at the entry for Friday the first of September if you want to know more.

He ends with the following observation: “Personal work is a work that wins but little applause from men, but it accomplishes great things for God.”

He goes on to point out that this lack of popular acclaim can be a problem.

There are many who think personal work beneath their dignity and their gifts. A blind woman once came to me and said, "Do you think that my blindness will hinder me from working for the Master?"

"Not at all; it may be a great help to you, for others seeing your blindness will come and speak to you, and then you will have an opportunity of giving your testimony for Christ, and of leading them to the Saviour."

"Oh, that is not what I want," she replied. "It seems to me a waste of time when one might be speaking to five or six hundred at once, just to be speaking to an individual."

I answered that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was able to speak to more than five thousand at once, and yet He never thought personal work beneath His dignity or His gifts. Indeed, it was the work the Saviour loved to do. We have more instances of our Saviour's personal work recorded in the Gospels than of His preaching. The one who is above personal work is above his Master.

Torrey is on to something important in this passage. You remember the three things that so often bring down the apparently upright Christian man (and one or two women)? “The gold, the girls, and the glory”? No, it isn’t a joke, it’s too true to be funny, and I’ve seen it happen time and again. In particular, I’ve seen men set about deliberately attempting to destroy thriving churches, simply because they were never given the prominence and the promotion which they believed they deserved. Can’t quite credit it? Ask me next time you see me, and I’ll give you chapter and verse.

On a more mundane level, in some churches, everyone seems to think that they must have “a ministry”, preferably one with a high profile. Not long ago, I saw a woman interrupting a street preacher to tell him all about herself. Then she came over and collared me.

"That man’s on fire for the Lord! I’m on fire for Him, too! I’m an Evangelist, me! I’ve led fifteen people to the Lord this year!” She went on with a list of her spiritual gifts, although she was only able to demonstrate the ability to babble incomprehensibly, something which my two-year-old grandson has already abandoned as beneath him. When I expressed a certain amount of scepticism, she flew into a rage and departed, shouting abuse as she went. Perhaps not the ideal profile for a personal worker.

On a recent walk round Clowbridge reservoir, where the water level is still very low due to extensive engineering works, I saw for the first time two impressive tunnels, normally hidden beneath the surface of the water. Water flows through them from a small feeder reservoir, under an artificial causeway that closes off one side of the valley. You can see one of them illustrated above. Here’s a photo of the other one.


In both, you can see that a considerable amount of rubble has been removed from in and around the tunnels, to allow the water to flow freely once more. Who would have thought that there was so much under the surface, getting in the way?

I wonder whether pride is getting in the way of my own ability to witness to the ordinary, perhaps unwelcoming, ungrateful and often deeply unloveable people with whom I come into contact, day by day? If so, it’s about time it was cleared out of the way.

I’m starting to read a reprint of Dr A. Roy Stanford’s “Handbook Of Evangelism”. Already, some of what he says is beginning to grate upon my (theoretically) Reformed sensibilities. And yet, and yet: he’s a man with a plan, so I will swallow that part of my pride and persevere. He begins: “Knowing the terrible destiny of the unsaved should motivate anyone with any compassion at all to explain the plan of salvation to them. Paul said, ‘Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...’ (II Cor. 5:11).”

I can see that he’s going to give me a hard time.

Next week with Mr Torrey: “The Advantages Of Personal Work.”