Why We Need A Plan: 4 - Startled By Travelling Salesman

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

We’ve been considering what R. A. Torrey has to say about the importance 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.

He has just begun to explore the advantages of this type of evangelism. Let’s look at the second of his seven short sections, paragraph by paragraph.

Traveling men have unusually good opportunities for doing personal work, as they travel on the trains from town to town, as they stop in one hotel after another and go from store to store. A professional nurse once came into my Bible class in Chicago, and at the close of the meeting approached me and said: "I was led to Christ by Mr.— [a traveling man connected with a large wholesale house]. I was in a hotel parlor, and this gentleman saw me and walked across the parlor and asked me if I was a Christian, and when I told him I was not, he proceeded at once to show me the way of life. I was so startled and impressed to find a traveling man leading others to Christ that I accepted Him as my Savior then and there. He told me if I ever came to Chicago to come to your Bible class." I have watched this woman for years since, and she herself is a most devoted Christian and effective worker.

"Traveling men” refers to business representatives and travelling salesmen, the “drummers” of that day, who were, at least in the popular imagination, notorious for low morals and loose living - which is why the nurse was “so startled and impressed” by the behaviour of this particular man. I note that “he proceeded at once to show me the way of life.” I would like to have listened in to that conversation. I wonder: if someone asked you to show them the way of life in exactly five minutes from now - would you be able to do it, clearly and concisely and convincingly? You could? Next time you see me, show me how. You couldn’t? That’s why we need a plan.

Mr Torrey continues.

How enormous and wonderful and glorious would be the results if all Christians should begin to be active personal workers to the extent of their ability! Nothing else would do so much to promote a revival in any community, and in the land at large. Every Pastor should urge this duty upon his people, train them for it, and see that they do it.

Let’s divide up that last sentence. “Every Pastor should urge this duty upon his people...” I don’t think I’ve heard this done seriously and systematically in any church that I’ve been in over the last few decades. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying proper attention. “...train them for it...” That requires those who are genuinely teachable - and those who are apt (or able) to teach. “...and see that they do it.”

Those were different times, eh? I’ll leave that one with you, for now.

To be continued.