Twenty Years As An Evangelist
Roger Carswell reflects on 20 years as an itinerant evangelist
Life itself is a great teacher. For 20 years I was involved in evangelism whilst a student and then a teacher. For the last 20 years I have worked full time as an itinerating evangelist. I have had many teachers, and lessons! They are too numerous to completely list, but here are ten themes condensed to give an idea of some of the things the Lord, and others, has been teaching me.
1. I have learned my own unworthiness to do anything that will count for eternity. C.S. Lewis, who once said that one out of every three of his thoughts was sinful, expressed exactly how I feel, "I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character". I genuinely believe that anything accomplished for the glory of God has been of His doing and of His grace, and nothing to do with anything good in me.
2. I have learned that ministry cannot be done alone. I could not have done even a tiny proportion of the work, without a devoted wife, understanding children, wise parents, and a host of others who have been great friends and helpers. People have supported me, prayed for me, given to the work, shown hospitality, and sacrificially helped in numerous ways. We all need each other, and I have been at the receiving end of the kindnesses and generosity of so many people. Service for the Lord is teamwork of His people using their varied talents and gifts for His glory. The Church is a body with many members.
3. I have learned that though I imagined I would stay with certain activities permanently, God alters our agenda. Although I greatly value the opportunities they provided, and pray for their continuing usefulness, the Lord trimmed and focused my work and involvements. Those ministries have gone on without me, proving that I am dispensable! For me, the Lord has used health issues to capture my attention and redirect me. I trust that in all my work, the emphasis continues to be "this one thing I do …"
4. I have learned that God uses people who disagree with me! There are basic beliefs and doctrines, which I believe to be absolute essentials for salvation and Christian fellowship. As well, there are places I will not go, and things I cannot do if I am to maintain a clear conscience and close walk with the Lord. However, I am aware that not all my brothers and sisters in Christ see eye to eye on these and on some of the periphery issues of Christian beliefs. God blesses, and uses them, and who am I to write them off, or to distance my heart from them? I may not choose to work closely with them, but I love them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
5. I have learned that the Lord has His people. Repeatedly I have been struck by meeting saintly people, whether in the U.K., Europe, U.S.A., India or Nicaragua. They may never have their names in lights or headlines, no statue of them raised in a park, and in 100 years from now will be forgotten on earth. Yet they are godly, loving, eternally minded people of integrity. They are the salt of the earth. They are scattered in different countries, and settings, are of varying ages, and backgrounds, but they are impressive. They are found at their church prayer meetings, and in the place of devotion each day. There are deeply spiritual pastors, leaders and everyday-believers who labour in the Word and prayer, who "know their stuff and want to be a blessing to others. They are a blessing to me.
I deeply appreciate the vision, selflessness and kindness of each person who has worked to open a door of opportunity for me, by creating evangelistic events, or recommending my name. These people have enabled me to share the gospel in many more places than would otherwise have been possible. I am hugely indebted to these partners in the work.
6. I have learned that there is in our land a famine for the Word of God. The great need is to get out the Bible message, whether on Church notice boards, through literature, public ministry and personal conversations. As a nation, we seemed to have turned from the true and living God to idols, whether they are the soaps, the stars, soccer or sex. The media is about life without God, and this has been imbibed by the nation whose greatest need is to hear the Word of God.
7. I have learned that virtually everyone I meet is hurting in one way or another. They may be busy, affluent and apparently happy, but underneath there are issues which gnaw away at them. Both Christians and the unconverted usually need to be treated with gentleness and meekness. The Scottish preacher, John Watson, said, "Be kind; you do not know what battles people are fighting." He was right. Lets make sure there is a word of encouragement for the saints. I present the Christ who loves, as well as the God who judges, the Jesus who lovingly appealed to all who are weary and heavy laden saying, "Come unto me."
8. I have seen a diminishing of confidence in evangelistic preaching. I fear that because we have not seen great reaping in our land for some decades, we have lowered our expectation and have become non-evangelistic evangelicals. We have evangelical churches that don’t effectively evangelise; "evangelistic" activities where the gospel is not proclaimed, and Bible teaching which is never gospel preaching. Sadly, few churches are organising missions, and yet they can be so fruitful and such a blessing. We have a responsibility to those "across the street and around the world".
9. I have learned that as Christians we are only touching the surface of the need. We are aware that church membership in the U.K. is haemorrhaging. People in their twenties and thirties are not filling pews, and hundreds of thousands of teenagers are not hearing the most relevant, urgent message they could ever hear. So much of our evangelism focuses on our friends, but who reaches those who do not know a Christian? There are people who go to bed when I get up, and get up when I go to bed; who reaches them? Who reaches the thousands of people who cram the night-clubs every weekend, or who live on council estates where many Christians choose not to live, or who never go to university, or who never leave their Muslim or Hindu, or Buddhist communities?
I have seen that evangelistic events that focus on a particular type of person, e.g. men, women, young people, lawyers, diabetics, international students, etc, are often best at getting in a larger proportion of unconverted people.
10. I have learned that although we are not living in times of revival or even great reaping, nevertheless, people are being converted. I find that day after day I meet with people with whom I get into conversation about the things of God, and they want to know more. Time and again, I move away from what started as an inconsequential conversation thinking, "Amazing! How did that start? What a wonderful opportunity I have just had!" Through Church work and personal work, through Christianity Explored and tracts, through children’s work and camps, people are being saved. It might be that in time there will be a greater harvest; but until then I want to dedicate myself afresh to the task of proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, to every creature I possibly can.
I thank God for the last 20 years. He has opened doors of opportunity and has answered so many prayers. I praise Him for all that has been accomplished through tracts, tapes and books. I am aware that anything accomplished has been but a drop in the ocean, and much of my work is very small. If God continues to allow me to minister, with His grace and for His glory, I want to preach Christ crucified, to those who feel the message is foolishness or a stumbling-block. It may be that they too may discover that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Meanwhile, I trust I will always have an attitude that accepts when I have made mistakes, and is teachable. Only then will I continue to learn.
This article is found in a new magazine, Christianos, P.O.Box 6123, Basildon, SS13 3WL and is reprinted with permission.
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