Evangelism 101 – Know Your Sins

In our Sunday evening worship services I have been preaching a series on Evangelism. We’ve looked at what it means to share the gospel, the pitfalls many encounter when giving a testimony, and will soon be considering (when the weather allows us to come back together) what is essential in sharing the faith.  Within that greater conversation, I thought I would share this excerpt from the Memoirs of Robert Murray McCheyne.  This is a letter he wrote as a pastor to a young girl who has inquired about whether it is necessary to be convinced of one’s sins before salvation.

I think this worth sharing because it is a completely different approach to how many do evangelism today.  We tend today to focus on the benefits of salvation, without ever really explaining why we need salvation in the first place.  Telling people they are sinners, and sinners to the very core of their being is unpalatable, offensive, and not the preferred method of witnessing today. Yet, as McCheyne points out, almost 180 years ago, “you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death.”

To a Soul Seeking Jesus—No. I.
Seek to Know Your Corruption
Dundee, 1841.

ACCORDING to promise, I sit down to talk with you a little concerning the great things of an eternal world. How kind it is in God that He has given us such an easy way of  communicating our thoughts, even at a distance! My only reason for writing to you is, that I may direct your soul to Jesus, the sinner’s friend. “This man receiveth sinners.” I would wish much to know that you were truly united to Christ, and then, come life, come death, you will be truly and eternally happy.

Do you think you have been convinced of sin? This is the Holy Spirit’s work, and His first work upon the soul (John 16:8; Acts 2:37). If you did not know your body was dangerously ill, you would never have sent for your physician; and so you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death. Oh! pray for deep discoveries of your real state by nature and by practice. The world will say you are an innocent and harmless girl; do not believe them. The world is a star. Pray to see yourself exactly as God sees you; pray to know the worth of your soul. Have you seen yourself vile, as Job saw himself (Job 42:5, 6); undone, as Isaiah saw himself (Isa. 6:1, 5)? Have you experienced anything like Psalm 51? I do not wish you to feign humility before God, nor to use expressions of self–abhorrence which you do not feel; but pray that the Holy Spirit may let you see the very reality of your natural condition before God!

I seldom get more than a glance at the true state of my soul in its naked self. But when I do, then I see that I am wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). I believe every member of our body has been a servant of sin (Rom. 3:13, 18)—throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, eyes. Every faculty of our mind is polluted (Gen. 6:5). Besides, you have long neglected the great salvation; you have been gainsaying and disobedient. Oh, that you were brought to pass sentence on yourself, guilty of all! Hear what a dear believer writes of himself: “My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination, like an infinite deluge, or mountains  over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deep, and yet it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceeding small and faint.”

Perhaps you will ask, Why do you wish me to have such a discovery of my lost condition? I answer, that you may be broken off from all schemes of self–righteousness; that you may never look into your poor guilty soul to recommend you to God; and that you may joyfully accept of the Lord Jesus Christ, who obeyed and died for sinners. Oh, that your heart may cleave to Christ! May you forsake all, and follow Jesus Christ. Count everything loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. You never will stand righteous before God in yourself. You are welcome this day to stand righteous before God in Jesus. Pray over Philippians 3:7, 9. I will try to pray for you. Grace be with you.

Bonar, Andrew A., and R.M. McCheyne. Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996. Print.

A Parable on Evangelism

I have been preaching recently on the importance of Evangelism, which I define as: every disciple of Christ living and speaking in a way that leads others to know and love the Lord.  My prayer through this series is not that we get more information about what  Evangelism is, but that we will all be equipped and encouraged to engage in active evangelism in our own homes and circles of influence.

Along these lines, I recently had a friend and brother in Christ share with me the following parable that captures what I hope to impart in this series.

The Parable of the Orange Pickers

I dreamed I drove on a Florida road, still and straight and empty. On either side were groves of orange trees, so that as I turned to look at them from time to time, line after line of orange trees stretched back endlessly from the road, their boughs heavy with round orange fruit. My wonder grew as the miles slipped by. How could the harvest be gathered?

Suddenly I realized that for all the hours I had driven (and that is how I knew I must be dreaming) I had seen no other person. No other car had passed me. No houses were to be seen along the highway. I was alone in a forest of orange trees.

But at last I saw some orange pickers. Far from the highway, almost on the horizon, lost in the vast wilderness of unpicked fruit, I could discern a tiny group of them working steadily. Many miles later I saw another group of them. I could not be sure, but I suspected the earth beneath me was shaking with silent laughter at the hopelessness of their task. Yet the pickers went on picking.

Suddenly, I turned a corner of the road to see a notice, “Leaving NEGLECTED COUNTY Entering HOME COUNTY.”

The contrast was so startling that I scarcely had time to take in the notice. I had to slow down, for all at once the traffic was heavy. People by the thousands swarmed the road and crowded the sidewalks.

Even more extraordinary was the transformation in the orange groves. Orange groves were still there in abundance, but now, far from being silent and empty they were filled with the laughter and singing of multitudes of people. Indeed, it was the people I noticed more than the trees. People and houses.

I parked the car at the roadside and mingled with the crowd. Smart gowns, neat shoes, showy hats, expensive suits, and starched shirts made me feel a little conscious of my work clothes. Everyone seemed so fresh…so poised and happy.

“Is it a holiday?” I asked a well dressed woman with whom I fell in step.

She looked a little startled for a moment, then her face relaxed with a smile of condescension.

“You’re a stranger, aren’t you?” she said; and before I could reply, “This is Orange Day.”

She must have seen a puzzled look on my face, for she went on, “It’s so good to turn aside from ones labors and pick oranges one day of the week.”

“But don’t you pick oranges everyday?” I asked her.

“One may pick oranges anytime,” she said. “We should always be ready to pick oranges, but Orange Day is the day we devote especially to picking oranges.”

I left her and made my way farther among the trees. Most of the people were carrying a book beautifully bound in rich leather, and edged and lettered in gold. I was able to discern on one of them the words, “Orange Picker’s Manual.”

By and by I noticed around one of the orange trees that seats had been arranged in tiers, rising upward from the ground. The seats were almost full, but as I approached the group a smiling well-dressed man shook my hand and conducted me to a seat.

There, around the foot of the orange tree I saw a number of people. One of them was addressing all the people on the seats, and just as I got to my seat, everyone rose to their feet and began to sing. The man next to me shared his song book with me. It was called, “Songs of the Orange Groves.”

They sang for some time, and the song leader waved his arms with strange and frenzied abandon, all the while encouraging the people to sing more loudly.

I grew steadily more puzzled. “When do we start picking oranges?” I asked the man who had loaned me his book.

“It’s not long now,” he told me. “We like to get everyone warmed up first. Besides, we want to make the oranges feel at home.” I thought he was joking, but his face was serious.

After a while another man took over from the song leader, and, after reading two sentences from a well-thumbed copy of the Orange Picker’s Manual began to make a speech. I wasn’t clear whether he was addressing the people or the oranges.

I glanced around me and saw a number of groups similar to our own group gathering around an occasional tree, and being addressed by speakers. Many trees had no one around them.

“Which trees do you pick from?” I asked the man beside me. He did not seem to understand the question, so I pointed to the trees round about.

“This is our tree.” he said, pointing to the tree we were gathered around.

“But there are too many of us to pick from just one tree.” I protested. “Why, there are more people than oranges!”

“But we don’t pick oranges.” the man explained. “We haven’t been called. That’s the Head Orange Picker’s job. We’re here to support him. Besides, we haven’t been to college. You need to know how an orange thinks before you can pick it successfully. Orange psychology, you know. Most of these folks here,” he went on, pointing to the congregation, “have never even been to Manual School.”

“Manual School?” I whispered. “What’s that?”

“It’s where you go to study the Orange Picker’s Manual,” my informant went on. “It’s very hard to understand. You need years of study before it makes any sense.”

“I see,” I murmured. “I had no idea picking oranges was so difficult.”

The speaker in front was still making his speech. His face was red, and he seemed to be indignant about something. So far as I could gather, there was rivalry with some of the other orange picking groups. But a moment later a glow came onto his face.

“But we are not forsaken,” he said. “We have much to be thankful for. Last week we saw THREE ORANGES BROUGHT INTO OUR BASKET. And, too, we are completely debt free from the money we owed on the new seat cushions which grace the seats you now sit on.”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” the man sitting next to me murmured. I personally felt that something was profoundly wrong here. All of this seemed to be a very roundabout way of picking oranges.

The speaker was reaching a climax in his speech. The atmosphere seemed tense. Then, with a very dramatic gesture he reached two of the oranges, plucked them from the branch, and placed them in the basket at his feet. The applause was deafening.

“Do we start picking now?” I asked my informant.

“What in the world do you think we’ve been doing for the past forty minutes?” he hissed. “What do you suppose this tremendous effort has been made for? There’s more orange picking talent in this group than in the rest of HOME COUNTY. Thousands of dollars have been spent on the tree you’re looking at.”

I apologized quickly. “I wasn’t being critical,” I said. “And I’m sure the speaker must be a very good picker. But surely the rest of us could try. After all, there are so many oranges that need picking. We each have a pair of hands, and we can read the manual.”

“When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you’ll realize it’s not as simple as all that.” he replied. “There isn’t time, for one thing. We have our work to do, our families to care for, and our homes to look after. We…”

But I wasn’t listening. Light was beginning to dawn on me. Whatever these people were, they weren’t orange pickers. Orange picking was just a form of weekend entertainment for them…or maybe a group in which to find a shared identity.

I tried a few more of the groups around the trees. Not all of them had such high academic standards for orange pickers. Some even had classes for orange picking.

I tried to tell them about the trees I had seen in NEGLECTED COUNTY, but they seemed to have little interest.

“We haven’t picked the oranges here yet.” was their usual reply.

The sun was almost setting in my dream, and, growing tired of all the noise and activity around me I got back into my car and drove back the way I had come. Soon all around me were the vast and empty orange groves.

But there were changes. Some things had happened in my absence. Everywhere the ground was littered with fallen fruit. And as I watched, it seemed the trees began raining oranges. Many of them lay rotting on the ground.

I felt there was something so strange about it all; and my bewilderment grew as I thought about all the people in HOME COUNTY.


And I awakened- for it was only a dream.


Now if that doesn’t motivate you – perhaps this classic video will.