Daily House-to-House Soul Winning, God’s Way
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“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
“And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
“Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
“Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
“And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
“And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”—Acts 2:42–3:6.
“Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
“And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
“For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
“After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought.”—Acts 5:34–38.
We find here some words which are tremendously important in the Book of Acts—the word “daily” and the expression “from house to house.”
I also want you to notice something else very carefully. There wasn’t much persecution of the apostles until a lame man got healed at the gate Beautiful. That has always been the case. You really won’t get into much of a battle until you try to get somebody out of darkness into the light. There won’t be much of a problem until you as a Christian become a soul winner and your church becomes a soul-winning church; then things will begin to happen.
That gate Beautiful is like a lot of beautiful church structures in one way. People came to see its beauty. It is said that that gate, made of Corinthian brass, was probably worth many scores of thousands of dollars.
But there was a lame man who had been at the gate day after day, week after week, year after year. Many rabbis and religious leaders had gone by that gate and that man.
Now we see two Christians who were not concerned about the gate Beautiful. Their concern was the man. Even with all of the religious leaders coming by, not one thing had ever happened to help the lame man. These two Christians said, “Bless God, let’s see that something happens today!”
The lame man looked at Peter and John and then said, “Give me an alms.” You see, he had a perceived need and a real need. He thought he needed money, but he really needed God. Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Up he came. Miracles took place; prayers were answered. Something happened— something unusual, extraordinary.
The problem today in many of our churches and with much of our ministry is that, despite a lot of preaching and a lot of talking, not much is happening that is from God. It caused a commotion when this man got healed and leaped and walked up and down the little narrow streets of Jerusalem. They said, “That is the same fellow who sat at that gate all those years for whom nobody could do anything. But two of these disciples of Jesus got him saved and healed and on his feet.” Now when that took place, trouble began. Blessings began, but trouble also began.
Then Dr. Gamaliel, who seemed to be a good man, although he was quiet on a lot of things, said, “I would like to speak to you about these two fellows.”
“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
“But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”—Acts 5:38–41.
There is one thing we need to get straight. If our program and our work be of men, God says it will come to nothing. We had better decide this morning, brother, whether or not what we are doing and the way we are doing it is God’s work and God’s program, whether it is of God or of men.
Then they beat them and commanded them to stop preaching about Jesus before letting them go. I am glad this is in here. So many of the Lord’s people today are down in the mouth, they are under the juniper tree.
I never could understand why Elijah got under the juniper tree, but he did; and many of God’s people are under there today. Elijah, after his greatest victory, got down in the mouth; he got a persecution complex; he had a nervous breakdown; he was so gripped with fear that he despaired of his life. He said, “I am the only one being faithful, and I am being so persecuted. I might as well die.” So there he sat under the juniper tree absolutely useless.
Many other Christians and many other preachers are right there today. Many preachers come to our place to see us and to visit the school and the church. I daresay that only one out of ten ever has an inspiring word to share. When you ask most of them, “How are you getting along, brother?” by the time they get through telling you, you would give a thousand dollars if you hadn’t asked. “Oh, not so good, Brother Tom.” Some say they are holding their own. Some say, “Well, we are fighting the battle.” Most of them have a persecution complex. They are not seeing much happening, and they are discouraged and under the juniper tree.
Now when this group of Christians who had just been beaten and commanded to speak no more in the name of Jesus departed from the council, they patted one another on the back, rejoiced and said, “Thank God! Isn’t it wonderful that we are in this work for God and are able to suffer for Him!”
I. God Has a Plan, a Method for Soul Winning
There are eighteen words here about which I am going to talk:
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”—Acts 5:42.
I do not believe there are eighteen words in the New Testament for soul winning and for church building that could possibly be more important than these. It is absolutely inconceivable to me that God would not make plain and clear in His Word how this job could be done. Many people are so concerned about learning a lot of other things that they forget to learn the most important thing I think the Bible teaches on the matter of soul winning and church building and reaching people for Jesus Christ.
He Wondered If That Barber Was a Christian!
There was a man in my church, Les, who ran a service station, and he had used tobacco most of his life. We don’t believe that good Christians ought to use tobacco. We don’t have teachers or deacons or officers who use it. We don’t spend all our time preaching on it; there are a lot of things that are worse, and there are certainly a lot of things that are better. But as I preach along, every once in a while I just reach out and pat something on the back a time or two. I did that on the matter of cigarettes and smoking. A few days after that, he was in a barber shop where one of our folks worked, and he was all down in the mouth, looking as if he had lost his last friend. This barber said to him, “What is wrong with you?”
He said, “I haven’t smoked a cigarette in four days, and I am having an awful time.”
He didn’t say any more, and the barber went on cutting his hair. In a few minutes he said, “I am going to tell you one thing. When I get to Heaven, if I find out that Peter, James, John, Paul and those fellows used tobacco, I am going to give Brother Tom a piece of my mind, I don’t care if we are in Heaven!”
But he got the victory over cigarettes, and sometime later he took a vacation to his old home. He said, “There is an old buddy of mine that I used to drink with there, and he needs to be saved. I want to find him and lead him to the Lord while I am there.”
He went to the barber shop where this fellow had been a barber for a good many years and asked one of the barbers, “Where is So-and-so?”
“Well, to tell the truth, he hasn’t been in for a week. He has been on a week’s drunk.”
He said, “Where does he live now?”
He went to the home, and the fellow met him at the door wearing only a pair of shorts that were dirtier than the ground itself. He had a week’s growth of beard and smelled like a saloon.
Les went into the home and spent two or three hours with him, pouring some black coffee down him. He then got him on his knees for about forty-five minutes and got him saved.
Two or three days later he went to the barber shop, and there the man was, back at work. He asked him to go back in the barber shop behind the partition. They got down and had about thirty minutes more of prayer. Les then came out and said to the other barber, “I want to ask you, are you a Christian?”
The barber said, “Yes, I am a lay preacher, in fact. For four years I have been preaching as well as barbering. Why do you ask me if I am a Christian?”
He answered, “Because here is a man who has worked in this shop with you every day for four years, and you have not won him to Jesus. According to his testimony, not one time have you ever spoken to him about his soul.” This fellow who had just gotten victory over his cigarettes had been really witnessing and winning souls, and he told this lay preacher, “When folks do not witness for Jesus, it makes me wonder whether or not they are Christians.”
And it makes me wonder how a genuinely born-again child of God could have no interest in a soul-winning program. Most people are playing church. The average Christian today is interested in “churchianity” and a man-made program, but not God’s program. There are not many seminaries today that literally practice what the Bible teaches on the matter of soul winning.
A Wonderful Soul Winner Missed One House
I went down to Corpus Christi, Texas to preach in a Bible conference. I got there late at night. A couple of flights had been canceled, and I had been on the road for twenty-four hours, even though I was flying. When I got there they said, “Brother Tom, you are to stay in a home with seven other preachers.” I thought, With seven other preachers there, I won’t have much time to be alone and pray and meditate. Maybe this is not so good.
But being put in that home was one of the richest experiences I ever had in my life. The host was a deacon, and his wife had been raised around Haleyville, Alabama, near where I was raised. I had never met anybody who was a more wonderful soul winner than that deacon’s wife—a mother with just as much to do as any other woman. She said, “Brother Tom, we don’t take a lot of pains with the home. A girl comes once a week to clean. That is about all it gets. I am on the go all the time.” She took me over to the telephone desk and showed me two or three notebooks of names and addresses, with phone numbers. She said, “I just work at it every day.”
One day she went out and won five ladies to the Lord. Every time she won one, she called her pastor and said, “Preacher, I have found another one; I want to bring him [or her] to your office.”
Then with big tears running down her face as she was driving along the street toward church, she told another preacher and me, “Right there in that house I learned one of the most tragic lessons I have ever learned about soul winning. I was out one day going from house to house witnessing to people. I had had a wonderful day. About three o’clock in the afternoon I finished up in one house, and I decided to go home. I had been at it for hours, and I was tired. I think the Lord was saying to me, ‘Go on a little longer,’ but I decided to stop.”
The next morning she started where she had left off. She knocked, and a little eight-year-old boy came to the door. She asked, “Is your mother home?”
The little boy said, “No, Mamma is not home. She went to the hospital last night. Lady, are you a Christian? Do you know how to pray?”
She said she was.
The little boy said, “Lady, if you know how to pray, will you come in and pray for my mamma? Last night my mamma took poison.”
With a broken heart, she went in the room, got down on her knees and prayed with the little eight-year-old boy. She found what hospital the lady was in, got in the car and drove as fast as she could go, praying every inch of the way, “O God, give me another chance. Give me another chance.”
When she got to the hospital, the woman was in a coma. This good Christian woman, this deacon’s wife, this mother, this housekeeper, this woman who was as busy as any woman could be, said she sat all afternoon by the bed and prayed, “O God, if she ever opens her eyes one time, if You will ever give her mind back one moment, I want to win her. God, give me the soul of this woman.”
Night came, and the sun went down. All night long she sat in that room; all one night she waited and begged God, but the woman never regained consciousness. She died, and as far as she knew, she is in Hell today. That good woman who has won many people to Jesus said, “I missed a golden moment when I could have won her to Christ.”
God have mercy! God only knows today the golden opportunity of this great hour the churches have to win souls to Jesus Christ.
We Found We Can Still Do It in Pontiac
A lot of people say, “Brother Tom, don’t you think it is more difficult today?” It may be. I do not really know. Folks of our church got to talking about how much harder it is getting, how much darker the hour is. Maybe it is. As I thought about it, I said, “Now is the time we had better do something about it.”
If my church ever convinced itself that we are not going to see people saved and baptized and walking the aisles for Jesus every Sunday of the world, if my church convinced itself that it is too hard to win people, we would be out of business. We have the same Gospel, the same Bible and the same Holy Ghost. We have ten thousand times more equipment than the churches ever had in years gone by.
I said, “We will just see how hard it is.”
One Sunday morning, I said to the good folks of our church, “Let’s see if we can win fifty people to Jesus this week—not in the services. We won’t count anyone who comes forward unless he comes as a result of personal work in the home.”
I took a young preacher on Sunday afternoon and every morning of the week, and for seven days we went from house to house. The Lord helped me win seven, and two ladies won seven. The workers of our church, with the method I have on my heart this morning, in one week’s time won fifty-five people to Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, we had received forty-two members into Emmanuel Baptist Church as a result of it. At the night service on Labor Day weekend, when hundreds of people were gone on vacation, eight men and women and young people were baptized and united with Emmanuel Baptist Church on the poorest weekend in the year.
God has a means and a method and a way. If God’s people understand and use it, it will get people saved and build a church.
II. God’s Method of Soul Winning Always Succeeds
Notice something about this church. They didn’t talk about holding their own and defending the faith. They grew. A lot of preachers have a teaching complex. I know a lot of missionaries who go to the mission field just to be faithful. That is well and good—everybody ought to go and be faithful. But there is something more to this business than just being faithful. I believe God expects every Christian to be a soul winner, I don’t care who he is.
When a man tells me, “I am a Bible teacher; I don’t go much for evangelism,” I watch him closely. There is something wrong; I don’t care what your gift is. A caretaker ought to be a soul winner. Sunday school teachers ought to be soul winners. Deacons ought to be soul winners. Housewives ought to be soul winners. I am afraid that we have kind of lowered our standards to suit the age in which we live. We talk about how hard it is, how much confusion there is, how much darkness there is, how many problems there are; and we are not getting the job done.
God Is Interested in Numbers; We Should Be Too
There are numbers mentioned in the Book of Acts. Some folks say, “Well now, Brother Tom, I am not one to talk much about numbers.” Well, the Holy Spirit did. The Holy Spirit said there were 120 in the upper room. Some overly pious preacher would have said, “Well, I don’t believe in numbers. I don’t know how many were at prayer meeting.” The Holy Spirit said there were 120 who prayed. He said three thousand got saved on the day of Pentecost, and another time He mentions five thousand men who believed. The Holy Spirit said there were multitudes of believers, both men and women. He gave emphasis to the fact that the church was a growing church.
God is displeased with a church that is not on the move and growing for Him. Surely that church is not on the right foundation, not carrying out the program of God.
III. They Had God’s Message and Majored on That
That church didn’t talk about holding their own. They grew and reached people. They didn’t have any PA systems or telephones. They didn’t have Sunday school buses or Sunday school literature. They never had any tape recorders. They had none of what this generation insists you have to have. Do you know what they had? The power of the Holy Spirit. Dozens of times in the Book of Acts you find the secret of it—they were witnesses. They got the job done because they went out to win souls for Jesus Christ.
Somebody says, “Well, Brother Tom, what will work in one place won’t work in another.” That is not true. What God said in His Book will work anywhere. It will work in a country church; it will work in a city church; it will work in a Catholic community; it will work in a Jewish settlement. What God says will work is the only thing that will work, and work everywhere. “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Now this is the Bible program.
I don’t know how you feel about it, and I don’t argue about it. I am sure I don’t have the wrong attitude about it; I just learned something I believe with all of my heart. One New Year’s Day, I was reading the First Psalm. I went to my study, locked the door, put my Bible down in a chair, got down on my knees and begged God to put His hand upon my life. When I read Psalm 1 and came down to where it said, “And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper,” I asked myself the question, What is God talking about? He talked about the man who delights himself in and meditates in the Word of God day and night. I said, “God being my Helper, I will make this Book the Textbook of my church; I will make it the Textbook of my life. If I never read any other books as long as I live, I will go to this Book every day of my life until God speaks to my heart and God gives me a message for my own soul.” “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
I began to notice something in our church. I saw the caretaker go around with a big can under one arm picking up Sunday school literature every Monday morning. He took it out in the back alley and burned it. As I went to people’s homes—good, fundamental, Bible-believing people like you—I saw magazine racks with a Ladies’ Home Journal and a Saturday Evening Post, and underneath them was a Sunday school quarterly that hadn’t been touched one time since it was taken home. I thought, Something is wrong with that.
One Sunday morning quite a few years ago, I got up and made a shocking announcement which some folks haven’t gotten over yet: “There will never be any Sunday school literature in this church again, henceforth and forever, world without end. Amen.” And there hasn’t been.
Some folks say you can’t have a growing church and build a Sunday school without Sunday school literature. That is not so. When the Bible is honored, God will honor the people who honor it. He said He would. God said He reverenced His Word above His own name. What could be better literature than the Word of God? You say, “For children too?” Yes, for anybody. God’s Word must be honored and given the preeminence if we expect God’s blessing.
Now God’s Word has a definite plan for reaching people for Christ. My daughter was born a couple of weeks before Emmanuel Baptist Church was founded. She was taken in a bassinet and put down at the end of one of the little rows of chairs in the building when we started the church. She never missed a Sunday in Sunday school and church unless she was ill and providentially hindered. From the time she was a two-week-old baby until she was grown, she never saw one Sunday in her church when there wasn’t somebody who walked down the aisle and publicly confessed Jesus Christ as his or her personal Saviour. That is the way God wants it.
We have the twisted, warped idea that a revival is something you have every once in a while. According to the Bible, a state of revival with souls being saved all the time is what God wants.
IV. Persistence in Going After People Is God’s Way
I understand from this text that these Christians were persistent. It was an everyday business. Many professing Christians have gotten the idea that living for Jesus is a Sunday business.
We read here, “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” They were after people all of the time. In our churches, there ought not to be one day, Monday through Sunday, that people are not out to win souls to Jesus Christ. From the Emmanuel Baptist Church, somebody goes every single day of the week in house-to-house work, and sometimes several are going.
Saved After Forty Visits!
I had a wonderful experience quite a few years ago when we first went into this program. One of our superintendents and I went into a home. We went in the back door of the house, into the kitchen. A lady was in the kitchen, and this Sunday school superintendent stopped and engaged her in conversation about the Lord. I went on through the house into the living room and talked to her young son in a soldier’s uniform about the Lord.
After dealing with him, I went back to the kitchen. Just as I got there, this Sunday school superintendent and the lady were getting up off their knees. She was drying the tears on the corner of her apron, and you could tell what had just happened. The Sunday school man said, “Brother Tom, she has just trusted the Lord as her Saviour.” We had prayer together, and I shook hands with her. We got in the car, and as we were driving away I said to this Sunday school superintendent, “How many visits do you suppose have been made in that one home?”
He said, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
We had taken a survey, and from these survey cards we found that there were five or six people in that home. None of them had come to Sunday school. One was the right age for the intermediate department, so we turned his name over to them. One was of junior age, so we turned his name over to that department. The lady’s name had been given to the adult department. We found that we had visited them every week and counted them as part of the ones we were responsible for. Somebody would go from each department. Every week, several visits were being made in that one home, although nobody was coming to Sunday school. And then this lady got saved.
The superintendent went to the superintendents of the other departments and came back and said, “The best I can tell, counting the day you and I went, we made the fortieth visit in that home.” Thirty-eight visits didn’t win a soul. Thirty-nine visits didn’t win a soul. It took forty visits to win one soul to Jesus Christ.
Who in this building will stand up this morning and say the soul of a woman for whom Jesus died is not worth forty visits from Christian people? We at our church believe in worrying people! You know one thing about Emmanuel Baptist Church—nobody ever looks at it indifferently. They love and admire it, or they hate it so much they would like to burn it to the ground. We aggravate people sometimes.
I have had people call me on the phone and say, “Brother Tom (or Mr. Malone), don’t let anybody else come to my house.” I don’t do any threatening, and I try to act very meek, but I don’t make any promises.
Somebody asked Dr. Lee Roberson, “When should you throw away a card with somebody’s name on it and quit going?”
He said, “When they die or when they get saved and baptized or when they move to another state. I don’t think there is ever a time when you quit going to somebody.”
One Sunday morning I looked at a man that I had been preaching to for I don’t know how many years. He had sat through one revival meeting after another in our church but had not been saved. I made up my mind that I was going to go to him, right in front of everybody, get him by the hand and ask him to come forward. I would do that at least one time every Sunday till Jesus comes or he is driven away or he gets saved. I am not just going to do nothing about it. I have been to his home again and again; dozens of people have talked to him. He is just as regular in attendance as the church members. I am going to go to him at least one time every Sunday until something happens. I am not going to preach to him and have him look at me, then die in sin and go to Hell. Forty visits to one home!
Interrupted His Favorite TV Program Every Monday Night!
We tell our folks, “If you go out and things don’t go well, don’t come back and throw cold water on everyone else. If you get bitten by a dog or a snake or kicked off the porch or the door is slammed on your nose or you are cussed out or something like that, don’t be telling about it; but if something good happens, tell everyone about that.”
One night at the workers’ meeting, a lady said, “Brother Tom, something good happened tonight that I think you ought to know about. As we started to knock on one door, it opened and a man said, ‘Come in, ladies. I have been looking for you. Sit down right over there.’ We sat down, and we hadn’t said a word yet. The man stood up in the middle of the floor and said, ‘Now, ladies, I want to talk to you a minute. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for television Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. But I love the programs that are on Monday night. And every Monday night for twelve months somebody from Emmanuel Baptist Church has pounded on my door. They have come in, and they have all said the same thing for one solid year without a single exception. I have had my favorite programs interrupted every Monday night.’
“He was just preaching away, and he said, ‘Now, ladies, I want to make a deal with you. If you will leave me alone for one Monday night, I will bring my wife and children, and so help me, I will come to that church.’”
Thank God, We Are Worrying Some People!
You know most people are so tactful about this business, they don’t make any contact. I studied one full semester when I was in school about how to approach a Hindu and lead him to Jesus. I lived as a Christian for about twenty-one years before I ever met one face-to-face to talk to him; and then he couldn’t understand one word I said, and I couldn’t understand a thing he said. I met him down in Egypt out on the porch of a little shack where I slept one night. I tried to witness to him, but I didn’t get to first base. I thought, What good did it do me to study for eighteen weeks on how to win a Hindu to Jesus? People are dying in sin all over our neighborhoods and right across the street from us who have never been witnessed to one time.
Be persistent—you have to keep at it.
V. Every Christian Is Expected to Work at Soul Winning
Now notice who did this work. This is where it gets a little bit touchy. The average deacon or Baptist church member thinks soul winning is the preacher’s business. He thinks that laymen are not as responsible to win souls as preachers are.
Some years ago I believe God spoke to my heart from Ephesians, chapter 4, from the verses which say:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”—Vss. 11,12.
It dawned on me that my responsibility is to get Christian people perfected or equipped for the work of the ministry.
They Handed Me Cards to Visit; Now I Hand
People, good people, in my church used to come to me and hand me cards. They were always handing me somebody’s address. The most laborious thing some of my church members ever did was to write down a name and address and give it to Brother Tom. They would rear back like they had just hung a new star somewhere, look as pious as Lucifer before the Fall and, with all the dignity and piety in the world, say, “Brother Malone, I want you to call on Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.” Then they would give me a card. Poor old Brother Tom went at it sixteen hours a day. They said, “We are going to send our errand boy on this now. Our little preacher is going to call on them, and he is going to win them.”
One day Dr. Louis Entzminger sat me down in a chair, took this verse in the Book of Ephesians and said, “Tom, you are not doing your people right. I want to show you something.” He showed me some proof from the verses in Ephesians 4. So I was loaded the next time some Christian came to me and said, “I have a card.” I said, “Thank you,” and put it in my pocket. Then when they started off, I said, “Wait just a minute. I have a card. I want you to go see Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.”
Somebody said, “Do you play cards in your church?” We don’t do much else but play cards. We play get-acquainted cards; we play absentee cards; we play sick cards; we play survey cards. We just play cards all the time. I learned from that verse and from that old man of God that it is just as much the deacon’s responsibility to win souls to Jesus as it is the preacher’s. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for a deacon who didn’t show an interest in the visitation program. This is everybody’s business. There are a lot of folks who say, “I don’t have the ability.” Thank God, it doesn’t take ability.
Thank God, It Does Not Take Talent
When I went to Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee in 1935, they used to have a regular practice. The administration would gather all the freshmen into one room to find out what they were able to do. They said, “Now, if you can play a horn, play it; if you can give a reading, give it; if you can play a piano, play it; if you can sing a solo, sing it. Whatever you can do, do it.”
I was the freshest of the freshmen, right off the red-clay hills of North Alabama. When that announcement was made, it scared me to death. I have never been more frightened.
I went back down to the room I had been assigned to in a little bitty old frame building in Cleveland, Tennessee, got down on the bottom bunk, stuck my head under the top bunk, took my little black Bible my mother had given me, and opened it up and cried. I said, “Lord, if You have made a mistake, I am going to be so embarrassed. You called me to preach, I thought; but folks are talking about talents, about recitations and playing and singing and giving readings. I can’t do any of that. What on earth will I do?”
I hadn’t been saved long. I didn’t know why, but I tore out a piece of paper and wrote out the words of John 3:16. I folded it, put it in my pocket and went to the meeting.
That afternoon at two o’clock, they had the freshmen together, and they called the name of Thomas Lloyd Malone from Russellville, Alabama. I walked up on a little stage, stood behind a microphone, unfolded the piece of paper and read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and walked off. It must have been an embarrassing situation, because nobody said a word. People must have thought, What kind of talent did that display, reading John 3:16 from a piece of paper?
That is all the talent I have ever had. I don’t believe God expects you to be a genius and have talents and ability before you can be a soul winner. I believe if you get your heart in it, you will see what Jesus saw; I believe you will see from the Bible what God wants a Christian to do.
Everybody reading this can be a real soul winner. O God, put it on our hearts! God, burden us! God, help us to put it first!
“Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ,” is certainly for preachers. Paul said he taught “publickly, and from house to house.” Most preachers spend ninety-five percent of their time on the “publickly” and very little on the “from house to house.” That is the reason we don’t get the job done. That is the reason our churches are not strong and our people are not soul winners.