How can Christians today learn from the example of Ichabod Spencer’s evangelistic efforts?
How can we implement some of his strategies in our personal evangelism?
There are four main insights that we can glean from Spencer’s sketches and apply to our current context.
First, Christians should observe the person to whom they are witnessing. We must discern whether or not this person is a true believer in Christ.
In a cultural context where many profess faith and show little signs of true conversion, this area of discernment is absolutely crucial.
We must also discern what stands in the way of people following Christ.
Do they have a bad church experience in their background?
Are there outside influences that keep them from Christ?
Do they have intellectual reservations about Christian truth claims?
Secondly, we must decide what course of action to take. Spencer did not merely discern the spiritual state of the people he visited. He decided on a course of action and immediately entered into conversation based upon that course.
Too many Christians think of sharing the gospel merely in terms of formulas and tracts that help one cover the right information. At times, these methods will be useful.
But we would do well to follow Spencer’s example and tailor each conversation for the person before us. We may have to decide whether or not we should begin by sharing our personal testimony, telling the story of Jesus, using apologetics in making a case for Christianity, etc.
Spencer devoted time to people. He was effective in evangelism because he was there. He saw evangelistic opportunities as vitally important and was willing to devote all the time necessary to answering questions.
We can learn from Spencer’s example by imitating his passion for people. We should be willing to devote the time to others who have questions about the Christian faith.
A Calvinistic understanding of election should not lead us to the idea that “God is not a beggar.” Instead, it should embolden us to continue witnessing to people, even if they have rebuffed our initial efforts.
Lastly, we should direct people to the correct response to the gospel.
Churches should always have a public invitation that accompanies the preaching of the gospel. This invitation might be done in a variety of methods – the altar call, an after-church meeting, a discipleship class. Spencer utilized the method of “inquiry meetings,” in which the people who heard the gospel would be directed to a meeting time for personal questions and answers.
No gospel presentation is complete without directing the lost person to their responsibility before God. We are to call people to repentance and faith.
Ichabod Spencer’s approach to evangelism deserves to be rediscovered in our day. Spencer demonstrates sincere love for the lost, an urgent sense of the nature of salvation, and a healthy skepticism of spiritual enthusiasm without genuine conviction of sin.
Despite the differences between his cultural context and ours, we can still learn much from his example. Specifically, we should discern the needs of the lost individual, decide on a course of action in our evangelistic efforts, devote as much time as necessary to the person, and then direct people to obey Christ by repenting of sin and trusting in him.