By Reuben Archer Torrey
ORGANIZING AND CONDUCTING A GOSPEL MISSION
I. IMPORTANCE OF GOSPEL MISSIONS.
1. In every large city, and in many of our smaller cities, there are great masses of the people that the churches are not reaching. The reasons why they are not being reached by the church are various. First of all because of the location of the churches. The churches as a rule in our larger cities are inaccessible to the great majority of our poorer population. The churches follow the well-to-do people up-town, as a rule, and where the thickest population is, where the people are to whom the Lord Jesus especially ministered during His life, there the churches are not. The churches are not reaching them because they are not near enough to where these people are. In the second place, the services of the regularly organized church are of such a character that they do not reach them. Oftentimes when they pretend to preach the Gospel they do not preach it; and, when they do preach the Gospel, it is preached in such a manner that it does not take hold of the common people. A laboring man, a poor man, an ignorant man, a beggar or a drunkard, who wishes to be reformed, goes into many of our churches, and the minister stands up and preaches the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet he preaches the Gospel in such a manner that it does not leave any impression upon the man's mind. The preacher is before everything else a scholar and a literary gentleman, and he does not know how to get down to the hearts and lives of ordinary folks. In the third place, the whole atmosphere of the church is not such that these people feel at home. Sometimes the style of dress, the social etiquette, the music, the whole general conduct of the church, are such as to repel them Down in the mission, on the other hand, there is an entire absence of conventionality, but there is a friendliness, a kindliness, a home-likeness that their hearts warm to. There is something that attracts them to the place, and they go again and again until the Spirit of God opens their hearts and they are saved.
It is the work of the mission to evangelize these masses of men and women and children existing in all our larger cities, and in many of our smaller cities, who are not reached by the ordinary ministrations of the church. It is to EVANGELIZE the masses not simply to reach them. It is of no great importance to know merely how to reach the masses, any one can reach the masses, but the question is, how to gospelize them. The work of the mission is not to conduct innocent entertainment, nor to provide a nice, warm, pleasant place for the people to go into from the streets; it is not to clothe the poor and the naked: but the work of the missions is to bring the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to bear upon the hearts and lives of lost men and lost women. What they find, or ought to find, in the mission is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ seven nights in the week. If they desire amusement, or weak imitations of dime museums, they can get them elsewhere. The true business of the mission, as well as the true business of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to preach the Word of God, and to bring it to bear upon lost men. The Word of God is the one lever that will lift them, not only out of the ditch, but into the kingdom of God.
2. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS IMPORTANT AS A SOUL WINNER. The question of how to evangelize the masses is often discussed as if it were a problem that nobody had solved, but it has been solved. There is no experiment about it. There are many who know exactly how to reach the masses with the Gospel, and prove that they know how by doing it. The Gospel missions are winning souls, and their chief importance lies in this fact. I have in mind a mission to which you can go any night in the fifty-two weeks in the year, and you will see anywhere from twelve to fifty men kneeling at the altar and seeking the Lord Jesus Christ. Go to many other missions and you will see practically the same thing. The Gospel missions of America are winning thousands upon thousands of poor lost men and women to Jesus Christ every year; winning them and saving them, transforming them, making them children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, by the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is where the prime importance of the mission lies, not because it is trying to do the work, but because it is doing it.
3. GOSPEL MISSIONS ARE IMPORTANT AS AN INSPIRATION TO THE CHURCHES. Some of the most satisfactory local revivals in the history of the country have come from some member of a church attending a mission, getting a new conception of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and going home and kindling his church. The fire has gone through the whole church, and the church has been awakened to a mighty work for God. Oftentimes when people who have not even attended a mission have read reports of the work, they have wakened to the fact that Paul meant just what he said when he wrote that the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believed, and they have gone to work with new faith and new energy, and the Gospel has proved a saving power in their own community.
4. GOSPEL MISSIONS ARE IMPORTANT AS A FEEDER TO THE CHURCHES. Many of the best working members, and sometimes the best paying members, in our churches today are converts of missions. Many rich people have gone from the regular churches down to the missions, and have been there converted, and have gone back to their churches to be a power and blessing. Some people get an idea that all men who are converted in missions are men of no gifts or promise. It is a great mistake. Many a man who has been converted in a mission is indeed from the deepest depths of poverty and ruin, but it is sin that has brought him to his present condition. When the mission has gotten hold of him and won him to Christ, oftentimes the man regains his old position in society and business. A man who had been mayor of a large Southern city, but who had gone down through drink until he was a penniless tramp, was converted in a New York mission. He afterwards became the manager of one of the largest publishing houses in America. The night of his conversion, discouraged, disheartened, despairing, he had started from his lodging house to go and commit suicide in the East River. He had gone to a saloon to get one more drink, was thrown out because he was penniless, was brought into a mission by one who saw him thrown out of the saloon, and was converted that night. Many a man who is today in the regular Gospel ministry was converted in a mission. One of the brightest and most promising congregational ministers that I know in our land, the beloved pastor of a well-to-do church, was converted in a New York mission.
5. MISSIONS ARE IMPORTANT AS FURNISHING A PLACE WHERE MEMBERS OF OUR CHURCHES CAN WORK.
A Christian cannot grow without work. One of the great troubles in many of our churches today is that there is nothing to do. The members go Sunday after Sunday and are fed and fed and fed until they are dying of spiritual dyspepsia, apoplexy, or both. A minister once said to me, "My greatest difficulty is that I haven't anything for my members to do." It was literally true. It was a college church, and a parish in which there were more workers than work. A mission gives Christians something to do, something exceedingly inspiring to do, something in which there is a tremendous uplift to their own spiritual energy. What a blessing would come to many of our wealthy churches if the members of these churches who go Sunday after Sunday and hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus would go out from these churches down into the lowest parts of the city, and come right into living touch with lost men and women, and try to use the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to lift them up where they ought to be. If they should do this, we would have new life in our prayer meeting, we would not have two or three long and labored prayers; we would have prayer after prayer, short, right to the point, appeals to God for His blessing upon this man or that woman. We would have a new conception of the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would have a new vision of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I never knew Jesus as I know Him today, until I knew what it was to go down among the poor and outcast, and kneel right beside a dirty drunkard, and put my arm about his neck, and whisper to him that Jesus died for him, and that Jesus came to save him and could save him, and then hear him with breaking heart lift his voice to God in prayer, and then see him rise a new man in Christ Jesus. I understood the Gospel then; I understood Jesus then; I saw Jesus then as I never saw Him before. If you wish to be a better Christian than you ever were in all your life, if you wish to understand the Lord Jesus as you never understood Him before in all your life, if you wish to have the spirit of prayer as you never had it before in all your life, go to work in a mission. If you are a pastor and wish to have a better membership than you ever had in your life, send your members out to work in a mission. If you have not a mission where they can do it, start one, have one anyhow. I pity from the bottom of my heart the man or woman who does not know the inspiration, the joy and uplift, that come from going down into some mission where perhaps there are five, ten or one hundred lost men and women, and just pleading with them in the simplest language you can command to take the Lord Jesus Christ who saved you.
II. HOW TO START A MISSION.
The best way to start a mission is to start it. A great many people talk about starting but they never start. In one city they had a great gathering and were going to build a $200,000 building. They had a wonderful meeting, and one man subscribed $30,000. Some one who was present was asked what he thought about it, and he replied, "I can tell you better after they have started." They never started. The whole thing went to pieces. Our country is full of people who are going to start missions and other Christian enterprises, but they never do it. The way to begin is by beginning.
1. IN THE FIRST PLACE, BE SURE GOD WISHES YOU TO START A MISSION. It is not enough to be sure that you wish to start one. It is as a rule far better to go and help a mission already existing, than to go and begin a new one of your own. Many people hear of the wonderful work they are doing in some mission, and then go and start one without consulting the Lord. There have been hundreds of missions opened in this country that the Lord never wished opened, and if those who started them had gone to Him about it they would never have been started.
2. IF YOU ARE SURE THAT IT IS THE LORD'S DESIRE THAT YOU START A MISSION, START WITH THE DETERMINATION TO GO THROUGH WITH IT. People attend conventions or read articles about missions, and see only the bright side, they do not see that the work is also full of discouragements. If there is any work that is full of discouragements, it is mission work; so when you start, begin with the determination that you will go through every obstacle, and then you will get through.
3. BE SURE YOU GET THE RIGHT LOCATION. That is very important. Be sure to consult God about the place. There is a great deal in the place, and the place that you think best may not be the best place. Here are a few hints as to location:
(1) Go where there is the hardest work, not the most attractive work, to do.
(2) Go where there is the most need for work.
(3) Go where there are a great many passers-by.
(4) As a rule the first floor is best for many reasons, but there are some advantages in a second-floor mission.
(5) A vacant store, saloon or theater will answer the purpose for a mission excellently.
(6) Don't start on too large a scale. Everybody seems to wish a bigger mission than anybody else, and if they start on a large scale, as a rule in a few months they have enough of it. Sometimes the best place to start a mission is on a street corner. Go and hold an open air meeting, and if the Lord approves of your work He will give you a more permanent place.
(7) The location of the mission must be largely determined by the purpose of the mission. If the purpose of the mission is to reach drunkards, the place for the mission is near the saloons; if the purpose of the mission is to reach fallen women, oftentimes it is desirable to have the mission right among the places that these women haunt, though if possible there should also be a home remote from the dens of iniquity to which the converts can be sent. If the purpose of the mission is to reach into the lives of the poor, of course the location of the mission has to be determined by that fact.
4. FURNISH PLAINLY. Fancy missions as a rule are failures. They are nice in theory, but plain ones do the work.
5. When you have made up your mind where you are going to start, and have gotten everything ready, advertise your meetings everywhere; in the houses, in the stores, in the saloons and on the street. Send men and women out to bring people in, to "compel them to come in." Get as many consecrated Christian workers as you can together. Expect fresh infillings of the Holy Spirit as you seek to win souls.
III. HOW TO SUPPORT THE MISSION.
1. DON'T SUPPORT IT ON CREDIT. Many people get in debt and call it walking by faith. God says, "Owe no man anything." Running into debt is not faith, but disobedience. It is better to shut a mission up than to run it into debt. Debt dishonors God. If you run into debt you will be discredited, the church will be discredited, God will be discredited, sinners will stumble to perdition over the dishonor brought to the name of Christ.
2. DO NOT SUPPORT YOUR MISSION BY FAIRS, SOCIALS, IMITATION DIME MUSEUMS, OR ANYTHING OF THAT SORT. The man who goes into the disgraceful methods of raising church finances that are so common in our day lacks faith in God.
3. DO NOT SUPPORT YOUR MISSION BY INDISCRIMINATE SOLICITATION. Never go to an ungodly man for money. God says that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord. He certainly does not wish us to use an abomination to support His work.
4. IF YOU ARE ABLE TO DO IT, IT IS OFTENTIMES WELL TO SUPPORT A MISSION OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET. In almost every large city there are many Christian men who could support a mission. One of the most efficient missions in the world was for years supported by a business man out of his own pocket. He worked six days in the week the entire day, spent all the evenings at the mission, then went fourteen miles to his home, and before he could go to bed would have a long list of people to pray for. He was past fifty years old when he began this work; he kept it up for many years, and the work continues to this day. Another man of wealth in another city put $10,000 or more a year into a mission that he organized. He found that that work paid so much better than his business, that he finally turned his back upon his business and put himself into the work. He is still in the work, a young man at nearly three score years and ten. It does not require a very rich man to support a mission. Four young men in one city, each of them working on a meager salary, supported a very successful mission with scarcely any help from others. Of course it required self-denial, but they felt that the self-denial abundantly paid.
5. ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO SUPPORT A MISSION IS TO HAVE AN INDIVIDUAL CHURCH BACK OF IT. The church will be a blessing to the mission, and the mission to the church. Every rich church ought to have one or more missions that it is supporting.
6. THE BEST WAY TO SUPPORT A MISSION IN MANY CASES IS TO SUPPORT IT BY THE FREE WILL OFFERINGS OF THOSE WHO ATTEND IT. This is best even where the attendants are all poor people. Very few realize how much poor people can give and will give if they are interested in a work, and if the work really is of God. Far more missions as well as churches could be self-supporting if the people only believed it and undertook it. The people always appreciate the mission better, and think more of it, when they have money in it.
7. MISSIONS CAN BE SUPPORTED BY FAITH. If you are SURE the Lord wishes you to carry on mission work, ask Him for means and He will supply them. You will not need to make personal solicitations from anybody but the Lord. I say this not from speculation, but from experience. Many others have had the same experience.
IV. HOW TO CONDUCT A GOSPEL MISSION.
1. LET GOD CONDUCT IT. Missions often fail because there is too much of man's machinery and man's management. Cast-iron rules and cast-iron methods of conducting missions, red tape and other nonsense, shut God out. Give your mission over unreservedly to the control of God. Be sure you do it -- seek His guidance and wait for it. The promise of the thirty-second Psalm applies as well to mission work as to other work: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go, I will guide thee with mine eye." The trouble is, oftentimes we are not near enough to see the glance of the Father's eye.
2. CONDUCT YOUR MISSION ALONG STRICTLY GOSPEL LINES. Refuse to be switched off on to side issues. Amusements and entertainments may be a good enough thing in their place, but the time is short and the Lord is at hand. We cannot afford to be reaching out in such indirect and indefinite ways. Thousands of souls are perishing, and the only thing that has God's power in it to save is the Gospel (Romans 1:16). A fine text for the mission worker is, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." The missions that have been successful are the missions that have held strictly to the Gospel, the missions that have given the Gospel clearly, simply and constantly. Experiments along other lines are nothing new. They have been tried for over a quarter of a century. I remember a church which in my early life seemed to me a model church. It had most cunningly devised machinery for reaching the people -- lectures, entertainments, clubs, classes, etc., etc. It did reach the people, but it did not convert them. It grew marvelously, but it was made up of such heterogeneous and unconverted material that it went to pieces and ended in a free-for-all fight; yet every little while some new work is springing up along these old and discredited lines, yet imagining that it is striking out in new and promising paths. The Gospel alone can do the work we aim to do. Run your mission along Gospel lines seven nights in the week.
3. TEND STRICTLY TO BUSINESS. Missions will not run themselves. People attend a few meetings of a successful mission, or read about them, and conclude that missions are a fine thing. Then they open one somewhere and expect it to go of itself, and it does go -- to pieces. This has occurred again and again. There is no form of Christian work that demands more careful and prayerful watching and attention to business than mission work. A single ill-conducted service in a church may not do much harm, but a single ill- conducted service in a mission is likely to have far-reaching consequences of evil. One unfortunate meeting in a mission may mar the work for years.
4. PUT ONLY TRIED MEN IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE MISSION. Use only men of irreproachable character, and who have a good understanding of God's Word, men of good common sense, and uncommon push. It is too much the custom if a notorious sinner is converted, to open a mission for him at once and put him in charge. He has not been tested, and nothing is known of his qualifications, but he has a remarkable story. The condition of many missions is simply horrible because of this sort of thing. Of course such a man ought to be set to work, and there is much that he can do, and do well, and without any risk. He can be used to hand out dodgers and to get people into the mission; he can testify humbly and effectively as to what God has done for him; very likely he can do most efficient personal work, but for his own sake and for Christ's sake, do not put him into any place of leadership until he is tried, and has proven the stability of his Christian character, his gifts and his Bible knowledge, to be such as fit him for the work: "Lay hands hastily on no man" (1 Timothy 5:22 RV); however good a man he may be, it will hurt him to put him forward at once.
5. MAKE MUCH OF THE BIBLE. People in a mission should be given a great deal of the Word of God. Stable and well-rounded Christian character is built upon a study of the Word of God. The Christian character that is built merely upon the foundation of experience is unreliable; it breaks down easily; but the Christian character that is built upon the Word of God never goes to pieces. The converts and attendants ought to be encouraged to study the Word for themselves. There should be classes also for thorough systematic instruction in Bible truth. There should be training classes where they are taught how to use the Bible in leading others to Christ. They should be encouraged to make much use of the Bible in giving their experience. In some successful missions the men always begin their testimony by a quotation from Scripture, giving chapter and verse.
6. MAKE MUCH USE OF TESTIMONY. There can be no doubt of the great power of living testimony, especially in mission work. Men and women who regard themselves not only lost, but hopelessly lost, come into the mission and there hear some other man or woman who has been as deep down in sin as themselves, tell the story of the saving power of Christ. Hope is kindled in their hearts, and they turn to Christ and are saved. There are thousands of earnest Christians in our land today who were saved through the testimonies of redeemed men and women. Of course care has to be exercised as to the character of the testimonies thus given. We should be careful to see that it is genuine and not hypocritical; we should see to it that the men live out in their daily lives what they testify to in the evening meeting. If men give their testimony about their past sinful life in a boastful way, they should be instructed in private not to do this. Sometimes it is necessary to say a word about it publicly. But the fact that there are evils connected with the relation of our experience is not a sufficient reason for altogether giving up this mighty weapon of testimony.
7. MAKE MUCH USE OF MUSIC. Get the best music you can. Be sure it is converted music. Tolerate nothing but a converted chorister, a converted organist and a converted choir. Have an organist that you can depend upon. An organist of modest ability who is always there is much better than a much better organist who is sometimes late or absent. Get the best soloist you can, but be sure they sing hymns that contain the real Gospel, and sing them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Have duets, quartets and choruses, but best of all, have a lively congregational singing. Be careful in your selection of hymns. Choose hymns that are full of life and full of the Gospel. Sing them over and over again until you have sung them into the hearts of the hearers. Many a man will go out of the mission unconverted, but the hymn that he has heard will go on singing itself in his heart until it has sung him into the kingdom of God. It is wonderful how the Gospel in song sticks in the minds of hearers.
8. MAKE A GREAT DEAL OF PERSONAL WORK IN THE MISSION. It is not enough to get those who desire to be saved up to the altar, though that is a good thing to do; have workers deal with them individually. Be sure that the workers themselves know how to do personal work. One great cause of the instability of much of our mission work is that there has been no thorough hand-to-hand dealing with the converts.
9. LOOK AFTER YOUR CONVERTS. Keep a list of them, and hunt them up in their homes if they have any. If they have no homes, hunt them up in their lodging houses or wherever they may be. Follow them up persistently, instruct them individually as to how to succeed in the Christian life. Be watchful to see that they follow the instructions given. Get them into some live church of Jesus Christ. We ought to be careful as to the church which mission converts join. Many churches would prove to be an icehouse to them, and would freeze them to death. It is oftentimes best to have the mission itself organized into a church, where there is regular church life, and where the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are administered.
10. THROW AS MUCH OF THE WORK AS YOU CAN UPON THE CONVERTS OF THE MISSION. Send them out into the streets and saloons to invite people in; be careful, however, about sending reformed drunkards into saloons. Put the converts out on the street corners and in front of the mission with dodgers. Organize them into a choir and get them to sing. Train them to use their Bibles in dealing with inquirers. Work them into the Sunday School as officers and teachers as fast as it is wise. Organize them into lookout committees, sick committees, hospital committees, jail committees, etc. Set them to conducting cottage meetings. Use them in open-air work.
11. HAVE PLENTY OF GOOD USHERS. Let them meet people at the door and give them a warm handshake, and show them a seat. Ladies are oftentimes the best ushers for a mission. It has been a long time since some of those who enter the mission have come in contact with a pure woman, and her mere presence is a benediction; their hearts are touched, and memories of olden days come to mind.
12. LET NO ONE GO OUT WITHOUT A PERSONAL INVITATION TO COME TO CHRIST. The best work in many a mission is that which is done with those who start to go out before the meeting is over. Some one stays near the door and follows out every one who leaves and preaches Christ to them. Many have been won to Christ this way, just outside the mission.
13. HAVE NO CAST-IRON FORM OF SERVICE. It is well to begin one way one time and an entirely different way another. Let everything be unconventional. Avoid getting into ruts.
14. NEVER BE AFRAID OF DRUNKARDS, THIEVES, THUGS OR CRANKS. You have God back of you, and if you look to Him, He will give you the victory every time. Many things may happen that would frighten an ordinary preacher out of his wits, but out of these very unforeseen incidents blessing oftentimes comes.
I was once conducting a meeting when a drunken man rose in the back part of the audience and wanted to speak. As he came forward I said, "Do you want me to pray for you?" The man faced the audience and broke out, "I am a damned fool!" then he apologized for swearing. He said, "I did not mean to swear." I said, "My friend, you told the truth, you are a fool and you are damned, but Christ can save you. Do you wish us to pray for you?" And down the man went upon his knees. In a little while a tall, muscular, drunken lumberman rose to his feet and said he wished to ask a question. I replied, "All right, what is it?" He said, "I wish to ask about the blessed Trinity." I said, "Never mind that now, Christ died for you; do you wish us to pray for you?" The man replied, "I am not such a fool but what I am willing to be prayed for," and down he dropped upon his knees. The power of God came upon the meeting, and there was great blessing that night.
15. DEPEND UPON THE HOLY SPIRIT. You may have the right machinery, you may have the building and the crowds, you may have even the Word of God itself, but unless you have the power of the Holy Spirit to accompany the divine seed as you sow it, your work will come to nothing. All this machinery, unless the power of the Holy Spirit is in it, is worse than useless, but if you have the fire from above, you will win souls.