Written by F. W. Detamore Men are not voted in as evangelists. It may be voted that
a pastor become conference president or youth leader of the conference, but no committee can vote that a man become an evangelist anymore than a wrestler
could be voted to become a surgeon.
If you become an evangelist, it will be because you have determined that as your lifework and no one can dissuade you. To put it simply, if not bluntly, you will have to make an evangelist out of yourself.
Why do you want to be an evangelist? There is only one good answer—because you feel you must be, and you would be letting God down if you were not. As an old minister once said, “If you don’t have to be a preacher, don’t!” There is a lot of truth in that statement. One must feel driven to soul winning and be convinced that he can help save more souls through public evangelism than in any other way if he is to become a successful evangelist. If a building were on fire, we would try in the crisis moments to save as many people as possible. With the “world aflame” how crucial it is that we have the same desperate desire to save the largest number possible. Two experiences have clinched this determination in my life. The first occurred one Saturday night in a cabin at Lake Arrowhead, California. Our family was having a good time together playing parlor games. All of a sud den the sound of screaming voices reached us from far out on the lake: “Help! Help! HELP!” Two speedboats had collided. Most of the boaters were saved, but three died. The following Thursday they raised the wreckage of one of the boats—the life less driver was still at the wheel. This to me became the desperate cry of a doomed world: “HELP!” And I must answer that plea. The second experience took place while we were on one of the worst trips we have ever taken—driving from Washington, D.C., to St. Louis, Missouri. It was a terrible night and we were caught in a snow storm in those Eastern mountains. The temperature dropped to 22 degrees below zero. As we came around a bend in the mountain road our lights shone upon a man who was stumbling along, fighting his way through that fearful blizzard. He shouted as he waved his lantern: “Have you seen a woman and a girl anywhere along this mountain road? My wife and daughter are lost in the storm!” That incident occurred twenty-five years ago, but I still hear that pleading appeal and still see that swinging lantern. And I have determined my lifework—I must go out to seek those lost in this awful storm of life! How can I find any peace for my heart if I am not at least trying to seek and to save the lost?
The Elimination Contest
I am not attempting to scare you away from becoming an evangelist, but I want to be sure you can and will be able to endure, so let me mention several cautions and perhaps some warnings. The field is the world. There is no end of territory to be worked. You will never run out of work, but you may run out of zeal. The mortality rate is high—many start out as evangelists but soon fall by the wayside. Can you take it? Will you be a finisher or just a meteoric starter? There is a brilliant side to evangelism—the beautifully deco rated stage, the greeters, the ushers, the usherettes, the choir, the beautiful music, the special features, the team dressed in uniform clothing. The theme song is introduced; the opening prayer is given; and then the glowing introduction of the evangelist! It is all very exciting and exhilarating to a visiting young man who is, him self, thinking of becoming an evangelist.
Behind the Scenes
But there is more than glitter. Let me take you back of the glittering facade so you may have a closer look at the life of an evangelist. After the closing prayer and the “good nights” and the dimming of the lights, where will the evangelist (the evangelists’ families, that is) spend the night? You may follow them to a lonely motel, a dreary hotel, or to their temporary apartments. But more frequently you will follow the evangelist to some trailer park (mobile home court is the new terminology, but it’s the same place)—to his home on wheels. An evangelist’s life looks rather sparkling when he stands under the lights and preaches. But you should see him crawling under the trailer connecting a water hose, or more humbling, a sewer line. (And those sandburs feel the same to an evangelist when he crawls on them as they do to anyone else.) Oh yes, the trailer must be leveled and the butane tank filled. A new supply of groceries must be bought. A stake-out place for the dog must be cared for. And the lights—by all means see that the 220 volt and the 110 volt wires are connected, and put up a telephone pole for the telephone connections. Your wife, of course, is busy inside arranging or rearranging things. She’s washing vegetables, putting up her hair, dusting, et cetera. That brings up another important little detail:
I just took it for granted you have a wife or are going to get one, for she is certainly the evangelist’s most important piece of equipment. Can she sew? Can she cook? Does she make a neat appearance? Is she pleasant? Does she play the piano and organ and can she sing, or draw blacklight pictures, or give readings? Can she take dictation (the stenographic type of dictation, I mean), and can she type rapidly and correct your misspelled words when you write an article? Is she a good mother? Is she willing to live the life of a gypsy without complaining or feeling sorry for herself? Is she so loving that she can love you and your work? And yes, even your dog? Note: A wife need not be a musician to be a fine partner for an evangelist, but she had better be a good secretary. My wife took typing and shorthand after we were married. We have lived out of suitcases or in trailers for more than twenty-five years of continuous evangelism and more than forty years in the ministry. So, if you are going to become an evangelist, be sure you have a good wife—the portable model! There is something else I almost over looked. Ever hear of children? What wonderful evangelistic equipment they are! But they also must be willing to join you in your gypsy life and later face one of two choices: Either study by correspondence and live on the road with the team or else be separated for weeks at a time enduring growing loneliness (for both parents and children). So your children, too, must be willing partners in your evangelistic life or you will hoist the white flag and fall by the wayside. This is perhaps one of the severest and most painful tests for an evangelist and his wife. Our hearts have wrung with anguish over some of our separations, but we thank God that all three of our daughters are faithful to the truth, have Christian homes, and are engaged in God’s work. And we plan to spend a lot of time with them in heaven.
No Union to Join
There is no forty-hour-week position guaranteed an evangelist. It may reach eighty to a hundred hours a week for you. You are allowed a thousand miles a month on your auto budget but you will probably drive three thousand, and then will pray that God will send ravens to keep your fast-depreciating car supplied with gasoline. You are paid neither by the hour nor by the mile or you’d be well off. Instead, you are paid in souls and become rich! You will put in long, unreportable hours of labor. Souls must be sought out by day and by night. On cloudy days, snowy days, muddy days, you, as an evangelist, must be out there visiting in an unspectacular, unglamorous way—seeking His lost sheep. They are to be found everywhere, so the byways, hedges, valleys, mountains, apartments, and houses must be searched. If you have the heart of an evangelist, you will never watch the clock (except, of course, to quit preaching on time). You are working for souls and for God, and the urgency of the lost drives you on while God measures out for you extra strength and energy. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” You must never be satisfied with numbers. Though you seemingly are going to reap a large harvest, you must ever keep in mind and in your heart that one more sheep which is still lost. So, as an evangelist you will never be fully satisfied or completely relaxed anymore than a fireman who knows that there is one more person trapped in a burning building. You will come to expect long and some times lonely hours of service to be a part of your life. In other words, work your heart out, enjoy it, and never feel sorry for yourself.
You must have a bulldog’s tenacity— never give up no matter how hard the going becomes. All kinds of reverses or apparent reverses will come to you but you must hang on and keep on. I have one understanding with the devil: I will not give up, no matter what he does to try to foil my efforts. He understands that pretty well by now and is rather discouraged about it. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). This promise is the guiding star of my evangelistic life. Troubles will all work out somehow for the best. In one city the tent blows down; in another city the school authorities try to put you out; in another place vandals dam age the cars or steal the purses of choir singers. Storms strike, or the Pathfinder leader takes the juniors for a camp-out the weekend you are having your first call for decision. Or the music director comes down with an ulcer, or the pastor sprains hi.s ankle and can’t visit with you, or perhaps neglected to mail out the invitations for the meetings in the first place. But you’ll let none of these things stop you. “The show must go on.” All right, if showmen insist that nothing shall halt them, dare we have any less determination as messengers of the King in this crisis hour? Probably this is one of the severest tests for an evangelist—he must keep up his own spirits no matter how dark the immediate outlook may be. There is no one else to give you artificial respiration. You must also help to keep up the spirits of those working with you, for they have dark hours too. Many an evangelist has given up his calling—turned to some other line of work—simply because he couldn’t endure the pressure any longer and keep up his own spirits in times of adversity. My father’s favorite song has often helped me: I “Never Give Up.”