Since we have started Hope Baptist Mission last April we have talked to many people. Every door in Elmwood has been knocked on at least four times. We have spent many hours walking up and down the streets catching people out on their porches or just sitting around. The people by in large have been nice. There are all types of people in Elmwood. There are Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Bi Racial, Homeless, drunks, prostitutes, heroin addicts, crack addicts, people who work hard, those who have heard the gospel, those who have not heard the gospel, saved and live godly lives, those who try to live right, etc.
Though there are many types of people they seem to fall into 4 categories.
The first category is people who are unprepared for the gospel; we see an example of them in Acts 17 where Paul preached to the people on Mars Hill. When Paul preached to them he did not start with the gospel but instead he started by introducing God the creator. Acts 17:24 “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” Just as the people in Athens had to have their hearts prepared we now see a generation in America that knows not God and must have their hearts prepared. At our mission we began in Genesis 1 and taught through the life of Isaac. When teaching on the account of Cain and Abel and the importance of the blood sacrifice vs. the works of mans hands we asked the people which sacrifice God accepted. A lady who had been coming to the mission faithfully and had not known a lot about the Word of God answered the question. (While she had been coming to the mission she had learned about God the creator, where sin came from, the penalty of sin, that God came seeking man after sin and found them clothed by the work of their hands. He then clothed them with animal skins causing the blood to be shed.) She answered “the blood sacrifice,” she then said again with a look of understanding “it is the blood.” Now that she knew of God the creator, what sin was and what the penalty for sin was, her heart was prepared for the gospel. That afternoon she walked forward during the invitation and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to be her Saviour. She is still there and is a great witness on the streets of Elmwood.
The second category is those whose hearts have been prepared yet choose to procrastinate when they hear the gospel. We liken them unto King Agrippa in Acts 26. As Paul was speaking before Festus and Agrippa, Festus leaned forward and said “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” Paul answered him calmly and quickly “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” Paul continued by referring to Agrippa and maybe looking for corroboration saying “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.” Paul then brings Agrippa to the point of decision “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” and then we hear the sad words “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” There are many people that we meet knocking doors and that come to our mission who, like Agrippa, are almost persuaded. But knowing that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9. We continue in our soul winning endeavors.
The third category is people whose hearts have been wearied. These are people who are saved and are no longer attending church. Sometimes because they were supposedly hurt at a church, sometimes because the cares of this life overtook them, sometimes they just became backslidden. When we see them we are reminded of King David in Psalm 51 and seek to see them have the joy of their salvation restored unto them as King David did.
The fourth category of people is those whose hearts have been deceived. This is the hardest group to minister to. They have it set in their minds that they are going to heaven. They continue on in their addictions, prostitution, drunkenness and willful disobedience to the Word of God. The unprepared heart can be taught, the prepared heart can be preached to, the wearied heart can be strengthened but the deceived heart is set in its sin and they are convinced that they are on their way to heaven. They had someone come by their door from a church and asked them if they wanted to go to heaven. Of course, they said yes, they were then told to tell God (who they didn't know) that they were sorry they sinned (they didn’t know what sin was or the results of sin) and ask Him to come into their heart and take them to heaven when they die. They were then showed I John 5:13 and told that because they said that prayer no matter what happens in their lives they are saved eternally. The deceived heart is trusting in a prayer they said and not in a Saviour who died for them. Many times these soul-winners are well meaning people who have a love for souls and a sincere desire to see people get saved. They just do not realize that not everyone knows the God of the Bible. There was a day in our country when every one knew about God the Creator. There was a time when even people who were non-Christian believed the Bible to be the Word of God. Most everyone could say the Ten Commandments and knew that Jesus was God the Son who died on the cross for them and rose the third day. We must be very careful not to make salvation a work but at the same time we must strive to make sure the sinner understands about salvation. When Philip met the Ethiopian Eunuch and heard him reading from the prophet Isaiah, Philip asked him “Understandest thou what thou readest? Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus.” In I Corinthians 15:1,2 we see the gospel is heard and received. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”