Down the hill from Wigglesworth’s home was the beautiful Manningham Park, a public park with lovely flower gardens. I cannot pass by that place today without remembering Wigglesworth and the people he blessed there. When he was home, it was usual for him to go to the park and sit for a while. Often someone else would sit down on the same bench. Without speaking, Wigglesworth imparted something to whoever was sitting there. If the person was unsaved, as was often the case, Wigglesworth would pray silently for him to come under conviction and get saved. Whatever the need might be, Wigglesworth could perceive it. He had no need to question any one; people were drawn to him by the Spirit. Before long, almost without realizing it, a person would be pouring out his heart to Smith. Everyone went away blessed. Wigglesworth always said, “If you don’t minister life, you will minister death and leave folks worse off than when you found them.”
Charles Finney, lawyer and evangelist, was speaking in a New York church in the 1830s. At the end of each evening, he gave people the opportunity to come to the front of the room and commit their life to Jesus. A great many lawyers came to hear him. One night, the Chief Justice of New York was sitting way up in the gallery. As he listened to Finney proclaiming the gospel he became convinced it was true.
Then this question came into his mind: ‘Will you go forward like the other ordinary people?’ Something within him made him think that it would be inappropriate to do so, because of his prestigious social position (at the top of the legal hierarchy of New York State). He sat there pondering the choice he had to make. Then he thought, ‘Why not? I am convinced of the truth… why should I not do it like any other person?’
He got up from his seat in the gallery, went down the staircase and came up the stairs at the back to where Finney was preaching. Finney, in the middle of his sermon, felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around. The Chief Justice said, ‘Mr Finney, if you will call people forward I will come.’ Finney stopped his talk and said, ‘The Chief Justice says that if I call people forward he will come. I ask you to come forward now.’
The Chief Justice went forward. Almost every lawyer in Rochester, New York, followed him! It is said that 100,000 people were converted in the next twelve months in that area. One person’s choice affected the lives of numerous others.
Life is full of choices. We make choices every day of our lives. You can make bad choices or you can make good choices. Your choices matter. Some choices have life-changing consequences.
Michael Green estimates that 80% or more of evangelism in the early church was done not by ministers or evangelists, but by ordinary Christians identifying and explaining themselves to their oikos-their network of relatives and close associates.
You cannot say you are not ordained. You were ordained when you signed Articles of War, under the blessed Flag. If not, I ordain every man, woman and child here present that has received the new life. I ordain you now. I cannot get at you to lay my hands upon you. I ordain you with the breath of my mouth. I tell you what your true business in the world is, and in the name of the living God I authorise you to go and do it. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!
In the past, the church focused on only one conversion. In the future, unbelievers you are leading to Christianity will need to go through three different conversions in sequence: Conversion to you, Conversion to community, Conversion to Christ.