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This Week in AG History -- May 23, 1954

James Stewart urged believers to each take personal responsibility for the Great Commission, stating that mass evangelism will never be a substitute for personal evangelism and that a true move of God must catch fire at the grass roots.

Could there be a task that is more important or more daunting than the evangelization of the world? James Stewart, in a 1954 Pentecostal Evangel article, challenged readers to creatively and proactively fulfill the Great Commission. He wrote, "The magnitude of the unfinished task forces us to witness in unconventional places, at unconventional times, with an unconventional approach. It is our duty to go to the unsaved with the Gospel and not wait until they come to us."

Stewart appealed to the testimonies of believers from centuries past to inspire the current generation to reach the lost for Christ. He noted that many heralded evangelists ministered outside the walls of church buildings. John Wesley preached in a cemetery, atop his father's tombstone. The Apostle Paul preached Christ on Mars Hill among the pagan temples and Greek philosophers. Dwight L. Moody accepted Christ in a shoe shop.

Stewart implored readers to think of the church not as a building, but as a body of believers. Past revivals, he noted, occurred when Christians shared the gospel "in the market squares, circus tents, village greens, prisons, public houses, and everywhere the unsaved frequented."

While holding large evangelistic services in public areas has long been important in evangelical and Pentecostal churches, Stewart admonished that evangelism must also be personal. "Mass evangelism," he wrote, "will never be a substitute for personal evangelism."

Personal evangelism, according to Stewart, required the involvement of "ordinary, common believers." The great revivals of the past involved carpenters, farmers, miners, street cleaners, teachers, and men and women from all walks of life who "went forth with flaming fire." The Bible and church history teach that professional clergy alone cannot bring revival; a true move of God must catch fire at the grassroots.

Evangelism is not optional for Christians. Stewart wrote that Christians will "either evangelize or apostatize." His concluding remarks encouraged believers to consecrate themselves to God and to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

He wrote, "Let us dedicate our lives, talents, possessions, and time to the sacred task of worldwide witness. We are couriers of the Cross. The task is great but not impossible. The Holy Ghost is here to empower us. Without the baptism of power our ministry is in vain."

Read the article, "The Church is Challenged!" by James Stewart, on pages 4, 10, and 11 of the May 23, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• "Honor the Holy Spirit!" by P. S. Jones

• "How Spurgeon Found Christ"

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master's degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest , a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.