L. R. Scarborough – A Passionate And Ever-Alert Soul Winner
By Faris Daniel Whitesell
"Personal evangelism is a definite Christian responsibility," writes author Whitesell, "but very few Christians make any effort to win others to the Lord Jesus Christ. With the hope and prayer that the example set by this man may inspire many, and that the principles he used might be helpful to others, the author has written this article."
When a student asked L. R. Scarborough the secret of his power, modestly he answered, "If I have any power, it is in this: there is never an hour, day or night, but that I can close my eyes and weep over a lost world." This man stood in the same spiritual tradition with that other who said, "I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31).
Dr. George W. Truett wrote of him, "Ever since L. R. Scarborough found Christ precious to his soul as his own personal Saviour, his lofty spirit has been on fire for the salvation of the lost...From the day of his definite, final decision to be a preacher, he has been one of the most prodigious workers in Christ's cause, of his own or of any other generation. His ever-enlarging life has been Pauline, bother in labors and in spirit."
One of the spiritual giants of the Southern Baptist Convention, Lee Rutland Scarborough (1870-1945), made his influence for Christ and soul-winning felt throughout that vast denomination. He was denominational leader of top stature, a burning-hearted pastor, a flaming evangelist, and a Christian educator of first rank.
For twenty-seven years he was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, one of the largest theological schools in the world, and for thirty-four years he occupied "the chariot of fire," the professorship of evangelism in that institution. His influence was always one hundred per cent on the side of Biblical orthodoxy, evangelism, missions and the Spirit-filled life.
His belief that the world needed warm-hearted, passionate Christian workers was expressed in these words: "A compassionate leadership in the Christian movements of the world is now our greatest need. Every niche of this lost world needs the ministry of a fired soul, burning and shining, bloodshot with the zeal and conviction of a conquering Gospel."
As a teacher of evangelism, he gave a major emphasis to personal work. He lectured to his large classes with passion, pungency, purpose and power. The atmosphere of revival prevailed. Those privileged to sit in his required courses in evangelism, as was the writer, had to memorize hundreds of Scripture passages, but one felt the powerful impact of the Holy Spirit and had his heart searched by the Word of God....
Excelling in Personal Soul-winning
While Scarborough was successful in all types of evangelism, yet it was in personal soul-winning that he excelled. Dr. C. E. Matthews, superintendent of evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote of him: "We believe, though, that it was as a personal soul-winner that he stood out most prominently among preachers. In this field he was surely unsurpassed. Like Paul he was made all things to all men that he might by all means save some. We have been privileged to associate with many very effective soul-winners. Most of us who witness to the lost do so by spurts when we are in the spirit or when revivals are on. Dr. Scarborough practiced soul-winning almost constantly.
"He had no particular class of people that he seemed to prefer above another. He was amazingly effective in dealing with men, women or children. He was adaptable in any class...rich or poor, learned or ignorant. In his personal dealings with business and professional men it is said that he never let one of them who was not a Christian pass by without making an appeal to him to become a Christian."
Dr. Scarborough was a rugged, masculine personality, six feet tall, kindly, gracious, refined, earnest and sincere, and an easy conversationalist.
He taught that soul-winning was a Christian obligation without evasion or exemption. "Every Christian is called in the hour of salvation to witness a winning testimony for Jesus Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth can excuse him from it. God gives no furloughs from this heaven-born obligation," he wrote. Again he said, "Go after souls. It is the biggest business in the world. There is no joy like it."
The Call Is to All
He said that the call to soul-winning came from four directions: 1. From above from God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; 2. From without where men are in peril and ruin; 3. From within, as the saved soul longs to win others; and 4. From beneath, as the doomed in hell cry like the rich man in torment, "Send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them."
The soul-winner must be spiritually prepared by having salvation and assurance, by being consecrated and separated, by being obedient and reliant, by being compassionate. He should be a person of prayer, have a dynamic faith and hold rock-ribbed doctrinal convictions concerning the fundamental truths of the faith.
He said, "Your main chance to succeed in personal work is your touch and fellowship with God...God holds the reins that guide souls Godward. It is absolutely necessary that you keep in and up with God."
Pray, Pray, Pray!
Dr. Scarborough put a tremendous emphasis on prayer. He wrote:
"Prayer, constant, supplicating, importuning, soulful prayer is God's key to His secret sources of power. Pray before, during and after your efforts to win men. You cannot otherwise find your way successfully.
"Pray that your own heart will be right, your motive heavenly, your words wise, your heart burdened, that you may use the right Scripture....
"Pray that you may be led to the right person, that your method of approach will be right.
"Pray that God will go before you as He has promised (Isa. 45:2)....
"Pray that you may easily find the key to the soul of the unsaved....
"Pray for human tact and divine power....
"Pray that God will go behind you as He promises (Isa. 58:8), that He will convert your mistakes into victories, override your errors, bring to full fruition the seed sown and the work sought to be accomplished."
Use of God's Word
He advocated much use of the Scriptures. He wrote: "Make much use of God's Word. It is the power of God unto salvation, the sword of the Spirit. It is the channel of life, powerful in its discernment, incisiveness. It cuts, divides, separates, hammers, burns, enters into the secret thoughts and intents of the heart. Put its most forceful passages in your own heart and give them out trusting in the Spirit to apply them in power to lost men.
"1. Use the Scriptures on sin, its presence in the sinner's heart and life, its guilt, soiling and poisonous, pervading the entire spiritual and moral nature; its power, its penalties and eternal punishment.
"2. The Scriptures on the way of life, repentance, confession of sin, faith, repentance, confession of sin, faith, acknowledgment of Christ. Then after his salvation use the scriptures on obedience to the Saviour.
"3. Point out Jesus Christ as the only Saviour; that He saves by His blood, by His grace, His wonderful risen life.”
He had worked out some general principles which he passed on to his readers:
"Remember that your own heart attitude is pivotal and deciding. If you are formal, purely intellectual, unemotional, uncompassionate, not borne in upon by the pressing love of the cross, you will fail.
"The matter of approach, tactfulness in seeking an entrance for the Gospel message, is very important. Sometimes it is best to adopt indirect methods of approach, come upon the 'blind side'; sometimes the direct method is best. 'Are you a Christian?' 'Have you been born again?' 'Are you saved or lost?' 'Is your heart right with God?' These are some of the questions used. Here tact, common sense, is of great value.
"It is usually best to deal with your own sex. This is not always true. Also deal with people, as a rule, of or near your age. It is usually best to deal with people alone, in a quiet place, parlor or office, some place undisturbed, where without embarrassment or show of righteousness you can pray and give the lost a chance to confess the Saviour.
"Never allow yourself to be sidetracked or diverted from the main matter in hand. Controversy will always divert attention and lead away from salvation.
"Always act in the most courteous and gentlemanly way, never losing your temper, no matter how severely tempted.
"Never worry the unsaved with long overpressed appeal. When you see they are irritated or bored, or restless or angered, leave them and seek again to reach them....
"Avoid discouragement in case you do not succeed. Patience and persistence are high virtues in soul-wining. The game is worth many failing efforts....
"The wise use of personal experience with Christ, one’s own saving testimony, is often of great value in leading the lost to Christ. ..Follow-up work is important...."
He knew how to take advantage of every circumstance in order to press Christ upon the lost. In his book, Prepare to Meet God, he related the following example:
"Some time ago I stopped on the street a very fine man. There he had sitting on the back of the seat of his automobile a beautiful little girl some three or four years of age. I watched her with her curly hair, her charming eyes and her loving caresses to her father. It was their only child. His wife was a Christian. He was a good man but unsaved.
"I looked him in that face and I said, 'Charlie, God has given you this beautiful wife, a devoted Christian, and she has helped you to make and save your money and she has kept you out of sin and then God has given you this beautiful little girl.'
"And then as if God was helping me, the little girl looked up into his face and said, 'Daddy, do you love me?'
"It was God's call and God helped me in the voice of the little child. I said, 'The very goodness of God ought to lead you to Christ.' In less than three days he called me up and said, 'Brother Scarborough, I did not sleep any last night or the night before. I want to tell you this morning yonder in my home I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.'"
Dr. Scarborough loved children and he believed in winning them to Christ. He suggests five reasons for winning children:
1. Children are everywhere and the open door to their hearts is an almost universal opportunity.
2. Children are most susceptible to Gospel influence. Their hearts are tender, their lives pliable to God's grace.
3. The saving of a child's soul offers a double opportunity, that is, to save a soul from eternal destruction and to develop a life and talents for the service of God.
4. Death among children is very common. Many of the graves in our cemeteries are short ones.
5. It is far better for a person to serve God through a long life than to serve Him only a short time; and many of our most important and useful Christian leaders were brought to Christ when they were young and their whole lives were trained in the service of God.
Dealing with Objections
To deal with the unconcerned, he advised definite prayer for them, bringing them under the influence of Gospel preaching, getting them to study God's Word in tracts, interesting books or the Bible itself, bringing them into Christian associations, and by private appeals in some quiet place, using the Word of God.
If a prospect made the objection, "I am too great a sinner," Dr. Scarborough said to tell him of Paul's case (1 Tim. 1:15); tell him of the thief on the cross who was saved (Luke 23:39-43); tell him of the harlot woman at Jacob's well (John 4); tell him of the jailer at Philippi who cruelly treated Paul and how God saved him (Acts 16:22-23); tell him of the great crowd of crucifiers of Christ who repented and were saved at Pentecost (Acts 2:22-23, 37-41); tell him of David's awful double crime of murder and adultery, and how God forgave him when he confessed and repented (Psalm 51); and press on him God's promises of pardon and salvation such as Isaiah 1:18, Romans 1:16, Luke 19:10, Romans 5:6-10, Matthew 9:12-13, Psalm 32:5, Hebrews 7:25, John 6:37, Revelation 22:17. Dr. Scarborough was strong on Scripture.
If an objector says, "I do not feel like it," he wrote this comment:
"This is one of the devil's most skilful deceptions. Multitudes of lost souls have gone headlong into eternity waiting for 'feeling.' It never came and they plunged into hell. In dealing with such cases great care should be exercised. There is a feeling the sinner must have. Salvation is an experimental matter in the deepest seat of the soul. The emotional nature, the heart-life is reached by redemption.
"'Christ formed in you the hope of glory...I will come into you and sup with you,' are the heart's experiences. He ought to have feelings before and after he is saved, but he ought not to mix these feelings. One is the feeling of sorrow for sin, the other the feeling of the joy of being saved after he trusts Christ.
"If he has 'feelings' enough to give up his sins that is all God requires. Let him seek till he has a sense of his own sins and feelings enough to forsake his sins, then let him trust the Saviour and Christ will 'sup' with him."
An Angry Response
That he was an expert at sizing up men and making the right approach, under the Spirit's guidance, is evident from some of his experiences. In 1939 six years before his death, he said:
"I have been at this business (soul-winning) now a half century, forty-four or forty-five years, and only one man in all these years ever showed anger or displeasure because of my approach about Christ. I shall not forget the incident. It was on the train. I went into the parlor car and I sat next to a very distinguished-looking gentleman. In a little while I asked him if he were a Christian, and it made him mad. He cursed preachers, not knowing that I was one, and churches; he stood up in the aisle and almost foamed at the mouth with rage.
"Very calmly, I said, 'My friend, I am a gentleman. I asked a gentleman's question. Why all your anger?' I said, 'My interpretation is that you, by your anger, are belying and reflecting upon the Christianity of a devoted Christian wife and a little mother somewhere on earth or in heaven.'
"That word tamed the lion. He sat down, and he said, 'You are right about it, sir. I am chairman of an infidel club in my city, and I hold under my influence many minds. And I hold all of it against the prayers and love and consecrated life of my wife and my mother.'
"I had my cue to his soul. Before he got off the train some forty miles from there, he was gloriously saved."
Holding an evangelistic campaign in a southern city a layman asked him to go to see a certain infidel lawyer, the biggest lawyer in the city. He went to the man's office, a whole floor of a skyscraper, expecting to be insulted. After he had asked to see the lawyer, this scene followed:
"So when he opened the door, a very fine-looking, courteous gentleman, cordial, holding out his hand, I said, 'I am here with the Baptist revival meeting. I understand that you are not a believer in Christ. I have come (I had the Testament in my hand) to tell you about God's inspired Word, and its message. The center of the message is Jesus Christ, God's virgin-born Son. He died on Calvary, and I am a messenger of the Blood and I am trying to keep those that are lost from going down to eternal punishment.'
"I thought that if I were to take his insults, I would get them first and save some time.
"He turned to his stenographer and said, 'I will excuse you and call you later.' He shook my hand and he said, 'Mr. Scarborough, I am very happy to see you. I have been in this city twenty years practicing law. They say I am an infidel. I am not. I am just a busy sinner, and you are the first man in twenty years that has talked to me about my soul.'
"In twenty minutes I went out of that room with his arms around my neck, praising God for salvation."
Always, Everywhere at It
Scarborough was continually on the watch for a chance to win someone to Christ. He claimed:
"I have won somebody to Christ every way Jesus did except up a tree and on a cross. And the first chance I get, I am going after them. I think probably I won some where He didn't. I would not boast about it. I have tried to make it a habit to pick up men for Christ.
"You remember that tragic airplane crash where seventeen people in the woods of Arkansas went down at night. I was on that same plane two weeks before with that same crew. I was covering that same territory, and thank God, I won the little stewardess to Christ, and I won the pilot to Christ. They both went down two weeks later."
Dr. Scarborough preached for conversions and had them. One of his most thrilling experiences is the following:
"I was in Conception, Chile, in a little Baptist church there. It was a rainy night, but there was scarcely room for my feet in the pulpit. And just before I was to take the pulpit to preach, there came in the door a big, strong man a little taller than I, just about my weight. He was a wonderfully handsome fellow. He came right through the crowd like a boy with the ball at a critical time in a football game, with his neck bowed and his body tense. As such a boy would go through the line that could not be gotten through except by a determined soul, he came down the crowded aisle, picked up a little boy sitting on the front seat, and sat down, putting the little boy in his lap.
"The pastor of the church said, 'That is the worst man in Chile. That is the John Dillinger of Chile. Twice he has been condemned by the government to be shot for murder, the coldest-blooded murder. Nineteen years he has been in the penitentiary waiting sentence to be shot. The President of the Republic pardoned him many years ago and he committed crime again and went back, and a few days ago he was pardoned again. Strange to say, he has come to this meeting.'
"He said, 'That is the worst man you ever preached to. If you have a redeeming Gospel, preach it tonight, because you face the worst sinner you have ever faced.'
"You can imagine that instantly I thought of this God I am talking about, that shepherd God, that mother God, that father God (of Luke 15), with all His tenderness. My brethren, God registered that evening the greatest single victory I have ever seen.
"At the close of the service this man didn't wait for song. He came. Of course, I was speaking through an interpreter. He grabbed me in his arms, and such a hug I have scarcely ever had. I watched as he leaned forward to catch my words as they passed through the interpreter, and I saw on the floor the most beautiful little lake I ever saw – a pool of tears falling from his penitent soul....
"He got me in his arms, strong and virile, and pillowed his head, weeping, on the lapel of my coat, and so copious were his tears, and so deep was his penitence, that the tears went through to my skin, those warm tears, and he was saved, gloriously saved."
...During an evangelistic conference for ministers in Chicago attended by the writer, Dr. Scarborough was the principal speaker. The power of the Lord was upon him. A young lady stenotypist was reporting the messages. At one of the sessions, to the surprise of everyone, Dr. Scarborough said:
"I know you have all seen this young lady sitting here taking down these messages. I have been talking to her about Christ. I think she is now ready to say something."
With that, the young woman arose and told how Dr. Scarborough had led her to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Scores of ministers around, learning how to evangelize, and yet not one of them had thought to speak to this young lady about her soul. The great evangelist speaker had to do it, and do it he did. Ever alert was this servant of Christ to soul-winning opportunities.
– Taken from: Great Personal Workers by Faris Daniel Whitesell. ©1956. Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press.