By Ryan Patrick Hoselton
Christians implore the help of their pastor for a range of reasons—at a range of hours of the night. I know this not because I’m a pastor but because I’m a Christian. But how many requests for help does the average pastor make of his congregation? He likely won’t get many, so he better choose his petitions wisely.
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) requested the help of his congregation in evangelism. In 1806, he wrote a letter to believers entitled, The Pastor’s Address to His Christian Hearers, Entreating Their Assistance In Promoting the Interest of Christ. He asked for help to promote the gospel, and pastors today can learn from his recruiting methods.
First, he aimed to convince his congregation that evangelism was their mission too, “There is an important difference between Christian ministers and the Christian ministry. The former…exist for your sakes…but the latter, as being the chosen means of extending the Redeemer’s kingdom, is that for which both we and you exist (345-46).” Sharing the gospel is the job description of every Christian. As Nehemiah and Ezra enlisted the help of the Israelites to construct the temple, argued Fuller, so pastors today need believers to build the church (346).
Secondly, Fuller made his congregants aware that their involvement in the Christian mission was necessary for the continuation of churches. People are more willing to participate when they know that they are needed. God uses means to save unbelievers, and the “ordinary way in which the knowledge of God is spread in the world is, by every man saying to his neighbour and to his brother, ‘Know the Lord’ (351).”
Thirdly, Fuller not only entreated their assistance for the mission but he also equipped them for it. Perhaps the reason why many think that their sole duty in evangelism “consisted in sending the [unbelieving] party to the minister” is because they’ve never been trained in evangelism (348). Fuller would not allow his congregants to make this excuse. The chief rule in evangelism, Fuller instructed, was to “point them directly to the Saviour” (349). Merely sharing truths about Christianity without directing the unbeliever to Christ will only mislead him or her to “a resting place short of him (350).” Thus, it is crucial for every believer to “be skilful in the word of righteousness; else you administer false consolation (349).”
To put these principles to use, Fuller suggested three accessible opportunities. First, parents can assist the pastor in evangelism by dialoging with their children about the sermon. Second, Christians should invite their unbelieving friends to the preaching of the Word and discuss it with them. Thirdly, believers’ lives must be walking testimonies to the fruit of the gospel before their neighbors. “Enable us to use strong language when recommending the gospel by its holy and happy effects,” Fuller begged (351).
 This appeal was a circular letter for the Northamptonshire Baptist Association. Andrew Fuller, “The Pastor’s Address to His Christian Hearers, Entreating Their Assistance In Promoting the Interest of Christ,” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller with a Memoir of His Life by Andrew Gunton Fuller, 3 Vols., ed. Joseph Belcher (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845. Repr., Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 3:345-351.
Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are expecting their first child in August.