With Christ After the Lost. By L.R. Scarborough. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1952, reprint, Vol. 2 of Southwestern Library of Centennial Classics, Fort Worth, 2008. 291 pages. Hardcover, $100.00 for set.
From 1914 until 1942, for eighteen years, Lee Rutland Scarborough, the “Cowboy President,” served as the decisive leader of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also presided over the program of evangelism and taught that discipline in an innovative move virtually unheard of anywhere else in seminary education. Occupying the newly inaugurated “Chair of Fire,” Scarborough’s assignment included not only the teaching of evangelism but the infusing of the evangelistic imperative into every class, every professor, and every student in the seminary. In 1952, he penned his own evangelism textbook entitled, With Christ After the Lost, acknowledging the influence of both B.H. Carroll and George W. Truett. On his own love for the field of evangelism, he also identified R.A. Torrey’s book, How to Work for Christ as a volume that substantively influenced his own thinking and writing. Because of the increasingly large number of students coming to Southwestern Seminary during the days of Carroll’s presidency and also because of the rapid expansion of churches in the west, the book’s influence spread to Southern Baptist ministers and churches all across the convention, becoming as widely known and useful among Southern Baptists as was Torrey’s volume among northern evangelicals.
Naturally, this volume is dated in some ways. Chapters on evangelistic music, church-wide revivals, and youth revivals, containing valuable insight, do not take into account the present era. On the other hand, other portions of the book have a certain enduring value and mark out territory that will be significant until Jesus comes. The book is divided into five lengthy sections and thirty-nine shorter chapters. Scarborough begins at the appropriate place, discussing spiritual prerequisites such as the soul-winner’s prayer life, his faith, his compassion, and his heavenly unction. Part two examines the superlative soul-winners—Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.
Part three examines various methodologies, focusing on the evangelistic church, the pastor himself, and the role of visitation, music, the home, and evangelism. Also, Seasonal Evangelism—the section on various kinds of revivals—appears in part three. Part four focuses particularly on the doing of what Scarborough refers to as “personal work,” which describes dealing with children, skeptics and doubters, moralists, pleasure-loving people, and so forth. The final section has to do particularly with the appropriate Scripture passages to be used for the soul-winner as well as for the lost. Each chapter begins with a listing of appropriate passages that provides the arsenal each reader was expected to master through memorization of these verses of Scripture.
To be fair, the book does not abound with profound intellectual insights, nor is it the epitome of color and pathos. By the same token, Scarborough never intended it to be as such. He was writing a straightforward manual on evangelism, for the purpose of encouraging every reader to recognize the Christian imperative of taking the gospel to the lost in every conceivable, honorable, and scriptural way.
On the other hand, the flavor of the book can be caught in a statement or two:
A compassionless Christianity drifts into ceremonialism and formalism. Our greatest need now is for a compassionate leadership in the Christian movements of the world. Every niche of this lost world needs the ministry of a fired soul, burning and shining with the zeal and conviction of a conquering gospel. Spiritual dry rot is worse for the churches of Jesus Christ than the plagues were for Egypt and the simooms are for the Sahara. Many a minister is on a treadmill, marking time, drying up, not earning his salt, because he has no passion for souls and no power for effective service. May our God kindle holy fires of evangelism in all churches and pulpits where such is needed (31).
Or again, the imperative of taking the gospel beyond the doors of the church was a familiar refrain for those who knew Scarborough. He remarks,
Christ’s churches were not meant to be indoor institutions only, but outdoor agencies as well. His kingdom was inaugurated in its earthly expression on the hills of Judea and the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist, the first gospel evangelist, never preached in a church house. Most of Christ’s preaching and teaching was done out in the open. Pentecost was a big street meeting. Paul’s evangelism was carried on, in the main, on the streets and in the open places. The idea in most churches today seems to be ‘if you will come to our meeting house, we will offer you the gospel.’ In New Testament times, Christians worked on the theory of carrying the gospel to the people (141).
With Christ After the Lost may have lacked the breadth of R.A. Torrey’s How to Work for Christ and the wide-scale denominational support of Charles F. Matthews’ The Southern Baptist Program of Evangelism. It may have missed the theological depth of J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, the near universal awareness of D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion, the color of Mark McClosky’s Tell It Often, Tell It Well and of Paul Little’s How to Give Away Your Faith. However, Scarborough’s volume nevertheless exercised an influence that few other famous texts ever generated.
Typical of the impact of the book is its influence in my own life. Scarborough died in 1942, the same year in which I was born. I never knew him or heard him, but by the time I was 15 years old, I felt I knew him well. My preacher-father spoke of him often and was a student at Southwestern at the time of Scarborough’s passing. He himself studied evangelism with Scarborough and had, of course, read the book. When I began preaching at age 15, my dad placed With Christ After the Lost in my hand and simply said, “Son, this is one of the most important books you will ever receive. Read it carefully.” I did read it at that time and have read it with great profit on several occasions since. Just as Scarborough’s book made its way to almost every church house in the state of Texas and was read by hundreds, so the book impressed upon me the simple truth that no matter what your assignment in the ministry might be, above all else you are to be a soul-winner, a personal witness for Christ.
There are, of course, many factors that account for the rapidity of the growth of Baptist work in the state of Texas—reaching a point of more than five thousand local congregations and maintaining some of the largest churches in the land. But the ministry of Scarborough at Southwestern, particularly the influence of this book With Christ After the Lost, surely constitutes one inescapable reason for such growth. Scarborough wrote other books, such as How Jesus Won Men, but With Christ After the Lost became the most widely disseminated and influential of his books.
Two factors in my own life resulted in a profound commitment on my part to a lifelong effort in personal evangelism—the example of my father, together with the time he spent personally training me to share my faith and even to extend the offer of salvation to lost people, and the reading of Scarborough’s book. But in the end, even the first influence toward evangelism was also directly related to this volume With Christ After the Lost.
As a consequence, I am delighted this volume is a part of the Library of Centennial Classics of Southwestern Seminary where we have been able to reprint this splendid volume one more time. If it seems pedestrian to some readers, let it be remembered that the apostle Paul himself was criticized by some for being unimpressive. Yet his work has endured for twenty centuries. By the same token, this work on personal evangelism by Lee Scarborough continues to have a monumental influence even if little read today.
Every time I have the privilege of introducing a person to faith in Jesus Christ, I remember my own indebtedness to L.R. Scarborough. Our prayer to God is that many will secure a copy of the Library of Centennial Classics and read With Christ After the Lost and be blessed by it.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary