I recently found a book at an estate sale for $1, called “Billy Sunday: The Man and His Message,” by William T. Ellis, published in 1914. I didn’t know much about Billy Sunday other than that he was an evangelist in America a long time ago. What a treasure this book has been.
Billy Sunday spent eight years playing baseball in the major leagues until becoming a Christian in the 1880s. After that, he left the baseball field and became a well-known traveling evangelist. He attracted huge crowds and many people’s lives were changed as a result of hearing him preach.
The book I found is filled with many thoughts and excerpts from Billy Sunday’s preaching. Here’s a little bit from a chapter called The Service of Society: “You ought to live so that every one who comes near you will know that you are a Christian. Do you? Does your milkman know that you are a Christian? Does the man who brings your laundry know that you belong to church? Does the man who hauls away your ashes know that you are a Christian? Does the newsboy know that you have religion? Does the butcher know that you are on your way to heaven? Some of you buy meat on Saturday night, and have him deliver it on Sunday morning, just to save a little ice, and then you wonder why he doesn’t go to church. If you had to get into heaven on the testimony of your washerwoman, could you make it? If your getting into heaven depended on what your dressmaker knows about your religion, would you land? If your husband had to gain admittance to heaven on the testimony of his stenographer, could he do it? If his salvation depended on what his clerks tell about him, would he get there?”
It’s fun to see the names of different occupations that no longer exist, but it makes me wonder how many of the same people we see regularly today. We can easily live our lives now with very little human contact. We can self-check at the grocery store, do banking online, and pump our own gas. An email is often faster than a phone call. Have we lost something with the lack of a personal touch?
Later in the same chapter, Billy Sunday tells about a time he preached in a town in Nebraska. People there kept telling him about one specific man. They had condemned him for being a drunkard and had shunned his wife and children. Billy Sunday found that man and said, “My name is Sunday; I’m down at the church preaching. A good many have been talking to me about you and I came down to see you and ask you to give your heart to God.” That man took him by the hand, “and as tears rolled down his cheeks he said: ‘I have lived in this town 19 years and you are the first man that has ever asked me to be a Christian.’”
The man ended up at Billy Sunday’s services and gladly came forward to take a stand for Jesus Christ. As Billy Sunday puts it, “Men do care to talk about Jesus Christ and their souls. ‘No man cares for my soul.’ That’s what’s the trouble. They are anxious and waiting for some one to come.”
Are you anxious and waiting for someone to come? Or are you the one who needs to share with that neighbor? Some of Jesus’ final words to His disciples were, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). You don’t need to be an evangelist like Billy Sunday. You just need to be willing to go.
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.