If there is anything Independent Baptists can hang their hats on, surely it is their soulwinning efforts. It has seemingly always been an emphasis. Even if we must point out areas worthy of reform, we must give credit where credit is truly due. Independent Baptists have carried the Gospel all over the world. Even the problem areas worthy of concern are not an issue in most Independent Baptist churches as only in a few is it a serious issue.
Can you imagine the number of doors knocked, the tracts given, the Scriptures printed, collated, and given over the years? It is absolutely incalculable. I have seen some of the boldest people among us walk right up to some brawny, agitated guy and tell them that Jesus came to save. I have seen so many times what I believe to be deep sincerity in one telling of the Blood of Christ that falls down as droplets of eternal life. I have seen the going and going, even when results were meager, all because Jesus is worthy. This is praiseworthy, and in addition to saying to God be the glory, I must say it is a heritage I am happy to be part of.
Sometimes, and I pray it grows rarer still, there is a pressure that spiritual people can always succeed in soulwinning efforts as long as proper (sales ?) methods are used. The teaching goes that the more spiritual you are, the more souls you will win. The Scriptural proof is quite dubious, but it is heralded as the Bible’s teaching no matter what. It is that old Gamaliel line of reasoning. Remember Gamaliel reasoned likewise before the Sanhedrin to deliver the Apostles in Acts 5:34-50. Though the Lord used it to get the Apostles out of jail, the logic of his argument was flawed to the core. If it were true, how would you explain the far greater growth of Islam over Christianity today?
Along those lines, how would you explain more souls being saved in the Book of Acts than during Jesus’ ministry? Most Bible students would answer “the Holy Spirit”, but if your belief is that it is the spirituality of the soulwinner that is key, then what have you just said about Jesus? Or what about that Christian we disagree with on many points, and therefore assume is less spiritual than we are, who wins more souls than we do? That is a tricky explanation to come up with, wouldn’t you agree? I guess when our thinking goes here we conveniently forget that we only plant and water, but there is Another Who gives the increase. I mean He exclusively gives the increase despite whatever illusions of grandeur we may become infected with.
The ugliest side of this involves the abuse of hungry souls in an effort to prove we possess the spirituality that only numbers can prove. I have heard church members and college students confess an intense pressure to deliver. A few crossed the ethical line in the sand to work in the barren fields of manipulative tactics. I have heard with my own ears the regret of some who more or less tricked someone into saying “the prayer” and ran back to the church to show the notches in the gun while Heaven shows nothing in its record book.
Then some people who do these things get elevated, they become the gurus. Some boast mind boggling numbers. Strangely, the attendance in their churches never really increase while baptisms run in the hundreds. Weird things happen like one child being baptized ten times, and of course counted in the statistics every time.
Since I believe this is a small majority of our churches, let’s not be intimidated when they dole out the spirituality awards. Let’s not allow ourselves to be ridiculed as long as we know we are faithful in giving out the Gospel. Giving the Gospel is, and always will be, a worthy activity. Let us be humble before the God Who gives the increase. That still is our mandate.
Find all articles in the series here.
12 thoughts on “Soulwinning–The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (IBTR #30)”
Great post, and I agree with everything you’ve said.
I do think that the modern issues with evangelism are merely a bi-product of incomplete evangelism that was born in early fundamentalism. Back in the day, fundamentalism was the same way with evangelism – militant, loud, frequent, and fervent. There was a great need for sound doctrine in the face of rising liberalism and secularism. As a response, there was a huge push for personal evangelism. However, this was done to the detriment of discipleship, which is part of evangelism. We are told to “make disciples” in the great commission, not make decisions or pray prayers. Disciple making is something that takes years of effort put into individuals with the intent that you will in turn send them out to make and develop disciples, and I believe this developing stage is all but forgone. We think that Sunday preaching and personal quiet time is all the individual discipleship a person needs. There is no sense of training in today’s fundamentalist church, and that’s something I’m trying push to change.
After all, wouldn’t we have much for efficient and effective evangelists if they were first trained, rather than just told “get out there, knock on some doors, and share the good news!” Why do many turn to manipulative methods? partly, because I think they don’t really know how to evangelize in the first place. So evangelism morphs into getting easy-believism conversions. Not because we want Christianity to be easy, but because we want EVANGELISM to be easy. We just cut out the “count the cost” passages in Scripture and push for on-the-spot decisions and prayers. We rely on “once saved, always saved” doctrines to justify our lack of follow-up or genuine concern and development. We inevitably create an assembly line for mass production of cheap products that break easily and rarely work right, but at least they’re going to heaven, right? I would beg to differ.
These are points worthy of being dealt with!
I’ll never forget the time that my youth pastor told us that the reason that we had to fill in a zero on our activity report for souls won was was because WE were zeros.
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This is very good. My Pastor (http://www.mesabaptist.org) often talks about how so many churches rely on what he calls ” 1, 2, 3, pray after me” in order to increase numbers. Our Pastor back in MI felt the same way, and was completely supportive when we wanted to be absolutely sure our younger kids really understood what they were doing before becoming “saved” and before we allowed them to be baptized. They needed to come to an understanding that it wasn’t just so they could have Lord’s Supper. They thought it was a snack they were being denied, lol! I’m so gratefull that all four of my boys are saved and baptized, and truly understand the decisions they made, even with their special needs. Unfortunately, we have also been in churches in the past in which numbers were the be all and end all, which is sad, and which I believe causes a lot of false professions of faith because people, especially children, are pushed to make a profession they don’t even understand.
It is almost impossible to speak against soulwinning without seeming to be unspiritual. I personally have not been soulwinning in a long time. I do put out invitations for special events at my church. I put tracts on hundreds of doors that otherwise would not be reached by my church. I do it with as few people knowing about it as I can, because it seems to me like that is the way to do things.
I wonder how many people actually get saved for real with door to door soulwinning. In fact, I cannot think of one person that got saved at a door then became a solid member of the church and I have been to a lot of churches. I do know people, including my pastor, that got an invitation to a church, then attended months later, and were eventually saved.
I am thinking more and more that salvation is not a single event that happens through a prayer.
The second sentence of your second paragraph is a point quietly discussed by many.
JHB, I think you are thinking along the right track when you say “I am thinking more and more that salvation is not a single event that happens through a prayer.” Not that salvation isn’t a moment that you experience the “washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.” But we are called to go make disciples, not decisions. Conversions, not prayers. This involves constant discipleship of individuals. one of the many shortcomings of door-knocking is it places all the accountability on the unsaved person to 1. come to Jesus, and 2. if they happen to come to Jesus, to come to church, and 3. when at church, seek out someone to disciple them. Sure, your tract has an address where they can come to church to seek out the Truth – but we’re talking about unsaved people here. I think that easy-believism is a natural bi-product of easy-evangelism. Just go knock on some doors. Little to no risk to you. You don’t have to worry about anything but a closed door – and we call that persecution and chalk it up on the “suffering for Jesus” board. How soft are we? Would they be all about door knocking if they lived in a culture where it was likely that the guy on the other side of the door had a gun? Americanized evangelism is no-risk, and like most things, little to no reward. We blame our dwindling attendance on the carnality of people when we should be blaming it on the cowardliness and laziness of our own selves. To make a disciple takes hours upon hours of investment in individual people. Not Saturday morning bus trips to a new set of doors.
We were in a conference in a church once and in the evening service a man stood up and announced that he had spent the day in the city park (very small town with only one small park), and he had led 19 people to the Lord. Everyone began shouting and running the aisles, as well they should when one lost soul gets saved. Here’s the thing though, a blizzard had hit the city the night before and there was about a foot of snow on the ground – how many people could there have really been roaming around that park? Not only that, but we were there for three days, and since the park was in the center of town, we drove past it about 10 times at all different times of the day. I can tell you that not one time did we EVER see one person in that park trudging through the foot of snow. HMMMM – I’m thinking he must have witnessed to a bunch of squirrels???????
What some will do just to be thought a spiritual giant! Even be as unspiritual as to lie!
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Love the article – this is certainly a “sacred cow” in many churches… I’ve been in churches where this one thing was ALL: if you “won souls” you were spiritual, even if you had no fruit of the Spirit. I’ve read of young people getting awards for the many they’ve won, only to be exposed the next week as leading flagrant, immoral lives.
Contests are another great evil: If God is the one who saves, why do we award people who have seen the most saved? This just awards the best salesmen in the group. Why do not we rather award those who spend the most time, or knock on the most doors? Why are we so results-oriented, especially if we believe (as we say) that the Holy Spirit needs to convict them. So many seem to believe that they don’t need the Holy Spirit.
Finally, when there is a push for numbers, people will just start to make up numbers to appease the leadership.