Win Them…To What? (IBTR #38)

Have you heard someone talk about how dearly they love souls and discuss their efforts to win folks? Well, that would have to be a good thing. Have you ever, though, thought that something was off? That the action, though intense, did not match a heart of love for the souls of others? It is possible in every corner of the Christian world that people may not be loved for themselves, or even really for Christ. It is within the Independent Baptist world, where some of the greatest soulwinning efforts have taken place, that I want to ask: win them…to what?

While it is impossible to know someone’s heart, it is at least possible to discuss what makes someone feel used. If the Gospel is a gift, and it certainly is, then being used is the most unnatural thing to ever show up if we share it with someone else.

Then why do we compete? Why, for example, as we have seen at times, would one bus route compete against another? Why would churches compete and the numbers reached get written up? Why would a soulwinner and his “string of fish” get publicized? And worst of all, why would the pastor with the most baptisms, or the biggest day, get fame in our papers?

Some have argued that these contests have actually produced great results. But a deeper question demands to be asked: if fame on whatever level, from national down to church level, is a naturally intoxicating result, then what is the real value of a soul in our hearts?

You say, well as long as they get saved what difference does it make. If they ever get to thinking that was your goal, and that they were a mere notch on your gun to bellow about on the street, it might make a great deal of difference. Their walk with God might be damaged along with all its residual blessings.

Sometimes it gets worse. Pastors can lose sight of the goal, as well as mar the work of the ministry. If that glorious calling to the ministry degenerates into building a personal kingdom, then souls are little more than pawns in a twisted game.

Some of the most hurt people, and a little put off with Christianity at that, come from the ranks of those who one day woke up and felt they were being used. Win them–seeing a soul saved is truly one of the greatest things in the world. Just be careful and ask…win them…to what?

Find all articles in the series here.

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34 thoughts on “Win Them…To What? (IBTR #38)

  1. I think this is an amazing discussion that I think could end up being addressed over several posts. The first thing that comes to my mind here is Isaiah 29:13. The first portion is vital: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,” and usually it stops here, but I do not know why people tend to cut off the last part of the verse: “and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” – I think that this is a huge part of the problem. People are taught to say things like “i win people to God because I so love God and so love people” but they only say that because that is what they know they are supposed to feel. They trick themselves into thinking they actually do, but in reality they only care about themselves. They don’t really fear God, and they don’t really love people. But they know they are supposed to, or perhaps they don’t really know what it really is to fear and to love. So they just talk the talk and try to walk the walk, and hopefully they will get by. But like you said, they just end up using people to gain self-approval. While they may be seeking the approval of men, I think they really just want to be able to approve of themselves, and gaining man’s approval is one way they do it. If everyone else thinks I’m doing a great job for the Kingdom, then I must really be on fire for God!
    The other thing that could be given a lot of time for discussion is the idea behind “what exactly are you winning them to?” because this is absolutely HUGE. I fear that many times we substitute Christ for a prayer and profession. We win them to admit some things, but they aren’t really claiming Christ. We tell them to invite Christ into their hearts, while at the same time never really getting to respond to Christ’s invitation. They leave the conversation thinking they are sealed in salvation when there has been no real conversion. They have not become a disciple. And perhaps we even get them to attend our church, but they still have no real desire to continue in the faith, they are just adding something to the life they are already living. We end up filling our churches with people who name Christ, but have no heart for Him. They could care less about God’s Kingdom. When hundreds of people came to Christ to hear his Word, Christ usually ended up driving most of them away. He was not about results. He was about Spirit and Truth. Who cares if you have numbers if those numbers don’t represent real disciples? We end up wasting our time and resources on people who have no intention on being true disciples.

    • I would really love for this to be a thoughtful introspection for us all. Thanks for adding some thoughts for us to really consider. This subject scares many people, but it should be addressed.

      • If they’re scared, they ought to be scared… This is one of the biggest sources of problems in our churches today, IMO, because many pews are full of people who made empty professions (often as young children at the insistence of their parents, who grow up to proselytize others to such faith. And again, it’s another one of those problems whose source is found in the roots of the movement… Thanks.

      • Krakowian,

        This is a huge fear of mine. I have 5 children, the oldest is 10. My 2 oldest have made professions, but I try very hard not to push it on them. Neither have been baptized nor do I try to push them into any sort of spiritual commitments. I am afraid that if I do that then I am going to make them have a head salvation that will keep them from having a heart salvation. I want them to have the freedom to learn to follow God when they are older and actually read.

  2. I do fear that many “souls won” are not truly converted to Christ. I grew up believing that one could give a five to ten minute sales pitch at a door, and expect someone to receive Christ with few to no questions asked. I look at my own experience. I have lead many people in a “sinner’s prayer” without ever telling them that receiving Christ for real means that they were submitting to Him as their Lord, God, and King. Few of those people ever attended a church service, or ever expressed spiritual interest of any kind on follow up visits. Win them to what??? I didn’t win them at all.

  3. One of the things Dave Cochran touched on is the lack of discipleship. It seems like many have forgotten or have never truly been taught that part of the Great Commission is discipleship, not just getting someone ‘saved’. Or discipleship is thought of merely as going through a discipleship class and a curriculum rather than a mentorship, i.e. a teacher and a student. Oftentimes, too, Christians are taught that discipleship is done only by church leaders, so the average Christian never goes beyond ‘milk’ and never reproduces. We are taught to witness to people, get them to accept Jesus if we can, or invite them to church where they can hear the Gospel and ‘get saved’. Sunday morning sermons are often evangelistic in nature and focused toward unbelievers and altar calls rather than geared toward equipping the saints for the work of service and being ready to give an answer for a reason of the hope within us. So yes… win them to what?

    • Hit that nail on the head you did Rene Yoshi.

      “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” John Maxwell.

      I get to brag on my pastor here. Pastor House does a great job of balancing the content of sermons and lessons at our church. But, the biggest smart thing that Pastor House does, that I have never seen at any other independent, fundamental Baptist church is that he has really good teachers in our church do a lot of the Sunday School teaching and other lessons and preaching as well. These teachers write their own lessons and preachers write their own sermons

      One of the best Sunday School teachers I have ever sat under is Rob Harding, a bread salesman. God has been delivering very powerful, rubber-meets-the-road lessons week after week through a man that spends six days a week running a large bread route and managing other bread guys in SW Washington.

      Bread. Is that not ironic?

      I fully agree that we need discipleship along with evangelistic services.

      • Stu – this is inconsequential, but Lee Roberson (November 24, 1909 – April 29, 2007) was saying from pulpits that “Everything rises and falls on leadership” before Mr. Maxwell was born.

  4. In the world of business, sales competitions work because they help motivate people to do more with the result of a healthier bottom line and more black ink. But, even in business sales, if all a company does is make the sale, but they don’t serve these new “converts” well, the sales successes are soon forgotten as these new converts go away.

    In soul winning, much of the same is true but even more so because the stakes are so much higher. Winning a soul but leaving them to grow on their own enlarges Heaven but is not an exercise that satisfies The Great Commission. We should certainly win them, baptize them and see do what we can to teach them.

    I love Big Days and bus route competitions. I love that there is a group of people that go above and beyond to faithfully spend hours every week either filling a bus or van full of folks to come to church and hear the gospel, or maintain said bus route.

    Sorry, but I just can’t find ANYTHING wrong with this. It’s pretty difficult to judge folks who do nothing but help people obtain the free gift of eternal life. If the soul winner also needs to be better at discipling, then some on-the-job-training is in order.

    When I was at FBC Hammond, there was always a small faction of workers who were all gung ho but not really sure what they were gung ho about. But, most of us had it right; winning souls and getting them to win others was the main thing.

    I worked in Sunday Schools and bus routes for many years. I can’t find anything to complain about folks who are producing big numbers. I do agree that the person who likes to crow about their big numbers might be suspect, but I’ve never met one so I can’t be sure. But, if a person is consistently winning and bringing them to church, or just winning, or just bringing, I say lift them up, regardless.

    I get the point in this article. I agree that right motivation is important. How to teach right motivation and the proper appreciation for a soul is not an easy thing to do. It is necessary. I don’t know how to do it without taking away from the honors due Jesus who did the heavy lifting in salvation, The Holy Spirit who does the heavy lifting in soul winning and the soul winner who makes themselves a vessel for The Work.

    Good luck. I hope we all live on the same block in Glory so we can compare notes.

    God bless.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I personally feel the sales model for business becomes problematic in several ways in God’s work. If everyone approached it with the balance you say, perhaps it would not be such an issue. Glad your comments are here as people think through to their own conclusions.

    • I’m sure that what I I’m going to say is bound to upset somebody. I have no hard feelings for anyone, and don’t wish to be mean, or throw mud at any individual or group, but we need to be honest with ourselves, because upon this hangs the eternal souls of countless people.

      I have gone “soul winning” (the reason for the scare quotes will be obvious later) with people from the Hyles school of soul winning, and it was very discouraging and, to be frank, disenchanting. I learned very much how _not_ to win souls.

      Invariably, this is what would happen on these occasions. The fellow would knock on a door, and when answered, would try to get to present a few verses to the person. If they allowed, he would go through the Romans Road, and almost invariably, I could tell by the expressions on the face that they were simply humoring the “soul winner”–smirks, rolled eyes, etc. Thing is, the “soul winner” never paused to actually look at the person he was dealing with. He was focused entirely on what he was doing. Sure, he’d ask questions and ask if there were questions, but frankly, he was on railroad tracks, and was steaming toward his goal. At the end, the “soul winner” would invariably ask if he could pray for the person, and they almost always said “yes.” Invariably, when he reached the end of his prayer, and sometimes without saying “Amen” he would ask the other person to pray after him, and he would pray some sort of sinner’s prayer. I confess that I usually peeked at this point, and most of the time, the other person would have a look of incredulity on his or her face, or a very large smirk, but one thing I never saw was a contrite and convicted face–the face of someone aware of their standing before God, and in need of His saving grace. Simply put, they were just going along with the “soul winner” to humor him and speed him on his way. Can we really say that these were souls won for Christ?

      Here’s the thing. The “soul winners” (and what I am describing is several people in several states across several years) I was with were genuine people, with a real heart and concern for souls. They weren’t after numbers. They thought that they were truly leading these people to Christ. They always walked away from these encounters sincerely believing that there was a new soul won to Christ that day (or in most cases, several that day). Sometimes they would share afterwards how many, but most of the time, when we’d get back, nobody else was there, and we’d say our goodbyes, and go our separate ways–they weren’t after glory–just souls. But thinking back, I can’t remember one of the people who were “won” who even _cared_ about what the “soul winner” was saying. They were just humoring the fellow (or mocking him), and nothing more.

      The thing is, in every case, these “soul winners” were from a church that did stress numbers, that did have competitions, etc.–everything the Hyles school of soul winning recommended.

      I don’t want to pretend that everybody in these churches was like that. I only know the people I went soul winning with, but my experience was consistent. This was _the_ method for “soul winning.”

      One other point. My own pastor taught me something when I started working our church’s bus ministry. He told me, “how you win them is how you gotta keep them.” If you get them on the bus with gimmicks, games, prizes, etc. then the only way to keep them coming is with more of the same. But if you get them on the bus through genuine compassion, through caring for them and their families–in Christ’s compassion– then that is how you’ll keep them–in Christ. If I had to choose between the two, then I’d choose the latter every day. And like so many things in life, if you pollute the latter with the former, you lose the latter. Or, to use the analogy of David and Goliath. If you try to fight Goliath with the world’s armor and weapons (world’s methods), you’ll lose, even if it looks impressive. We need to fight God’s battles with God’s weapons (scriptural methods).

      Here’s the kicker. There is no practical difference between the Hyles’ method and the various purpose-driven or seeker-friendly methods. They are all man-centered, not Christ-centered.

      Again, I don’t say this just to knock a certain school of thought or to be negative. I say this out of a concern that a style of soul winning that reflects numbers invariably leads to this sort of result.

      I would rather spend weeks going back to the same individual, meeting at other times, getting to know the person, their perceived needs, their heart needs–not merely pointing them the way, but showing them and leading them, making them a companion on the journey, and at the end of the year, have maybe one person truly come to Christ, baptized and participating in church life than to have 30-50 or more professions, and not one of them, baptized and participating in church life. If your numbers for professions are high, but your church numbers are not nearly equal with the professions, then maybe something is wrong–just maybe… And that is my perspective.

      • I had the same experience with a handful of folks and even tried it myself when I was a member of the Fisherman’s Club led by Mr. Godfry at The College. But, my experience was not that this was the right way to do it. I was noticing that there was a lack of communication about half the time.

        While knocking doors with this Fisherman’s Club way of doing things, I met a rather famous person in Murfreesboro, Tennessee who agreed to pray with me. While I was in the middle of trying to lead him in “The Sinners Prayer”, right before we closed the prayer, he added, “And Jesus, please help these guys in my back yard finish cutting down this tree safely.Amen”

        To this day, I’m still not sure if the fellow got saved. But, it was a great lesson to me in personal communicating skills, not to mention “soul winning”.

        Folks who have a genuine heart for souls come to learn how to successfully interact with other humans if they do not already know how.

        Indecently, I found out that in a short time after I left Hammond for a career move that Mr. Godfry had been replaced.

        In summary, I believe, and I think so do most independent, fundamental Baptists, that the winning of a soul is actually done by The Holy Spirit. All we do is plant the seed, and if the opportunity is there, we try to harvest or draw the net. But, if the lost person does not want to get saved at that moment, obviously we should not burn any bridges. We should always try to leave on a good note. This is how I was taught by Pastor Tony Hutson at the Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; an independent, Fundamental Baptist church, and it just makes good sense.

        Here’s my suggestion; it seems that most folks here agree on how to do it right. Why point fingers and judge, when;
        1. You may be incorrect
        2. It serves no good purpose
        3. Plays right into the enemy’s playbook. Hell 101; Get Them Fighting ?

        If you think that you are serving a higher purpose by warning others? You might want to think again about that. Go back and read some Hebrews, Galatians, Ephesians, Proverbs, and all of the gospels and Romans and Acts while you’re there.

        If you’re going to warn about certain types, pick types that Christ told us to warn about in the Bible. Don’t choose an independent church that also goes out regularly and knocks on doors and tells others about Heaven and Hell and invites them to get saved. I understand that leading someone in prayer when they don’t really want to pray is not the best thing, and, that individual never getting saved is one of the possibilities from that, but to throw the entire situation out because of that failure to be sensitive to the other side of the conversation, may really be more damaging than you intend.

        Think about really asking Jesus in your prayer closet if that is the best course of action for you to take.

        Churches that have the truth and share it with their community are not a dime a dozen. The world is scarce of that commodity and will never have enough. Maybe it would be better if we all just simply made sure that we show up on the day or evening that our pastor has set aside for door knocking, and leave how other churches do it up to The Shepherd to train.

        My wife and I go out on Thursday nights at 6:30 during the spring, summer and fall months. During the winter, we do something different. Knocking on doors after dark is not always the best way to invite folks to church and look for opportunities to plant the seed. Every community is different. Each local church must independently decide for themselves the best way to serve their community’s need for The Gospel.

        Realizing in one’s mind that there is Hell to miss and Heaven to be gained and therefore making a decision and a prayer to call on the Saviour to ask Him to pay for my sins, even though a weighty decision, is a simple thing. It was designed to be simple so that even a little child could be saved.

        By comparison, convincing someone to come to church regularly, read their Bible, get baptized, start tithing, joining a ministry or two; this by comparison is a hard thing. The Bible is pretty clear that this is a hard thing. Living in the spirit is a hard thing to do 365 days a year.

        Doesn’t it make sense that if we are trying to get people to do an easy thing and a hard thing, that our efforts will result in having way more people do the easy thing than the hard?

        Therefore, having 50 or 60 people get saved, but only 5 or 10 actually join the church is not only a common occurrence, it is reality for a church that is doing it the right way.

        Just my opinion and my experience.

      • “Folks who have a genuine heart for souls come to learn how to successfully interact with other humans if they do not already know how.”

        I wish that were true, but the soul winners I mentioned were frequently middle-aged or older people (and not just one pastor). These were people, frequently with years of experience at this. The thing is, in normal circumstances they would never attempt to railroad people in this way–like if someone came down at invitation, or a friend who came to them for assistance. But put them on visitation, and an entirely different beast appears–though a couple guys I know did this all the time, and were highly praised for their zeal.

        This problem is not necessarily wide-spread. It does seem to be limited to certain circles, but even beyond that, the desire to win souls–to get decisions does create a dangerous environment. And like I said, these soul winners are convinced people are being born again, but my experience has been that this is not at all likely–and like you, I’ve traveled to hundreds of churches, but as a missionary, and have seen all kinds of churches, and seen, I think, just about everything that the Fundamentalist movement has to offer. 🙂

      • I just noticed a typo that was my fault, not the spell checker. I did not mean to say “indecently”, rather it should have read, “incidentally”.

        Couldn’t find an edit button. What a horrendous mistake in spelling when talking among Christian gentleman and ladies about weighty matters. I promise to be better in my attempts to avoid being indecent in future communications. :^)

        Please know that I agree that there is a problem among many churches that feel that they must get regular high numbers of people who can be said that they got saved. Yep. And, First Baptist Church of Hammond was one of them that had folks teaching that way. Sad but true. My narrative is testament to that history.

        But, please know that when one is speaking about a group that includes as many members and teachers and leaders and assistant pastors, etc… they are talking about families just like your family.

        Churches are made up of families. Real people are struggling there to do right in a difficult situation that is made even more difficult because they had a pastor go off the deep end in a very public way. I know these folks personally. I did work with the Schaaps on a publishing project many years ago. My brother-in-law is the church’s song leader and in charge of the church music ministry and has taught at the college for decades.

        So, put yourself in Mario’s place at Christmas time around the table after the meal when the kids are playing and a couple of the men folk and women folk are sipping coffee and talking. What kind of topics come up do you think? Mario and I are fully engaged in serving our Saviour: he in Hammond and me in Longview, Washington. What would we talk about, especially right after something horrendous happened?

        Yes, I actually expected that Mario would pack up the family, my sister included and leave.

        Much to my surprise, he and April are still there. Their church has a new and wonderful pastor. The church has folks saved and baptized every week. The gospel is preached, families are blessed, marriages about to break up are repaired, divorces avoided. The Bible is preached. One can go online and watch sermons of Bro Wilkerson. Just like one can go online and watch sermons of my pastor, Bro House in our little church that has 180 in service on average (Longview Bible Baptist Church, Longview, WA). I help with the media stuff there.

        Life goes on even though folks still attack Bro Hyles who is in Heaven, attack the church and certainly attack the college. These families, many of which have been there for decades, go on week in and week out, regardless of all of our opinions and repeating what we’ve heard in forums like this.

        Thank God for THIS forum which is full of real Christians like krakowian and nicholasholmstedt and pastorjimmyreagan who can have an adult conversation.

        I see that this discussion is kinda “owning” this string which is not necessary. My long answeres and engagement have been some at fault for this, so I’ll understand if this discussion string gets cleaned up a little.

        Back on topic now.

        Win them to what, you were saying? :^)

        Yea Jesus!

      • I think everyone commenting here has a genuine interest in preaching the REAL gospel and REALLY leading people to Christ. I think that for those discussing these things here, the problem may not be our motives as much as it is our message. I just want to toss out a few thoughts and if you wish to talk about any of them, be my guest. However, in my experience, our message could really use some fine-tuning.
        1. What are we trying to get them to do? Pray a prayer or become a disciple? “They went out from us because they were not of us.” What does this imply? That people leave the faith because they were never really part of it. Therefore, how can we say “we lead 50 people to Christ, and while those people got saved, only 3 of them have an active faith.” The book of James also makes it clear that an active faith is no faith at all. Those 47 people who prayed with you are not saved. They made a profession but never had a conversion. Because conversions ALWAYS produce action. Biblically speaking.
        2. What Gospel did Jesus Himself preach? The first time we see Jesus preaching the Gospel, what was His message? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” He did not call people to bow their heads and pray a prayer. He called them to repent and believe. Not only that, but what was the reason for this? Because the Kingdom was at hand. We preach the gospel not to make sure people go to heaven, but because when people repent, we enact God’s will of redeeming creation.
        3. What is repentance? Saying sorry? Nope. It’s turning. What does that look like? It’s a life thing. It’s a priority thing. It’s a passion thing. If there is nothing in a person’s life that has “turned” then that person is relying on a confession and not Christ. They are not saved. You can say “only God knows their heart” but God told us that we can know people’s hearts according to their fruits. That’s just the way it is. When we lead people to TRUE repentance, we are inviting them to count the cost and see if Christ is worthwhile. not only that, but also calling them to leave their sin behind and pick up a cross instead. Unless a seed has already been planted, this cannot happen at a doorstep. Every once in a while you will reap the harvest that someone else has sown at a doorstep, but that is rare. The rest of the work is seed-planting so that someone else can reap a harvest in the future. We should not push for a confession after a 5 or 10 minute conversation because chances are we’re going to end up leaving them with a false hope. Nobody makes a life dominating decision in 10 minutes. It takes time. You would never buy a house after 10 minutes of research. You would never ask a woman to marry you after knowing her for 10 minutes. Why do we treat the Kingdom like it’s just some sort of spontaneous, flippant decision? Again, sometimes we will come across people who have already been planted, watered, and are ready to harvest. But that is rare. And someone still needs to sow seeds. So keep on door-knocking if you want.
        4. What fool would not want to choose heaven rather than hell? We’re all selfish by nature. Any egotistical idiot would want heaven instead of hell. Trying to convince people to “pray a prayer to go to heaven” is not the Gospel. the Gospel is outside of what is convenient and desirable for us. It is not believing in heaven. It is trusting Christ’s sacrifice instead of our own way. We are not leading people into yet another man-centered decision. We are leading them to something that is incompatible with ego. Again, it’s about God’s Kingdom. It is about Christ’s atonement. It is about the redemption of the world! God loves them and wants them to be saved. Yes, this is true and I love it. How could I not? But conversion is not about adding heaven to our after-bucket list. If it is, it’s no wonder people don’t last in the faith. Their conversion was all about them. Why shouldn’t their life be?
        5. This will be the last point. We need to be careful to not let people walk away from a “profession” thinking they invited Jesus into their lives. The Gospel means stepping into Christ’s. We do not invite Jesus into our heart. We respond to Christ’s invitation into His Kingdom. Again, it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Yes, Christ does dwell in us. But that is a product of conversion. It is not what we pray for to be converted. It’s like saying “Just ask Christ to make a home for you in heaven and you’ll be saved.” It’s a product of our salvation, but it’s not what saves us.

        So let’s be careful how we talk to people. The last thing we want to do in our genuine attempts to lead people to Christ is to end up making more occupants of hell due to false hope that was a product of a faulty message.

      • I debated sharing this experience from my life, but I will anyway. I’ll try to leave enough details out so that the church cannot be identified. Years ago, I had to do temp work for a period of time, and was working at a place with other temp workers, and the location of the plant was such that most of the workers were from another town near mine. These guys called themselves the children of the devil. One had done juvie time for manslaughter or attempted manslaughter (I don’t remember now if the guy he beat up had died, or almost died). All did drugs, drunk, and would spend all their paychecks the first night at the bar. After a while of working there, I discovered that a fair number of them had gone, as kids, to one of the bigger churches in the area, that was known for its large and successful bus ministry. This pastor was known all over, and had, I believe, spoken at various fellowship meetings. Every one of these people mocked God, mocked my Christianity, but when pressured, all claimed they were “born again” and would then proclaim “once saved, always saved.” Every one of them had made a profession while a kid on the bus ministry of this church. I am talking a half a dozen or so here, not just one or two. And like I said, these guys all mocked Christ, mocked that church, and bragged how they had disturbed meetings, caused problems, etc. But they had, every one of them, prayed a prayer, so “once saved, always saved” was their motto. They had certainly attended there enough to get that hammered into their heads.

        This was not a super-huge church, and how they operate(d) is certainly not uncommon among the IBF movement. I know people from that church, and had friends there. This was not a bad church, a pastor-worshipping church. I know those people loved the Lord. I know they had a desire for souls. I know that they wanted those kids to be truly saved, and in heaven, but their methods did not work. We cannot win souls in mass. We cannot think of them as just a soul, and not a person. There is no one-size-fits-all method of soul winning. I personally do not believe that the Roman’s road is the best way to lead a person to repentance. But this is all these people know. My heart goes out to such people, but the truth is, they are a part of the problem. There are millions of people walking around, who have prayed a prayer, and that’s all. And the saddest part is that those that helped them are convinced they have done a good thing.

  5. Bro Reagan,

    I think your article accidentally answered its own question. You’ve asked, “Win them to what?” When you talked about a “soul winner” (this is a generous term) being publicized for “his string of fish” – the answer is clear; he won them to himself.

    I also think you’re being too generous to say that some of the best soul winning efforts have been accomplished by Fundamental Baptist. This very issue, if not started, was encouraged, trained, and propagated by one of the founding fathers of the fundamental Baptist faith. I personally think it’s time his legacy and his disciples (to borrow his phrase), “get your dirty feet out of my drinking water.”

    Herein lies the issue because some of your articles, like this one, are calling for a revolution from a problem that is embedded into the foundation of Fundamental Baptism. Perhaps our focus should not be on revolutionizing a denomination that doesn’t desire to change. Perhaps our focus should be on fearing God and obeying His Word.

    • I see your point. As for this series, my real focus is on returning to God and His Word. Were we to be successful in that way the revolutionizing of a “denomination” would take care of itself.

    • There might be some confusion here that needs disambiguation.
      Speaking as one who has served our Saviour in Fundamental Baptist churches since age 13, this 56 year old man has never met a church pastored by a preacher who was determined to create disciples to himself, nor win others to himself instead of Christ.

      I have heard arguments like this before, and these arguments simply do not match my life long experience. I have been in media work since age 18 and my career in broadcasting has taken me around the country, so I have been a member of several Baptist churches; all of them Fundamental Bible-believing and independent. I have a broad experience in this church type. I also was a media producer for a group that travelled the country serving these churches by capturing Bible conferences on video and making the sermons and workshops available on VHS way back when., so I got to know many pastors around the country, from Bob Jones University to Hyles Anderson College, Crown College, American Baptist College and several very large Baptist churches in Longbeach, CA, the Portland, OR area, Napa, CA, the Chicago area, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa (yes, there are large Baptist churches in Iowa), Michigan… I could go on. There are large independent Baptist churches all over Amercica. The main thing that they have in common is The Gospel, and that they are not a part of any organized denomination.

      It is true that in the largest one in which I served for 5 years in Hammond, Indiana, that there was always a small group of untrained individuals who seemed to operate the way that you are suggesting, but some of them learn otherwise.

      The issue is probably not with all of these independent churches who are fundamentally following the Bible, rather it is a trait that can and probably does exist in all churches, businesses, schools, clubs, etc. It’s an ego issue. Therefore, a sin issue.

      I know for a fact that Jack Hyles fought hard against some individuals’ tendency to worship him instead of Christ. So did Bob Kelley at the Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Curtis Hutson at Sword of the Lord Publishers and his son Tony Hutson of the Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Also true of Bob Gray (Germany) and every single preacher who was a leader of a large group of Christians that I got to know.

      Strong personalities and large numbers of humans put into the same environment together obviously have the possibility of causing some men to lose sight of the main thing. This is why Jesus had to make sure that it was very clear in the Bible that we should not be men worshipers and men-pleasers, but seek after God.

      I do find it interesting that so many feel that several (hundreds?) churches that by definition are independent, would share such a trait that could best be passed on by studious design and deliberate training. And, why is it that so many find it very easy to begrudge large numbers of folks who claim to be saved?

      Anybody that comes to a decision of salvation the right way, has made that decision within their mind. What they tell others, and how they live their life is the only evidence by which we can “judge the fruit”. So, asking the question, “How many of them are truly saved?” is way more telling of the question asker’s spiritual condition than those who are going out and knocking doors regularly, and asking the question at the door, “If you died tonight, do you know for sure that you’re going to Heaven? If you are interested in finding out how you can know for sure, may I show you form The Bible?”

      We may all be living on the same block down Glory Lane in Heaven some day, so it would behoove us to simply be about the Master’s business, instead of handing the enemy a win by default.

      • I respectfully disagree that the asker’s spiritual condition is in question. It is a very valid question and one that is based on both experience and Scripture. The motive behind this series is due to a genuine love for The Lord, His bride, and even the Independent Baptist movement, which generally speaking is doing both good and harm to the Kingdom. I appreciate that Pastor Reagan is trying to deal with the things within the ‘denomination’ that are harmful in bold and yet gracious way in order to help not harm… to build back up and not tear down.

        I also really appreciate the point Dave Cochran made about getting people ‘saved’ to go to heaven. Like he said, that is not the Gospel, but in my experiences, that is the primary bait used to get people to make a profession. It’s not about going to heaven, it’s about being reconciled to God. It’s about being able to have fellowship with Him and worship and glorify Him because of who He is and what He has done. It’s about Jesus. For people to be led to believe if they say the prayer, thinking that’s all that’s needed to get to heaven, is a false gospel and is very dangerous. That’s what these men are trying to address and correct, because of their love for God and people.

      • When I was at Great Lakes Naval Base doing my Navy training, the people from FBC freaked me out and I never went there. I have attended IFB churches my whole life, so it had nothing to do with that. They never said what church they were from, but the did use high pressure tactics to try and bring people down to FBC overnight to play basketball and get food. They got some guys to go, but nobody ever went back. The pressure was immense to get “saved” . The love was non existent. Personally, I went to a smaller church that did not do soulwinning, but who I know loved me. They invited me to their houses and treated me like family, not just a conquest.

  6. I’ve always thought that winning someone to Heaven was the leading main thing. Since Jesus’ main reason to die on the cross was payment for sin, therefore justification with God, (Mercy and Justice kissing), that Heaven was a great lead, The great lead in witnessing to others. The meaning of the word Gospel, good news.

    So, I disagree with the notion that winning them to Heaven takes a back seat to anything else. It is the main thing. It is not the only thing, but it is CLEARLY the main thing.

    • 16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

      I see nothing about winning people to heaven in the “Great Commission”. I see teaching, baptizing, and more teaching. I am not sure how much you can teach somebody in 5 minutes at their door.

      • Since you can’t baptize a lost person, they must get saved first. If you do not see winning people in the great commission… hmmm.

        So, you are for baptizing lost people, adn teaching them to observe all things? So, lost people will tithe, win others, walk with Christ in day to day… oh never mind.

        No, I can’t imagine baptizing and teaching them at the door in 5 minutes. Silly notion. But, go ahead and try it. Let us know how that works out for you. :^)
        By the way, who does that?

      • Yes there is winning people, but not winning and then moving on forgetting those people’s existence. THAT is typical “soul winning”.

    • Again I respectfully disagree. 1 Corinthians 15 reveals what the ‘first thing’ is concerning the Gospel:

      “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” —1 Corinthians 15:1-4

      It’s all about Jesus and what He has done for us that we might have eternal life. Other portions of Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments reveal that the Gospel, the Good News is that Jesus has made a way of reconciliation so that there is no longer any condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. That is the main thing. It’s that the curse has been broken, the payment has been made, and we are now free to have intimate fellowship with our Creator once again. It’s not just about going to heaven. It is not primarily about going to heaven. It’s that we get to be with the One who created and dwells in heaven. As krakowian pointed out in his comments, using certain methods are man-centered. I dare say that trying to win people to heaven reveals a man-centered approach. People who ‘accept Christ’ because they want to avoid hell and not because they have a desire to know and follow the One who offers them eternal life reveals a wrong motive and not true repentance. Saying the prayer then becomes a work-based salvation and not a faith-based one.

      Paul touched on an issue that is similar to this debate. In 1 Corinthians 1, he addresses the issue of people name-dropping and saying they were followers of this man or that man and asked, “Is Christ divided?” He then goes on to say that he is thankful he baptized only a handful of people, because preaching the Gospel, i.e. the cross of Christ, what Jesus did for us, is the main thing. He says nothing about going to heaven being the main thing, just as baptism wasn’t the main thing. In that day, baptizing someone was almost the equivalent to ‘soul winning’ or proselytizing. It wasn’t and isn’t the main thing. You might argue and say that ‘soul winners’ do preach how Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day. Good! But that is only part of the Gospel and the Great Commission. Trying to win souls to heaven misses the mark. Again, as krakowian pointed out in his comments, most ‘soul-winners’ are not bad people; they truly love the Lord and people and believe they are actually winning people to Christ, but the tactics used are often man-centered and not Christ-centered, and therefore, often bear very little to no real fruit.

      An Independent Baptist pastor once asked us, “What is our primary purpose?” Invariably, we said, “To share the Gospel… the Great Commission.” I was surprised by his response but will never forget what He said. He said, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” which is based on the Greatest Commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. As Jesus pointed out, everything hangs on the two greatest commandments. If we put heaven first, then we miss the mark and the greatest blessing God has to offer— Himself.

  7. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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