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  Andy Valaitis                 Let’s go soul-winning !            

Nothing has come under more opposition in the evangelical Christian church today than confrontational evangelism. It has not only fallen out of practice, but is also no longer believed to be an appropriate method of evangelism by more and more pastors in this hyper-sensitive, postmodern world we live in. The Christian who reads the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 can point out that the emphasis is not on preaching, but on making disciples of all nations. True indeed, but Romans 10: 13-17 reminds us that it will be hard to disciple anyone if they do not first believe the Gospel, and how will they believe unless they hear the Gospel, and how will they hear unless the Gospel is preached, and how will preachers preach unless they are sent ? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Remember also that Mark’s version of the Great Commission says only to “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

There are many false and distorted concepts about evangelism, just like there are false notions of the gospel and salvation. Many believe that the purpose of evangelism is to “save souls” or to get people to say a sinner’s prayer, or make some profession of faith. Maybe so, but those things are all God’s responsibility. Our responsibility is to preach. If it turns out that by God’s grace someone receives Christ as Savior, we have a commission from Jesus to disciple them- to guide them in their walk with Christ until they have learned to be taught (discipled) by Christ, after which they can help to teach others (II Timothy 2:2). This does not happen independent of a good, Bible-believing, local Christian church.

Beware of one of the most dangerous distortions of evangelism by those who say they need no local Christian church. They are part of “The Church of Jesus Christ”- they say. They may very well be part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ, but God has placed us in local assemblies for the purpose of edification of love and faith (Ephesians 4). That cannot happen practically outside of the local church that a believer is called and committed to. These believers have been discouraged by the factionalism found in many, if not all Christian churches. So, it is understandable why they have been motivated not to partake in such divisiveness. To not be committed to any local church, though, is not a wise decision.

I Corinthians 12: speaks of how each believer is a member “In particular”, and how that each Spirit-indwelled believer is given at least one spiritual gift upon salvation, and how those gifts are designed to function together with others in the beautiful process of growing up together in love in the local church, in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16). The whole letter of Paul to the Ephesians would be totally absurd if “The Church” is only understood in the universal, spiritual sense.

So, why is it that more and more Christians choose not to evangelize to strangers in public places? The biggest objection is that it “Simply doesn’t work. How many people have come into the church through public evangelism?” they say. This is a worthy objection – that is IF the criterium for effectiveness is counting directly how many people come into the church through evangelism. But wait a minute- do we only love people if we see visible results from our love? What visible benefit was there when Jesus died on the cross? Why didn’t anyone realize at the time that the sins of the whole world were being paid for that moment when Jesus died on the cross- just after he said “It is finished!”? Counting numbers is a rationalistic method of evaluating results. Are we not compelled as believers to walk by faith and not by sight? (II Corinthians 5:7)

Another objection is “I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m not an evangelist.” True, we may not have the spiritual gift of evangelism, but all believers are called to be witnesses for Christ and the testimony God has given of His Son through the Bible (I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11,12; Acts 1:8). The third reason is that the Holy Spirit “hasn’t led me to go.” This seems the most honest of all reasons not to evangelize. One believes that either the time or the heart is not right, so “if I preach the gospel, and the Holy Spirit is not with me, I may even do more damage than good.” This can be a very real situation, and if you fit in this category, and sense that God is specifically calling you not to go, then it may be best that you stay home and pray– while others go out who know they are called.

The fourth reason for not going is just as sincere. It’s simply not acceptable in our culture to come up to strangers and start talking with them (unless we are the ones who are lost and need directions). This is not America or Jamaica where everything is “A-OK” and “Cool Mon”. We can’t just “not worry and be happy.” Well, why not use reverse psychology and say “Excuse us, m’am. We’re lost. Could you please tell us how to get to….Heaven ? Some say that they can’t go for fear of what others will think of them. Long before we fear what others will think, if we were honest, we would fear what our own consciences would think of us going.

The fifth reason has more to do with misunderstanding the gospel than resisting its being preached. Some Christian denominations understand salvation not by grace alone, Christ alone, faith alone, nor the Word alone, but also by a cooperation of the believer to live a worthy life of works and fruit that, together with God’s grace, constitute one’s justification before God (not to mention the great help of interpretation of Scripture through the writings of the Church Fathers). The result of this understanding of the gospel is that the believer never feels worthy enough to share the gospel because he senses his works are not perfect and the Bible teaches that God requires perfect righteousness and holiness to be worthy to even enter into His presence. The Gospel is no longer good news, but a reminder of God’s judgment (through the law) on those who do not measure up to God’s righteousness- including the one sharing the gospel. So, the whole motivation of sharing good news is discouraged. I Corinthians 5:14 says that the believer is constrained by love, but if the believer is not sure himself of God’s love for him, there can be no confidence to share one’s faith with others. How can I share the love of Christ with others if I have not myself received the love of God? This realization can be good news right now as a first step towards receiving the love of Christ. If you are still reading this, for Christ’s sake, let God love you!

The last reason we will mention now (since there are many more) for not evangelizing today is a continuation of the previous one: the believer simply is not sure of his own salvation- let alone to share his doubt with someone else. The case may be that the person is not truly saved in the evangelical, reformed sense of having never really trusted in Christ for their salvation: where in a moment of time the Holy Spirit enters into the heart and regenerates the spirit of a lost soul through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone (without our cooperation of good works, baptism or even repentance. Romans 2:4 says that the goodness of God (The Gospel) leads us to repentance, not that our repentance leads us to the goodness of God. For example, take the thief on the Cross whom Jesus told “This day you will be with me in paradise!” All he said to Jesus was “Remember me when you go into your kingdom.”)

If you have already received Christ as savior, but for one reason or another, you have lost your assurance of salvation, reassure yourself that your salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, and the Holy Spirit is impressing it upon your heart now, convicting you of sin, you can receive Him into your heart by trusting in Him as your personal savior and receiving forgiveness of sin. Just invite him in. You will become born again as a child of God (John 3:3). Once He comes into your heart to live, The Holy Spirit will also help you make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life in a day to day relationship with Him where you will learn from then on to become the holy saint that, in Christ, you already are! Now that we have laid aside the objections to sharing the Good News, what’s to stop us from going? As Bible-believing, evangelical Christians, we have a true message of hope and salvation not just for eternal life, but in this life here and now. Are we afraid someone will think we are Mormons or JW’s ? We are probably more afraid- not that someone will accuse us of being hypocrites, but- that of our own consciences will accuse us of hypocrisy. The conscience of our old sin nature knows right well that we haven’t been keeping the perfect standards of Christ, which are much higher than what the Old Testament law dictates. We may not have committed adultery today, but have we not lusted nor coveted? Have we not been proud and unthankful? We may not have murdered, but have we not been lazy and irresponsible, criticizing ourselves and others in our heart? - Highly unlikely. So then, what right do we have to speak about God to others? Who are we and what kind of proud arrogance has inspired the writing of such an article? We must reply with Paul in I Corinthians 15:10 “I am what I am by the grace of God and what I do, it is not I that do it, but the grace of God that is with me.” Our message of hope, ironically, has only a little to do with whether our lives have changed or not, but all to do with Christ’s faithfulness in his finished work on the Cross. The only thing that would make our preaching vain is if Christ really hasn’t been risen from the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-18). Verse 19 says “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

As a church we go soul-winning every Saturday afternoon in a nearby park. In the winter, we go inside, door to door, by the warmth of the stairwells- those beautiful stairwells... every door, so beautiful- with beautiful people behind each one. I can’t say that many come to Christ or come to church through our evangelism efforts. Nevertheless, the gospel is preached- the gospel is heard. Most doors don’t open and of the ones that do, people behind them politely decline our free offer of gospel truth, but some oblige to talk with us, and sometimes even invite us inside to sit down in their living rooms. Those are the most special times when we can speak heart to heart in the intimacy and security of their own homes (by the way, do not let just any strangers into your homes). Ideally, the conversation is two-way and not just us preaching. Listening is so important when the motivation is to love with the same love of Christ that we have received. Regardless of the results, we always go home blessed, hungrier for God’s Word and more deeply in love with him then when we went out. It could be that God’s whole purpose for us in sharing the gospel is that fruit would be born in us. We must never forget that we are a work in progress (Philippians 1:6). One thing for sure: we have a message. It’s not a religious message. It’s a message of Grace. The gospel is not religious- in what man can do for God, or even what God can do for ”those who help themselves.” It’s all about what God has done for man. It’s not a promise based on conditions that must be met (impossible ones at that). The resistance to the message is not the fault of the message or even the method it is packaged in, but in the evil strongholds and deep, false, distorted concepts that people already have about the Gospel before we even come to the door. Like mentioned earlier, for many, the Gospel is the 10 Commandments, or the Golden Rule, or some kind of promise of heaven if we obey or surrender our hearts and lives to God. “In as much as you’ve done it unto the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.“ (Matthew 25). These are certainly Jesus’ words, and He even goes on to say that those who don’t do it, will burn in hell. These were words spoken to Jews about the Kingdom of Heaven in the Millennial Reign. This is not the Gospel. Thank God that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it! (John 3:17). The Gospel is not if we feed the poor we will be blessed and if we don’t we go into everlasting punishment. Jesus did not come to feed the poor with bread. Jesus is the Bread of Life and the poor in spirit will eat His body and drink his blood in communion with Him.

In conclusion, we Christians go Soul-winning because 1) God has given us a mandate, 2) We are constrained by II Corinthians 5:14 love (and there’s no law against love- Galatians5:23), and 3) simply because we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. So, See you out there!


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