The Soul Winner Paperback – 24 Mar 2011
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". . . full of the pith, humour and wisdom one expects of Spurgeon . . . it was to God that Spurgeon looked and expected blessing and that he received it . . . It is heartening to read of the joys and problems associated with the preaching of the Gospel . . . he had the ability to go to the heart of matters . . . This is a book to relish and enjoy, and then to apply, under the earnest seeking for the blessing of God, to today's world." (English Churchman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church (formerly pastored by the famous Baptist theologian John Gill). The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle.
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Spurgeon's approach is completely different. He does not give us a systematic approach to witnessing, but rather he simply explains what it means to win a soul, why it is so important, possible obstacles and so forth with so much heart, dedication and evident love for God's Word that after I finished it I was totally inspired to go out on the streets and tell everybody about the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ.
Every page is filled with personal stories, anecdotes and practical examples that make this book a pleasure to read.
A must read.
Many never think of spiritual issues at all and believe that death brings annihilation, with no consequences for anything that may have been said or done. The idea that there is even such a thing as good or bad, are outside the language and thought processes of too many.
How important is it to us that people around us are heading to destruction? It is very hard to grapple with this fact, as it hurts us to think that those around us that we love are in such straights, and we feel powerless to do anything about it. If someone chooses death, rather than eternal life, does it drive us to petition God to act to impress upon them their dangerous state? Do we try to think carefully of ways to engage the person, and "witness" to them?
These are some of the issues discussed by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in his book "The Soulwinner." This book is a collection of lectures to his students, to stimulate them to be very proactive in winning souls for Christ. He is clear that this is not just the job of the minister, but every Christian should be searching for opportunities to act and speak for Christ, and show those around them their need of forgiveness, and the love of Christ to rescue from punishment.
Spurgeon seeks to persuade and encourage all of us as Christian believers, to be soul winners. He shows us what a soul winner is; our frame of mind in being soul winners and what kind of words and attitudes are condusive to soul winning. This is not just a strategy to follow, but a mind-set and sincerity towards others that will draw outsiders into Christ's fold.
The book of Proverbs says "He that wins souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30) The idea of "winning souls" is expanded in Spurgeons lectures to remonstrate with us to apply this desire and action, into every area of our lives and to think and practice how we can reach out to other people directly. We pursue this goal through prayer; study of the scriptures; study of the humans we know and thoughtfulness towards them in Christ.
We all have responsibility for knowing the way to God clearly, so that we can share it effectively, when the opportunity arises. The qualifications for being a soul winner are set out clearly, such as, love for Christ - to want what He wants; humility - regarding the needs of the outsider more than our own comfort; seriousness in putting our lives right; making sacrifices to reach out to unbelievers. James says, "Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
Spurgeon sets out to us the glory of being a soul winner and the obvious blessings for the one who is brought to Christ and also for the Christian church and also for our own spiritual lives. I recommend this book and its thought provoking arguments and uplifting encouragements for God's people to leave all and follow the Master. Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32)
Haven't we all stumbled when we try and tell people about Christ? How many people whom we have been instrumental in bringing to Christ? Are we all easily discouraged? Are we effective in telling people the gospel? In my experience, I have met with indifference and apathy far more often than a keen interest and an open mind. We may ask, where do we fail and what are the secrets to winning souls? This book takes us on a field trip into this "fishing" business. From the mind of one of the greatest soul-winners, we are shown the ins and outs of how this business is really run!
Oftentimes to prepare for personal evangelism, we are equipped with knowledge, for example, "answers" to the common challenges, reasons to believe, or how to explain the gospel in three simple steps. When I fail, I often think that it is because I don't know enough. But no, this book is not about the theology or convincing arguments, which if memorised will guarantee souls being won; no, such list doesn't exist. Rather the business is about the people - the believers who would like to share the gospel, and the non-believers, who they are and why. In particular, we might think that we might win someone's soul by winning the argument, but no. Spurgeon says that people, with their opinion to them more weighty, more worthy of belief, than God's inspired declaration, are very hard to influence. He warns us, "not to fight them with their own weapons. I do not believe that infidels ever are won by argument; or, if so, it very seldom happens... As a rule, they barricade their minds against the assaults of reason ... I believe that you will rout unbelief by your faith rather than by your reason; by your belief, and your acting up to your conviction of the truth, you will do more good than by any argument, however strong it may be." (p.57)I believe Spurgeon is right.
The Great Commission is harder than we think because it is not just about persuasion of the minds but about flaming a flame in the hearts. In addition to sound knowledge, what else does it take?
1) Our own faith and conviction - how strong is it? Do we know our God? Do we truly believe what we say we believe?
2) Our love for others - if we truly believe the gospel and we love others, we would not be able to stand by and watch the condemned perish without wanting salvation for them.
3) Relevance - do we "see" people around us or are they just passerbys? Have we allowed too many to brush our shoulders without us really knowing them? Do we love each one as individuals, seeing their needs and sorrow, and knowing their heart's concerns?
4) Our suitability - Spurgeon says, "Experiences which would be unnecessary to you personally will become your portion if the Lord uses you for the salvation of others... even so doth Paul say, "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." For this cause we shall be made to undergo experiences which will surprise us." (p. 94) "Reckon, then, that to acquire soul-winning power you will have to go through fire and water, through doubt and despair, through mental torment and soul distress. It will not, of course, be the same with you all, nor perhaps with any two of you, but according to the work allotted you, will be your preparation. ... Payson truly said, "If anyone asks to be made a successful minister, he knows not what he asks; and it becomes him to consider whether he can drink deeply of Christ's bitter cup and be baptised with His baptism."... Men are usually won to Christ by suitable instruments, and this suitability often lies in the power to sympathise. A key opens a door because it fits the wards of the lock; an earnest address touches the heart because it meets the state of that heart. You and I have to be made into all sorts of shapes to suit all forms of mind and heart..." (p.95) And his solemn words: "In our beginnings we are too fine to be fit, or too great to be good. We must serve an apprenticeship, and thus learn our trade... Brethren, the knife of affliction is sharp, but salutary; you cannot delight in it, but faith may teach you to value it. Are you not willing to pass through every ordeal if by any means you may save some?... for no man will ever win a soul who is not prepared to suffer everything within the compass of possibility for that soul's sake." (p.96)
Point (4) is solemn - are we willing to suffer every ordeal in order to save some? We suffer for others in order that they may be saved. Do we love people enough to do that - people who do not even relate to us, people whom we may not even know or like? But Christ did that for us. This is the extent of Christ's love for us, even if it sounds absurd in human terms! In reaching out to others, we are asked to look to Christ and follow His example too. This is how much Christ loves us!!
Soul-winning is not a business that brings personal glory, Spurgeon sets us straight. It is a business that we must be prepared to be broken and to suffer; it is a business about serving others and not ourselves in any way; it is a business that we serve in humility.
After all that, the key to soul-winning is PRAYER, PRAYER, PRAYER, incessant prayer. We can never go out to the field relying on our own strength. We must pour our heart out to intercede for the lost souls. We do have to learn to have a big heart!!
And finally, this may surprise you, it is about TEAM work!!! The preacher in the front is doing his job, while workers are also among the people, and follow up on individuals. Although not every one of us is going to be a preacher from the pulpit, we can still all partake in the Great Commission in our different roles.
To win souls therefore is not about what we do, or about methods, but about who we are. That demands some soul-searching!
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