on 24 September 2013
What is the business of Christians or the church? Fishing (Matthew 4:19), or in the context of this book, to win souls for Christ.
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!