Monday, August 13, 2012

Christians and Evangelism

By Gerald Cowan

    "Can we be totally Christian until we are soul winners?"
    The implication of this is that one who has not won another soul for Christ is not fully Christian, or at least is not a very good Christian. Some overzealous people have implied that unless one is a soul-winner he is not even an acceptable Christian, that he may forfeit his own salvation and not be able to go to heaven. Some have actually said, "You can't go to heaven by yourself. You've got to take someone with you."
    But here is a critical point that bears heavily upon the question: you cannot win someone who does not want to be won.  You cannot teach someone who does not want to be taught. You cannot convince or persuade someone who does not want to be persuaded. You certainly cannot make another person's decision for him. There are many times when the preacher, teacher, or would-be soul winner says everything he can say and effectively leaves the person who hears it with no excuse for not obeying it. But still the hearer refuses to obey. He simply makes no positive response at all. To insist that no one can go to heaven without persuading some others to obey the gospel sets a condition that God did not and does not impose, a condition that some might not be able to meet. If you grant that part of your "ticket" to heaven must include some accompanying souls you have "saved", then how many must there be? Is one enough?
    Paul's personal example is instructive for all of us. He said that his commission from the Lord was to preach the gospel. Whether or not anyone obeyed the gospel that he preached, he fulfilled his own responsibility by proclaiming the truth at every opportunity. His commission was not to be a baptizer, but to be a preacher, a proclaimer of the gospel. If he did that faithfully the Lord would be pleased with him. If he did not, he would be cast away from the Lord himself (1 Cor. 1:14-17, 9:16 and 27). The response to the gospel is up to the one who hears it. Those who understand it and receive it gladly will obey it (Acts 2:38-40, Mark 16:15-16). It is not credited to the personal account of the preacher/teacher.
    Does that mean a Christian does not have to be or need not desire to be a soul-winner? No, of course it doesn't mean that. Every Christian must want to be involved somehow in the soul-winning process. It may be better to say each one should be involved in evangelism - in teaching, preaching, sharing or making the gospel available to others. The word soul-winner does not appear in scripture, but has been coined by those who promote "personal evangelism," the efforts of any person to share the "good news" of the gospel of Christ with others. There are several ways to be involved in evangelism.
    (1) Pulpit preaching and classroom teaching are both evangelistic activities. They try to instruct those who hear so that they can make properly informed decisions, then motivate them to put into practice what they have learned.
    (2) Some are directly involved, either teaching a group or in one-on-one instruction.
    (3) Some are indirectly involved: they pray for those who teach directly, they offer words of encouragement, and they give financial support. All of these have fellow-ship in a ministry of the gospel, the process of reaching and winning souls for Christ.
    The trouble with making the admissions I have just made about soul-winning is that people may come to believe they are in a good relationship with the Lord, saved and safe, even though they are not personally involved as soul-winners. Of course that is not true. Those who are able to teach should be making some effort to teach. Having personal ability brings personal responsibility. Everyone can be involved at some level. If one has no desire to see others saved, no interest or concern, or no willingness to be involved in the salvation of others we could safely question the genuineness of his or her Christian faith.
    Ultimately, the only soul any of us can win for Jesus Christ is our own. We will give an account of ourselves to Him, to explain why we did or did not accept His words and obey His gospel, and why we were or were not faithful to His calling and His mission.

- Gerald Cowan preaches  for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at

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