The desire of my heart as a Pastor and Christian is that I lead my church to become just as passionate and intentional in evangelism and reaching souls. It seems as if churches and Pastors are content to trade disgruntled or discontented church members and call it growth rather than seeing true growth through evangelism. Dr. Kermit Long says, “With all our education, our fine buildings, our image of the church, we are doing less to win people to Christ than our unschooled forefathers did. We’re no longer fishers of men, but keepers of the aquarium, and we spend most of our time swiping fish from each other’s bowl.” Consider the following statistics:
• Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
• Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
• Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
• Seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the great Commission.
1. WE ARE NOT SOUL CONSCIOUS.
What does it mean to be soul conscious? It means that we must realize everyone has a soul. A soul is that spiritual part of man that lives apart from the body with all the senses intact. The soul will spend eternity in heaven or hell. Remember the story Jesus told in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus who died?
Both had an eternal soul and one went to heaven and the other to hell. Everytime we come into contact with someone we must be senstitve to the fact that they will spend eternity somewhere. Being soul conscious should provoke us to witness. Jesus is the example in this attitude. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The great Evangelist D. L. Moody made an covenant with God that he would witness for Christ to at least one person each day. One night, about ten o’clock, he realized that he had not yet witnessed; so he went out in to the street and spoke to a man standing by a lamppost, asking him, “Are you a Christian?” No wonder God used him to win so many people to Christ.
2. A FAILURE TO PURSUE GOD’S GLORY.
This is the greatest motivation for evangelism. God is glorified in our witness. Joseph Aldrich said, “God’s evangelistic strategy in a nutshell: He desires to build into you and me the beauty of his own character, and then put us on display.” Charles Spurgeon said, “Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls.” Jesus said in John 15:8,”Herein is my Father glorified, that if you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.”
3. WE FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF A SOUL.
Scripture says in Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Charlemagne (742-814) was the most famous ruler of the Middle Ages and a key figure in European history. It is reported that after his death, King Charlemagne was buried wrapped in royal robes sitting in a marble chair. On his lap was a Bible opened to Matthew 16. His finger pointed to verse 26. A man may have all the wealth the world can offer, attain all his heart and flesh desire, fulfill every personal ambition and yet die in spiritual poverty. It would do well for many to wake up and realize the value of the soul is far greater than anything this world can offer. The value of a soul can be understood in seeing the price God was willing to pay to ransom it from hell. The men that God has used greatly in the history of the church have been men who understood this and have longed for souls to be saved. When John Knox, in the enclosure behind his house, pierced the stillness of the night with the thrice-repeated, intense appeal, “Give me Scotland, or I die!” that eager, yearning, well-nigh broken heart got its Scotland. While David Brainerd, one of the most celebrated of our missionaries, was labouring among the poor, benighted Indians on the banks of the Delaware, he once said, “I care not where I live, or what hardships I go through, so that I can but gain souls to Christ. While I am asleep, I dream of these things; as soon as I awake, the first thing I think of is this great work. All my desire is the conversion of sinners, and all my hope is in God.”
4. WE DON’T BELIEVE IN ETERNAL PUNISHMENT.
This is one doctrine that people would just as soon not talk about. It is the doctrine people try to forget. We don’t want to think about a soul being in hell for eternity. Some teach annihilationism, that the soul is destroyed in hell and consequently is not there for eternity. In recent days it has become popular to deny this existence of hell and the result is a loss of evangelistic fervour. R. A. Torry was right when he proclaimed, “If you in any way abate the doctrine of hell, it will abate your zeal”
5. WE LACK COMPASSION.
Many believers are like Jonah. Jonah did not want to warn the wicked! He didn’t care for the people of Nineveh. He wanted to see them perish! In fact that was the very reason he ran from God (Jonah 4:2). We need to repent of our callous and hard heart. We need to ask God to baptize our hearts with compassion for the lost! “Tell me,” says Alexander Maclaren, “the depth of a Christian man’s compassion, and I will tell you the measure of his usefulness. The wealth of Egypt’s harvest is proportioned to the depth of the Nile’s overflow.”
6. WE ARE UNWILLING TO BEAR THE REPROACH OF THE GOSPEL.
There are some Christians who lack boldness and are unwilling to suffer rejection from the world for the gospel’s sake! Many want the benefits of the gospel but are unwilling to bear the reproach of the gospel. Timothy had this tendency and was at times a bit timid about sharing the gospel. Paul several times had to encourage him. Paul challenged him to never be reluctant to share in the suffering of the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.
7. FEAR OF FAILURE.
Some people think that if the people that I witness to and preach to don’t get saved than I have failed. What makes people hesitate to share their faith? Here are some of the fears that have been mentioned to me:
• “I am afraid I might do more harm than good.”
• “I don’t know what to say.”
• “I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”
• “I may seem bigoted.”
• “I may invade someone’s privacy.”
• “I am afraid I might fail.”
• “I am afraid I might be a hypocrite.”
• Perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected.
We must understand that we don’t control the results. We can’t make a person come to Christ! That is not within our power. It is God who gives the increase! Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, then leaving the results to God. There was a time when I got discouraged from soul winning because I felt like if people didn’t make decisions then I was failing! God delivered me from that by teaching me that salvation comes from the Lord! 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 teaches that Paul didn’t use man’s wisdom to produce the desired result. It wasn’t Paul’s persuasive or overpowering personality and charm that was necessary to produce conversions. Paul confessed that he was with them in weakness and fear and much trembling. He simply preached Christ and depended upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring the result! He declared in 1 Corinthians 3:4-8 that it is God who gives the increase. Paul didn’t want the Corinthian believers to give more credit to men then they deserve! (1 Corinthians 4:6-7) The psalmist was absolutely right when he said ”God has spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongs unto God” (Psalm 62:11).
8. FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND GOD HOLDS US ACCOUNTABLE IF WE DON’T WITNESS.
Did you know that God holds us accountable if we fail to witness? In Ezekiel 3 God compared His servant to a watchman. Watchmen were stationed on city walls, hilltops, or specially designed watchtowers. A watchman was to be on the alert for approaching enemies and warn the city’s people of any impending attack. This gave city dwellers outside the walls an opportunity to seek protection and gave the people time to secure the gates and man the defenses. God was saying to Ezekiel you are a watchman for Israel. You are to warn the wicked (Ezekiel 3:18-19). Someone may say, “Wait a minute this is talking about an OT prophet warning Israel. Does this really apply to a NT believer sharing the gospel? Does this have a NT application?”Read what Paul wrote in Acts 20:26; “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Paul draws upon this OT passage to declare his accountability to preach the gospel. If God places a person in my path and I fail to share the gospel of Christ and warn him of his sin then I will give account of it in the Day of Judgment!
9. BAD THEOLOGY.
Any theology that teaches that it is not our responsibility to preach and teach the gospel to every creature is a wrong theology! I oppose any theological system that denies that the gospel is not for every man and that every person does not have a genuine opportunity to be saved! Someone might say, “Well does not the Bible say that God has an elect.” It does. The Bible calls God’s people the elect. Some say, “Well if God has an elect then why worry about it?” Let me tell you who the elect are, it is whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord. The elect is anyone who wants to trust Jesus Christ. In order for them to hear they must have a preacher. What is unclear about the Great Commission? There are some students of Scripture that as they study they begin to learn about the sovereignty of God and suddenly that is all they focus upon. They forget that the responsibility of man is as equally true as the sovereignty of God. Man is responsible to repent, man is responsible to believe! Anyone who wants to be saved can be saved (Romans 10:13-14). When a man gets so high in his theology that it prevents him from passionately pursuing after sinners there is something wrong! C. H. Spurgeon said, “I had rather bring one soul to Jesus Christ then to uncover all the mysteries of the divine Word.”
10. A LACK OF FAITH IN THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL.
Some feel as if the gospel doesn’t work. They feel the gospel needs help. Churches today are using worldly methods to market the message and thereby cheapen the gospel. The philosophy of church growth today is pragamtism, whatever works do it! An article in The Wall Street Journal described one well-known church’s bid “to perk up attendance at Sunday evening services.” The church “staged a wrestling match, featuring church employees. To train for the event, 10 game employees got lessons from Tugboat Taylor, a former professional wrestler, in pulling hair, kicking shins and tossing bodies around without doing real harm.” [R. Gustav Niebuhr, “Mighty Fortresses: Megachurches Strive to Be All Things to All Parishioners,” The Wall Street Journal (13 May 1991), A6.] Such a spectacle is a disgrace to God and demonstrates a lack of faith in the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. There is no denying that these antics work– that is they draw a crowd but are you really building a church? Using gimmicks rather than the gospel demonstrates that one does not have faith in the power of the gospel to do the work!
On January 21, 1930, the name of Harold Vidian became synonymous with heroism. On that day, England’s King George V was scheduled to give the opening address at the London Arms Conference. The king’s message was to be sent by radio all around the world. Donald McCullough, in his book The Trivialization of God, tells us that a few minutes before the king was to speak, a member of the CBS staff tripped over an electrical wire and broke it, cutting off the whole American audience. With no hesitation, chief control operator Harold Vidian grasped one end of the broken wire in his right hand and the other in his left, thus restoring the circuit. Electricity surged through his body. Ignoring the pain, Vidian held on until the king had finished his address. I see in this a challenge for Christians. The message of the King of kings must go to the whole world. But only as we allow God’s power to pass through us can the Lord’s saving gospel be transmitted. Paul wrote, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14). If we are willing to serve as conduits, regardless of the cost to us, the good news will be proclaimed around the world. Will you be a conduit for the King’s message?
May God forgive us for our failure. May He give us a holy passion to see people come to Christ. I believe God is waiting to bless a church that will not be ashamed of the gospel but will strive to preach the pure truth and depend solely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring conversion and blessing. May God in His grace grant to us that we see His power unleashed in our lives.