OK, Let's Go Win Some SOULS!!!!!!
Proverbs 11:30: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise". (NIV)
There are times in our handling of "soul-winning programs", that we sound like we're in the MLM business. At least that's the way I have seen too much of it, anyway. I don't claim to be right or anything. But this much I'm pretty sure of:
1) We don't win souls. Only Jesus can do that. We're talking about "natural" folks we're trying to reach (collectively) and they don't perceive things of the Spirit. So I'm guessing it's God .. in all His Persons .. that does the winning.
2) I've heard we're supposed to be burdened for the lost. I must be a defeated Christian, by that standard, since I'm not. Go here for details.
3) It's widely conceded that the command to go and make disciples and baptize was given to the church. No Lone Ranger Charlie or Frank or Susan the Baptists need apply. And I can't really argue with that, as no one person .. particularly back when Jesus said it .. could go to all the world and witness to everybody. No more than Eve by herself could have had enough babies to fill the earth. So all the things necessary to get and keep the Body of Christ moving in commitment to the commission, need to be done. And we can, indeed, do our part.
SO ... what about this soul-winning thing I've heard preached for so many years? Well, I believe I'll tell you what I think.
I got to poking around in my computerized Bible to see what all those words mean. I confess I'm not a Greek or Hebrew (or even American English) scholar, but I can pick some other brains about it, I guess. So let's look at some words:
"He that wins": laqach: to take (in the widest variety of applications): KJV-- accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch, get, infold.
Hmm .. that doesn't sound like a spiritual transaction, necessarily, to me. Sounds as if it's a matter of drawing, taking in, to some entity. Perhaps to one's self. Is there any support for that?
Well, this leads me to believe that Jesus would commend those who did good things for their neighbors (all right, all right, jump on that, all you theologians) and maintained good relationships with those around them. I mean, doing the Golden Rule thing and loving your neighbors will do that, won't they?
See, I'm not that big a fan of confrontational witnessing. I like to show forth the joy of the Lord and to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that's in us. And to be as open about my Savior as I am about my wife, my kids, and my friends. Hey, I'll tell you about any of them, unashamedly, at the drop of a hat.
Same for Jesus.
"Souls"? Calling on my computerized Strong's again, it tells me the word means "nephesh" ... a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality ...
Sounds like people to me.
So .. can it be said that, if I am winsome, helpful to my neighbors, loving etc., that might be an outgrowth of wisdom? And if that's the case, might those people listen to me when I give the reason for the hope that's in me? Might they be more prone to share their failing, their fears, with me? Their needs? And might they tend to believe me when I share the answers to what is obviously (to believers) a spiritual problem?
I think so. Certainly more so than the guy whose door gets knocked on at 7:00pm on Thursday night, and is apt to nod yes to get us out of his face before a certain TV show comes on at 8.
So I got to thinking .. what's happening in our churches, anyway? Divorce rate is as high in as out, abuse is not all that uncommon, even in the ministry itself, and we can't even find half or more of the folks who've joined our churches and are still on the books as members. What on earth is it, that's causing this to happen? I mean, I doubt seriously that a church Jesus built would produce such results. Maybe it's the system. Maybe it's all of what we've been doing. All of it. What we've been doing is what has produced what we have now. It'd be insanity for us to beat each other over the heads to do some more of the same, and expect any different results in the future.
I do know that the SBC isn't going to address it. The Cooperative Program is doing fine, thank you, and the folks in power aren't about to admit anything's wrong enough to require actually doing something different in response.
We're paying folks enough to have some problem-solving geniuses on board. Sure hope we've got some, and they actually decide to wake up and do something.