A Voice in the
Wilderness

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June 1, 2002

Return to: Q/A's
Q/A Topics:
Witnessing - Soul-winning?

INTRODUCTION:
The following is a couple of exchanges with a subscriber. When I became somewhat verbose in my first reply, suggesting that I was also answering in a 'public' way for a mailing, they replied: "By the way feel free to use it in an upcoming newsletter, anything that can help others to grow." So... I have taken elements out of the exchanges, and edited and re-arranged them into a somewhat conversational-exchange format here, to flow as a topic; and have also added a few more thoughts that didn't get written to the person privately.

READER QUESTION:
I am confused now. Here you wrote...

(in "Accepting Christ?")

"Let's stop urging people to "make a decision for" or "to accept" Christ, thus perverting the Gospel. Rather, let's invite them to the foot of the cross. "For many are called... but few are chosen."(Mt 22:14)" . And here you wrote, "God does not run you through the "check-list" formula or "four laws", recite the "prayer" and declare you a "Christian", like these "soul-winners" and Campus Crusade do. They "justify [themselves] before men" with these things "but God knows your hearts" (Lk16:15) He reaches into the "division of your soul and spirit". He knows the "thoughts and intents" of your heart; and He makes known TO YOU your -own- heart (Heb4:12-13); to which your -heart- responds to Him. And in the 'quiet' of the moment, individually, personally, He reminds you of "all things [sins], whatever [you] did" (Jn4:29) and then -reasons- with you... "

I am currently attending a baptist church and trying to learn how to effectively witness to someone. I understand that my life is also a witness but when it comes to "talking" with someone or "witnessing" I thought that telling them the gospel message of the sacrificial death and subsequent resurection accompanying repentance was the message to tell them...

VW ANSWER:
Exactly.

READER:
and following that, obviously there has to be a "way" of getting their response so asking them if they understand and accept that Jesus is sufficient and the ONLY way to have eternal life you would have to have them pray the sinner's prayer.

VW:
Contrary to "soul winner" mentality, we are -NOT- "salesmen". In Bible school, class on "Personal Evangelism" I think it was, if I remember correctly, they would teach us salesmanship type tactics...and usually the final step of such a procedure is to "close-the-deal". Salesmen speak of, Doing a "sell job" and then make the "close".

I don't find such tactics in Scripture anywhere. Typically those preaching were doing everything -contrary- to "inviting" people. John the immerser would say, "who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt3:7) Peter proclaimed, -YOU- are the ones who crucified Jesus. (Acts2:36) When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus did not "invite" him, but started out saying, "..you can't get to Heaven..." (Jn3:3) When they came to Christ it was when they were "pierced to the heart" (Acts2:37) as the Holy Spirit was convicting.

When the Ethiopian was immersed, -he- was the one asking to be immersed. (Acts8) When Philip asks his testimony, he "confesses with the mouth the Lord Jesus" (Rom10:9) The Philippian jailer is the one who comes asking "how to" be saved. (Acts6:30) When Paul proclaims on Areopagus (Acts17) he does not close his "to the unknown god" message with an invitation. He proclaims the Gospel, and the call to repentance...and then leaves. Those who believe do so of their own hearts and follow him. (vs34)

The reason this is so is because we are -NOT- the ones who do the saving. We do not know the person's heart as Jesus does. (Heb4:12-13) Salvation for a person does not happen without the drawing of the Father. (Jn6:44) We can preach and argue with someone until we are blue-in-the-face and the cows come home, but unless the person is hearing the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Jn16:8), they are not going to be saved.

To suggest that, just because -I- have preached to someone, and have ascertained that they 'understand' what's been said, now it is -my- duty to know their heart, to know that they are 'ready' to receive Christ...or, for that matter, are even the slightest bit 'inclined' towards God...is somewhat approaching ultimacy in pride. Taking upon ourselves that which is God's domain. God through Jesus Christ is the one Who saves. He is the One who draws. The Holy Spirit convicts. He communicates to the individual's heart. The matter of salvation is between -God- and that person.

And...-what- is the "sinner's prayer"? I've heard and read a lot that aren't. Salvation does not come about from "repeat-after-me" these words that some -person- has labeled the "sinner's prayer". The real sinner's prayer is found in Lk18:13. And that person was not being given a sell-job by another person. It was between that person (alone) and God.

Abraham, Jacob, Daniel, etc. did not require other -people- to "close" with them. God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham believed God, and it was "accounted to him for righteousness". When God wanted Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc to know Him, He made Himself known to them...-directly-.

Yes...witness to people. Give them the Gospel. But then, leave them in God's capable hands to take that Word you have given them, so that they can 'meditate' on what they've heard. Preferably...give them the Gospel, and then, give them some Scripture to go home and read. Give them the Gospel and then 'shut-up' and let the Holy Spirit speak to their heart. If you gave them Scripture, God's Word does not return void. (Is55:11) If they are -really- going to be saved, they will do so based on hearing God's Word (Rom10:17), not somebody's salesmanship.

READER:
If this is not correct (and I don't know if it is or not, hence the reason I am writing you) how do you go about getting an answer or committment from them?

VW:
Hopefully, now, this is clearer? We don't...necessarily. They are not answerable to -us-. They answer to God. The effectiveness of our witnessing is not judged by the rest of the people from the 'church' group that decided to go out for "visitation night". Our "faithfulness" (1Cor4:2) is to God. If we said to any given person what the Holy Spirit put into our mouths, then, we "done good".

READER:
Or is it even for us to know what they decide in their heart b/c like you said, we don't put a notch on our belt for it.

VW:
Exactly.

READER:
But then again, how would we know if we don't ask whether they need discipling or not, you have to know if they were saved or not first, right?

VW:
If they do get saved, and they need 'your' discipling, don't you think the same God who saved them, will also bring you back together?

READER:
What do you ask them to do if not pray the sinner's prayer?

VW:
"Praying" does not save. Repentance does. Paul reviewed the essentials for salvation as being "repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts20:21) He does not say, "Repentance, Faith and Prayer". When Jesus commissions the disciples He says that "repentance and remission of sins be preached..." (Lk24:47) He does not say, Repentance and remission of sins after you have them repeat-after-you the 'sinner's prayer'.

See how easily these questions are answered if we see what's -actually- in Scripture?

"Soul winning" tactics certainly increase the numbers of "baptists" and what-have-you. But they don't necessarily increase the number of those whose names are found in the Lamb's Book of Life. Soul -winners- certainly do a lot of "winning" of "souls"...but the big question is: To -WHAT- have they been won? To Christ and His Kingdom...or to that "membership" where they then are expected to come through the doors every time they have meetings...otherwise they are considered "backslidden"..?

When the Ethiopian was immersed subsequent to his "confession-of-faith", Philip then vanished from his sight. (Acts8:39) He did not become a member of the "First Baptist Church of Jerusalem". He continued on his way back home...alone...with the Scriptures. Those who were saved at Pentecost, once the (Jewish) Pentecost celebrations were over, they went back home...individually. When the Philippian jailer was saved, Paul and Silas did not introduce them to the local "Baptist" church...they left town.

When the church in Jerusalem was getting a bit too comfortable in all their unity and communal living, God allowed persecution, which "scattered" them away from each other. But where they went, they went, "preaching the Word". (Acts8:4)

Paul exhorts Timothy, "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2Tim4:2) Preach the Word, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

I do not see anywhere in Scripture where any "sinner's prayer" or "prayer-for-salvation" is taught. Salvation does not come from any human 'incantation' of words -towards- God. Salvation comes when God "draws", and the sinner "responds" to God. Unless God is drawing, the sinner is "going astray" like sheep. (Is53:6) It is not in man to "reach-out-to-God". Man can only -respond- to God's call. When Adam and Eve sinned, they went and hid. It was God who called out, "Adam...where are you?" (Gen3:9)

We've got to get rid of this thinking that CCC "Four Laws" teaches, that all men are reaching out for God. They are not. They are running away. We've also got to get rid of the thinking that assumes that spiritual matters are done with the world's methods. They are not. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God..." (2Cor10:4)

READER:
I received you reply and it really helped clear it up for me. I was thinking the same things you did regarding "salesman tactics" but when I asked the pastor about it in the past he said that you are not selling them, you are giving away a free gift.

VW:
You know how many times I get that reply when sales people come into my store, where the front door has a sign posted "No Solicitors"? 95% of the time. And if I then tell them they are lying, they deny it. They are soooo brainwashed into their salesmanship, that they don't even see that they are lying.

And when this pastor says "you" are giving away a free gift, well, what does Scripture say? From -WHOM- is the gift of salvation? "It is a gift of God" (Eph2:8) -GOD- is the one who gave His Son. (Jn3:16) We are merely messengers.

But in truth, these that are called "soul-winners" are -NOT- giving away a "free" gift at all. When they have "nabbed" their "converts", when they lead in the "repeat-after-me" ritual, they then expect the new convert to come and join 'their' church, and to attend 'their' church regularly, and to contribute to 'their' offerings, and follow in the party line. (Of course, they do this with Scripture to legitimize it) And considering that a repeat-after-me ritual does NOT save, in actuality they have 'bound' the person in fetters of a worst kind of lostness that is well-nigh impossible to be freed from; because they 'think' they are saved because they have performed the ritual, and are amongst other fellow-cult members who give them 'affirmation' of 'belonging'. Sad thing is...the only thing they 'belong' to, is that particular congregation. Their names are not written in the Lamb's Book-of-Life.

Yes...it's a big "con" and "sell-job". But it is not evangelism on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.

READER:
What I am asking since that sounded confusing is this, I have prayed in the past and asked God if I should approach my family members and give the the Good News and have never received a "yes" reply in the form of a conviction to me by the Holy Spirit that yes, this is what I need to do, then if no one else feels convicted either, how will they learn of the Good News? What I have ended up doing is "preaching" to them and turning them off of my own volition, not the Spirit's direction. I guess I just don't understand who and when we should witness to. I know that God wishes that none should perish and I am a willing and able bodied participant.

VW:
If a Believer is in communion with God, the words will come out at the right time. God is often answering our prayer of "should I?" even before we know we need to. "..before they call, I will answer" (Is65:24) So, it is not necessarily something where you will receive a "bright light" and "hear a voice" telling you, "speak to these people". If you are being "in the way" the Lord will "lead" you. (Gen24:27)

However...often, "family" is the last person other family members will hear. Jesus noted that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and around family. (Mt13:57) Notice that Peter says to believing wives, to 'live a life' before their unsaved husbands, so that they might be won "without a word". (1Pet3:1) Wives, don't preach and nag at your husbands, nor gossip about them at -prayer- "share" times! Be good wives before them in your behavior.

READER:
So my next question that is really probably at the heart of all this is, do I only witness when the Holy Spirit really convicts me to?

VW:
Indeed... understanding that often, also, a Believer is 'automatically' doing what the Lord wants, because they are in fellowship with the Lord. But yes...there are times the Lord does -NOT- want us to speak. When Paul (and company) were travelling in their missionary journeys, it says, "..they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them." (Acts16:7) Ezekiel was a prophet sent to Israel...and yet, for periods of time God shut his mouth, such that he was not able to speak, until the Lord opened his mouth. (Ezek3:26-27)

READER:
If so, this would mean that the visitation nights that you referred to would be for the most part fruitless unless the Spirit specifically directed you to one person or another.

VW:
Exactly!

READER:
Considering that some people go door to door, unless the Holy Spirit led them to that particular door so-to-speak then again it would be fruitless b/c the Father would not be drawing them, is that right?

VW:
Exactly!

READER:
If this is so, then like I was asking earlier, should you only share with those whom the Spirit lays it on your heart to share with? What if you are willing and able and He never convicts you to share with anyone?

VW:
If He doesn't say "speak" ...then, keep still. Somebody recently unsubscribed, explaining 'why'...that they were of the opinion that salvation is not about doctrine, but love. I soooo wanted to write some things to them, and my heart yearned for their blindness...but I also knew the Lord did NOT want me to write. They had been on the mailing list for quite a long time. If they were making the decision they did, they had turned their back on the Lord. Nothing more I might say would make a difference. The Lord "knows those who are His" (2Tim2:19) ... and He also knows those who have crossed the line such that the verdict is, "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still..." (Rev22:11)

READER:
Last question: How does the Holy Spirit communicate with you? I have been told that He convicts you that you should do such-n-such and that the way you know He is communicating to you is that you feel an undeniable urging? If this is not correct, how?

VW:
You will know. You will know in your spirit. The Holy Spirit "bears witness with" our spirits. (Rom8:16) Quite likely you won't be consciously thinking to yourself "the Spirit is saying to do this" ...if you are in fellowship with the Lord... when the moment comes, you will act appropriately... and when the event is past, you will think back on it and realize how it was the Holy Spirit who directed the event. It's like Jesus said, "The Spirit breathes where He wishes, and you hear His voice, but do not know where He comes from and where He goes. So is everyone who is born from the Spirit." (Jn3:8) (See why that verse isn't talking about "wind"?)

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Belief in the Bible Necessary for Salvation

READER QUESTION:
I have tried to share my belief recently with a work colleague and it all seems to hinge upon that the un-believer has to accept that the bible is the word of God. If someone states that they do not believe in the bible, for want of a better way of putting it, any move you make towards showing them is redundant. Your opinion would be welcomed, esp. if you can shed any light on how to help another? Maybe, before I can tell people about our Lord, I need to be a better believer. I know that its by faith and grace....but I still find it all a bit of an enigma as to how to start...

VW ANSWER:
First of all, you need to keep in mind the sad fact that -most- people are going down the "broad way" to destruction. (Mt7:13) Also remember that the Lord "knows those who are His" (2Tm2:19), and that no one comes to Jesus Christ unless the Father "draws him". (Jn6:44) And His drawing of anybody is based on His "foreknowledge" of their heart. (Rom8:29) That is one of the things that makes God unique from all other beings in creation, He knows "the end from the beginning". (Is46:10)

So, just because you witness to somebody, does not guarantee that they will come to the Lord in Saving Faith.

Yes, Scripture is the Foundation for salvation: "So then faith is of hearing, and hearing through the Word of God." (Rom10:17)

Even if the person will 'eventually' come to the Lord, do not assume that 'one' conversation will "do-the-trick". If we each look at our own lives, how much coaxing did it take on the part of God's Holy Spirit before He finally got through to us? Do not try to save the person, but be a "faithful" servant (1Cor4:2), and speak 'when' the Lord says speak. And the rest of the time, show your own life to be a "Believer"...because be sure of one thing...now that you've opened up the subject in conversation, you can be sure they will be 'watching' your life, to see of what sort you are. If they won't acknowledge the Scriptures, perhaps they will see "Christ in you, the hope of glory". (Col1:27) They need to see that you are "with Jesus". (Acts4:13)

Just be a faithful servant, and let God worry about the results. He knows the ultimate outcome.

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Reasoning or Debating?

READER QUESTION:
I would like to know what the bible has to say on Debating. Did the desiples go into the temple to Debate? Is it right for chrisitians to debate the bible or other subjects? I personally dont thing we should debate on anything, but I have been talking to someone who says it is okay and we should debate on the bible, I would like to know what scripture really says about it. This person admires Jacob Prasch, and I know that Jacob Prasch will debate anybody christian or not. I personally think Jacob Prasch brings the wrong gospel. But I would apreciate your answer on what the bible has to say. Is REASONING the same as Debating?

VW ANSWER:
First of all, while I've heard the name "Prasch", I am not familiar with what he does, or who he is; so this answer should not be construed to be a commentary on "Jacob Prasch". It is not. If anything here addresses him, it will merely be "coincidental" on my part. (Although, with God, nothing is "coincidence"...in whatever way anything said here may address the man, whether favorably or otherwise.)

God implores Israel, "Come now and let us reason together, says Jehovah" (Is1:18a) Acts speaks about how Paul "..reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath" (Acts17:17,18:4) And notice that he "reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Acts17:2) Peter exhorts that a Believer should have the Lord "sanctified" in our "hearts" to then be able to give a "reason for the hope that is in you.." (1Pt3:15)

On the other hand, Paul exhorts Timothy to "avoid foolish and unlearned questionings, knowing that they generate strife." (2Tm2:23) And further, "avoid foolish questionings, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the Law; for they are unprofitable and vain." (Tit3:9)

By the dictionary, "reasoning" is a process of taking evidence and formulating an understanding and/or coming to conclusions.

"Debate", on the other hand includes "argument". The discussing of "opposing points". The dictionary lists as "obsolete" the definition, "fight or quarrel", but gives us a basis for the word and its typical practice.

When "debate" is carried on formally, the pundits declare winners and losers. Debate is not so much about "truth", as it is the debaters' ability to present his/her case convincingly. I should think that the legal/court system is "debate", because it often seems that the greater concern is the debating 'process', than the truth. If certain bits of evidence were obtained "illegally", they are not admissible, even though their inadmission sets the guilty party free. For many attorneys, even if they know their case is flawed, they will rejoice when they were able to "WIN".

If a Christian, not gifted with a quick-wit or smooth tongue, engages in "debate", and the unbeliever is skilled in the art-of-debate, the unbeliever will come out the "winner" of the debate, even though the Christian actually knows "Truth".

I would -never- engage in a debate, because my mind doesn't think that fast. I always think (afterward) what I should'a, could'a, wished I would'a said. Debate does not allow the 'meditating' of one's spirit in communion with God's Holy Spirit. Debate does not glorify God, but man's wit and cleverness.

Furthermore, debate on a forum such as Bill Mahrer's program "Politically Incorrect" is not a good place to try to witness. Typically, if the unbeliever doesn't like what the Believer says, they do not offer the courtesy to "hear" the Believer, but shush them up by continually INTERRUPTING them. The only way a Believer can get their word heard in such a forum is to behave just like the unbelievers and rudely interrupt back, as I notice many of them raise their voices to a screech like the rest...which, "God has called us in peace" (1Cor7:15) Jesus did speak of not casting "pearls before swine" lest they what? "..trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." (Mt7:6) I've seen a lot of that on that PI program.

Whereas, "reasoning" involves a quiet calm. The person investigating by reasoning is not trying to "argue" their own preconceptions, but is truly seeking to understand what is being presented from the Scriptures. God did not speak to Elijah through the loud and boistrous fire, wind and earthquake; but the "still small voice". (1Kg19:12)

If a person is arguing, they have not come to the end of themselves. Arguing/debate is the opposite of "repentance". Debate, by its very essence, is prideful; saying, "I'm right, and you're wrong." If a person comes to you, wanting to debate you, they are not of such a heart as to even be able to "hear" God's voice.

But the person with whom you can reason is one who has tried all the world's ways, and found them wanting. They are at the end of themselves. They, in their hearts, know that they are "without strength (ability)" (Rom5:6) They are out-of-options. They are the ones who come to Jesus saying, "I believe, help my unbelief" (Mk9:24) They are the ones God speaks to as He reasons with them as they finally acknowledge their guilt, "..though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.." They acknowledge their sin, so now God is able to offer salvation from that sin. They are the ones who have no other "way", and need to be pointed to Jesus, who is "the way, the truth and the life.." to come "to the Father" (Jn14:6)

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Turn or Burn witnessing? - (Added Nov 6,03)

READER QUESTION:
After a prolonged discussion that kept gravitating toward philosophy I once told a guy (though more politely than I should have) something to this effect: "listen, you're going to hell if you don't turn from sin, and someday you WILL bow down and proclaim that Jesus is Lord, so you'd better do it now before you're dead!". It may have been out of frustration but I really don't want to see him burn.

I guess I'm tired of being passive. I want to speak the Word with authority and use my Sword in whatever way is necessary to get people to turn to Christ. The "Four Spiritual Laws" might work in some situations, but I think we need to "turn up the heat", so to speak. What do you think of preparing some choice Scriptures that would really grab people's attention? Could you direct me to some that have worked for you, or think will raise some eyebrows, but cut to the heart? Something that could be aptly named "Fourteen Ways You're Going to Burn In Hell If You Don't Repent Now" :-)

VW ANSWER:
I don't really see in Scripture that we are to sit there with 'our' sword to the grinder, whetting its edge, looking for ways to "cut" people's souls. It is not 'our' sword. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. (Eph6:17) And it is -God- who draws people (Jn6:44), through the convicting of the Holy Spirit. (Jn16:8) We are not necessarily supposed to have a 'plan' to answer people, because the Holy Spirit gives us the words to say (Lk12:11), although we should be "ready" always to "give a defense". (1Pt3:15) But that preparation comes from "hiding" God's Word in our hearts. (Ps119:11) That is done through feeding/eating it. (Jer15:16)

But beyond that, it is not -our- 'sharp' words that will win people. It is God's Word. "so shall My Word be, which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall succeed in that for which I have sent it." (Is55:11) Salvation comes about from the "Word of God" (Rom10:17) .... not necessarily from tracts.

Yes, certainly, there will be times when we might verbalize to people, "repent or go to hell" or words like you used, when/as the Holy Spirit directs. But if we take it upon ourselves to be presumptuous when God is not leading, just because we are getting frustrated and as you say "tired", well, Moses did that, as he yells at Israel, "Hear now, you rebels! Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" and he strikes the rock; when God had commanded him to "speak" to the rock. (Num20:10,8) And because of his presumption, anger and disobedience, in not glorifying God (vs12), Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land with the rest of Israel, but died prematurely.

Yes, it gets frustrating, seeing people's blindness. But consider God's tender mercies that were evident in your life (as I do in mine). How long did it take God to get through? How long did it take for the heart to soften? God knows -each- soul (Heb4:12-13) He knows the ones who will be saved, and those who won't. And for the ones who will be saved, He also knows -WHEN- they will be saved....and to be sure, it is not -our- time table. Our job is to live faithfully, and to be witnesses. To shine as lights in the dark world...not necessarily going around clubbing everybody senseless. If you try to get a moth with a flyswatter...they always seem to elude the swats. But turn on a light, and they come around, fluttering and bumping into it. Perhaps a crude example....but hopefully you understand what I'm saying.

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Our Primary Task?

READER QUESTION:
Thank you so much for your answers on soul winning. I have felt the same way for a long time, but was concerned that I was using it as an excuse for not "witnessing" (I am in any case not very good at it!)

I have a further question. "When the Spirit is come He will convict" - I see very little evidence of this in the world today. What should our primary task be, to ask Him to do it in our area or to preach so that He CAN do it? The conviction came at Pentecost AFTER Peter had preached; there was no evidence of it before he started., but then the Holy Spirit had only just come.

VW ANSWER:
Our "primary task"?

To be "faithful" (1Cor4:2)

If He says "preach", we preach. If He says, "be quiet", we be quiet. Always living Godly lives so that they see "Christ in you the hope of glory". (Col1:27) Amen!

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