Category: How can I become more motivated for soul winning?

The role of the pastor who specializes in evangelism and/or outreach varies widely from church to church. The person who engages in evangelism and outreach should first be gifted by the Holy Spirit in these areas and that gifting should be clear to both the pastor and those he serves. Ephesians 4:7-8 and 11-13 state, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive,…And gave gifts to men.’ And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Whatever the role and duties of the evangelism/outreach pastor, his primary goal should be to equip others for service within the body of Christ.

A pastor who specializes in evangelism may go out into the community himself, perhaps in a door-to-door ministry, sharing the gospel of Christ with all he meets and inviting them to church. He may conduct regular evangelistic crusades or meetings in other areas for the goal of spreading the gospel and calling others to Christ. The evangelism pastor uses the biblical method of evangelism, sharing both the bad news of sin and judgment and the good news of salvation from sin through the shed blood of Christ at Calvary.

Outreach is another function of the evangelism/outreach pastor that can have many facets. The outreach pastor may be in charge of reaching out in a practical sense to those in the church with special needs, such as widows who need help with home maintenance and repair, single mothers who need childcare help, the unemployed, the homeless, etc. The outreach pastor may have a staff of volunteers he can call upon to help identify and meet those needs. Outreach can also be another word for discipleship. Some outreach pastors meet regularly with young people in the church to help them grow to spiritual maturity. He may conduct formal Bible studies or simply meet over a meal to come alongside and encourage them.

Again, whatever the individual duties of the evangelism/outreach pastor, his primary role is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Street preaching, or preaching openly in a public area, has been a method used throughout the history of Christianity for the purpose of evangelizing people who would not typically enter a church. Ever since the apostle Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem in Acts 2, Christians have used this method to lead many to faith in Christ.

Despite the long-standing tradition of street preaching throughout church history, some believe that the practice should no longer be used. They have a variety of reasons for their opinion. First, critics believe street preaching has lost effectiveness as compared to its results in past decades. Second, some believe that street preaching is too overt or offensive, that people are turned away rather than drawn to Christ. Third, some critics note that certain people have used the “soapbox” to spread extremism, political wrangling or bad theology, giving street preaching a negative association. As a result, they argue, Christians should use other forms of outreach.

A practical and biblical look at these concerns reveals many weaknesses in these criticisms. First, even if street preaching is less effective than at other times in history, this does not mean it should no longer be utilized. What if a street preacher sees only one person come to faith as a result of his sermon—does this mean he should not have preached? It still changes eternity for that one person. Other methods of outreach may be more effective, but this does not mean street preaching is ineffective.

Of special concern is the second criticism, that street preaching is too offensive. Since when are Christians to reach the lost only in “inoffensive” ways? Paul wrote that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Unless a Christian never shares his or her faith, opposition is inevitable. The goal is not to avoid offense at all costs; the goal is to avoid unnecessary offense. The cross of Christ will always be an affront to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 1:23). The way we communicate can be adapted to the audience, but our message must remain the same. Street preaching is simply one method to communicate Christ to those who may otherwise not hear the gospel.

Third, should Christians continue to use street preaching even though some have misused this method? Rather than abandon the practice, perhaps Spirit-filled individuals should reclaim the proper use of street preaching. Christian writers don’t give up their craft simply because some authors write bad books. The Bible teaches, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

In summary, street preaching is a historic method of evangelism that can be quite effective in reaching those who might never enter a church. It may appear less effective than in the past, it may indeed offend those who resist the truth, and it may have to overcome some negative associations, but street preaching continues to be used by God around the world to lead people to faith in Christ. We need not condemn its practice but encourage those who boldly communicate the faith in the public square. Rather than wait for the lost to come to us, we should go to them.

Friendship evangelism as a method of bringing people to Christ or sharing the gospel of Christ has several meanings and connotations. Some people believe that friendship evangelism requires Christians to become friends with unbelievers, establishing a relationship before attempting to address their need for a Savior. Some see friendship evangelism as living a solid righteous life—a living testimony—before others so that they desire that kind of life and ask how to achieve it. At that point, the gospel is shared. Still others believe that living a righteous life in the world is evangelism enough and that no further efforts are necessary. The theory is that unbelievers will be so convicted of his need for that kind of life that they will seek God on their own. What does the Bible say about friendship evangelism?

Each of the three above-named methods of friendship evangelism fall short of the biblical method of evangelism. The first method, becoming friends with unbelievers in order to gain enough credibility so they will listen to the gospel, fails to recognize several important biblical truths. For one thing, believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). The essence of friendship is mutual respect and affection based on agreement on basic life principles. But can a believer really have such a relationship with an unbeliever? In light of James 4:4 and Ephesians 5:11, such a relationship is not biblical. The unsaved person is part of the world which hates God and the people of God. How can such a person have affection and respect for believers who are part of the kingdom of God? Are we to be friendly towards unbelievers? Absolutely! Are we to have intimate relationships with unbelievers? Biblically speaking, no.

Furthermore, neither Jesus nor the disciples practiced this type of friendship evangelism. Jesus didn’t limit His gospel presentations to His friends and relations. He preached to complete strangers the message of repentance from sin and salvation through Him. He sent His disciples out two by two and they “preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). If they refused to listen to them, Jesus instructed them to “shake the dust” off their feet and move on to the next town. He never encouraged them to settle down for a few months and develop friendships with those who rejected His message. Nor did He tell them to avoid quoting Scriptures so that their hearers wouldn’t be offended or turned off to the Gospel. He knew that the “message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18), and that most people will reject that message, no matter how friendly the manner in which it is presented. Christ was rejected by the world and He told us to expect the same reaction (John 15:18-20).

What about the method of “evangelizing” through our living testimony? There is no doubt that we are to live righteous lives before the watching world, and there certainly is power in the testimony of a life transformed by Christ. A classic example of this is Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Jesus was able to tell her everything about her life, including the life of sin she was living now. Jesus, in His infallible way, gave her the gospel, and, of course, she believed. John 4:39 picks up the story: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers” (John 4:39-41).

Everyone in that town knew this woman and the sordid life she lived. What caused them to believe in Christ was not only her words about Jesus, but her transformed life. She was a living testimony to the power of the gospel of Christ. So impactful was the change in her life that they knew something miraculous had happened and they asked Jesus to remain with them, which He did for two days, preaching the same gospel of repentance and the offer of the living water of eternal life through Him. “And many more believed because of his word” (John 4:41). In this instance, both the preaching of the Word of God and the testimony of a life changed by that Word bore the fruit of repentance.

But was the woman’s changed life sufficient to bring others to the Savior? No, but it was the impetus for them to seek more information. Can we today expect that our lives will be sufficient testimony to convince unbelievers of their need for Christ? The problem that arises in this third type of friendship evangelism is that too often the lives of Christians are not a good witness of the Lord and Savior we profess to know and serve. Too often the world sees in us more of a reflection of them than a reflection of Christ. To rely exclusively on the “living testimony” by redeemed sinners who, while saved by grace, still battle the flesh on a daily basis—without the testimony of the truth of Scripture—is to handcuff ourselves in a way the Bible never bids us to do. Not even the most perfect life can compare with the power of the Word of God. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Clearly the biblical method of evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the truth of Scripture in conjunction with the living testimony of those who have been changed by that truth. When Jesus went about teaching the gospel message of salvation, He taught love and forgiveness, being kind and compassionate. But He went to sinners in order to convict them of their sins. A case in point is the very Samaritan woman we’ve been talking about here. Remember . . . the very first word Jesus said when He began His ministry was “Repent!” “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). We are commissioned to bring that same message to the world, speaking the truth in love from a heart changed by the Savior.

Often the word evangelism brings to mind a dynamic person speaking to large crowds about Jesus and giving an invitation for salvation. Some evangelists do speak to large, public crowds, but the truth is there are many approaches to evangelism and many different strategies. Servant evangelism is sharing God’s love by simply serving others in practical ways without asking for or expecting anything in return.

The focus of servant evangelism is doing acts of kindness for anyone and everyone. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10). An example of servant evangelism could be something as simple as handing out free water bottles on a hot day or taking bags of food to needy families at Christmastime. The possibilities are endless, but the common denominator is that nothing is asked for in return. One of the motivations behind this type evangelism is that the Bible tells us that God’s kindness leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4).

There are many benefits of servant evangelism, both for those being served and for those serving. Servant evangelism reaches people where they are and exposes non-Christians to Christians showing God’s love in unmistakable and non-threatening ways. Not everyone is comfortable walking into a church building, but receiving a free service with no strings attached is harder to resist. In fact, it usually piques curiosity as to why someone would go out of his or her way to perform this act of kindness. Servant evangelism has the potential to soften people’s hearts, enabling them to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a good way to “water” seed previously sown (see 1 Corinthians 3:6).

Servant evangelism benefits those serving, as well. As Christians, we are called to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Serving others gives Christians the opportunity to tell about God’s love. When someone asks why they’re doing what they’re doing, those who are serving can point to Christ—it’s great training ground for other types of evangelism! Also, as Christians, we are to be full of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Spirit flows out to others (see John 7:38–39). Engaging in servant evangelism puts Christians in situations where the Holy Spirit can minister through them. Jesus commanded His disciples and, consequently, Christians today to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19–20). Jesus didn’t say, “Wait inside your church buildings for the lost to come to you”; He said to “go.” Through servant evangelism the church can show people outside the church that God cares and give them a reason to want to come inside.

While servant evangelism is certainly a biblical practice, it is incomplete as a form of evangelism until the message of Jesus is spoken. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” To complete the process of evangelism—to bring someone to accepting Christ as Savior—we need to speak “the word about Christ.” Servant evangelism can be effective in opening that person’s heart to receive the message once he or she hears it.

“Lifestyle evangelism” is an evangelism strategy that focuses on living a holy, winsome life among unbelievers with the goal of attracting people to the message of Jesus Christ. Many variations of lifestyle evangelism exist, but the definitive resource is the book Lifestyle Evangelism by Joe Aldrich.

Lifestyle evangelism has been popular since the 1990s, and many Western Christians have sought to share their faith through their lifestyle in addition to their verbal testimony. In contrast with other methods such as tracts, crusades, and media-based outreach, popular in the mid-twentieth century, lifestyle evangelism focuses on building relationships with one person at a time. Through friendship, opportunities arise to share the gospel.

Critics claim that lifestyle evangelism is insufficient or that it ignores the Bible’s command to share the gospel verbally. Doing good works is not enough; we must speak the truth. However, lifestyle evangelism can and should do both. There are many examples in Scripture of those who both lived out their faith and verbally shared their faith.

For example, the apostle Peter boldly shared his faith in Christ on the Day of Pentecost in the streets of Jerusalem, and 3,000 people were converted to Christ and baptized as a result (Acts 2:41). Shortly afterwards, he and the other apostles were taking action to meet the needs of widows (Acts 6:1-7).

In addition, members of the early church were known for their good works, being “highly regarded by the people.” (Acts 5:13). At the same time, they were obeying God’s command to “tell the people the full message of this new life” (verse 20). A combination of vibrant faith and a vibrant sharing of faith is the proper balance.

Paul exhorted Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul emphasized that Timothy’s lifestyle and preaching were both important in the effort to evangelize others.

Paul affirmed the same principle in Ephesians 4:1-3: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Though called to boldly proclaim Jesus (Romans 1:16), we also have a clear call to live a life reflective of the message of Christ.

So long as lifestyle evangelism does not replace the verbal sharing of the gospel, it is a legitimate ministry tool. Lifestyle evangelism can be a wonderful way to show faith in action in a world that needs to see what true Christianity looks like.

Being motivated for soul winning is a good thing, but we must define some terms first. “Soul winning” is a metaphor for evangelism, or witnessing. As such, this is a good thing to pursue. The Bible calls us to evangelize. Evangelism is at the heart of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Christians are called to be witnesses of their faith to a watching world (Acts 1:8). In fact, the word “martyr” comes from the Greek word for “witness.” Early Christians were often put to death for their “witness” to Christ. Clearly these people were so motivated for winning souls that they gave their lives to that cause.

So given this, how can we be more motivated for soul winning? The Bible teaches that all people are born in sin (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3) and that we will all be judged for our sin by a holy God (Romans 6:23). The Bible teaches that the only way to avoid this judgment is to repent of our sin and embrace Jesus Christ by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). If someone we knew was dying and we had the cure for their disease, would that motivate us to share that knowledge with them? The reality is that all people have a terminal, spiritual disease (sin), and, as Christians, we know the cure for that disease (Jesus). This truth should be great motivation for us to bear witness to gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowing that those who reject the “cure” for their spiritual disease will spend an eternity in hell should be sufficient motivation to urge them to consider the dire consequences of their decision.

If Christians are not motivated for evangelism, it could very well be because we aren’t hearing the gospel preached faithfully and fully in our churches. In some parts of the world, churches have attempted to make the Christian message more marketable for modern sensibilities. As such, preaching about sin, judgment, hell, and salvation through Jesus alone is not emphasized as much as messages about how Christianity can make our lives better— improve our marriages, help us raise our kids, and assist us in eliminating bad habits. The pragmatic has replaced the theological in many churches. This brand of Christianity may appeal more to a post-modern world, but it fails to confront people with the truth of their sin and their need for salvation available in Jesus alone. Souls are won not through promises of a better life in the here and now, but through the power of the gospel as the only solution for our sin.

However, here is where we must be careful. Some Christians see soul winning as something that they do. In other words, success or failure in evangelism is seen as largely due to the efforts of the evangelist. This mindset has turned evangelism from a “witness” paradigm into a “persuasion” paradigm. A witness is one who simply tells what they have seen, heard and experienced. Witnesses in a courtroom are bound to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” A witness doesn’t seek to persuade, he doesn’t seek to convince; all he seeks to do is be faithful to proclaim what he knows to be true and why he knows it to be true.

Persuasion takes on a very different form. In persuasion, one person is engaged in an effort to change the mind of another person to a particular point of view. It’s not uncommon in persuasion to alter, or re-package, the message to make it more appealing to others. In persuasion, the most important thing isn’t the truth of the message, but the individual’s response to that message.

If soul winning is a product of our own individual effort, instead a work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13), then evangelism becomes our persuasive effort. The goal of soul winning becomes making sure we get someone to come to that moment of decision and accept Christ into their lives. One may ask: “What is the problem with that?” If the goal of evangelism is getting people to that moment of choice, then there is every temptation to “do whatever it takes” to make that happen. This mindset has led to the very thing that characterizes the various “church growth” movements, such as the seeker-sensitive movement or the emergent movement, that seek to make Christianity more relevant and appealing to a modern world. On the surface, this sounds good and noble, but at what cost? The Bible says that it is the gospel that has the power of salvation and we are not to be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16-17). We need to avoid the persuasion paradigm and get back to a witness paradigm, one in which the truth of the gospel is faithfully proclaimed.

It all boils down to this: Do we believe that God is truly sovereign, even over salvation? If we do, then it is God that is the soul winner. It is the Holy Spirit that brings new birth. It is Jesus Christ who died to save the world. Christians are called to be witnesses to the world by proclaiming this gospel of salvation. The proclamation of the gospel is the means through which the Holy Spirit brings repentance and faith in the lives of individuals. What can be more motivating for soul winning than to know that through our faithful proclamation of the gospel, God is saving those whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5).