7 Major Mistakes in Soul Winning
By Tim Downs
I would like to spend a few minutes giving you some information that will help you save money and time when trying to reach the lost. God has blessed us in giving us understanding on soul winning and outreach. Over the last three years we have seen multiple thousands of people come to Apostolic churches across the Nation, we have seen close to 6500 people baptized in Jesus name and churches growing from very small groups to thriving congregations in just a few months.
What I have to share with you today is not going to be easy on some of you. I realize there have been visions and methods that have been put into place and money spent to try and grow and for someone to come along and mention your idea and say it is wrong, well you wont probably want to receive it as well as the others that will be mentioned. Recently at the church that we were able to impact the most the Pastor said something very important to me in the first few minutes of meeting him. He said “Brother Downs, I don’t care what you tell us to do, we want revival and I will do everything you say”.
I have had to tell this brother some things that were hard to say, and each time he has kept his word and did those things I suggested without complaint. His church has grown from 30 people to almost 200 in 17 months. We must be hungry enough to lay aside our personal preferences and change where change is needed. We must not become offended that our ideas were not effective. And we must be willing to rip out all of the ways that are not working and build effective growth programs in there place.
I will attempt to list the most common things that churches have been doing to create growth that are absolutely the wrong way to truly experience a God given increase in reaching the multitudes in your city. I do realize that there is always the exception to the case and there are people using some of these methods and seeing some results, however the majority of the people using them are not seeing many if any.
1.)Knocking on doors as an outreach to win souls and grow your church is probably one of the most used tools that we have been taught to reach souls. This tool is also the most non-effective tool to reach the lost that is being used today. In all of the souls that I have seen won over the last few decades I have personally never won anyone from knocking on their door.
Yes, I realize there are some who have been won by this type of method, however it is a very in-effective method of growing your church. It’s kind of like the old fiery preacher telling the story of how he brought someone to church for the first time, and he just prayed that Brother Whirly Bird didn’t get up and do his thing in the middle of song service because he was afraid of what his guest would do. And sure enough the choir sang the Holy Ghost song and here he came twirling all around the church. Then the preacher begins to tell of how he closed his eyes because he was afraid to know what his guest would think of all of this and then all of the sudden he noticed his guest was shouting and speaking in tongues as well!
Although this story is a great way to pump up the crowd the truth of the matter is you don’t hear about the other 500 guest who came in and seen this nonsense and never came back. We have to be willing to truthfully measure the success of our methods and be willing to change them if they are not effective in bringing in multitudes of souls.
Door knocking causes more people to not want to go out on outreach than any other method. People do not want to be bothered in the privacy of their home, therefore when you go knock on their door they react in an unkind way. Why do you think the “Do not call list” is so well used? People do not want people intruding on their private time.
The other reason it is not effective is due to the harassment most have experienced from the Jehovah Witness and Mormon outreach teams.
2.) Worldly music has been one of the other forms of so-called outreach that I have watched churches attempt to grow their churches. Churches are introducing contemporary and Christian rock into their services in hopes to reach and become relevant to the sinners.
This method of growing a church couldn’t be further from the truth. I have heard for years that we need to play music that will relate to sinners then we will grow. The problem is that the sinners have no clue of what your music is like till they come. So using music as your tool to reach the lost is never the answer. The second thing is that sinners want something different than the worldliness they come out of; they don’t want the world anymore!
I truly find that more church people want the world than sinners! Recently I was in a service where the worship was lead by a full fledge rock band. When the band was finished they would announce they would be back for another set soon. The drums were lifted way up high on the stage and they had flashing lights and a smoke machine just like a concert with any other worldly musician.
I watched as people jumped around just like they did when I was a young man attending an AC/DC concert. There was no true spirit of worship and no spirit of true praise. The enemy wants us to change our music so we can kill the true spirit of praise, the Bible says God inhabits the spirit of praise, if we stop having a true spirit of praise God cannot inhabit our services.
From all my experience and if I could sound the alarm in any way I would say our biggest mistake in these last days is changing our music to become relevant. We must have anointed heart stirring powerful music instead of music that creates the spirit of entertainment. When the singers and musicians become more the highlight than the music being played we have come too far.
We must quit trying to fit in with people; we are called to be separate! Recently someone said “Our people won’t relate to that kind of music”! That’s the problem, music is not for us to relate to it’s to usher us into the presence of a Holy God! I must decrease that he would increase, we must be humble, we must not be like the Nashville superstars or the TBN stars, were not in this to sell CD’s were here to reach the lost!
3.) Bottled water ministry. This one has become pretty popular over the last few years. Hundreds of dollars are being spent to advertise our churches on bottles of water, given out at parades and other events.
This is one of the most used ideas I have seen in our movement. The problem is that when you hand someone a bottle of water most people will not take the bottle and start reading the label. Also even if they did read the label they are most likely not going to remember the information for long enough to come and visit your church.
When people are finished with a bottle of water they do not stick the bottle in their pocket for future reference, they throw it away. There goes that invitation that you spent your hard earned outreach money on, right in the trash can.
4.) Building Programs and Churches on the Highway. This one probably is one that will hit home to a lot of churches. For some reason in our movement the success of a Pastor is not measured by how many souls they have won but how big and beautiful of a facility they have built.
Just recently I had a man who has a church that seats 150 people and is only 5 years old tell me he just bought land on the Interstate to start building his new church! Now, here is the problem, the man has around 30 people in his church and has not grown in the 5 years he has been there.
Others are spending millions on building programs and additions and zero dollars on reaching the lost! Our church buildings on the Interstate are not going to win souls, building big church buildings will not win souls, and it may however attract other Pentecostals from churches in the area. If that’s how you count church growth your on the right track.
The problem is when we invest all of this money in most cases we become weary in the middle of the building project, we deplete the church finances and get ourselves in a bind trying to pay the mortgage on this huge building without any souls. And if we ever did start growing like God wants us to grow then you have to figure out how to sell this huge building so you can do it all over again.
We need to find places that we can set up church and go reach the lost, fill the church till it’s packed and then go find another building that you can lease and fix it up a little and get ready to do it again. If you lease a store front or small building, when you outgrow it you can just pack up and move, if you invest all of your money it in you have to wait to sell it. If you build then you have to wait to grow while you expend all of the energy and finances in the building program.
This is the last days; God wants to give us a tremendous amount of souls. We must not hinder our growth by allowing the pear pressure of our brothers to slow us down. The next problem is we are moving our churches from the places people need God the most to locations that are more “Safe” or in million dollar neighborhoods or sub divisions.
They will tell you the number one thing to consider if you want to have a successful business is “Location, Location, Location” We have to stop taking our churches out of areas that need God the most. We are building these beautiful buildings and decorating them like palaces and giving more attention and passion to brick and mortar than souls! Most sinners will feel out of place when they enter these places.
A church building is not the number one priority, souls are! If you invest more time and money in your building than you do outreach and soul winning that’s probably why it remains empty of new converts.
5.) Billboards. This is one of the things I have noticed a lot of Pastors doing recently reach souls.
I have personally been in business on several occasions. I have started businesses from scratch and learned a great deal about advertising. One of the frustrating things and costly things I learned was that most of the times when advertising representatives approached me about advertising; it was more for their benefit than it was for mine.
For instance I had a lady come and convince me that I needed a television commercial to reach millions of people. She told me that their viewing area covered over 1 million people and how much more would my business grow if it were seen by 1 million people! I must admit I swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker as they say!
After thousands of dollars and no customers I must admit I was fooled. You see what she didn’t tell me was that yes, there are 1 million residents in the viewing area, but not all of them are watching her station. Not all of them are going to be looking at the channel at the very moment my 30 second spot is aired and not all of them are going to want to jump up and come right on down to purchase my product just because they seen and ad on television.
Even if someone did actually see my commercial which some did, because they would tell me when I seen them in the mall of out on the streets that they had seen it, they still didn’t come in and purchase my product. Billboards are the same, I spent thousands and had 3 billboards placed in the so called best locations of town. I am sure people did see the signs; however I learned years later that advertising is not effective unless there is a call to action. In other words something on the sign to make people go right then or to react right then.
We trained our employees to find out where our customers heard about us. 99% of the time they came to our business because someone they knew recommended them. Word of mouth, that’s the best form of advertising you can get!
6.) Losing our standards and watering down the message. I have heard this given as a solution to church growth for many years. Again the problem is that sinners don’t have a clue to what you believe or preach if they have not been to your church. People are not going to not come to your church if they have no idea what you teach.
This is usually another form of church people wanting to change for them not sinners. Out of every person that I have personally won to God through the years I cannot tell you of one that quit coming due to standards or the message! Now I do know of a few that were run off from people in the church who had never won a soul coming to them telling them what they can or can’t do.
If we train these new converts and love them they will do whatever we tell them to do. We cannot continue to be more aggressive at getting them to love Pentecost than we do loving Jesus! If we give them milk and allow them to fall in love with Jesus he will open their heart to understanding and they will follow any standard he gives them!
Love them and allow them to grow before we kill them with meat trying to get them to look and act like us.
7.) Church Tracts. I have known many Pentecostals to try and win souls with church tracts. This is another form of outreach that I have seen being used to no effect across our movement. We must understand something, giving out tracts is similar to feeding steak to new born babies. Sinners have not even been spiritually born yet and were trying to win them with meat!
Not to long ago we started a revival in a church and the young man who was in charge of the outreach for the church ran to me with excitement and told me their church was really excited about starting the revival. As a matter of fact he stated we have already began the outreach, we ordered 10,000 tracts from the publishing house and have passed them out for the last 2 weeks preparing for the revival.
I was truly shocked; I said “you mean you have passed out 10,000 tracts already”? He said with excitement yes Brother Downs were all ready! I asked the young man how many guest had come in from this effort, he kind of looked puzzled and said “well none yet” I asked him again, you mean you have passed out 10,000 pieces of literature and not one person has come to the church from this effort? He said yes, that’s what has happened.
Shocked I asked the young man to go and get me one of the tracts that he had been passing out. He came back and handed me one of them and the title said “Why I do not have a television”. If we are going to reach the lost we cannot choke them before they are born. We must be careful what we are feeding these people.
When people walk into your church for the first time and the first thing they see is the tract display on the wall you are probably doing them more harm than good. In closing, again, I do not want to offend you. I am trying to help open your eyes to understanding in reaching the multitudes. People are truly hungry for this awesome truth and deserve our very best shot at reaching them!
We must use wisdom in all things! If some of the things listed above are what you have been using, please don’t become offended but ask God to challenge you and shake you and give you a fresh passion for souls. Ask him for wisdom in reaching others and ask him to reveal to you any weakness you may have had in winning the lost.
I believe we are in the last days and we must not allow any souls to burn for eternity!
Galatians 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
Evangelist Tim Downs
This article 7 Major Mistakes in Soul Winning by Tim Downs was excerpted from: www.gowinsouls.com web site. June 2009.
It may be used for study & research purposes only.