A New Concept in Soul Winning Methods

A New Concept in Soul Winning Methods
Gene Edwards

Can a quiet, reserved, timid Christian become a soul winner? Is it possible for the average Christian to be transformed into a soul winner who is as effective as the best?

In this chapter, we will seek to introduce a whole new concept in soul winning methods. As far as this author knows, it is the first time the principles, philosophy and science of this new method have ever been presented. It is the author’s conviction that this very new—yet very old—approach has proven to be the most effective method for winning men to Christ developed in modern times. It has not only produced more soul winners; it has produced more effective soul winners than any concept in the past 200 years.

In beginning, the author would like to take a moment to speak, not with the pastor, but with the theologian who might pick up this book. Until now, this new concept has been received almost unanimously by everyone who has come to understand it. As it becomes better known, it is bound, by all the laws of history, to fall under criticism. May I say this to you, before you pick up your first stone of criticism: please do not tear this house down unless you can, and do, build a better one. If you can find a better, and more New Testament, approach to soul winning, then you will have rendered mankind one of its greatest services.

Also, if you have something to say, earn the right to say it by being an effective soul winner yourself. All the theological reasoning (of which this author is totally incapable) may be very profound, and sound very correct; but is the man who speaks a personal evangelist? Until you are, you have not earned the right to speak on the subject.

Please, sir, until these two qualifications are fulfilled, hold back your stones.

The Lost Concept

We have overlooked the one greatest principle in witnessing. This oversight has kept soul winning from becoming a natural part of the Christian’s life. The principle is this:

In order to be an effective soul winner, YOU MUST LEARN TO WORK WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Without realizing it, we have built our past methods of soul winning on a concept that almost completely leaves out the Holy Spirit.

Let us illustrate this. In almost every book written on soul winning, under the chapter title, “How To Begin”, we are told simply to begin the conversation by asking: “Are you a Christian?” or, “Are you saved?” or, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”

Is this working with the Holy Spirit?

Let’s say a Christian is sitting with an unsaved man, and turns to him and asks, “Are you saved?” The question falls out of the sky, blunt and piercing. How long has the would-be soul winner actually given the Holy Spirit to work on the heart of the man he is speaking to? How much time has the Holy Spirit had to prepare him for such a direct, blunt question?

Not even a second.

The lost man is jarred by such an abrupt beginning. The Holy Spirit has not a chance to prepare the man’s heart. The results are almost always disastrous. Furthermore, most Christians are totally incapable of being so aggressive.

Let us look at the ministry of Jesus Christ. Even He found it necessary to work with the Holy Spirit. We see this very vividly in His soul winning conversation with the woman at the well. He did not start the conversation by bluntly saying, “Are you born again?” or “Are you going to heaven?” He began very slowly, giving the Holy Spirit time to prepare her heart and convict her of her needs.

In our own vernacular, He actually said, “May I have a glass of water?” From that point on, He gradually moved the conversation from a mild spiritual plateau, very slowly raised it to a conversation about eternal life, and finally drew her to Himself. He gave the Holy Spirit plenty of time to do His office work of conviction. What if Jesus had started the conversation with his final sentence (“The one you are speaking about is the very one talking to you now”), rather than His first sentence (“Give me a drink”). Why, He would have frightened her speechless.

It is impossible to witness effectively unless you give the Holy Spirit opportunity to prepare the heart.

It is also interesting to note that the Samaritan woman presented many arguments and excuses during the course of their conversation. Jesus—unlike us–has not answered one of those questions yet! Rather, He guided the conversation around them, and always moved to a higher spiritual plane of thought.

What about Nicodemus, though?

It would seem obvious that Jesus was not working with the Holy Spirit when he spoke to Nicodemus. Nicodemus knocks on the door and walks in. Without even a greeting, Jesus faces Nicodemus with this statement: “Ye must be born again.”

How abrupt!

What is the difference in the way Jesus witnessed to Nicodemus, and with the woman at the well?

The difference is this: the Holy Spirit had already prepared the heart of Nicodemus. He was probably already very disturbed and convicted. This is the reason he came to Jesus.

On the other hand, the Samaritan woman had probably not had a spiritual thought in months. She was totally unconcerned about her soul. Had Jesus been so abrupt with her, He would have had exactly the same results we do when we are abrupt. She would have thrown up a barrier that would have been impenetrable. Jesus was not so unwise.

We need to ask this question: are most people like Nicodemus, or like the woman at the well? How many people have come knocking at your door, asking you to show them how to find Christ as Savior? This will not happen to us more than once or twice in a lifetime. Most people are like the woman at the well. They have not had a spiritual thought in months! Approach them abruptly, and you will never reach them. Begin the conversation gradually, as Jesus did, and amazingly, these very difficult people actually become very easy to deal with.

The secret: working with the Holy Spirit.

Beginning the Conversation with a Lost Person

What are the problems that you face when beginning a conversation with someone you want to lead to Christ?

The first problem is that the Christian is “scared to death”.

This is the major problem in personal evangelism. It transcends all the long list of qualifications, of do’s and don’ts, listed in most books (such as, know the Word; have compassion; memorize Scripture; be soul conscious; live a clean life; etc.) It is not these myriads of things we list that keep Christians from being soul winners. The fact of the matter is, the average Christian in an evangelical church today desires desperately to be a soul winner. It is simply because Christians do not know how to win souls. This lack of knowledge produces fear. The methods they have used in the past have gotten them in such terrible situations that they have abandoned the idea of soul winning.

Soul winning is, without doubt, the most terrifying thought of a Christian’s life. Wonderfully, though, when a Christian learns to work with the Holy Spirit, he will no longer have the problem of fear. He can witness with the calmness he knows in ordinary conversation.

The second major problem is resentment on the part of those you try to talk to. Why all this resistance? It is because the Christian does not know how to begin witnessing properly. Most Christians finally come to the point in the conversation where they know they must begin witnessing, and without any preparatory remarks to pad the shock, will blurt out: “Are you saved?”

Let us take the viewpoint of the lost person for a moment. Most of us have convinced ourselves that all lost people are hardened, resentful, and antagonistic to witnessing. Nothing could be farther from the truth; but when a lost person is approached in this abrupt manner, his fleshly nature rebels. He throws up a “defense mechanism”—a barrier. Almost scornfully, he looks back as if to say, “Well, buddy, I’m just as good as you are.” Immediately, we get the impression that he and all lost people are extremely hard to deal with, and have no desire to be approached on the subject of eternal life.

The fact of the matter is we have simply failed because we are witnessing in the power of the flesh, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

The third problem we face as we begin a conversation with a man is that we always get a “Yes-I-am-a-Christian” answer when we ask. Nine times out of ten, he will say, “Yes, I am a Christian.” I remember very vividly sitting in the home of a man who had a fifth of whiskey in his hand, and while pouring himself a drink, leaned back with an air of righteousness, and said, “Why certainly (gulp) I’m a Christian”!

We will never find out if a man is a Christian by asking him. Virtually everyone will say “yes”. Furthermore, they are honest. Most people have no idea if they are saved or lost. Later on in this chapter, we will learn an entirely different way to find out if a man is really a Christian. There is a way to find out if a man is a Christian, without asking him. He will tell you if he is a Christian, without ever knowing he told you!

Now, let us look at the situation as we have it. Two men are talking. One is trying to witness to the other. The Christian is scared; the other man is angry. The Christian can’t find out if the man is really lost or not. What a situation. It’s no wonder most of us have not been able to win souls!

What is the solution?

Working with the Holy Spirit!

Here’s How:

Begin the conversation on a mild plane. Meet the lost man on the level he is on, not on the level where you want him to be. If he is a disinterested person, then you must never start at the point of maximum conflict (ie., “Are you saved?”)

Begin gradually, and the Holy Spirit will create interest in his heart. Gradually build the conversation—letting the Holy Spirit prepare the man’s heart with one sentence, so that he is ready to accept another sentence just a little more personal—then another. Finally, after the Holy Spirit has used each sentence to prepare the way for the next, you will be able to ask an all-important question, which, if it had been asked in the beginning, would have produced terrible tension between the two of you.

You will be amazed to discover how well the Holy Spirit has done His work. The lost man will be ready to receive the question, and no tension is experienced at all.

You see, if a Christian can begin slowly as he moves into this personal area of a man’s life, then the Christian will not be frightened. The lost man, since he has not been slapped in the face with a direct question, begins conversing with the Christian on a very mild spiritual topic. He relaxes. He has no fear that the Christian is going to “pressure him into something”. The lost man gains confidence in the soul winner. The two people soon become quite natural and relaxed in their conversation. The lost person will “open up”, and begin talking about things he perhaps has rarely ever discussed before. He will not become angry. The conversation will gradually and very naturally move toward deeper spiritual levels.

Remove the problem of fear on the part of the Christian, and resentment on the part of the lost person—and you have solved the major problems in soul winning.

1. How to Begin a Conversation Gradually

It is truly wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit prepares a heart when a Christian is witnessing with a prescribed objective in mind. The Christian always knows exactly where he is going. He is never at a loss. By asking mild questions in the beginning, the Christian gives the Holy Spirit time to stir conviction. By listening carefully, he also learns a great deal about the lost person. The lost person is unconsciously forced to keep his attention on a spiritual topic. Such a concentration on a spiritual topic gives the Holy Spirit fertile ground for working.

The Christian may begin a soul winning conversation something like this:

“Bill, how long have you lived here?”

(“About two years.”)

“Well, since you moved here, have you and your wife given much thought to spiritual things?”

The Christian waits for an answer. Bill might say, “Yes we have”, or he might say, “No, we haven’t”. The Christian can move on to the next question in a perfectly relaxed atmosphere, and with the lost person’s interest just barely pricked.

(Each question can be so worded that regardless of the answer, the Christian can move on to the next question. In this way, the Christian always knows what to do next. He never has to face into a “great unknown” when he witnesses.)

The Christian can then say,

“Bill, what would you say is a person’s greatest spiritual need?”

The lost person will put forth an answer of “Going to church, I guess”, or “Praying”, or he will say, “I don’t know”.

The Christian, quite naturally, moves to his next question. The conversation is moving just a little more toward the main point.

“Have you ever heard of the four spiritual laws?”

Of course, Bill will answer “no”. The Christian has introduced a thought that just barely stirs the curiosity. The Christian can then say,

“These are the spiritual laws that govern our life and our eternal destiny. Has there ever been a time in your life when you thought about your need of eternal life?”?

The lost man may answer, “Yes, I have”. This obviously tells you two things: he is not a Christian, but he is interested. If he says “no”, then you have still learned that he is not a Christian. (If he should answer, “I think I have already done this”, the Christian can still naturally move on to the next step.) The next question fits naturally.

Scripture memory and witnessing are two separate phases of the Christian’s life. Scripture memory serves as a wonderful and valuable tool to personal Christian growth.

This point is made very lovingly and kindly. The soul winner goes on to present the results of sin, and then how Jesus Christ has made a way of salvation from sin. Then the Christian clearly shows exactly how to receive Christ as Savior. The entire conversation is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ.

Notice: you, the soul winner, are introducing the terms that are being used in the conversation. You are introducing the thoughts. You are guiding the conversation. The lost person will quite naturally pick up your terms and begin to use them in his answers. Here again, you have given the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work, for each time he uses these thoughts and terms, their meaning burns deeper into his conscience.

We have worn out such terms as “lost”, “saved”, “born again”, “are you a Christian”. The terms used in this “gradual” approach are all relatively fresh. The lost person is neither offended by them, nor does he realize exactly where the conversation is leading. Therefore, he is relaxed in his replies.

II. How to Find Out If a Person Is a Christian

About the fourth or fifth question, depending upon how well the lost person is responding, there comes the most important question of all.

At this point, we want to introduce a concept that can revolutionize evangelism. It answers the question, “How can you really find out whether a man is converted or not?”

In the chapter on the Religious Census, we point out the fact that many denominations today no longer stress the need of salvation. Your neighborhood is literally filled with lost church members (most of whom have not been to church in years). It should be your goal, and the goal of your church, to visit in the home of every one of these inactive church members. It is not your job to pass judgment on them before you go. We must never make the mistake of assuming these people are saved; nor should we make the mistake of assuming they are lost. Your job is to visit the home to find out which is true. Christians go to a home to make a discovery.

We must find out if people are truly born again, or truly lost—without asking the question. (Because the question gets a “yes” answer from nearly everyone.) Then we can throw open a whole new avenue of witnessing.

For one thing, we can begin working in the greatest unevangelized field on earth: the lost church members. The evangelistically minded church can quadruple its prospects when it can find out who is lost and who is converted. Too, lost church members need Jesus Christ as much as anyone.

How can this be done? It is very simple:

Instead of asking a man if he is a Christian, ask him what he thinks a Christian is. Here is an almost infallible law: if you can find out what a man thinks he has to do to become a Christian, you will find out if he is a Christian. Let’s turn that around. Find out what a man thinks he has to do to get to heaven, and you will find out if he is saved or not.

There is one thing a born-again child of God knows, if he doesn’t know anything else: he knows he didn’t become a Christian by living a good life.

You may ask this question: “Bill, in your opinion, what would you say a person has to do to be a Christian?” (or, “to get to heaven”).

For some reason, lost people enjoy answering this question. They will often lean back and say, “Well, sir, I’ll tell you what I believe. If a man will live a good life, pay his debts, and do the best he can, he’ll get to heaven.” This is the depraved thinking of a lost, legalistic mind. A child of grace can never make such a statement. You can know for certain that this man, no matter how religious he may be, has never had an experience of salvation.

This is the question you want to train your Christians to ask in every home they visit in. (The answers they get should be recorded on the back of the prospect’s card.)

The next step the Christian takes is all important. When a man gives the wrong answer, it will be the natural impulse of the Christian to say, “No, that’s wrong.” Many Christians make this mistake, even after they have been trained over and over not to. It is imperative to never disagree with a lost person when asking this question. Otherwise you might end up in an argument. So when a man says, “I believe that all you have to do to be a Christian is live a good life, and obey the Ten Commandments”, the Christian should answer agreeably,

“You are right; a person does need to live a good life. But what does a person have to do to become a Christian?”

The Christian can then ask,

“Could we take three or four verses of Scripture and see exactly what God’s Word says about this?”

If you have moved very slowly and given the Holy Spirit an opportunity to create interest, he will allow you to read the Scriptures. (If he will not let you, then there is nothing more you can do. The Word of God is the criteria for all soul winning. Out of thousands of interviews, I have personally had only four people to ever refuse to let me read the Scriptures with them.)

In summing up, begin the conversation with the lost person slowly. This is just as effective as taking weeks to create an acquaintance with him. The Holy Spirit will prepare his heart for more pointed questions. On about the fifth move upward, ask him his opinion about what a man has to do to become a Christian. This will tell you if he is lost or saved. If he is lost, ask for permission to read some Scriptures, and see what God’s Word has to say on the subject.

Presenting Christ

In almost every book written on soul winning, the largest part of it is given over to discussing ways to answer excuses and arguments. At this writing, the author knows of only three books in print in the English language that are exceptions to this rule.

In most books, you are taught to ask a man if he is a Christian. If he says “no”, and if you are one of the few brave people who had the courage to get past this frightening question, you will then run into a barrage of excuses, such as: “There are too many hypocrites in the church”; “I am just as good as anybody else”; “I will get around to it someday”, etc.

All of us have been taught dozens of Scriptures to give as answers to the lost person’s excuses.

Here, again, we run up against the fantastic neglect of working with the Holy Spirit. Answering excuses is the greatest error we could make. The moment we begin answering a man’s excuses, or even allow the conversation to get down on a level where the excuses are brought up, we automatically have allowed him to set the standards of the conversation.

Answering a man’s excuses and arguments has absolutely nothing to do with witnessing. It is not even in the same category. This is not witnessing; it is a debate. The Christian is then actually in the role of defending Christianity. Answering specific problems is not, and cannot be, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! We have never been commissioned to analyze theological points with lost men. We are to present the Good News!

When we realize this, then we can approach soul winning from an entirely new vantage point. You will discover that there is actually a way to witness without having to answer arguments or excuses. Instead of having to answer excuses, the excuses are never brought up. The very nature of the conversation eliminates them. Here again is the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me reiterate that never in my entire life have I seen anyone fall under deep conviction from having someone quote a host of Scripture verses in reply to a host of excuses. ?

Giving logical, reasonable answers to his theological questions also nets no results. Nor do I know of any truly effective, consistent soul winner who uses that method. (There are some soul winners who have even written books teaching this method, and they themselves never use it.)

In the New Testament, you will find a great deal of Scripture proof-text, in sermons. You will find virtually none in the personal conversations of a Christian witnessing to the unconverted. The only times that Jesus used the Scriptural proof text method’ for answering arguments, was when He encountered the devil, and the religious Pharisees—never with the sinner who needed a Savior.

When we use verses of Scripture to answer excuses and arguments, we are actually magnifying problems, rather than magnifying Christ. All attention has been focused on a very low spiritual plane. More than this, we have already lost before we’ve gotten started, because we have cut across one of the greatest traits of human nature: A man will never admit that he is wrong.

None of us ever really loses an argument. No matter what the subject is, we will do everything in our power to prove that we are right. We will draw upon all our resources, throw our keenest logic and reasoning into play. When we have exhausted facts and logic, we will begin inventing them! When this is depleted, we may resort to just plain lying! From then on, it is no longer a logical argument; emotions are brought in, and we are soon dealing in personalities. Any husband and wife who have ever been in an argument with each other should understand this.

Here is one of the reasons that we have completely misconstrued the interest of lost people in salvation. We have wrongly concluded that most unconverted people are antagonistic; do not believe the Bible; do not believe in God, etc. This is not true at all. All these crude arguments we hear from lost people do not really reflect their hearts. The lost person is only bringing up these points in a desperate effort to win his argument. Once he has taken the opposite position from yours, he’ll do anything, bring up anything, and say anything, just to win. Tragically, it is our fault the conversation takes such a turn.

Let’s retrace a typical conversation between a Christian and a lost person:

The lost person says there are too many hypocrites in the church. The moment we turn to a verse of Scripture, we unwittingly challenge him to an argument. We have taken the opposing view. The battle line is drawn. (The battle is lost before it is even started.) The lost man will do everything in his power to prove his point. Logic is pitted against logic, and when this is exhausted, the conversation may very well degenerate to a level in which the lost person is saying things he never believed at any moment in his life. Finally, emotion enters into the picture, and what started out with the highest resolve to witness, ends up being nothing more than a spat.

And where is the Holy Spirit? We have given Him absolutely no place to operate. We have built the witness on a fallacious principle. For the Word of God says the natural man perceives not the things of the Spirit. And here we are, arguing theology with the natural man.

What are the spiritual principles of working with the Holy Spirit in winning souls?

First, Jesus said that He sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict the world of sin. This transforms witnessing. It is not your job to convict a man. Pelleting him with a long series of verses showing the sinfulness of sin, to get him under conviction, is not Biblical. The Holy Spirit convicts, not you!

A doctor does not pound on a man’s stomach to prove that he has appendicitis. He merely touches it. The patient will flinch because the problem is already there. It is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours, to produce conviction of sin. You need only make the truth clear. The Holy Spirit uses the avenue of truth that you have made available to Him. He convicts.

Secondly, the Word of God does not say, “If verses, and proof texts, and arguments be lifted up, they will draw all men to Jesus.” Rather, Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Here is the secret to witnessing — Present Jesus Christ.

We will learn in this chapter that there is a way to so present Jesus Christ, and to so present salvation, that this, in itself, eliminates arguments and excuses. Problems are never brought up. This is not a forced, mechanical thing that deliberately sidesteps issues. The opposite is true: the disappearance of difficulties is the natural result of effective witnessing.

Finally, we can look at this from the viewpoint of reason. Most of us as Christians are very timid. Jesus has already promised that He will use the weak things of the world to confound the wise. Most of us are not good at memorizing Scriptures, and under pressure, cannot call them to mind. Most of us cannot win an argument through logic and reasoning. All our lives, we have come out the loser in arguments.

And tragically, in witnessing, even if a Christian has a keen memory and a sharp edge of logic, he may win the argument, but rarely does he win the man.

How to Eliminate the Problem of Excuses

You eliminate the problem of excuses, by simply presenting Jesus Christ as Savior. This can be done in such a unique way that an excuse or argument looks out of place. Here is a part of a dialogue from a soul winning plan employing this new concept.

The Christian is talking:

“In Romans 3:23, we read that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This simply means that I am a sinner; it means that everyone in the world has sinned. You realize you have sinned too, don’t you Bill?” (“Yes.”) “But most of us don’t realize how serious it is when we sin. We look about us and compare ourselves with others. For instance, you look at me and say, ‘Well, he does a lot of things I wouldn’t do’. Or you might say, ‘There is a man over there who is very religious, but I am about as good as he is’.

“Now, Bill, as long as I compare myself with you, and you compare yourself with me, we never really see sin for what it is. But God does not compare us with one another, as we do. God compares us with Jesus Christ. Bill, if the Lord Jesus were standing right here and God were to compare you with Him, would you be able to say you are as good and perfect as Jesus?”

(“No, of course not.”)

“And, neither could I. No one can. None of us is as good as Christ. But God says if you are not as good as He is, you are a sinner and eternally separated from Him.”?

Now, let us analyze this dialogue, and see how it completely eliminates excuses and arguments on the part of the lost person. Notice that you bring up the excuse. Then you introduce Jesus Christ and relate the excuse to Him. Rather than answering the excuse, you place the man in his correct position with Jesus Christ. This itself produces conviction and totally eliminates the excuse.

Here is a very practical and helpful principle: if you know what a man’s excuses are, then bring them up before he brings them up. That way, sides are never taken, and no opportunity is given for argument. (Here is something else you might keep in mind: if a man brings up an excuse or argument, never try to answer it at that moment, for this is the moment of greatest tension, and he is ready to defend his position at all cost. Rather, wait and discuss his argument several minutes later, when it is no longer a pressing issue.)

Something more important than this is present in the dialogue, though. It is the PERSON of Jesus Christ. You have told the lost person exactly what most people say. Then you lift the conversation completely out of the realm of the carnal, out of the realm of excuses and arguments, out of the realm of theological debate. You lift it up to a realm in which he is helpless—for you introduce the Person of Jesus Christ. You have asked him, “If Jesus were standing right here, could you say you are as good as He is?” Ah, this is a place where the Holy Spirit can operate. The lost person has had to see himself, as compared with Jesus Christ. He will never come back and say to you, “I am as good as anyone else”. To bring up such a trite issue becomes wholly out of place, for be has had to stand face to face with Jesus. And the Holy Spirit has brought home the message.

Now to answer a very practical question: “What do you do if someone brings up an excuse in the middle of your witnessing?”

Let us answer this first by saying that once a Christian learns how to work with the Holy Spirit, and make Jesus Christ the center of the message, this almost never happens. For most of us who have used this concept, it is hard to remember the last time someone has been difficult to deal with. It is rare indeed when a person brings up an argument or excuse. This does not mean that many do not reject Christ. Many do, but never with the agonizing problems and tension we used to experience. Nor does it mean that the Christian so dominates the conversation that the lost person can’t get a word in. To the contrary, the lost person usually does the greatest part of the talking. The Christian just guides the trend of thought.

If the person does present an argument or excuse while you are talking with him about Christ, you can do one of two things:

First, be honest and admit your ignorance. If we were to be truly honest, most all of us would say “I don’t know.” Never make the mistake of trying to give an answer to everything a man brings up. Don’t think you are duty bound to try to give an answer to everything. You don’t have to know all the answers to be a soul winner. We simply don’t have that many real answers. You can be truthful with amazing results. Who said we had to sound like intellects to witness! Nor does the lost person expect you to be a genius, in order to qualify to talk to him. Rather, he will probably respect you more for honestly saying you don’t know the answer to his question.

Secondly, you can ask for the privilege of putting the question off, by simply saying, “I’ll tell you what; let’s go on, and in a moment, we’ll come back to that question.” Or you can say, “Let’s wait just a moment and I think we’ll see the answer to that question real clearly.”

The very fact that you do not answer the excuse will mean more to the lost person than if you did. He will sense in you an honest and simple desire to present something to him that seems very important to you, and something that you sincerely believe. He will sense that you have come to speak with him about something that is far too important to be pulled down to the level of an argument or defense.

Does this mean that we are never to answer a man’s argument or excuse? That is exactly what it means. This desire to quote Scripture to answer a man’s every word, will lead nowhere. Still, the soul winner must ask God for wisdom to know the difference between an excuse and a sincere problem. The difference is really very easy to recognize. If there is something in the mind of the lost person that keeps recurring, then you may be able to tell that this is a problem, not an excuse. Analyze the question. Was it asked humbly and sincerely, from a heart that seems to be wrestling with a problem; or is it asked with a tinge of self righteousness or unconcern?

Ask yourself this question: is the Holy Spirit dealing with the person I am talking to? If you see evidence that this question is borne out of unrest, induced by the working of the Holy Spirit, then very tenderly, do your best to answer the problem, keeping Jesus Christ as the central thought. If you do not know the answer, simply, honestly admit it, and leave it to the Holy Spirit to overrule the problem. (You will find that people with a very serious problem, needing special guidance, will make up a very small percentage of the people you talk to. Most people have many excuses, few real problems.

By employing this concept in soul winning, you will never need over four or five verses of Scripture to witness to anyone. Four verses of Scripture can be very simply mastered. They are not four verses which answer four excuses. In a very real way, they are not four verses at all, but four parts of one picture — the picture of salvation. They fit together as a whole, to lift up Jesus Christ as the answer to man’s need.

Each one of us is very different. Our personalities are never alike. But here is a New Testament concept in personal soul winning that can be, and is, acceptable to the personality of every Christian. Even the most reserved, sensitive Christians, who would be repelled at the thought of witnessing by most methods, find this to be so natural that they can accept it and use it naturally every day.

Once you have mastered these New Testament principles of witnessing, and eliminated the traditional efforts at witnessing, you will be amazed to find how truly interested most people are in Jesus Christ and His salvation. More and more, you will find your conversation getting into the heart and soul of that man’s every day problems and needs — such as peace, worry and frustration.

You will be amazed to find that most people are eager to find Christ as their Savior, when you approach them in the right way. You will discover that it is a very simple matter to win them to your Savior. You will also discover that it is not such a terrifying experience after all.

The Point of Decision

When you witness to someone, the conversation falls into three natural divisions: (1) beginning the conversation; (2) presenting Christ; (3) the moment of decision.

On the shelves of my library, are most of the books written in the English language on soul winning. In hardly a one of these books can you find so much as a reference to the way to carry a man through the experience of conversion. The most that is said is usually, “now press for a decision.” Or “now draw the net.” But how?

The author remembers vividly, after he had been a pastor for three years, and had completed the seminary, that he was talking to a lost man who suddenly agreed to accept Christ right then and there. Although I had witnessed to dozens of people, up to that moment, not one of them had ever showed any interest in accepting Christ (nor had I ever succeeded in winning any of them)! It was only at this moment, that I realized that I did not have the vaguest notion how to carry a person through a salvation experience. I believe that this has been typical of most of us. We do not know how to lead a lost person through the experience of salvation.

Most pastors and laymen have never received any training in, and know nothing about the very sensitive art of pressing for a decision. About the only way to draw the net that most of us have ever heard of is for a Christian to say to the lost person, “If you will receive Christ as your Savior, put your hand in mine.”

But man’s hand does not save! The decision must be more conclusive than this! Certainly prayer does not save; nonetheless, a lost man must some way come in contact with Jesus Christ to be converted. The absolute minimum for anyone to receive salvation—regardless of what a man knows or doesn’t know about redemption—is that he must come in contact with the Savior. Prayer does not save . . . but Jesus does; and a man has to come in contact with Jesus to be converted.

The greatest tragedy of soul winning today, is that we never get around to explaining, step by step, exactly HOW to receive Christ, and then LEAD the lost person through these steps. I have watched Christians deal with lost people for hours and yet never get around to saying: “Here’s how”.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as witnessing, if a point of decision is not reached. Most Christians have concluded that if they invite someone to church, or say something about Jesus, or even present the redemption story, then they have “witnessed”. A man has not truly witnessed until he has brought a soul face to face with Jesus Christ, to the point where that man must either accept Him or reject Him.

The most effective, and yet the most gentle way to come to a point of decision, is to simply present the plan of salvation, and then, without wavering or even slowing down, ask him to bow his head with you while you have a word of prayer. Request that he close his eyes and imagine that Jesus Christ is standing there. Pray a very brief prayer, and do not close the prayer. Just stop talking to Jesus, and start talking to the person under conviction.

Say to him:

“Now, Bill, don’t do this unless you really want to, with all your heart. But if you would like to receive Christ as your Savior, right now, just say, `Dear Lord Jesus, I confess my sins. . . ”

Then wait for him to begin praying. He now knows exactly what to do, and how to do it. You have brought him to a clear point where he must knowingly reject or accept Christ.

He will often begin praying, and pour out his heart to the Lord without your assistance. Or you may need to guide him through a complete prayer of decision.

After you have led a man to Jesus Christ, your very next words should be on assurance of salvation, and then his need of becoming a part of the church, and growing in

Guiding the Conversation

We have looked at the problems and the principles of effective New Testament witnessing. When a Christian has thoroughly mastered the art of soul winning, then he almost completely loses his fear of witnessing. Witnessing becomes a daily experience — and it is done on the highest level of Christian virtue. Witnessing becomes a glory to Jesus because the way it is done glorifies Him. This begins a new day in the life of a Christian, and also in the life of his church.

A Christian witnessing effectively can actually guide the conversation, if he is master of what he is doing. The lost person may talk a great deal, and should. In the beginning of the soul winning conversation, when you are moving slowly, you should let the lost person do most of the talking. The Christian should encourage him to talk, by listening attentively, and perhaps nodding. But the Christian sits there knowing exactly what to do next.

He knows exactly where he is headed. If the conversation veers off, he can bring it back immediately. After all, a conversation is simply the interaction of words and ideas. It is possible for the Christian to guide that conversation gently, up to the point of opening God’s Word, and from there, into the truths of salvation — skillfully moving in the opposite direction of excuses — and finally leading the person to the point of decision.

The Beginner Needs a Plan

It is possible to reduce the principles which we have discovered and talked about in this chapter, into a workable plan. This plan is simply a dialogue. The Christian learns five or six “approach steps” that can gently and slowly open a conversation with a lost person. These six steps quietly lead that person up to the point of opening the Word of God with him. One of these questions the Christian asks will reveal if the person is truly converted or not. Each question is so worded that, regardless of the answer the lost person gives, the Christian can ALWAYS move on to the next question. In this way, he is never at a loss as to what to say next.

The Christian can learn a dialogue, which explains clearly the plan of salvation. He uses four verses of Scripture which clearly present Jesus Christ and moves the conversation to a point of decision.

The best way for a beginner to win souls is to master ONE plan. All of us are beginners, so it would be best if we all started here. Master and memorize the plan as if it were the only one in the world that would work.

Here are some reasons why a Christian seeking to be a soul winner should use a plan:

1. It gives you confidence.

2. You have the advantage of knowing what reactions and responses to expect from your prospects.

3. Your mind is free of the stress of planning moves, leaving you free to concentrate on your prospect, and the Lord’s presence.

4. You can guide the conversation.

5. It allows you to stay on the target, and work systematically toward your subject’s salvation.

6. It leaves you free to analyze the prospect’s answers and responses, and measure his understanding. You are not desperately wondering what to say next.

7. You do not need a lot of Scripture verses or extra helps for the job.

8. You can bring your man to a decision faster.

9. You, yourself, do not become confused.

10. The lost person develops confidence in you, because you reveal confidence.

11. You do not have to annoy yourself with “How will I bring up the matter of Christ and salvation?” Memorized approach steps make it simple. Fright disappears.

12. You will always be ready when the Holy Spirit gives you an opportunity.

13. You are relaxed and natural. There is no fear at all.

Use the plan you have mastered, until you have successfully led about ten people to Jesus Christ. By the time you have won ten people to Christ, you should be completely over the problem of fear. Also, you will have sat under the greatest soul winning Instructor on earth – the Holy Spirit. You will have a backlog of experience on which to draw. You can cut your ties with the plan, and witness out of the overflow of wisdom that God has given you…by any approach you deem best.

Until the time when you graduate from the beginner stage, you should stick with the plan.

This is the best way for a pastor to begin soul winning in his own life. It is the best way for the pastor, in turn, to teach the art of soul winning to his people. It is the best way for a layman to begin winning souls to Christ. It is the best way to begin building a soul winning church.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

This article “A New Concept in Soul Winning Methods” by Gene Edwards was excerpted from the book How to Have a Soul Winning Church. It may be used for study & research purposes only.