How to Win Souls… or Not

This is a guest post by Sam Riviera. He spends most of his time and energy caring for others in his community so that through his life and actions they might see Jesus. He has also written “14 Reasons I Never Returned to the Institutional Church.

If you would like to write a guest post for this blog, check out the guidelines here.

soul winning“Lord lay some soul upon my heart. And love that soul through me. And may I always do my part. To win that soul to thee.”

Some of us who grew up in church grew up singing that song. We were told it meant we were to be soul-winners. We should do everything possible to “win” people to the Lord.

How might that look? – For many of us that meant we should invite people to church so they could hear the Gospel preached and “get saved.” Once they’re saved, God and the church would take care of them and we would find someone else to invite to church.

Here are some other ways we are taught to engage in soul winning:

Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart

Feel a burden for someone I know who isn’t saved. Pray for them. Give them some Christian literature that talks about salvation, and something that would make them want to attend my church.

Fortunately, if the Lord hasn’t laid someone on my heart, they’re not my burden. They must be someone else’s burden. I need to focus on the people the Lord has laid upon my heart.

Love That Soul Through Me

Always be nice to the people the Lord has laid upon my heart. Be friendly. Say hello every time I see them. If they have a sick family member, offer to take dinner to their family.

May I Always Do My Part To Win That Soul to Thee

Use the word “Lord” in casual conversation. Mention that I like my church and that they would like it also. Invite them to a special event at my church that I think they might be willing to go to. If they don’t go, give the pastor their name and address and ask him to call on them. Maybe he can convince them to go to church.

Apparently the “my part” business means other people also will be involved with this project. If several of us invite people to church, eventually maybe they’ll go. Then the pastor can do his part and preach a sermon that will convince them to repent and get saved.

Anything Else?

Does that describe how we “win souls”? Does God lay certain people on our heart to “win”? Are we the ones who get them to church, to Jesus and to the decision to get saved?

I could have written every word of this post prior to this sentence in 1962. That is exactly how I thought in 1962. I thought it was my responsibility to get certain people I knew to church so they could get saved. People who didn’t go to church were at the top of my list.

Over the past fifty years however, my understanding of “soul winning” has changed. I have discovered that the conservative evangelical church’s viewpoint in the 1950’s did not necessarily represent the viewpoint of other churches, nor the viewpoint held by the church over the previous two millennia. Apparently it does not represent the viewpoint actually held by many Christians and churches today.

If we believe that we must “win souls,” why aren’t we doing it? According to what I have read, the average church only adds one or two new members each year by “profession of faith.” Can that information possibly be correct? Maybe some atheist organization invented that “statistic”!

What Do You Think?

Before I explain my take on “soul winning,” I would like to hear what you think.

Should we attempt to win souls? Why? How do we do it? What have we tried that works?

Is it possible to “win” souls?

Where does God fit into the equation?

Does the Bible tell us that God will lay some soul upon our hearts so we can win that soul to him?

Want to learn more about Scripture and Theology?

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