Personal Soul Winning

By Evangelist John R. Rice, Th.D.

The Winning of Individuals by Individuals Is the Way Most Clearly Commanded in the Bible

Let us examine the marching orders which Jesus Christ left for Christians, His "Great Commission" left to churches and individuals.

Consider Mark 1.6:15, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." We generally think of "preaching the Gospel" as preaching a sermon to a crowd. But a little examination of this Scripture will show that that is not the principal meaning of the Great Commission. We read that Great Commission as if it read, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel in every church auditorium and to every congregation." But the Great Commission does not mention any auditorium and it does not mention congregations. No, the Lord Jesus here is talking about individuals. We are to preach the Gospel "to every creature," that is, to every individual. Christ did not die for congregations; He died for individuals. The Great Commission is not to preach the Gospel to congregations, but to individuals.

I freely grant that it is a blessed thing to preach the Gospel to as many as we can, whether a Sunday School teacher talks to ten, or a preacher preaches to fifty in a rescue mission, or to a thousand in a great congregation, or to a million in a radio broadcast. But the only way that a group or congregation fulfills the Great Commission requirement is that in the Sunday School class, or in the rescue mission, or in the church congregation, or in the radio audience are poor lost individuals who need to hear the Gospel. And every preacher ought to remember that he is not preaching to a crowd, but to individuals.

I think we preachers often have a wrong conception of the ministry to which we are called. We say, "God has called me to preach," by which we generally mean He has called us to prepare a sermon with a good outline and Bible truth and an exposition of Scriptures, and to preach this in a public address or sermon to a congregation. Now the call to preach may include preaching to a congregation, but that is not the primary meaning of the word as Jesus used it in the Great Commission. Actually we preachers are called to keep people out of Hell. We are called to get the Gospel to individuals. A preacher is doing exactly what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission when he talks to one poor sinner in his home, or on the street, or in the shop. And I say it with deep concern, I doubt if most of us preachers who preach formal sermons to congregations are really "preaching the Gospel to every creature" in the sense in which Jesus meant it. We are not called to preach sermons primarily. We are called to keep sinners out of Hell. In some cases sermons will help to do that. In other cases the individual contact is the only way we can get people saved.

How to Do It: Practical Help

"And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." -- Luke 14:23.

MANY PEOPLE would like to win souls, but they have no practical knowledge of how to go about it. In a city-wide revival campaign one pastor who co-operated in the meeting, who believed the Bible and seemed in real sympathy with the preaching and objectives, wanted to win souls. But when I suggested that he go into the inquiry room to take the Bible and make clear to people how they could be sure they were saved, he shrank from it and plainly said he would not know how to go about it. So that he could have some part in the salvation of sinners, I had him stand by me, and when converts came forward, he led them to the inquiry room and came back for more. But it was pitiful to see a preacher who had no practical understanding of how to deal with people in soul winning.

On another occasion I was in a revival service in a large Canadian church. A good many people came forward to take Christ as Saviour and I dealt with each one briefly as they came to take my hand at the pulpit. But then these new converts and the wayward Christians who were rededicating their lives went into an inquiry room for further instruction, and the assistant pastor was sent by the pastor into the inquiry room to make certain that these converts had really trusted Christ and knew their sins were forgiven. A little later when I went into the inquiry room to help and to check up, I found the assistant pastor, a college graduate and seminary graduate, going into great detail in a theological discussion on the fall of man, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, while the bewildered converts sat patiently listening to his harangue. He was a good man. He was fundamental in doctrine. But he knew nothing about how to deal with souls.

Here I want to make some practical suggestions about the soul winner's person, personality, and plans for showing lost sinners that they need to be saved, showing them how to be saved, and getting them to claim the Saviour.

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