All posts by John

Christian saved by grace through faith.

Church Memberships and Mass Baptisms=Soul Winning?

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Soul Winner, by Charles Spurgeon and have so far been amazed by the truths written by a preacher that was born over 170 years ago.  It’s been so applicable to the modern day church that it’s almost as though it were written this year.  I want to share some insights from Mr. Spurgeon here today.  First off, from what I understand, this book is a collection of speeches or lectures that he intended to combine into sort of a text or manual for those at Pastor’s College.  I’m only partly through the second chapter, but the words literally seem to jump off of the page.  Here’s one example from his first chapter entitled, “What is it to Win a Soul”:

“In the next place, we do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year.” 

Wow, now I don’t know about you, but the first thoughts that hit me when I read that were the mega-churches and more recently the massive event at Saddleback Church.  Let me make clear, I’m not writing this in condemnation, but merely to create a dialogue of thought and to let you decide what is truly going on.  If you’re not aware of what happened two weeks ago, I’ll fill you in.  On March 28th, Saddleback had plans to baptize more than 3000 people, in what Pastor Rick Warren described as a “repeat of Pentecost” that occurred over 2000 years ago.  The results of this were actually 800 baptized and 2400 new church members.  To me, this sends up red flags on two fronts, the first is that the Day of Pentecost was a day of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of the Lord descended on the apostles and filled them, such that they spoke in tongues.  Acts 2:4 Upon Peter’s sermon of conviction and repentance, 3000 souls received the Word and were baptized.  Acts 2:41 Now I know Mr. Warren is intelligent and no doubt a shrewd business man, but surely his intentions were not to compete with the Holy Spirit.  The Day of Pentecost was essentially the birthday and foundation of the early Christian church.  How can man compare with that? 

The second red flag is from what Charles Spurgeon is teaching, in what I referenced above.  “By hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church roll” sounds so impersonal and disingenuous.  Mr. Spurgeon continues in this same light by saying this measure of membership increase, “is easily done, and there are brethren who use great pains, not to say arts, to effect it” and that if this is what their ministry is all about, “the result will be deplorable.”  Again, I’m not writing this to condemn, but to teach and to “test everything.” I Thessalonians 5:21  To conclude with an additional thought from Charles Spurgeon, “Do not, therefore, consider that soul-winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms, and the swelling of the size of your church.”  But rather, “men need to be told that, except divine grace shall bring them out of their enmity [hate] to God, they must be reminded of the sovereignty of God, that He is not obliged to bring them out of this state, that He would be right and just if He left them in such a condition, that they have no merit to plead before Him, but that if they are to be saved, it must be by grace and by grace alone.  The preacher’s work is to throw sinners down in utter helplessness, that they may be compelled to look up to Him who alone can help them.”

The lesson here is that no amount of “hype”, news coverage, or desires to break records can “lure” people to faith in Jesus Christ or affirmation of this through baptism.  Our role is to plant seeds in hearts of men through preaching the Gospel that they might know the truth.  The Holy Spirit can then water that seed and help it to take a solid root and grow within the heart.  John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

I Corinthians 3:10-15 10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Prayers Needed…


Something big is moving in our city and that something big is God.  I want to share with each of you a vision that God has impressed upon some leaders within our church and our community.  The vision is big, but so is our God.  In our city of Huntington, WV we have been struggling the last few years with the plague of increased drug activity and with that has brought crime and prostitution.  Granted, this problem is no doubt spreading throughout small town U.S.A. as sin continues to move at epidemic proportions.  But in our community, one that is small and close knit, there’s an opportunity to bring light into the darkness of one of our most troubled neighborhoods and the local news is taking notice.  Below is the story, as covered by the local newspaper, the Herald-Dispatch:

HUNTINGTON — One thing was clear during Monday evening’s kickoff meeting for a proposed skate park and community center at the old Imperial Lanes on Huntington’s 8th Avenue — faith in God will be at the foundation of the project.

That was not only mandatory for River Cities Community Church Youth Director Michelle Protzman and youth leader Kevin Vallance, but it also was important for many of the 25 or so folks that showed up at the Barnett Center.

Vallance discussed what he said God has laid on his heart. That’s to transform the old bowling alley, closed for more than four years, and its vacant parking lot into a skate park and recreational center. Many people had questions, but Vallance said the meeting really was about gauging community interest.

“I was pleased with the turnout,” he said. “I think the word will get out and more will get involved.”

Many who offered comments said the old facility has become an eyesore in Fairfield, and they are glad to see someone taking the reigns to transform it into something that will serve the youth.

“I know what’s out on the streets,” said Todd Benners, who has three sons. “These kids need to see someone who cares.

“If we can rebuild the positive aspect, the negative will go away,” he added, referring to the drug problem that has swept through Huntington. “It won’t go away by force, but by all the positive aspects.”

Others asked where the money would come from, who would run it and how it would be sustained. But Protzman reinforced Vallance’s stance that this was God’s project, and a faithful attitude is the only thing that matters at this stage.

“(This project) will not matter if God is not in it,” she said. “No matter how much money we throw at it. If God is in this, you will not be able to stop it.”

Virginia Ward, a mother of two who lives across the street from the Imperial Lanes, said she supports the recreation center being built on a Christ-centered foundation, supported by volunteers and a safe haven for children from the streets. Right now, she said, those places are limited.

“I’m thankful for the Fairfield East Community Center, but it can only do so much,” Ward said. “I just want a clean place to take our children.”

The Fairfield East Community Center, however, was supposed to be the home of a new skate park, said Charles Holley, director of development and planning for the city. In 2007, the city of Huntington designated $130,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for a skate park to be built there.

Holley said the park was never built because there were concerns about the amount of space available at the community center. But the money is still designated for a skate park.

The city has never considered the old bowling alley as a site for a skate park, although it is in a neighborhood that qualifies for CDBG funding, Holley said. The grant program goes toward projects in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

“There’s potential at that site, but we would have to look at it more closely,” he said.

District 5 council member Sandra Clements, who attended the meeting, said another site in the city is being looked at for a skate park. But she didn’t discount whether the money could go toward this proposed project.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 6 in the parking lot of the old bowling alley.

“We really don’t have details,” Protzman added. “We’re just asking you all to get on your knees and join us in prayer.”

For more information, Vallance can be reached at

I covet your prayers, for not only this vision, not only this community, and not only this city, but for our nation.  I firmly believe that a revival is coming to this country and it will come in one of two ways, either by choice, we Christians bow down and return to God to take back our country from the sin that ensnares it or we are broken down to our knees and with the hope that God has mercy on us.  It’s visions like this one that set the tone for us to bow down and lift this up to God, that He may receive the glory, that His light will shine throughout the country.  That this once great nation will know that He is Lord.  So I ask you, in whatever way God puts in your heart, to pray for this.  If God places this on your heart please pass it along to everyone you know so that they may pray, because I know that this revival has to start somewhere.  Also, if you have similar visions from God in your community and would like the message to get out, feel free to email the information to me and I will post it so that we can all be praying.  Our Christian Community knows no boundaries and if we can’t rely on each other through our faith in God, then who can we reach out to?

For more information contact Kevin at or email me at

Palm Sunday Pt. II – Symbolism and Stirring Emotions

There were a few key symbols that I pointed out in yesterdays Palm Sunday post, that I wanted to discuss in more detail.  The first was the choice to ride into town on a donkey colt, one that had never been sat upon.  To me, this means that the young donkey hadn’t even been broken in.  I think this points to the majesty of Jesus and shows His power and command over the animal.  I started thinking, what was the significance of it never being ridden, as we read in Mark 11:2, “…on which no one has sat.” The reason for this is that it has been set aside, or consecrated, for the specific purpose of transporting Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  As we read in Numbers 19:2 Moses and Aaron were commanded by God to instruct the Israelites to bring them a heifer without blemish, one on which a yoke has never been placed.  The same principle applies here; the donkey hadn’t been “blemished” with a bridal and bit. 

So why was the donkey the chosen transportation?  Why not a horse and an entrance full of the grandeur fit for a King?  We’ve pointed out that the implication was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, but why was a donkey referenced in the Old Testament?    Here’s where I think we need to understand a few things about Jesus’ time here on earth.  The people of Israel were looking for a king to deliver them from their oppression of the Romans.  The Old Testament had foretold of the Great King that would deliver the Israelites.  When Jesus was born, even Herod felt threatened by news of His birth and eventually ordered all of the children under the age of two to be put to death.  What the people misunderstood was that their King, was actually their Messiah, who came not to deliver them from their Roman oppression, but from the oppression and condemnation of sin.  The prophecy of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was to signify that He was not coming as a warrior to lead a revolution, but as a Savior to lead in redemption.  The amazing parallel is to look at this first entrance into Jerusalem with Christ’s second coming, where He will be on a white war-horse (Revelation 19:11-16).  The first coming was with peace and humbleness on a donkey, the second coming is with the armies of heaven to judge and make war, quite the contrast of the King of Kings.      

The third and final point that I wanted to make was one that I had thought about yesterday, but omitted, because it stirred me emotionally and I thought it deserved specific attention.  When we read of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, it’s filled with beautiful imagery and symbolism of a King.  To read of the people singing praises as they laid down their clothes in submission and palm branches of triumph and victory, truly is a stirring scene and I wanted to paint that picture, as though all who read of it were there experiencing this with them.  But the truth is we know what this entrance is leading to.  Yes it is filled with the hope that Jesus brings us with His death on the cross and yes our sins would be buried with Him and we would be raised in newness of life with His resurrection.  But I can’t help but feel the sadness and emotions that Jesus was experiencing during this procession into the city.  To know that the sins of the world would soon be on Him.  To know that His heavenly Father would soon turn His back on Him, unable to look at the sin, as Jesus would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 To know that my sins would help hammer the nails into His hands and feet…. 

We get a glimpse of the emotional pain Jesus was experiencing as He overlooked Jerusalem and began to weep saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:42-44 He wept for His people, knowing that if they had not rejected Him, how much easier it would be for them.

I think more than anything this triumphal entry signifies that soon our sins would be redeemed, that Jesus would triumph over those sins, triumph over the cross, and triumph over death.  How glorious His entrance must have been to the people that didn’t understand what was about to happen, but how heartbreaking must it be to those of us that know what was about to happen and that we were the cause.  But for this we’ve been given hope.  Hope in the bloodshed on the cross, that if we believe that Christ died for our sins, those same sins that helped nail him to the cross, and we repent of those sins, He will be faithful and just to forgive those sins; and that if in our belief of Christ’s death, we believe too that He rose again and we ask that he washes away our sins with His redeeming blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; and we receive Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior of our lives, then our hope is in Him; and how infinitely more glorious will His coming for the Church be.

If you’re ready to be forgiven of your sins that nailed Jesus to the cross and you believe that He died for those sins, just as I describe above, won’t you pray now and repent of those sins and ask Jesus to come into your life.  Your prayer might go something like this:

Dear Lord, I’m a sinner.  I recognize that as a sinner I’m not worthy of your mercy and grace.  But I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I believe that He rose again.  I repent of those sins and I ask now Lord for Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins and I accept him as my Lord and Savior.

In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, I pray that the Holy Spirit seals that decision in your heart and sets your feet firmly on the path of continued growth in Christ.

Christians if you know of someone that has yet to make that decision and you’re struggling with ways to bring it up or talk to them about it, maybe something as easy as forwarding them a web address might help.  Because I believe in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  I know God can work through my sometimes clumsy prose and use it for His glory and maybe, just maybe, lead 1 to Christ.