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.