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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
"Do you believe you have ever done anything wrong, and that you are a sinner?"
"Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross to take away those sins?"
"Then will you bow your head with me, repeat a short prayer, and ask Jesus to come into your heart?"
(This is done.)
"Now, you are saved!"
"Yes, the Bible says you are saved. Don’t you believe the Bible?"
"Well, of course I do."
"Then you are saved, right?"
At first look, the method and message of the above illustration might seem beyond criticism. As a vast throng of "personal soul winners" canvasses our land from door to door using the above method, it becomes very difficult to downgrade their zeal and enthusiasm. To their credit, it must be stated that they are certainly on the job. The enthusiasm, earnestness, and persuasiveness which this well-trained group of so-called "fundamentalists" exhibits is certainly admirable, to say the least.
However, is this zealousness and persuasiveness misdirected? Is the method which is being used a scriptural method? Are the folks who are following the step by step instructions of the "soul winner" being genuinely saved?
This is a very delicate yet crucial problem today in the world of Biblical Christianity as we know it. Several thought provoking questions and intricate situations are being brought to the attention of God’s people everywhere. Certainly, a few of these conversions are genuine. It is the opinion of this writer, however, that the majority of these "decisions" for Christ do not pan out and are not genuine. Where are all the converts? Where is all the fruit?
As the hundreds and thousands of souls which are being saved are counted and recorded, where are they all going? Why is our land not in the midst of a great spiritual awakening and revival, rather than being in a downhill slide into sin and depravity?
Could it be that instead of being born again, people are being stillborn as a result of slick salesmanship techniques?
A closer study of the method of "easy-believism" certainly reveals to any rational believer that today's gospel has been watered down and grossly over-simplified.
What Is Missing? What Is Incorrect?
First of all, the Easy-believism type of evangelism usually does not emphasize genuine repentance toward God. No one can be save without a recognition of sin toward God, and a repentance of turning away from that sin. It is quite obvious that when someone is asked if they have ever done anything wrong, they are going to say, "Yes."
However, to agree lightheartedly that you have erred, and to experience the convicting influence and power of the Holy Spirit are two completely different things! Until a person has experienced the Spirit relayed consciousness that he is a totally depraved sinner, he can never exercise a saving faith in Christ. It is absolute folly to tell an unconvicted sinner to merely believe in Jesus and expect him to be saved. Before a person can be saved, he has to realize that he is lost. This conviction comes from the Holy Spirit.
To sweeten the gospel for the sake of numbers by de-emphasizing the sinfulness of man is unscriptural and ungodly! For man to realize that he is exceedingly sinful, he must first be shown the exceeding sinfulness of sin. That conviction does not come, however, through a planned program of quick responses by way of rehearsed questions.
Conviction of sin comes when God’s people preach and teach the power of repentance through the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, people are saved. My father used to tell me: "Son, a sinner can feel it in his head, and not believe it in his heart." His words are true yet today. A mental assent of sin is far different than a heart belief of conviction and sorrow toward that sin.
A second emphasis which is missing in the easy-believism, door-to-door method of soul winning is an acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ. To coax someone into lightheartedly admitting that Jesus is Saviour is missing the target entirely. Jesus is first and foremost Lord, and then Saviour! As one falls at the feet of Christ, experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit and realizing the all encompassing Lordship of Christ, he is then in a position to accept Christ as Saviour.
Easy believism leaves this out entirely. The sovereign Lordship of Christ is omitted and skipped completely, while the message of "only believe" is placed easily within one’s grasp. Consequently, shallow and frivolous decisions are made, and the very crux of the gospel is left unsaid.
Thirdly, while the joy and wonderfulness of salvation is overemphasized, the easy-believism method totally ignores the terms of true discipleship. When one gets saved, life does not suddenly become one big joy ride into Heaven. The cost must be counted! The cross as well as the crown must be preached and taught. Genuine salvation does not produce a constant bed of roses.
People should not be conned into thinking that it does, just in order to get them to make some sort of decision. Let it be said that a life of service for Christ will result in joy, peace, contentment, hope and purpose. Along with this, however, comes sacrifice, tears, anguish, persecution, and oftentimes death. Certainly, the genuine soul winner should make the potential convert aware of this fact. Not as a condition for salvation, but rather as a result of following Christ.
What is the result of all of this? People all across our land are believing, but they do not know what they are believing! The seed has not been sown properly, the doctrinal watering has not taken place, and God has not given the increase.
Shallow decisions to "repeat the sinner’s prayer" are being substituted for heart felt belief in the regenerating power of God. Listen: a slick smile, a hearty handshake, a manufactured speech, and a quick command for someone to bow their head and ask Jesus to come into their heart is not New Testament evangelism!
People in the New Testament were never pressured into salvation. I challenge anyone to show me where they were! In all instances, the heart of the individual was prepared by the Holy Spirit through the teaching of God’s Word, and a soul winner was then led to that person.
Of course, today’s high powered soul winner hides behind the feeble excuse that if only one conversion in twenty is genuine, then we should rejoice in the fact that the one genuine convert is saved and on his way to Heaven. Are people actually that naive? If this reasoning is logical, then is it not logical to also say, "Okay, let’s have twenty people line up against a wall. We’ll take a gun and shoot at all twenty of them. However, if only one escapes with his life, we will rejoice in the fact that the one is alive, even though the other nineteen people may be dead!"
To take the unscripturally loaded gun of easy-believism and aim it at twenty people with the hope that maybe one will actually get saved is basically the same type of logic. What about the other nineteen? They have been deceived, are oftentimes bitter, have been given a false hope, and are usually on their way to hell by means of a false profession. They have been shot and killed by the gun of easy-believism.
It is time for many of us to re-evaluate our methods of soul winning. Time needs to be set aside to patiently teach people the gospel. The necessity for true repentance and faith in Christ needs to be the very foundation of our message. We then need to wait on and pray for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
We then need to prayerfully and honestly lead them to the Lord. After a person gets saved, strong Baptist doctrine from God’s Word needs to be taught and rooted into the life of the new child of God. Certainly, scriptural baptism needs to be taught and administered, and the new convert should be brought up as new babe in Christ, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Of course, by doing it this way, we may not have as many "decisions" for the Lord. It is my belief, however, that the majority of those who do believe will be genuine, and that New Testament evangelism will be more accurately followed and practiced.