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« Worshipping God in the Spirit | Main | Themes of Colossians – Chapter Two – Part Three »

The Bible on Soul Winning

We have heard many people talk about why we should win souls, how we can win souls and how a church should set up a soul-winning strategy. Many theories have been advanced about reaching ethnic groups, using demographics to find and target receptive segments of the population and what kinds of advertising works best. We also read about changing our types of services and making our approaches more relevant to the twenty-first century. It is true that these different ideas have all worked in different places and in different ways. It is also true that many of them have failed to work by people who have done their very best to try them sincerely.

At the end of the day, the Bible remains the most important guidebook for successful soul winning. Let us then go back to the Word of God to find out how the disciples of Jesus and the early church got their results. Such a study should be allowed to go wherever it leads without trying to manipulate or control it. Let us not try turn the Bible method into a template or a three, five or ten step plan that is “guaranteed” to work every time. The best thing we can do is find out what principles those in the Bible used to win souls that worked in every circumstance. The scriptures can teach us how to apply these principles to our lives and times, regardless of where we live.

Let’s begin with the greatest soul winner of all time, Jesus Christ. He won souls one-on-one as well as reaching the multitudes.


John 1:43-51 “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

1. Philip and Nathaniel. Jesus reached Philip by simply saying, “Follow me.” Philip then found Nathaniel and testified that he had met the Messiah. When Nathaniel questioned him, Philip invited him to “come and see.” When Nathaniel came to Jesus, the Master told him that he had already seen him under the fig tree. That statement alone was enough to convince Nathaniel to believe in Jesus.

Three principles are at work here. First, Jesus had a word of knowledge to call Philip to discipleship. There may have been some introductory conversations about the Messiah, but the telling blow was the effectiveness of Christ’s command to Philip to “follow me.” If we have a word of knowledge about someone, maybe we ought to tell them to come to church rather than to ask them.

Second, Philip whetted the appetite of Nathaniel with the intriguing thought that he had found the Messiah. He knew that Nathaniel was interested in this. “Come and see” was a natural outflow of the discussion. Philip did not play to Nathaniel’s present knowledge or fears. He promised him that he would find out the answer to a long held question. It was an invitation to learn something that he did not know but that he had a vested interest in finding out.

Last, something about his encounter with Jesus led Nathaniel to a divine revelation. It was a sovereign work of God. Philip may have anticipated this but he could not control it or make it happen. After he did his part to share his knowledge with Nathaniel, he had to believe that the result would have to be the miraculous power of God at work. There is no evidence that Philip tried to set the stage for a warm reception for Nathaniel. We are not told that Philip worried about whether or not Nathaniel would receive Christ. Evidently, he believed that the power of God at work would be sufficient to change Nathaniel’s heart without any additional help.

Furthermore, we have no reason to believe that Philip was deliberately trying to win Nathaniel. He was only sharing with him the overflow of his own soul. He was excited and his own excitement motivated his witness. Could it be that God simply wants us to be excited and passionate about him and thus create an attraction to others? Maybe we worry too much about the who, what, when, where, why and how of witnessing. Our joy of knowing Christ cannot be suppressed. Philip released his joy in the company of a friend. “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” Talk about God. The talk will have an effect on others.

2. Nicodemus. Next, we see the incident of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night. Can we discern some divine principles at work here?

John 3:1-3 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

First, we must accept the fact that hungry people are everywhere seeking out truth in their own way. We don’t often know who they are because they can’t or won’t identify themselves. Nicodemus was a seeker, but he was very fearful because if his meeting with Jesus was discovered, he would be in much trouble. That’s why he came at night. He also asked Jesus a religious question. He could have had a legitimate concern about who Jesus was. Or, he may have tried to cover his lack of knowledge by professing to know some religious facts himself. Jesus did not engage his surface question. Instead, he discerned the real reason why Nicodemus had come. He had a deep hunger in his life to know God and he already had a belief that Jesus was the Messiah, although the belief was not yet confirmed. Sometimes we try the debate the surface issues with people and get nowhere. We need to exercise enough discernment to realize the real need that people have and then minister to that need. Jesus did not respond to Nicodemus’ question, but Nicodemus responded to Christ’s statement. There is something so overpowering about truth that it will sweep away all the non-essentials.

Also, Jesus did not give Nicodemus a generic answer about love or belief. He specifically told him that he needed to be born again of the water and the spirit. He then went on to describe the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. One of the reasons I love the Acts 2:38 message is that it is so particular and specific. Generalities tend to set people at ease and make them believe that they are fine. Jesus did not always tell people everything they needed to know in the first meeting, but he always gave them concrete facts and specific words that would change their lives.

3. The Woman at the Well. John 4:4-10. “And he must needs go through Samaria. 5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

This is the first instance where Jesus deliberately went to a certain place to win a soul. It became an urgent matter for him. Although Jesus had all knowledge, he is also our example. There should be times in our lives when we feel a definite leading to go to a certain place and witness to a certain individual. Notice that the woman was not there when Jesus arrived. He sat on the well and waited. This required faith. We must put ourselves in the witnessing situation first and then expect that God will cause the rest to unfold.

Jesus sat on the well which was a place that the local population had to come to get water. He did not sit in some out-of-the-way place and expect someone to come to him so he could say it was God’s will. This shows common sense. He began the conversation on common ground. “Give me to drink.” The principle he used was to build a bridge to the person we want to reach by using words or acts that they easily understand. We should not wait on a miraculous happening or an unusual incident to get started. Also, he had a real need for rest and water and he used this need as a way to open the conversation.

At the same time, Jesus went against commonly practiced protocol in order to establish a link between the woman and himself. The fact that he was a Rabbi and a Jew struck the woman as an odd occurrence because this was against custom. Two profound principles are illustrated here. Jesus was making a theological statement that the value of her soul was far more important than racial or religious barriers. Also, he knew that his encounter with her would stoke her curiosity. Thus, he created a situation that was very likely to provoke conversation. As Jesus knew she would, she immediately addressed the situation by asking him why he was going against custom.

Again, note that Jesus did not answer her question directly. Instead, he began to talk about the gift of God and of living water. Even further, he made it sound like she only had to ask him to come into contact with this living water. We know, of course, that the living water is a reference to the Holy Ghost. He did not discuss theology with her, even though she wanted to lead the discussion in that direction. He continued to talk to her about a spiritual experience. But another principle may be found here that is often passed over. Jesus focused attention upon himself. We have to make it clear that we are not just interested in haggling over scriptures and doctrines. Jesus teaches us through this incident that our greatest testimonial power is to tell people what has happened to us, what we possess in our own souls and what we have found to be true. Later, Jesus talked about the scripture, but his initial emphasis was on the dynamic power that lived and worked within him. Dry theological discussions on the Bible may stimulate the mind but they will do nothing for the soul. Christ in you, the hope of glory, is far more critical to your witness.


4. The Nobleman of Capernaum. John 4:46-53. “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.”

This is an instance where a man is saved because of the miraculous power of God working in his family. The principle here is that Jesus put the responsibility for believing on the nobleman himself. We often fail to witness about God’s power because we aren’t sure if we have the faith to see something happen. We should never labor under the illusion that our faith is always on trial. If the other person accepts the challenge of believing, his or her faith will be rewarded. We need to challenge the faith of the person who needs to be saved. The reason for this is that their faith in the miracle will provide them the basis to have faith in Jesus and be saved.


5. The Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:1-6. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”

The birthday of the church was prophetic. God’s sovereign power was on display here and the disciples were the recipients of the outpouring. The greatest principle of witnessing power was given to the church at this time. Several things need to be noted here.

First, the disciples prepared for this day. Luke 24:45-53 tells us what they were told to do. Acts 1:12-14 records the history of their obedience to the Master’s command. Acts 2:1 shows us the climate of faith and expectancy that prevailed to give them the atmosphere to receive this blessing. All of these ingredients were necessary. Would God have poured out his Spirit if the disciples were not prepared? We do not know. We cannot, however, assume that He would have sent his Spirit into an unprepared church. We must believe that it was vitally important for them to keep their end of the bargain of Luke 24. The principle is to follow through with God’s commands for our personal and corporate lives.

Second, they knew the purpose of the outpouring before it happened. Acts 1:8 says that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost comes on us and we will be witnesses unto Jesus. The early church fully understood the purpose for the Holy Spirit infilling and abiding in them. They never saw it as just an experience or miracles. They recognized that it was a divine equipping of the saints to become power witnesses for the kingdom.

Last, the news of the upper room outpouring hit the streets and caused the crowd to gather. The church did not specifically stage an event that would draw people apart from the moving of the Spirit. This is not to condemn any program or plan we may have to attract people to Christ, but it is to affirm that the true attraction is supernatural. If we will do what we are told to do and simply give ourselves to prayer and worship, God will draw people to himself.


The pattern of the day of Pentecost governs the impact the church has on a corporate level. It does not mean that we should not continue to reach out to individuals as Jesus did. The Book of Acts records many instances of soul winning by individual saints.


Principles will work if we apply them to our every day lives. Soul winning is not so much a technique or a strategy as it is a lifestyle. Love for souls is everything.

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