There was a time when I stopped using the term "soul-winning" because I had been told it was taking scripture "out of context" and that it was misleading people about what evangelism was. I certainly didn't want to twist the Word of God, neither did I want to be misleading. In this article I will explain why I came to believe that it is not twisting scripture nor misleading people, but first let's make sure we understand where the term came from.
Proverbs 11:30 says "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise."
Clearly, 'he that winneth souls" can be called a "soul-winner." So, though I don't know when the first person started calling door-to-door evangelistic efforts "soul-winning," it is pretty clear to see that this is the part of scripture to which they are referencing. But what did he mean by "winning souls?"
Compare this to the words in Daniel 12:3,
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
According to the Bible, "they that be wise" and "they that turn many to righteousness" shall shine as the stars and the brightness of the firmament... and that sounds a lot like "he that winneth souls is wise."
Now, I'm sure someone will say "But that is the Old Testament and people weren't preaching Christ back then." Well, the extent to which they were preaching Christ is not the point of this article, so let me just try to carry this Old Testament phrase over to the New Testament:
In 1 Peter 3:1, Peter explains how a woman can possibly "win" her husband by the way she lives (her "conversation").
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that , if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives."
Now, we know that a person can't put their faith in Christ if they haven't heard Him preached from God's Word,
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." -Romans 10:17
However, I believe the point is that a person is more likely to be interested in the Gospel when it is preached if they have seen the goodness of God demonstrated in the person who is preaching it.
According to Paul, he was trying to "save some" by his preaching.
1 Corinthians 9:22
"To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
So, if the argument is that one doesn't think "we" do the "winning" of a soul, but rather Christ does the winning, then I don't suppose one would be content with the term "soul-saving" either... but that is an option, I suppose.
Another argument some might have is, "Sure, you can 'win' someone to the Lord, but you don't have to do it by knocking on doors and talking to people at their own homes." To that I would agree that we don't "have to" go door to door to go soul-winning. We could try to win souls in the market places or at the synagogues or at various other meeting places, as the early disciples of Christ did. We could (and should) try to reach our co-workers on our break time, try to reach our extended family at social gatherings... but does anyone really think that knocking on doors is not soul-winning? How about the examples we have where Jesus sent disciples door to door (Matthew 10:5-14, Luke 9:1-5)? We might not be doing it exactly the way they did, but they were certainly going to houses. Then, we see the early church in Acts 5:42,
"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
Finally, some are just bothered by the word "win" as it might imply that we are playing a game and just trying to get as many people to "say a prayer" without truly believing in Jesus. "Rather, we should be 'soul-warning'?" they demand. Well, OK, I'm all for warning people... but along the way, I anticipate that some will be "won." In fact, I have no doubt, because the Bible says,
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." -Psalm 126:6
At Iola Baptist Temple, we take very seriously Christ's command to "Go ye into all the world." We have several experienced soul-winners who love helping people who want to step out on faith and join along as a "silent partner." You can be part of the effort as well as gain knowledge and experience from watching others. And in time, if you'd like, you can start preaching the Gospel and "winning souls."
See our course on soul-winning (given as part of our 2021 Focus on Evangelism Conference)