It was 1948. A young soldier had been released from the Army after World War II and intended to go to Columbia University on the GI bill. General Eisenhower had become the president of Columbia University, and this young soldier thought, “If it’s good enough for Ike, it’s good enough for me.” He visited the campus and caught a bus back to his New England home. On the bus ride, he happened to see two brothers, Ralph and Earnest Lucia, whom he had known as a young man. They swapped stories, and the ex-soldier told the brothers of his plans to go to Columbia and study to be a radio announcer.
“Oh,” they said, “you ought to come to our college. We have a radio program. In fact, we have our own radio station.” Something about the spirit of these young men—their attitudes, the way they spoke, looked, and acted—impressed the would-be radio announcer enough to pursue their comments.
“Where do you go to college?”
“We go to Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.”
Because of that conversation, the ex-soldier wrote to Bob Jones and was accepted there before he was accepted at Columbia. At the beginning of the winter semester of 1949, he boarded another bus to attend a college he had never visited.
The opening night, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. preached a strong salvation message. For the first time in his twenty-one years of existence, this man understood that he was a sinner; that Jesus had died to pay for his sins; and that if he would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he could have everlasting life.
He said, “That sounds like a good deal to me.” He made his way down the aisle and was met by Monroe Parker. A counselor dealt with him, but he will tell you today that he was saved in his seat because he had already determined to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This story may be interesting to you, but it is vitally important to me because that young man is my father. Every individual to whom my dad has ministered in over half a century of Christian service can be traced directly to the testimony of two young men on a bus. They were not out soulwinning, but they were alert to an opportunity to influence a life.
From a Passion to a Program
To the early church, soulwinning was not a program but a passion. But as the centuries passed, the passion of the church waned. The gospel light dimmed. Oh, the church knew of its purpose to give people the gospel, and it made some half-hearted efforts. For a long time, most evangelism occurred inside the walls of the church. A church would conduct a revival, and it would often be the biggest event in town. People would come out of curiosity to see a great evangelist such as D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, or Bob Jones, Sr. denounce the devil, excoriate evil, and glorify the gospel of Christ.
As time passed, godly pastors began to realize that the church was falling far short of the command given by our Saviour to evangelize the world. Burdened by responsibility, those pastors began to explain to other Christians how they could clearly and simply share the good news of eternal life with those in the community. They scheduled evangelism, and door-to-door soulwinning became a part of the program of our independent Baptist churches.
This effort is scriptural and absolutely necessary. Just as a Christian must set aside time to pray, so he must set aside time to obey the Great Commission. But while this organized effort did much to advance the cause of the gospel, it brought with it an unintended consequence. The attitude of many Christians became “soulwinning is something I do for an hour and a half on a week night.” We are on duty for those hours but off duty the rest of the week.
Be a Soulwinner Every Day
The pronouncement of our Saviour is clear: we are to “preach the gospel to every creature.” In other words, our field is the world, and everyone is a person who needs the gospel. How do we get the mind of Jesus who took every opportunity to share the truth of the gospel?
We must be prepared. First Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” This preparation begins with a mental attitude that we are always on duty. This outlook on life will include carrying tracts on your person at all times, praying daily for the Holy Spirit to guide you, and looking at each conversation with a clerk, waitress, or guy next to you in line as a chance to share your faith.
We must be purposeful. Ask the Spirit of God to help you guide each conversation toward the gospel. Have it as your goal not only to be kind, friendly, and open, but also to give as much of the gospel as you can to each person that you can. While in many cases this will involve nothing more than giving them a tract, you will be surprised at the doors God will open if you are always on duty.
We must be prolific. Note that the early church “in every house . . . ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). Dr. Tom Malone used to say you couldn’t go to the wrong house when sharing the gospel. While there are those who may appear to be indifferent, uninterested, or even antagonistic, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
Once in an airport, I began to witness to a man shining my shoes. As it turned out, the man was saved, but the pilot from China airlines next to me was not. He listened intently as the shoeshine man “amened” the gospel, and the pilot got saved. God has opened the way for me to lead many service people and others whose paths I have crossed to Christ. We cannot share the gospel with the wrong person.
No Wrong Place
Mike Thomas’ father was the son of Syrian immigrants and worked for General Motors in Flint, Michigan. This man others called “the Turk” was rough. Mike says, “My dad never spoke to me except to yell at me and never touched me except to hit me.” One night when Mike was asleep in his bed, he heard his father begin to sob and cry, “I’m saved! I’m saved!” He pulled the covers over his head and went to sleep, not knowing why his dad was crying.
When he awoke the next morning, he saw the kitchen counter lined with empty liquor bottles. He thought to himself, “Wow! Dad really got drunk last night.”
“What happened, Mom?” he asked.
“Well,” she said, “your father poured all his alcohol down the kitchen sink.”
“Why did he do that?”
“He says he’s saved.”
“I don’t know. It has something to do with Jesus.”
That Friday night, there was no poker game at the house. The next Sunday morning, the young man’s father came to his bedroom and said, “Get up, Son. We’re going to church.” And they went, not to the Greek Orthodox church they attended every Christmas and Easter, but to an independent Baptist church.
What happened to Mike’s father? He was in a restroom stall at the GM plant when he saw tucked behind the toilet paper dispenser a little tract entitled “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” by Evangelist John R. Rice. He read the tract, tucked it into his wallet, and read it again two or three times over the next few weeks until finally the gospel became clear, and he got saved.
The story doesn’t end there. Mike Thomas grew up and became an attorney and a faithful soulwinner. One day while doing some estate planning for one of his clients whom he knew to be a Christian, he said, “I’ve never heard your testimony. How did you get saved?” The man said, “Well, when I worked for General Motors, I found a little tract stuck behind the toilet paper dispenser entitled ‘What Must I Do to Be Saved?’ by Evangelist John R. Rice. I read the tract and trusted Christ.”
There is no wrong place. There is no wrong time. There is no wrong person. Have a regular time to tell others about Christ, but don’t just go soulwinning. Be always on duty.