We are living with the fruit of ignoring Romans 10:14, How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? We preach Romans 10:13 and ignore Romans 10:14.
From Chapter one:
Come; let us reason for a moment. Does your church exhibit any signs that soul winning has happened there in the last twenty years? I’m not asking whether you go door knocking on Thursday night. I’m not asking how many children have repeated prayers. I’m not asking how many conversions you claim. I’m asking if your church has anyone sitting in a pew today who a soul winner in your church found lost and without Christ. I’m asking if that same person is today a well-rounded mature Christian committed to a life of righteousness because someone in your church found him or her lost, wooed them to Christ and then labored over them until Christ was fully formed in them? Does your church have such converts? Does it have any who were saved in the last two decades?
If it does it is a very rare church. We stopped using actual conversions of a life as a measurement many years ago. The rarest thing in fundamentalism today is a pastor who pastors his own converts. Most churches today have become conservative cultural centers where likeminded people gather in the name of Jesus Christ. They talk about soul winning all the time, but by soul winning they mean getting hapless people to pray a preformatted prayer with them and then chalking that same person up as a convert. A pastor today will tell how many people he has baptized. He will talk of church growth. He will quote figures on soul winning based on how many people he has induced to pray. If he was forced to measure his ministry on how many lost people he has seen make a 180 degree turn about from sin to righteousness and then join the church and heartily abide by its precepts he would need to draw a big fat zero on his forehead.
Fortunately for people in 19th century London and 19th century Chicago, Spurgeon and Moody were not that blind. Neither of these men would have counted a person to be saved until the person made a clear and voluntary testimony of salvation accompanied by a life bearing fruit of that same salvation. They themselves were saved under just such a standard and they were not so cruel as to offer less. Our modern fundamentalists have quit looking for such conversions years ago. Some have quit because they themselves have never been biblically saved, and some have quit in discouragement because they cannot discern the cultural changes that have corrupted the soil with which they labor.
This is as good a time as any to look at the conversion of Fanny Crosby the famous hymn writer. Had Miss Crosby been born in our time it is doubtful that she would ever have been saved. Had she been so fortunate to have escaped the sewers of humanism, Darwinism and victim psychology that destroy the souls of young people today, her local Fundamental Baptist Church would probably have completed the work of damnation in her soul. They would have done that through an utter ignorance of how to deal with the lost. They would have damned her by getting her to pray a prayer and then assuring her that nothing else was needed for salvation. If she were to express the least doubt as to whether she possessed the grace of Christ she would have Romans 10:13 presented to her as proof that she was in Christ.
Miss Crosby had this to say of her conversion. In her autobiography entitled Fanny Crosby an Autobiography, she tells us that she first began attending the 18th Street Methodist Church where she was eventually to be saved in 1839. She was not to get saved until November of 1850. To call a Methodist Church in the early 1800’s a dead church not interested in souls would be folly. In the early 1800’s the Methodists were some of the most fervent soul winners in Christendom. Had she attended a church noted for soul winning in the years 1990, 2000 or 2010 she would have most certainly been invited to come forward and be shown how that she could know for sure that she was going to heaven. If she didn’t respond to that call, it is certain that some enterprising person would eventually take her aside and ask the same question.
Instead, by the grace of God, Fanny was allowed to come to repentance. Fanny was already a virtuous woman and had already achieved some fame. She had entertained governors, presidents, and famous senators as the widely read blind poet from the New York School for the Blind. She had an excellence of personal character. She came close to death in the cholera epidemic of 1849 but selflessly nursed the ill. Yet she said of herself, “I had grown somewhat indifferent to the means of grace” pg.98. In November of 1850 Fanny attended a revival at the church. Fanny has left us a written testimony of her struggles with salvation. She tells us that during that revival she had gone to the altar twice. She left each time not having found the joy that she sought.
Think about what she said. If she were to have gone up to a modern altar she would have been dealt with by someone from the church. That person would have been trained to ask her why she had come forward. If Fanny had expressed her sense of not knowing Christ that person would have shown her a few cursory verses about the need for salvation. That same person would eventually get around to Romans 10:13. Fanny would have been instructed that if she asked Jesus to save her, that verse promised that he would. Fanny would not have gone up the second time because the angel of death who ministered to her the first time would have assured her that there was no need.
Fortunately for Miss Fanny, 19th century soul winners knew better. Fanny went to the altar on two different nights and found no peace. On November 20, 1850 Fanny responded to the altar call again. There she prayed alone. She felt that if she did not receive the light this time that she never would. After prayer a hymn was sung, “Alas and did my savior bleed, and did my sovereign die.” On the third line of the fourth stanza she heard the words, “Here Lord I give myself away”. Her soul flooded with celestial light. Miss Fanny explained why her early attempts at salvation didn’t work. “I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.” pg.99-100.
Had Fanny Crosby come to the average Fundamental Baptist Church in the last 30 years she could have never worked that out. She would have been aborted at the altar. That great work of God that culminated in over 8000 hymns and the comfort of millions would have been cut off before it ever came to fruition. I know that prognosis upsets many of my readers but judge for yourself. Where are all the people that churches say get saved? They are not in church. They do not have changed lives. If someone reminds them of the experience later they are embarrassed to talk about it. Fanny Crosby would have become a statistic about a church revival. Someone would brag that so-and-so many souls were saved on Tuesday night. Instead, old fashioned soul winners let her seek the Lord diligently, and in seeking she found.
Perhaps my reader doesn’t think that Fanny’s revelation about herself meant anything. Perhaps my reader thinks that Fanny could have been saved much grief had a simple soul winner just taken her to the altar in 1839 when she first began to attend. Perhaps this is why my reader sees no real fruit in soul winning other than meaningless numbers. Perhaps my reader is worried that such talk of true repentance takes the simplicity out of Christ.
There is a big difference between the words “simple” and “easy”. To use a common illustration, I’ll use the example of weight loss. If an obese person wants to lose 100 pounds it really is quite simple. If they would restrict their calorie intake to about 1800 calories a day, if they were to cut out junk food, and if they were to walk five miles a day, weight would drop off. It really is simple. Even a child can understand that. It’s simple, but it is extremely difficult. Does a young man desire a good physique with plenty of muscles? Let him eat well, get good sleep and work out with weights daily. It really is that simple. Why don’t more young men do it? It is very hard to do.
Salvation is simple. Jesus died for everyone. If any person comes to repentance and receives Jesus Christ he is saved eternally. It really is that simple. What is difficult is getting a person to see themselves in repentance. Miss Fanny could have recited many verses about the grace of Christ. What she could not do was see the terrible offense that she was to Jesus Christ in that she sought him with one hand and yet sought the world with the other hand. Until she came to that personal repentance that came as a merciful revelation from Jesus Christ as to his anger with her, she could not be saved. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9.
Of old it was instinctively understood that we could not see the sinner’s heart and we could not see what barriers his own foolish notions had erected in his mind. Hymnist D.W. Whittle wrote, “I know not how the Spirit moves convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through his word, creating faith in him.” What could be seen were the fruits of repentance. What could be seen was the testimony of a sinner who testified of saving faith and had a life to match.
Churches aren’t built by soul winning anymore. If the average Baptist pastor could not attract professing Christians to come to his church he could not experience church growth. Churches grow today by a process of musical chairs. Church members migrate from church to church as either they grow dissatisfied with their current church or are strongly attracted to the new one. The concept of going out into a community and convincing sinners to see merit in the claims of Jesus Christ and then to work with those same sinners until the Spirit of God convinced them of sin is in all practical purposes dead in America.