Updated: Feb 14
If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord, 1st Corinthians 9:2.
There once was a time when a man was considered a soul winner because of the great amount of people whose lives had been converted. His converts had lives which gave honor and glory to Jesus Christ. His converts could be seen in the church house. The great preachers of old were not declared great by climbing the pecking order of their respective circle of preachers as happens today.
They were recognized by the multitudes of converts who openly praised God for the ministry of such a man. Quite often, the established preachers of their day despised them and tried to explain away the crowds who gave Jesus Christ the glory because of such a man's ministry. Why would that matter to a man who along with the Apostle Paul could say; If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord, 1st Corinthians 9:2.
John Wesley, DL Moody, Spurgeon and so many more were never invited into the upper echelons of the ministry of their day. They were hoisted to prominence by the unrighteous mammon of their day who found peace and joy in Christ Jesus, and who recognized those men as having been the tool used by God to affect their glorious conversion.
Oh, how Fundamental churches have fallen! Today, men reach preeminence by carefully cultivating their standing. They groom their reputation by attending the right conferences, inviting the right speakers and taking the right stands. They build up their churches and keep the people satisfied by introducing programs. If they were to depend on their converts to hoist them to a higher reputation, they would need a detective agency to find them.
When I was a child growing up in Rural New York State, it was rare that we ever had more than one or two friends who wanted to play baseball. Usually, it was just 3 or 4 or even 2 of us in our back yard who played. We made up for the lack of players by using "invisibles". My friend would pitch to me and when I hit the ball, and if I made it to first base before he retrieved the ball, I would then call out, "invisible on first".
I would go back to the batter's box with the understanding that there was an invisible base runner on first base. If I hit the ball again and made it to first base, it was understood that my "invisible" had made it to second base. If I hit the ball again, my friend could get me out by grabbing the ball and reaching first base before I did, or he could step on second base before I reached first base and thereby get my "invisible" out.
This system worked well in lieu of having four or five players. If we managed to get an "invisible" on every base, the next hit would score a run. If we managed to get a two or three base hit, our "invisibles" were understood to have gained just as many bases. It was all great fun and an innovative way for a few country boys to play baseball when we didn't have enough players.
I'm watching "soul winners" play this same game. When we hit the ball back in those days and made it to first base, we declared an "invisible". Now, if a "soul winner" can induce a person to pray and ask Jesus to save them, they declare that person saved. The pews are full of invisible converts. No angels in heaven rejoiced for these hapless victims of modern day soul winning. No one passed from death unto life.
What does happen is that some street preacher gets a testosterone jolt as his victim walks away and the preacher sees himself as some great man of God. Some evangelist who couldn't fill a broom closet with visible converts ups his score in his next prayer letter. Some church will declare their last meeting a great success because of all of the saved souls but somehow it never affects their attendance figures.
Meanwhile, the Western World grows more wicked. The neighborhoods surrounding our churches inevitably grow more and more wicked. As each decade passes, we expect less and less out of those few who still attend church. Salt changes things that it touches. It melts ice. It preserves food. It enriches taste. Our "soul winners" change nothing. They are not salt.
Over ten years ago, I was invited to be a key speaker at Fundamentalist Bible conference. This took place down South with preachers and evangelists from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and perhaps a few more. I became frustrated when I realized that these men cared little for what I preached. I finally stopped speaking and opened the floor to discussion. I asked the assembled men to define a mature christian family.
They did well. As the discussion proceeded, we all agreed that a mature christian family wasn't perfect but that they were regular at church. Their home was run by biblical principles. Their standards of dress, music and other entertainment were changed. (We might all disagree to what extent, but nevertheless there is a change.) A mature Christian family is far more careful in educating their children.
I then asked each and every pastor who had a mature christian family in his church to stand up. They all did. I then asked them to sit down. My next question flummoxed them. I asked every pastor to stand who had found his particular mature christian family while they were still lost, had wooed them to Christ, and then labored over them until Christ was fully formed in them. No man stood. I told them they were like Confederate soldiers in the spring of 1865, full of the glory of the past but unable to to change anything.
We have turned soul winning into a religious activity. It has no power to convert but that has not slowed down anyone. When I describe what we do at Black Creek, people argue with me. They are sure that I go about it all wrong. When they visit, they love the services. They marvel over the testimonies. Yet they hate the recipe. We have saying here; "They love our cake, but hate the recipe".
If the only proof you could ever give to the seal of your calling was a group of people who gladly sit under your ministry and can testify to God's grace upon you in bringing them to Christ, could you gather such a crowd? Or, are they "invisibles" that you and your friends all pretend are there as you rack up your score.