The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
As a young child my attempts at evangelism were confined mainly to the revival meetings my home church hosted. Often the visiting evangelist would encourage church members to “pick a night and pack a pew” during the crusade. I was especially eager to do this once I learned it involved prizes. One evangelist, a missionary to India, challenged me to fill a pew every night of his week long meeting. I did, and at the end of the week I received a small wood carving of an elephant and an ivory bookmark. No one could tell me ministry didn’t have its rewards.
During my teenage years our youth minister wrote a simple formula for winning souls on a blackboard in our youth room. I copied the outline word-for-word on a small piece of notepaper, folded it neatly, and placed it inside my wallet where it remained for years. I pulled it out frequently to discuss the Christian life and salvation with my friends. Jesus Christ had changed my life and I wanted others to find what I had found.
When I first entered the ministry, I shared the gospel with people I believed to be lost in order to keep them out of Hell. I wanted to build up the church I served, too, and this seemed like the best way to do it.
I don’t think my early motives for winning the lost were wrong; they were just incomplete. They lacked the one motivating factor that should compel believers to win as many people to Christ as possible.
We know God does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We know Jesus Christ “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We know “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We know Jesus commissioned his followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). If God’s desire is that none perish and if Christ came to seek and save lost people, we can be sure the salvation of sinners is a priority to God. Likewise, if angels rejoice every time a sinner comes to salvation, we can be sure God delights in the saving of souls.
So winning the lost connects us to the will of God, the purpose of Christ, the joy of the angels, and the commission of the church. Still there is one overarching principle we must consider when it comes to saving souls, and that is God’s glory. Isaiah reminds us we were created for God’s glory (43:7). Peter explains that we were saved in order to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
God created us and redeemed us for his glory. We can still win the lost out of compassion for their souls, to keep them from Hell, to obey the Great Commission, to give the angels occasions to rejoice, to build up the church—and maybe even for wooden elephants and ivory bookmarks. But above all, we must win them for the glory of God.