In his book The Soul Winner, Charles H. Spurgeon underscores several rewards and benefits associated with the work of soul winning. One such benefit, he points out, is the educating, ennobling, and transforming of the soul winner.
As I reflect on my years of service in the good work of trying to bring unsaved persons to the Lord Jesus Christ, I have made an unexpected discovery: my efforts at making disciples have transformed me into a more prayerful, compassionate, and grateful person. The act of winning souls is indeed a transforming work for the disciple maker.
Growth in Prayer
Not surprisingly, as a result of my service in this good work, I have become a more prayerful person. I have come to see that prayer is a divinely appointed means of saving people. The author of the hymn, I Am Praying for You, emphasizes this truth:
When Jesus has found you, tell others the story,
That my loving Savior is your Savior, too:
Then pray that your Savior may bring them to glory,
And prayer will be answered, ‘twas answered for you!
The apostle Paul was convinced of this truth. He gave Timothy this timely charge: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, King James Version).
Early in my ministry as a pastor, the Lord impressed on me the truth about the saving and drawing power of prayer. One day a certain sister whom I had been praying for disclosed to me that she had felt a strong, insistent urge to come to my church. I had not told her about my earnest prayers for her. The Lord, I am convinced, prompted her to share that news with me in order to encourage me in my ministry of intercession.
Making disciples has also made me a more prayerful person in that it has made me more aware of my inadequacies. I have come to see that I am not knowledgeable enough nor wise enough nor discerning enough to cope with the challenges of bringing someone into a saving relationship with the Savior. I learned this painful and deflating lesson one evening at a social event in Hays, Kansas. Having a burden for a psychologist on the staff of the mental health center where I was working at the time, I decided to engage him that evening in a conversation about Jesus. I don’t quite remember what my opening question was to him. But he replied by saying some praiseworthy things about the Lord Jesus Christ. I had not anticipated such a response! He had summarily blown me off of my game plan. And he knew it! After that unnerving experience, I was tongue tied. (Maybe I had not “prayed up” enough that evening.)
Understandably, in this good work, I have become more conscious of my dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, it is his role to convict people of their need for a Savior (John 16:7-10).
Growth in Compassion
Not only I have become a more prayerful person in my efforts to make disciples, I have become a more compassionate person. I have learned to see people with spiritual eyes. This means seeing them beyond superficial things such as the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the homes they live in, the status symbols they possess, the money they make, and the jobs they have. Instead, I see them in the light of the Word of God. In the eyes of a holy and loving God, people who don’t know Christ are lost in that far country, in a state of alienation, disobedience, blindness, self-centeredness, guilt, and death.
Seeing the unsaved with spiritual eyes inevitably fills one with compassion for them. According to Matthew, when our Lord saw “the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, KJV). Undoubtedly, that day the Lord had seen the people with spiritual eyes and urged the disciples to pray to the “Lord of the harvest.” It is this compassion that has moved me to pray for the lost, to share the good news with them, and to have a sense of urgency in doing so. In my car, I keep a set of leaflets titled “Stop! Look! Listen!” Whenever I’m led, I hand them out to passersby, praying that the Holy Spirit will use the leaflets to draw those persons to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Growth in Gratitude
In addition to becoming a more prayerful and compassionate person in the good work of disciple making, I have also become a more grateful person. I’m grateful for the privilege of sharing the good news of what God has done for us in his beloved Son. He has given us such blessed gifts as the forgiveness of our sins, a new relationship with him, his indwelling Spirit, and the wondrous hope of immortality beyond the grave. During my years of ministry in Jamaica we used to sing the following chorus in our Sunday night services.
Stop and let me tell you, what the Lord has done for me.
I say, stop and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me.
He saved my soul and he made me whole.
So, stop and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me.
Understandably, this chorus expresses my gratitude to God for what he has done for me in his beloved Son. That same gratitude has moved me to share the good news of his loving and gracious gifts with others.
As well as being grateful for this privilege, I am grateful for the joy I have experienced in bringing others into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever I hear a brother or sister in the Lord testify about God’s goodness and thank him for saving them, I’m always joyful because I remember the hard times I had winning them to the Lord. Their testimonies remind me that the hardships I experienced were worth it.
A historian who wrote a book on the history of happiness sums up his findings by saying that everyone is searching for happiness “in one way or another.” In fact, in our society, the pursuit of happiness is regarded as an inalienable right, like life and liberty. From the world’s point of view, happiness is thought to be found chiefly in things or in outward circumstances.
In light of my experience in disciple making, however, I have made another unexpected discovery: in becoming a more prayerful, compassionate, and grateful person in this good work, I have experienced unexpected blessings and happiness. Paradoxically then, as an educating, ennobling, and transforming work, disciple making is also a secret means of well-being, joy, happiness, and blessings!
Dr. Denzil D. Holness is pastor emeritus at Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He recently retired after serving as pastor for 38 years.