I think there are more man-made doctrines in the church than we realize. These are teachings that we’ve learned for years that have no basis in the Bible. They’ve just been emotionally exciting messages, but that’s all. Teachings like “Jesus went to hell to fight the devil and take his keys from him” or “Timothy and Titus were pastors” - things you can’t find in the Bible, but we’ve preached them because we can relate to them emotionally.
One of these man-made subjects is the teaching that we need to “go win souls.” It sounds good, the motivation behind it (reaching the lost for Jesus) is good, it’s led to some good results - but I think it’s also done a lot of harm.
First of all, remember what your soul is! If you haven’t read it yet - read my last post. Jesus doesn’t save your soul! Your soul isn’t born again, your spirit is! You are responsible for saving your soul through God’s Word! Remember James 1:21, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” It is your habit of reading God’s Word daily that will save your soul!
So where did the concept of “winning souls” come from? One verse - Proverbs 11:30: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.” Notice the context, this isn’t talking about witnessing - it’s about doing what’s right! The Hebrew word for soul that is used here is “nephesh.” It simply means a natural type of life. It is often translated life or breath. Every living breathing animal has nephesh...it is simply the natural kind of life. Literally, it is the seat of the emotions, the place for thinking, and the activity of the will.
Keeping the phrase “wins souls” in context with “the fruit of the righteous” - we can see that it’s really talking about winning your soul! It’s moving past your natural life and normal way of thinking into the righteous way way of doing things! Do you see how this verse lines up with James 1:21?
Now, I know it sounds like I’m being overly technical and splitting hairs. But I believe that focusing on “winning souls” has been detrimental to the church! We’ve put the entire focus of the church on winning people to Jesus - but we’ve forgotten what should come next!
Jesus never called His church to win souls! Matthew 28:19-20 records the mission that Jesus gave to the church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Do you see “winning souls” in that passage? Do you even see “witnessing” or “salvation messages” in that passage? What do you see there? Making disciples!
Don’t get me wrong, the salvation of a sinner is huge! It’s like the birth of a child...it’s necessary for life! But you don’t give birth to a baby and then say, “Congratulations kid, see you in a week!” Your goal isn’t the birth, it’s the life! You want that child to grow up, mature, make the right choices and ultimately produce and raise kids on their own! It’s the same with being born again.
We’ve missed it when we go out and lead a person to Jesus, and then leave them on their own. Our job - the commission given to us by Jesus Himself - is to disciple them. How do we do that? By “teaching them all things that I have commanded you.”
The believer’s calling is to take people from being a sinner, leading them into the new birth, and then taking them under his or her wing and discipling them. You do realize, after all, that once you lead someone to Jesus, you’re responsible to help them grow? The new birth is only the beginning of what you should be taking them through - with the ultimate goal of producing a mature believer that can repeat the process with another person!
I’m a product of this. My pastor wasn’t content that I was saved - he wanted me to mature in the faith. He took me under his wing and taught me how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. As I grew, he taught me how to do the work of ministry. And now I’m teaching other people the things he taught me!
I believe that every believer, every follower of Jesus should be becoming a disciple! They should be learning His way of doing things. They should be learning to discipline themselves to do what’s right. They should be submitted to ministers who are growing themselves. And every believer should be discipling someone else! We have too many babies in the church that aren’t growing up! It’s time for someone to come along side of them and raise them up!