Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Matthew 23:15
Have you ever heard of soul-winning contests or contests to see who could baptize more? The participants in these contests “compass sea and land to make one proselyte” (convert) doing everything they can just to get another notch on their belts. A lot of these so-called converts are made by asking leading questions such as “Wouldn’t you like to spend eternity in Heaven rather than in Hell?” Who in his or her right mind would answer “No” to that? These “converts” are induced into praying the sinner’s prayer and then are given the assurance that now that they’ve “asked Jesus into their hearts” they are now saved. Most of these prayers are induced without any godly sorrow or conviction.
The gospel is not a contest! It is not about who can “do it better” or who can use the best high-pressure sales tactics to extract more professions. I recently read a short book on soul-winning by a Baptist pastor and in it he explains how he could not get a couple to pray the sinner’s prayer so he went about it by asking if they would like to have a home dedication service. Of course the couple said that would be great. This pastor went on to have them repeat after him a prayer for God’s blessing on the home, but it was no more than the typical “sinner’s prayer.” How foolish is that? Saying a prayer never saved anyone. The Bible is clear that repentance and faith saves. No repentance, no salvation. No faith, no salvation. Just because one verse says whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, people mistakenly believe that if you ask Jesus into your heart, you will be saved.
When a lost person is led in a sinner’s prayer without there being any conviction – without any repentance, that lost person thinks his prayer saved him and thus is innoculated against any future attempt at witnessing to him. This person, the scripture says, is made twofold more the child of hell.
Our churches are filled with false converts – victims of high-pressure soul-winning techniques. Paul knew the gospel was not a contest. He did not glory in how many people he won to Christ. He said he planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase. The “sinner’s prayer” method of soul-winning relies too much on the “soul-winner’s” ability to “close the deal” rather than on old-fashioned Holy Ghost conviction. When a person comes under conviction by the Holy Spirit, he will give his own invitation. The Jews did that in Acts 2 and the jailer did it in Acts 16. We need to just get back to what the Lord commanded us to do: preach the gospel. We need to plant the seed. We need to water. Let God do his part and convict the sinner. When the sinner sees himself guilty and condemned before a just and holy God, he will – without any prodding or leading – call out for mercy. And if you have done your job correctly, he will know that mercy is found at the foot of the cross.
Please, don’t innoculate any more people. Let us go and let us preach the gospel. Leave the high-pressure sales tactics to the vacuum cleaner salespeople or the water-softener salespeople.