Soul winner. Hmm. Dare I say it? Yuck! The term makes me feel queasy. 

I guess it comes from Proverbs 11:30 which in the King James Version says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise.” I don’t think it’s fair to apply this verse exclusively to evangelism. The proverb is about taking the initiative to preserve lives.

While I don’t like the term the way it is used among some Bible-oriented people, I love the underlying sentiment which speaks of one who takes initiative to do their part to bring people to Jesus. Some are especially good at sowing the Gospel seed. Others water that seed hoping it will sprout. It is the implied aggression that leaves me cold. It seems as if all that hypothetical “soul winner” might care about is the immaterial part of people as a trophy to talk about.

I just imagine how that term would play on the street in a world that has never heard the phrase before. I want to be pro-life not just anti-abortion. Pro-life about all of it from womb to tomb and especially beyond. I want to help people preserve and enjoy life for time but also for eternity. “Soul winner” sounds a little too hypy for me. With apologies to the good ones, it sounds like the caricature of the used car salesman. You know, that guy who talks way too fast and won’t tell you the whole truth about the lemon he is passing off as a beauty.

I wonder about the expectation of people coming to Jesus as Lord and Saviour after a  quick presentation on the street. I don’t find such “canned” material in the Bible. Granted, because of the power of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit some come to Jesus that way. But it seems to me such fruit is more like a final decision point following other influences along their life path.

I have only ever met one person who liked the notion of being a fast-talking “soul winner.” He assured me that he could leave my house (he was there selling something else) and go out on the street and lead someone to Jesus right then and there. Guaranteed. Interesting. Rolex watch —  for show — on his wrist but I never saw the notches on his belt.

My yearning is for more people who would not only have ready answers as Peter prescribed (1 Peter 3:15) but for more and more people to play a quieter softer part in winsomely caring for people in deed and word by taking initiative. The statement, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It misses the point. The point should never be an either/or proposition but a both/and lifestyle. Words and deeds.

How hard can it be to invite a new or old friend to take “The John Challenge?” Some will; some won’t. But none will if someone doesn’t make the suggestion.