Bring to a Decision
One day as Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, catching fish. Jesus had met the men before. Now He called to them, “Come with me, and I will teach you to catch men” (Matthew 4:19). They responded at once. As Jesus went on farther He came to two other brothers with their father, Zebedee, a well-known veteran fisherman in the area. The men were getting their nets ready to go out for a catch of fish. When Jesus called to them, they left their father, the hired men, and the boat. They, too, went with Jesus (Mark 1:19-20).
After His resurrection Jesus again walked along the seashore. As the sun was coming up, He called to weary fishermen who had toiled all night without getting a thing. He told them what to do. “Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some,” He said (John 21:6).
Following the directions given in His Word, and being guided by the Holy Spirit, we can also “catch some.” This lesson deals with the subject of bringing people to a decision, which is likened to “landing the fish.”
EXPECT A RESPONSE
Objective 1. State the basis for your expecting to win souls.
In evangelizing one should not jump directly from the first contact with a person to an immediate appeal for a decision except, perhaps, in unusual circumstances. As we have seen, it is important first to get acquainted with the prospect and give a clear picture of salvation. Then you can take further steps such as are presented in this lesson. Make sure your attitude is one of faith.
A young man, aware that he should be witnessing for the Lord, was doing his best, but with no success. He kept praying, “Lord, please help me!” Yet the people he tried to talk to would either laugh or pay no attention. The few who did stop to hear would listen politely, thank him, and then just go their way. He was becoming very discouraged, wondering why the Lord did not answer his earnest prayer. One day he confided to his pastor that he was just not the right type to be a soulwinner.
“Son,” said the kindly pastor, “Did you really think that people would accept the Lord when you witnessed to them?”
“No,” admitted the young man.
“Well, that’s exactly why they didn’t,” said the pastor. “You must believe for it, expect it, to make it happen!”
Our basis for expecting it to happen is one of faith that comes as a result of obedience to the commands of Christ.
It had been a long hard night for the seasoned fishermen. Their best techniques and know-how had been unsuccessful. While washing their nets they saw a great crowd pressing to get close to Jesus, forcing Him toward the water’s edge. Jesus stepped into Peter’s boat and asked him to push out a little from the shore. From there all the people could hear Him as He taught.
When He had finished speaking to the people, He said to Peter, “Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
Why should they do that? If the experienced fishermen had caught nothing all night when the conditions were right, there certainly would be no hope of catching any fish now! But because it is Jesus who gives the word, Peter obeys. The result is a truly miraculous catch of fish! Peter is astonished! Becoming aware of his own unworthiness, he falls on his knees before Jesus, confessing his sinfulness and acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
Jesus reassures Peter, “Don’t be afraid.” Then He gives a promise that is appropriate for all who seek to win souls, “From now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). As Peter followed Jesus he did in truth become a “fisher of men.” On the Day of Pentecost 3000 were “caught” by Peter’s message and turned to the Lord. Another truly miraculous catch!
The task of winning souls is like fishing. We not only go where the fish are, but we act in faith and in obedience to Christ’s commands. A principle of faith is that when we expect results we will have them. You can expect the Lord to bring you in contact with needy hearts, and then as you obey His Word to evangelize you can expect conversions. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. He can make you a fisher of men!
GIVE THE RIGHT KIND OF PERSUASION
Objective 2. Name the five stages of persuading people.
A friend of ours who is both an astute businessman and an ardent soulwinner suggested that helpful points on soulwinning can be learned from the world of business. The following chart illustrates what he calls “The Five Stages of Persuading People.” Each stage is like a link in a chain. Each link is important and equally strong.
These basic guidelines that salesmen follow in selling their products or services can be applied very well to the task of evangelizing.
- Interest. You must capture the interest of a prospect in such a way that he feels favorable toward you. You have to “earn your right to be heard.” A pleasant smile, natural, warm friendliness, and a genuine interest in the person himself goes a long way. If he likes you and respects you, he will be more willing to listen to you.
A Papua tribesboy was converted to Christ. Burdened for his own people, he returned to his home village on the island of New Guinea. Instead of beginning at once to witness to the people, he quietly worked at any kind of manual work he could find to improve conditions in the village. After a while he gained the respect and appreciation of the village elders. Only then, when they were ready to hear what he had to say, did he start to evangelize. It wasn’t long until the village was won to the Lord!
- Attention. A soulwinner must familiarize himself with the truths of the gospel, just as a salesman must know his product thoroughly. The effective soulwinner is able to draw from his resources of knowledge, Scriptures, and from his own personal experience.
One of the truths of the gospel is that Jesus gives joy and peace. Another truth is that Christ did not promise His followers an easy road. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” He said (Luke 14:27).
Has your prospective convert a serious problem? Has he recently faced financial losses, or a death in the family? Don’t promise that he will have no more losses or disappointments. You can’t even promise him that his worldly friends will understand his decision to follow Christ. But you can assure him, both from Scripture and from your own experience, that the Lord will be with him. He’ll never walk alone, for the Savior walks beside him; and the joy He gives outweighs anything else. And that’s a strong “selling point”!
Be alert to indications of interest and attention. When a prospective convert indicates a “tell-me-more” attitude, the Holy Spirit is right there too. He will give you the wisdom to come out with the right words at the right time.
- Conviction. When the sales talk of a salesman or the testimony of a believer “rings true” to the prospect, he will be willing to admit that what you say is In the case of the soulwinner, you can then lead the prospective convert on to realize that he is in need of what you are offering him—the Savior.
Here the Holy Spirit adds His witness to the truthfulness of what you are saying. He, as your ally and helper, works in the heart of the prospect and causes him to recognize the truth of the gospel. The Spirit will also convict a person of sin. He will become conscious of his guilt. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right” (John 16:8).
- Desire. Curiosity aroused in a person may lead to desire for what is being offered. A keen salesman is alert for indications that the customer might want to have the product. For example, he shows a lady a set of dishes. The color is white. She asks him if he has the set in yellow. This indicates that the customer would like a set of dishes. It is what a salesman calls a “buying signal.” A good salesman will be aware of this and suggest everything he can to make a
As a soulwinner talks in glowing terms of Jesus Christ and how He fulfills spiritual needs, desire for Him is created in the heart of the prospect. We who evangelize should alert ourselves for any clues that might indicate such an inward desire. The prospective convert may be saying that he is not interested; yet you notice a slight hesitation, or the expression in his eyes—some little gesture that may be a clue that he will yield if you encourage him in the right way. One must be careful, however, not to overpersuade or try to force him to a decision before he is ready.
- The close. This is the fifth and last stage of persuading people to a definite decision. A salesman must “close the deal” with the customer, otherwise there is no sale. Until the person says, “I’ll take it,” the foregoing efforts of persuading people haven’t reached the goal or completion.
This also has its application for the soulwinner. Until a person makes a positive decision to place his trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, he is not yet saved. Your work is not yet complete. “Closing the deal” is then an essential part of evangelizing.
ASK FOR A COMMITMENT
Objective 3. Apply the principles of signing a contract to making a commitment to the Lord.
Making a commitment is like signing a contract. A business contract containing provisions and terms involves two parties, and both must sign it. It’s called “closing the deal.” In the “salvation contract,” God offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Jesus Christ His Son. The unconverted must understand these wonderful provisions of the contract. He must also know its terms, or conditions.
God has already performed His part and “signed” the contract. Now it remains for the second party—the prospective convert—to “sign” it, or make a commitment. At the appropriate time, the soulwinner must ask him to do this.
In Joshua, chapter 24, we read that Joshua, one of the Old Testament judges, asked the people of Israel for a commitment. In those days it was called a covenant. God had provided His side of the “contract” or covenant with the following terms already carried out:
- He called Abraham as the ancestor of a new
- He delivered these people from
- He brought them through a terrible wilderness to a rich and fertile land, a land of milk and
- He raised up Moses and then Joshua to lead His
Now Joshua appealed to the people to decide whether they would keep their side of the covenant. “Decide today whom you will serve,” he said to them.
Read Joshua 24:14.
Then, as an example, Joshua said, “As for my family and me, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The people agreed to these terms, promising to serve the Lord as their only God. Joshua, however, knowing their weakness, emphasized again the importance of their decision and warned them what would happen if they failed to keep the covenant.
The people reaffirmed their decision to serve the Lord. Joshua then erected a stone monument as a witness to this covenant made that day by the people. Their great decision to serve the Lord is similar to that which a prospective convert must make. The soulwinner, like Joshua, must clearly explain the provisions and terms of the covenant. He must challenge the prospect to trust the Lord and to serve Him forever.
Objective 4. Write a short clearly understood prayer for salvation.
When is the appropriate time for a commitment?, you may ask. It varies. First you present the gospel message adequately and simply. Though there is much more that you could tell the prospect, and he seems interested, don’t get carried away with explaining too much and too long. Be alert to his reaction and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading to know the right moment. A prospective convert may express a desire to have what you are talking about, but more likely he will wait until you ask him.
You will not have to be in soulwinning work very long before you realize that it is at this point (bringing someone to a decision) that the enemy (Satan) will try to bring some kind of distraction or interruption. Recognize this for what it is. Silently take authority over it in the Spirit’s power and in the name of Jesus. Do not be distracted by it yourself, but wait patiently, and then bring the person back gently to the point.
For example: You are talking to a mother in her home. Just at the point when she is about to accept Christ as Savior, her child comes running in crying because a playmate has knocked him down! You have to wait while she comforts him and settles the dispute. If you allow her time to do this without losing your purpose, you can help her to return to the subject quickly and easily.
Or perhaps you are with a student in his room or in a corner of the campus. A friend of his comes along, slams down his books and makes some remark about a teacher or about school life. You can introduce yourself to the friend and then say something like this: “We were just talking about how to receive forgiveness for sins and how to know we can go to heaven.” That may cause him to excuse himself and leave. But if he is interested he may linger and join in. You can include him, explaining to him what you have been talking about. Then you can quickly come back to the matter of praying a prayer of salvation.
How do you know the right time? You will sense it through the Holy Spirit within you. You may also notice the person furtively brush away a tear. Do not embarrass him. Ask questions such as these: Do you understand what I have been saying? Have I explained it clearly enough? Wouldn’t you like to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior right now? He is present here with us and invites you to come.
When the prospect indicates a willingness to trust in Christ, then say, “Let’s just close our eyes and bow our heads together. We’ll talk to God the Father.”
Then you pray a short prayer for him, talking to the Lord naturally and intimately. This will help the person to believe the Lord is present, even though he cannot see Him. Then say, “Now I will lead you in a prayer. Please repeat these words after me.” As he follows you phrase by phrase, pray a simple prayer for salvation, such as the following:
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for loving me. Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. I accept Him now as my Savior. Please cleanse my heart and take away all my sins. May your Holy Spirit come into my life. Give me assurance that I have eternal life in you. I thank you that I have received it now. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
When you have finished, wait quietly a moment and watch for his reactions. He may feel elated, or he may still be in doubt. Let him express himself. Rejoice with him.
A person doesn’t need to understand all about God and the Bible before he can be saved. All people, whether educated or not, have to come to the Lord in this simple way!
This is the miracle of conversion. You or I didn’t do it. The Holy Spirit did! We merely act on God’s Word by faith. Now you can explain to him that it is through the merits of the shed blood of Jesus that his heart is washed clean and the burden of sin lifted from him. He will probably begin to understand truths he did not understand before, because the things of the Spirit are understood in the Spirit.
You must encourage the new convert that now, since he is a “newborn baby” in God’s family—and your brother or sister— he needs milk or food to stay alive and to grow. He must be fed by the Word of God. He must associate with other believers to become strong.
He also must tell about what has happened to him as soon as possible because as he gives witness to it with his mouth, it is confirmed in his heart and life. He must be cautioned that even though he may feel something strongly at the moment, he must not depend on his feelings to know that he is saved. He must depend upon what God’s Word says. This is equally important for the person who does not have immediate feelings of joy or peace. He must believe that what God’s Word says is true. If the new convert has kept his part of the contract, he can rest assured that God who does not lie has kept His part.
The new convert is due for many happy surprises when he begins to realize the change that has taken place in his life. Even some of his old habits will fall off immediately, for he has become a new person.