Soul-winning and soul care go together like peanut butter and chocolate. I’m convinced that few things can save ministry leaders from debilitating discouragement like helping souls turn from “dark to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).
If you’re a youth leader and are continuously seeing a steady stream of teenagers getting saved and making disciples of their friends, it gives you wind in your sails and, in the words of Adam Sandler in The Waterboy, “tackling fuel” for your trials.
The same is true of pastors, parachurch leaders, and other ministry leaders.
I’ve experienced this truth firsthand since I was a kid. I’d been reached by and raised in a fundamentalist church, in which soul-winning was all the rage.
Every Friday night, 50 to 100 teenagers from the church would gather to pray, get trained in evangelism, and then disperse to shopping malls across the Denver area for some good, old-fashioned soul-winning. Why shopping malls? Because that’s where teenagers in the ’80s hung out on Friday nights.
During our not-so-subtly named “Friday Night Soul-winning” experiences, we shared Jesus with teenagers as they hung out by the arcade or walked up and down the mall. We’d just approach them and start up conversations. We led some to Jesus, planted Gospel seeds in many, and endured mocking and rejection from others.
Afterward, we’d gather back together to share stories and pray for those we’d witnessed to during the outreach. And, of course, we ate snacks!
But soul-winning was not just for Friday nights. As a 12-year-old, I had shared the Gospel with all of my neighborhood friends, led most of them to Christ, and discipled them in a neighborhood Bible study.
I wasn’t the exceptional teen. Many of my Christian friends had done similar things.
For us, soul-winning was our cause, our purpose, and our mission in life. We were reminded again and again by our hillbilly pastor (who, for some reason, was nicknamed “Yankee”) of Proverbs 11:30: “…he that winneth souls is wise.”
Winning lost souls also won over our souls. It gave us tackling fuel. In spite of the legalism we were steeped in, seeing lost souls get saved and saved souls get discipled gave us so much wind in our sails that we boated right over any waves of doubt that we might have faced. I learned early on how invigorating it is to see people put their trust in Christ.
Soul-winning isn’t the only key to staying strong in ministry, of course. We must also learn to rest, recharge, and renew. We must take our Sabbaths seriously and keep our bodies, souls, and minds in biblical balance.