I attended primarily public schools from 1st-12th grades, but from 7th through half of my 9th grade year I attended a private Christian school. It was a very different experience going from public to private Christian school as you can imagine.
The biggest difference was the spiritual content. I had Bible class everyday, and convocation or assembly once a week. Basically, it was a church service at school. Since I had just recently become a Christian, it was pretty cool to have that opportunity and option at school. My grades in Bible class were always better than in other subjects because I was more interested in the Bible than Algebra. Imagine that. For those of you who love Algebra, I salute you! But, it just wasn’t my thing.
One of the other interesting spiritual activities that was available for students at a Christian school was “soul winning”. What? Is that a sport? If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s basically going door to door to people’s homes, like an encyclopedia salesman, sharing the gospel of Christ or “witnessing” for Jesus. If you’re thinking Jehovah’s witnesses, you’re right on the money.
A teacher or adult leader would train us before hand. We would memorize and rehearse a script and a series of Bible verses from the book of Romans. The witnessing technique or strategy was called the “Romans Road”, as in the “Romans Road to salvation”. Sometimes, we would hand out tracts or small booklets that contained the “plan of salvation”. Some of them were like little comic books designed to literally scare the “hell” out of people. I was already a Christian and they scared me. They are actually still used today. They also trained us to pray the “sinners prayer” with those who decided to accept Christ. One of the questions they trained us to ask was “if you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” It was pretty intense.
Basically, it lasted a couple of hours and whoever collected the most souls at the end of the night won, and got to keep them. Just kidding!!! There was no soul “collecting”, only soul “winning” for Jesus. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The success rate was pretty slim. Most of the time we never made it past, “Hello, my name is Robby and I would like to ask you a question. If you died tonight would you go to heaven or hell?” before the door was closed in our faces.
I think “soul winning” was every Wednesday after school if I remember correctly. They would load up a group of students into a bus or van, take them to a nearby neighborhood, and turn them loose. It was the 70’s. I think I only went a couple of times. As a socially awkward, insecure, and sheltered 13 year old, it was a terrifying experience. I had a hard time meeting new people anyway, but going door to door to talk to total strangers about something that was that personal was overwhelming and uncomfortable.
This wasn’t the last time that I experienced this kind of evangelism. I have done street evangelism on mission trips over the years. It still makes me uncomfortable. I always feel like I’m being pushy. That doesn’t mean that I think door-to-door or street witnessing is wrong. I admire those who have the courage to do it. I just prefer a less aggressive approach.
The Lord has given me plenty of opportunities to share my faith when I meet new people and have natural conversations. The technique I prefer is “friendship evangelism”. “Friendship evangelism” is simply reaching people for Christ by being a friend to them. I really think people have to see our faith being lived out authentically for it to be taken seriously. That’s why missionaries take up residence and live where they are doing ministry. It takes time to build relationships that provide opportunities to share the gospel.
”Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
This was Jesus final command to His disciples. They obeyed and the rest is history. 2,000 years later we are still talking about it and sharing the good news of the Gospel around the world. Sharing the gospel has never been easy and it’s no different in 2020. We face unique challenges in the US, as our culture becomes more and more secularized and desensitized to Christianity. But, this is not the first time that Christianity has faced adversity and opposition, and it won’t be the last.
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it..” Matthew 16:17-18 (NIV)
This is a great promise of survival. The church may move or shift around the world, but it will carry on. Check out this headline from a Washington Post article in 2015,”Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically.” It’s not dying. It’s just moving or shifting from one region to another, just as it has done throughout history. Christianity started in Jerusalem, and then moved around the Mediterranean and into Europe. It jumped the Atlantic Ocean and came to America. Now it is growing in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East.
I must admit that the decline of Christianity in America is discouraging. But, in spite of our present circumstances, God calls us to be faithful. Just like those who came before us, we persevere and endure.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)
The soul soil of America may not be as fertile as it once was, but God is still at work. He always has a plan. If it’s not working here or there, He moves it. In preparation for our current reality, God started using American missionaries to do a lot of soul farming or soul winning all over the world. The result is a great harvest that is ongoing, and is being reaped even in unexpected places. “Demographers estimate that more Christian believers are found worshipping in China on any given Sunday than in the United States.” (”Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically.” Washington Post, May 2015)
In the meantime, we celebrate the harvest wherever it comes from, remain faithful to God’s calling, and keep praying for revival right here at home. America may be shifting from mission base to mission field, but that may not be such a bad thing. Maybe we can get back to basics and start preparing our soul soil for a new group of farmers and a new revival.
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management