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How To Win Souls For Christ By Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon preached a sermon on how to win souls for Christ:

It is an honor to address such a distinguished group of preachers; I wish I were more prepared. I lack eloquence and serious thinking, but I give you what I have.

#1 Know That Men Must Be Born Again

Concerning soul winning. How to win a soul? I hope you believe in the traditional method of soul salvation. Everything seems to shake and shifting lately. It seems that we are to evolve out of men the good that is already in them: much good may you get if you attempt the process! 

Not Evolve Out From Old Man

I am afraid that in the process of evolution you will develop devils. I do not know much else that will come out of human nature, for manhood is as full of sin as an egg is full of meat; and the evolution of sin must be everlasting mischief. 

We all believe that we must go to soul-winning, desiring in God’s name to see all things made new. This old creature is dead and corrupt, and must be buried; and the sooner the better. Jesus has come that there may be passing away of the old things, and a making of all things new. In the process of our work, we endeavor to bless men by trying to make them temperate; may God bless all work of that sort! But we should think ourselves to have failed if we had produced a world of total abstainers, and had left them all unbelievers. We drive at something more than temperance; for we believe that men must be born again.

It is desirable for the unregenerate to be moral, even a corpse. It would be a tremendous benefit if they could be cleaned of the vices that cause this city to stink in God’s and decent men’s noses. 

Man Must Be Regenerate

But that is not so much our work like this: that the dead in sin should live, that spiritual life should quicken them, and that Christ should reign where the prince of the power of the air now hath sway. 

You preach, brethren, with this object, that men may quit their sins, and fly to Christ for pardon, that by His blessed Spirit they may be renovated, and become as much in love with everything that is holy as they are now in love with everything that is sinful. 

You aim at a radical cure; the ax is laid at the root of the trees; the amendment of the old nature would not content you, but you seek for the imparting, by divine power, of a new nature, that those who gather around you in the streets may live unto God.

Our goal is to flip the world upside down so that where sin abounded, grace abounded. We’re hoping for a miracle: let’s be clear about that. 

Command Man To Repent And Believe The Gospel

Some brethren believe they should adjust their tone to the listener’s spiritual aptitude. You shouldn’t urge a man to repent and believe unless you feel he can do it on his own. My reply is a confession: I command men in the name of Jesus to repent and believe the gospel, though I know they can do nothing of the kind apart from the grace of God; for I am not sent to work according to what my private reason might suggest, but according to the orders of my Lord and Master. Ours is the miraculous method that comes of the endowment of the Spirit of God, who bids His ministers perform wonders in the name of the holy child Jesus. 

“Lazarus, come forth,” we are sent to speak to blind eyes, deaf ears, and dead hearts. Dare we do this? 

Our Master Work Through Us

We shall be wise, to begin with, the conviction that we are utterly powerless for this unless our Master has sent us, and is with us. But if He that sent us is with us, all things are possible to him that believeth. O preacher, if thou art about to stand up to see what thou canst do, it will be thy wisdom to sit down speedily; but if thou standest up to prove what thine almighty Lord and Master can do through thee, then infinite possibilities lie about thee! There is no bound to what God can accomplish if He works by thy heart and voice.

When my beloved brethren, the deacons and elders of our church, came around me for prayer the other Sabbath morning, one of them prayed, “Lord, take him as a man takes a tool in his hand when he gets a firm hold of it, and then uses it to work his own will with it.” 

All workers need God to be their Worker. You are to be instruments in the hands of God; yourselves, of course, actively putting forth all your faculties and forces which the Lord has lent to you; but still never depending upon your personal power, but resting alone upon that sacred, mysterious, divine energy which works in us, and by us, and with us, upon the hearts and minds of men.

Disappointed if He is Only Our Converts

Have we not been disappointed with some of our converts? We will always be disappointed with them as converts. When they turn out to be the Lord’s work, we will be overjoyed. When the power of grace acts in them, it will be “Glory!” and the only glory. For grace produces glory, but mere oratory only creates shame and disgrace. 

When we preach, I hope we might be restrained by the same fear Paul expressed when he stated he would not use the wisdom of words, “lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” It is the duty of the gospel preacher, indoors or outdoors, to say, “I can say that prettily, but then they might notice how I said it; I will, therefore, so say it that they will only observe the intrinsic value of the truth which I would teach them.” 

The gospel itself accomplishes the job in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and we must look to Him for conversion. A miracle is needed to make our hearers the products of God’s mighty power when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly place far above all principality and power, and we must look to the living God for this. Do we have to? 

So we go in for total conversion, and we rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength. If it is a miracle, it must be worked by God; it cannot be done by human reasoning, persuasion, or threatening.

#2 Endowed With The Spirit Of God

In what ways may we hope to be endowed with the Spirit of God, and to go forth in His power, because the gaining of souls is at hand? I respond that much depends on the individual. I believe we have never placed enough emphasis on God’s work within us in connection to our service to God. A consecrated man may be fully charged with divine energy, causing it to be felt by all. They don’t know what it is, where it came from, or where it is going, but something about him is out of the ordinary. A person may be strong and alert one moment and weak the next. He shakes as he does, but he can do nothing. Samson must be in good health to win battles. The Philistines would mock the champion if his locks are shaved; a man without the Lord has no ability to serve. Examine carefully your personal standing before God. Take care of your own farm and flocks and cows. You will rush out of your room and rush to your task, but nothing will come of it. The vessel, albeit earthen, has its position in the divine arrangement, yet it cannot be filled with divine treasure unless it is clean and otherwise suitable for the Master’s use. Let me show you how much soul-winning depends on the man himself.

#3 Acting As Witnesses

We win some souls to Christ by acting as witnesses. We rise forward to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Honest Witness

I’ve never been tricked by a barrister. I’ve often pondered what I should do if called as a witness and cross-examined. I believe I should simply stand up and state the facts as I know them, without attempting to impress with my wit, eloquence, or judgment. I could defeat any lawyer in the world if I merely answered his questions honestly. When a witness is put in the box, he is frequently more worried, teased, and bored than what he has to say, and so cannot be a good witness for the cause. The devil’s barristers will surely come to you since he has a great number of them in his service. The only thing you must do is bear witness to the truth; you will not be wise if you question yourself, “How shall I answer this man wisely, to get a victory over him?” 

Humorous and Gracious Response

A humorous response is frequently appropriate, but a gracious response is better. Say to yourself: “After all, it doesn’t matter if he proves me a fool or not, since I am already willing to be regarded as a fool for Christ’s sake, regardless of my reputation. I have to bear witness to what I know, and by the help of God, I will do so right boldly. If the interrupter asks me more questions, I will say that I just came to witness this one thing. I will just talk on one point.”

Sure Of Our Salvation

Brethren, the witnessing man must himself be saved, and he should be sure of it. I’m not sure whether you doubt your salvation. Maybe I should advise you to preach even if you are not saved, since you want others to be. “Alas! I do not feel the full power of the gospel on my heart,” you may now genuinely say, “Yet I know it is true, for I have seen it save others, and I know that no other power can save me.” Even that honest, faltering testimony can send a tear to your opponent’s eye, making him sympathize with you. While John Bunyan’s personal fetters rattled, he informed them that there was hope for them and urged them to look to the great Deliverer. I wouldn’t have stopped him from preaching. It is a great thing to declare from your own personal experience the Lord has broken the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron in sunder. “Are you sure of it?” asks our witness. Sure? I am as certain as I am alive. This is dogmatism. Never mind. 

A man ought to know what he is preaching about, or else let him sit down. If I had any doubt about the matters I preach from this pulpit, I should be ashamed to remain the pastor of this church; but I preach what I know, and testify what I have seen. If I am mistaken, I am heartily and intensely mistaken; and I risk my soul and all its eternal interests upon the truth of what I preach. If the gospel which I preach does not save me, I shall never be saved, for what I proclaim to others is my personal ground of trust. I have no private lifeboat; the ark to which I invite others holds myself and all that I have.

Know And Be Comfortable With The Subject

A good witness knows what he is going to say and is comfortable with his subject. He’s called as a witness in a robbery case, for example; he knows what he saw and must simply make a declaration about it. They question him about a painting in the house or the color of a garment in the wardrobe. “You are going beyond my record; I can only witness to that which I saw,” he says. What we know and what we don’t know would fill two comprehensive books, and we can confidently request that the second volume be left alone.

Say what you know and sit. However, while discussing something with which you have a personal relationship, be cool and collected. You can’t fully indulge your emotions while preaching unless you’re comfortable with your subject. Knowing where you are will liberate your thoughts for earnestness. You cannot preach with passion until you know the gospel from beginning to finish and where you are preaching it. But when you are at rest with your teaching, stand up and be as bold, earnest, and imploring as you like. Face the people with the conviction that you will tell them something important, something that is important to you. Every outdoor and indoor assembly has honest hearts who just want to hear honest beliefs, accept them, and be led to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

#4 Pleader for Christ

But you are more than witnesses; you are pleaders for Christ. 

Be Sincere And Loving

A pleader’s success depends on the man. Some preachers appear to have used a block of ice rather than a tongue of fire as a sign and symbol of Christianity. You wouldn’t want a barrister to get up and present your case in a cold, methodical manner, seemingly unconcerned about whether you were found guilty or acquitted of murder. How could you bear his coldness when you were about to be hung yourself? No way! You want to put a stop to such a liar. So, if a man has to speak for Christ and is not sincere about it, let him go to bed. You grin, but isn’t it better if he goes to bed than if an entire congregation goes to bed? Yes, we must be sincere. We must love men if we are to win them. 

Genuine Love For God And Man

I know gentlemen, whom I esteem in a way, who seem to think that the working-classes are a shockingly bad lot, to be kept in check, and governed with vigour. With such views, they will never convert the working-men. To win men, you must feel: “I am one of them. If they are a sad lot, I am one of them; if they are lost sinners, I am one of them; if they need a Saviour, I am one of them.” To the very chief of sinners you should preach with this text before you, “Such were some of you.” Grace alone makes us to differ, and that grace we preach. Genuine love to God and fervent love to man make up the great qualification for a pleader.

Terrors Of The Lord To Persuade

I further believe although certain persons deny it, that the influence of fear is to be exercised over the minds of men, and that it ought to operate upon the mind of the preacher himself. “Noah moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” There was salvation for this world from perishing in the flood in the fears of Noah; and when a man gets to fear for others so that his heart cries out, “They will perish, they will perish, they will sink to hell, they will be forever banished from the presence of the Lord,” and when this fear oppresses his soul, and weighs him down, and then drives him to go out and preach with tears, oh, then he will plead with men so as to prevail! 

Know And Persuade

Knowing the terror of the Lord, he will persuade men. To know the terror of the Lord is the means of teaching us to persuade, and not to speak harshly. Some have used the terrors of the Lord to terrify, but Paul used them to persuade. Let us copy him. Say, “We have come out to tell you, men and brethren, that the world is on fire, and you must flee for your lives, and escape to the mountain, lest ye be consumed.” 

Warn With Conviction

We must give this warning with the full conviction that it is true, or else we shall be but as the boy who in foolishness cried, “Wolf!” Something of the shadow of the last tremendous day must fall upon our spirit to give the accent of conviction to our message of mercy, or we shall miss the pleader’s true power. 

Brethren, we must tell men that there is a pressing need of a Saviour, and show them that we ourselves perceive their need and feel for them, or else we are not likely to turn them to the Saviour.

Judgement Day In Mind

He that pleads for Christ should himself be moved with the prospect of the judgment-day. I’m often horrified when I enter via the back door of the pulpit and see the large throng. If I am not faithful to them, then I am accountable for their blood. 

Fear is not alone. I am encouraged by the knowledge that God plans to benefit these individuals via the Word I shall deliver. I think that everyone in that crowd is there for a reason and that I am there to further that cause. When I preach, I often wonder, “Who is being converted now?” I never think the Lord’s Word will fail. No way. The testimony of God’s truth always makes me feel certain that men are being converted. Your confident belief that God’s Word cannot return void is a wonderful source of inspiration for both your hearers and yourself. Your joyful faith in their conversion may be like a mother’s tiny finger extended to her child to assist it to reach her. Your spiritual fire may dart a spark into their spirits, igniting the flame of spiritual life. Let us all learn the art of pleading with the souls of men.

#5 Be A Good Example

To be a witness and pleader is one thing, but to be an example is another. Decoy birds are one of the most effective techniques to capture wild ducks. The decoy duck enters first, followed by the others. 

Our example of coming to Christ, living godly lives in a perverse generation, our example of joy and sorrow, of holy submission to the divine will in times of trouble, our example of many gracious ways will be the means of inducing others to enter the Church. 

Of course, you can’t stand on the street and preach about your example; yet there isn’t a single street preacher who isn’t more recognized than he thinks. Someone in the audience may know the speaker’s private life. “Ah, Jack, you dare not preach like that at your own door!” said a hearer to an outdoor preacher I once heard. Mr. John had just threatened to fight one of his neighbors, so he was unlikely to have preached anything close to home. This made the interruption awkward. Unworthy men should travel several miles away before preaching and then say nothing when they stand up. “They know us better than we know ourselves, and they make up for what they don’t know.” At the same time, our walk and conversation should be the most powerful part of our ministry. When lips and life agree, it’s called consistency.

Type Of People That Surround Him

My time is limited, but I must address a different matter. I’ve already stated that the Holy Spirit’s work primarily depends on the preacher himself, but I feel compelled to add that much also depends on the type of people that surround him. 

Don’t Do It Alone

An open-air preacher who is forced to go out alone must be in a tough situation. It is highly beneficial to be linked with a real live church that will pray for you; and if you cannot locate such a church near where you work, the next best thing is to gather a half-dozen brothers or sisters who will support you, go out with you, and pray with you. 

Even if a preacher is self-sufficient, he or she should avoid being alone. Couldn’t they see it this way: by bringing in a half-dozen men to go out with me, I’ll be doing something good for these young men and teaching them to be workers? If you can gather a half-dozen men who are not all very young but are slightly advanced in their understanding of divine truth, the association will be extremely beneficial to both of you. 

I must confess to you all that, while God has benefited me in my job, none of the credit belongs to me; rather, it belongs to those wonderful friends at the Tabernacle, and indeed, throughout the globe, who make me the particular subject of their prayers. 

Gather People Around You

A man should be able to cope well with the people he is surrounded by like I am. Mr. William Olney, a good friend, and deacon, once observed, “Until now, our pastor has led us ahead, and we have eagerly followed. Everything has gone well; do you have any doubts about his leadership?” “Yes.” the crowd exclaimed. “If our pastor has brought us up to a ditch which looks as if it could not be passed, let us fill it up with our bodies, and carry him across.” my good friend remarked. The ditch was suddenly filled, as if by magic. 

True Co-worker Beside You

Your power is doubled when you have a true co-wowroker. A good wife is a blessing. Your husbands will preach better if you make them happy and comfortable when they get home. With caution and gentleness, some of you can aid in various ways. You can tenderly hint that your spouse was a little out of line in certain minor matters, and he may take your hint and put himself right. 

When a nice brother approached me for advice, he said, “Please offer me advice.” “All I had as a teacher was my wife, who had a greater education than I had. I used to say, ‘We was,’ and ‘Us did it,’ and she quietly hinted that people might laugh at me if I did not attend to grammar.” To him, his wife became a professor of—of English language, and he knew it. You should praise God for your helpers every day.

Partner With Wise Christian

Also, forming a brotherly alliance with a wise Christian who knows more than we do is a tremendous help. God may bless us for the sake of others when He might not bless us on our own. 

You’ve probably heard the story of the preacher who congratulated himself on winning many souls for Christ. “That deaf old man who sits on the pulpit stairs, and prays for you, was the means of the blessing.” the angel said. Let us be grateful for that deaf man, or that elderly woman, or those poor praying friends who intercede for us and bring us a blessing. 

The Spirit of God will bless two when He might not bless one. 

Although Abraham’s plea was like a ton of weight on the scale, he did not save one of the five cities; but there was his nephew Lot, who was about the poorest lot that could be discovered. He only had about a half-ounce of prayer in him, but it was enough to tip the scales, and Zoar was saved. Then add your odd half-ounce to the mightier weight of prominent saints’ prayers, since they might need it.

#6 Work Hard For The Lord

Dear brethren, if we are going to win souls, we must go in for downright labor and hard work.

Practice Preaching

First, we must practice preaching. Are you growing weary of preaching? (“No.”) I hope you don’t tire of it, though you will. Keep preaching. Stick to your previous remark; preacher, stick to your sermon. When the muster-roll is read on the great day, all those who are converted by magnificent music, church adornment, religious exhibitions, and entertainments will amount to a tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Keep preaching and allow nothing else to eclipse it. Preach first, second, and third.

Christ’s Love, His Atoning Sacrifice, New Birth, Complete Counsel Of God

Believe in teaching Christ’s love, the atoning sacrifice, the new birth, and the complete counsel of God. The old hammer of the gospel will still break the rock into pieces; the ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude. Continue preaching with the Holy Ghost poured down from heaven, and the results will surprise us. After all, the power of the tongue knows no bounds! What can a bad tongue do? Will God not give a good tongue more power if we use it properly? Consider the power of fire: a single spark can engulf an entire city in flames; yet, with the Spirit of God at our side, we don’t need to calculate how much or what we can accomplish: there’s no calculating the potentialities of a flame, and there’s no limit to the possibilities of divine truth spoken with the zeal that comes from the Spirit of God. Do not lose hope despite the filthy night streets, the flaming gin palaces at every street corner, the rich’s evil, and the poor’s ignorance. Continue in God’s name, for nothing else will save men if the gospel is not preached. If the Lord’s way of kindness fails, then weep the heavens and blot out the sun, for nothing stands before our race but darkness. God’s ultimatum is Jesus’s sacrifice for salvation. Be glad it can’t fail. Let us believe without reservation and then preach the Word.

Sincere Private Talk 

Truly sincere open-air preachers will always include a sincere private talk in their sermons. How many people have been converted into this Tabernacle through personal conversations with particular brethren, whom I shall not name! They’re all about me as I preach! One Monday night, a brother was speaking to me and then vanished before he finished his sentence. I never quite knew what he was going to say; but I speedily saw him in that left-hand gallery, sitting in the pew with a lady unknown to me. “A gleam of sunlight came in at the window, and made me see a face so sad that I hurried upstairs, and took my seat in the pew close to the woman of a sorrowful countenance,” he recalled after the service. “Did you cheer her?” “Yes! I asked her to stay in the pew until after the service, and I went after the other—a young man.” He prayed with both of them until they gave their hearts to the Lord. That’s how you stay on the lookout. 

We’ll need a team of sharpshooters to go through each of their men one by one. When we fire great guns from the pulpit, execution is done, but many are missed. We want loving spirits to roam around, giving personal warnings and encouragements to each instance. Those who preach in the open air should not only address the hundreds but also the ones, and should be accompanied by others who share their joy. How much more effective would street preaching be if every speaker were accompanied by a group of people who would push his message home?

Carry The Prospect In Your Heart

My brother told us a story on Sunday night that I will never forget. He was one of those appointed to visit Croydon Hospital one night. All the porters had returned home, and it was time to call it a night. Except for the physician, he was the only person in the hospital when a child ran in, screaming that there had been a train accident and that someone needed to go around to the station with a stretcher. “Will you take one end of the stretcher if I take the other?” said the doctor. “Oh, yes!” said the enthusiastic response, and the doctor and the pastor with the stretcher were off. They returned with a sick man. For a week or two after that, my brother stated, “I went often to the hospital during the next week or two, because I felt so much interest in the man whom I had helped to carry.” Because he had felt the weight of that man, I believe he will always be interested in him. 

You will never forget a man’s name if you know how to carry him in your heart. And I believe that many regular preachers need to know more about this in order to preach better.

Use Tract

When preaching and private chat are not possible, you can use a tract, which is a very effective strategy. Some tracts would not convert a beetle and would not attract a fly. Get striking tracts or none. Never leave home without your gospel tracts; they may be the germ of eternal life.

Visit The Prospect

I guess, besides presenting a tract, you try to find out where a person who frequently hears you lives so you might call him. A visit from an open-air preacher is a wonderful thing! “ Why, Bill, that gentleman who preaches at the street corner come to see you?” Shall I invite him in?” “I’ve heard him before; he’s a nice guy,” she says. Visit as much as you can. It will benefit both you and the people.

Write Letter

What power a letter to an individual has! Some people still hold superstitious awe for letters, and when they receive one from one of you, reverend gentlemen, they cherish it. Your sermon may have missed him. It would be beneficial for young people who cannot preach to write letters to their young friends about their souls; they could express themselves more clearly with their pens than with their mouths. 

Let us save men by all means; let us keep them from hell. We aren’t half as sincere as we should be. Do you recall the young man who exclaimed to his dying brother, “My brother, how could you have been so indifferent to my soul as you have been?” “I have not been indifferent to your soul, for I have frequently spoken to you about it.” And he added, “I think if you remembered I was going to hell, you would have been more earnest with me; you would have wept over me, and you would not have let me go.” Say nothing about it.

#7 Let a living heart speak

But I’ve heard it said that when people get serious, they do strange things and say strange things. Let them speak and do strange things if they are truly sincere. We don’t want pranks and performances that are just a farce of sincerity; genuine white-hot sincerity is in little supply these days, and it’s a pity to be too harsh when you witness it. You must let a massive storm to rage in its own time. Let a living heart speak. If you are zealous, and yet cannot speak, your earnestness will invent its own method of working out its purpose. As Hannibal is said to have melted the rocks with vinegar, so earnestness will one way or another dissolve the rocky hearts of men. For Jesus’ sake, may the Holy Spirit dwell upon you all! Amen.

This article is an edited version of the article “How to win souls for Christ” from Charles Spurgeon’s book “The Soul Winner”. Check out our related posts for more information on this topic, or get a copy of the book from Amazon.

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