AN AD IN a religious periodical caught my eye recently. “How To Win Souls In Only Three Visits,” said the headline — or words to that effect. Why, I bet Ralph Williams can’t sell used cars much faster than that! Now don’t misunderstand me. I am all for winning souls. And if the charts this particular ad offered would really help me do that at a faster rate I would certainly have no objection.
But suppose I had ordered this particular product. And suppose further that I then followed the charts to the letter. Do you imagine there would have been a three-to-one ratio of demonstrations and sales? Perhaps there might have been. But are such “sales” really “conversions” — of the mind, the affections, the will? Is there another set of charts which guarantees Christian living in three visits? And another for insuring faithfulness? Or another for stimulating spiritual growth? The ad did not say.
We just may have become so enchanted by methods and techniques, so enthralled at the exciting possibilities of applied psychology and salesmanship, that we have forgotten that the real power lies with God. Peter didn’t seem to have any clever techniques on Pentecost… but “sales.” I really can’t imagine the Apostle Paul showing Lydia the “9 Practical Advantages of Christianity Over Judaism,” then trying to close the sale and sign her on the dotted line.
If the evangelists Philip and Stephen ever had a course in “Making People Change Their Mind About Religion” we are not told of it. Philip did have a personally convincing knowledge of a resurrected Savior and a saving faith in an ascended Lord. All the other successful soul-winners in the early church had the same. They had an honest love, and faith, and devotion — to a God who had done so much for them, and to a Christ whose freely-given blood made their salvation possible.
They knew that their own lives were different now than before, and that they were united in Christ to a power that made the difference. Little wonder, then, that they told everyone they could about it. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” wrote Paul (II Corinthians 4:7). Six verses later he added, “We… believe, therefore we speak; knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.”
Technique and salesmanship can move used cars. To redeem men and women it takes much more. It takes a Savior — crucified, risen and coming again. It takes the power of God.