Winning of Souls
It is truly our only
This is an essay of another view of total
evangelism by Barrington Brennen, June 15, 2015
Barrington H. Brennen
For decades I have been thinking about the mission of the
Adventist Church, or what some say is our
mission--Evangelism, the “winning of souls” for Christ. I
am writing these thoughts as an ordained minister of the
Adventist Church for over 37 years and a mental health
professional for almost 20 years.
With the Adventist mission of evangelism comes an assumed
definition which might not be right. This assumed
definition, in my opinion, narrows the meaning of
evangelism. Let me challenge you. Suppose I say that the
only purpose for the Adventist Church is to win souls for
the kingdom of God, would that be truly the full or only
purpose of our church?
I have heard over and over that the only reason for our
existence is to "win souls." Now maybe "to win souls" may
need to be defined. It might have different meanings for
Here is my thinking challenge for you. The real mission of
the Adventist Church is not to win souls for the
kingdom--meaning just bringing people into the church
through evangelistic series. The real mission is winning and
keeping souls for the kingdom. Evangelism has to mean
keeping as well as winning.
I have a philosophy about evangelism. Here it is: "Those we
keep will win others." It is not those we win will win
others. No way! The nurturing agent is the most powerful
tool for winning--not preaching. We also say that if you
want more sheep then feed your sheep. But is the psyche and
structure of our church facilitating that view? Do we really
stop to feed our sheep? Or do we just throw them a bundle of
hay while we go to another evangelism project?
"Those we keep will win others."
It is my view that the
evangelism culture in our church has done more to push
people out of the church than to keep them in. We focus on
“what is the number” of the converts. Yes, the noise in
the market (the evangelistic series) will attract more
"customers" in the beginning. However, when the "customers"
find out about the high price of the goods or the poor
customer service, or even the poor upkeep of the premises,
they leave and go to another “store.”
Another point is when the mindset is that the main or best
form of outreach (winning of souls) is an evangelistic
series, it minimizes the power of other equally powerful
methods that do not need an evangelistic series.
It is my view that our members are not taught that
evangelism is inclusive of keeping and winning. I am
postulating that if we truly focus on nurture--keeping of
souls--we will have more winning of souls. If we focus on
wining of souls only, with little or no nurture, we will win
lots of people in the short run but lose more in the long
Evangelism as “wining of souls” is a concept that needs to
be revamped. It drives too many to focus on numbers. It
fuels the methods of our church services, appeals, and how
quickly we have baptisms without adequate preparation.
This happens a lot in areas of the world where evangelism is
trumped as our “only focus.”
It is my view also that evangelism as the “winning of souls”
is more likely to cultivate legalism than evangelism as the
keeping of souls first, then winning. I know that many of
you are thinking that the Adventist Church does have the
"keeping and winning." That is not really so. Take an
objective look at why we do things: How we make our appeals;
how often we have appeals for persons to get baptized; how
we set our goals for winning; how often we have "winning"
I can hear the preacher saying with his booming voice: "Go
and win souls." I do not hear them say also, "stay, and
let's keep the souls." We also instill a level of guilt in
the members if they "stay" and do not "go." In other words,
if they "keep" and not "win." Our narrative must change.
The language we use impact the psyche and drive of members.
We have pastors who have the gift of winning. Even the
apostle Paul mentions evangelism as a gift of the Spirit.
Since the common meaning of evangelism is "wining" only,
these pastors' evangelism focus sometimes neglect the
smaller but most important things about winning--keeping. On
the other hand, we can have some pastors who say they are
focusing on "keeping of souls," but they are really lazy.
They really do not nurture or feed their flock. I have two
serious questions for you to think about. Is it fair to say
that evangelists should not be church pastors? Is it fair
to say that evangelists create numerical growth and not
necessarily spiritual growth of the church?
How do we "win" souls? It
has been my observation that for some of us the winning of
souls include these and more: (1) Frighten the people to get
them to the altar. Hit them over their heads with the
"truth." "You are going to hell if you do not come to Jesus
now, now, now! Come! Come! Come!" (2) Tell the people that
they will no longer want to sin if they come to Jesus (False
hope). (3) Quickly squeeze them into the front door of the
church, but neglect to close the back door. (4) Make them
feel good on the day of baptism, and forget where they live
after that. (5) Count how many got in, and neglect to
"Is it fair to say that evangelists
should not be church pastors? Is it fair
to say that evangelists create numerical
growth and not necessarily spiritual
growth of the church?"
how many stayed. (6) Shock them with the messages of the
"Last Days Events," the 2300 days prophecy, seven last
plagues, etc. (7) Put them in a "New Believers” Bible class,
but when it is over, we still do not know much about the new
What are my views of the "keeping" of souls? They are: 1.
Inviting people to the altar through a loving call; 2.
Helping them apply Christian teaching to practical,
every-day living; 3. Using the pulpit to teach more than
preach; 4. Reminding them that there will be no quiz on the
2300 Days Prophecy at kingdom's gates; Knowing how to
explain it is not required for salvation. The "quiz" will be
on how much we showed the love of Jesus to others. "By this
shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you love
one another" (John 13:35). 5. Doing lots of praising and not shaming
from the pulpit; 6. Meeting the needs--emotional as well and
material--where practical; 7. Having a "spiritual guardian"
to be a friend to each new believer for one year; 8.Lovingly
responding to the social and emotional needs of individuals
and families; (And mush more).
A true keeping and winning program is an active power, not
passive. It is a passion for souls--a passion for souls to
get into the “kingdom” and stay there. Many of us will be
found guilty of the abuse called "neglect" (spiritual and
pastoral neglect) before the great judgment seat of Christ.
It is neglecting to do the most important things that matter
to keep those we win to Christ. That is what matters most.
The next time you start preaching a sermon to your church
members, remember the end result is first keeping and not
Is it reasonable for me to
ask you to think about a passion for souls as an
encompassing phrase--keeping and winning? "Those we keep
will win others."
Our responsibility is to expose the gospel and not to impose
Also, do your best to make
the gospel attractive and not a pain in the neck.