I wish for your church a small, dedicated group of people who are called and gifted, trained and faithful, in helping other people into the kingdom of God.
Call them soulwinners or witnesses. I call them midwives. They are not responsibile for the new life, but they assist it in coming into being.
Someone walks forward during the invitation time and tells the pastor, "I'm ready. I'd like to become a Christian."
Fortunate is the pastor who can turn to a member nearby and say, "Bill, this is Tom. Tom wants to become a Christian. Would you help him?" Bill invites Tom to come with him, and they exit the sanctuary into an adjoining room where they can speak quietly and privately. Bill opens the Scriptures and shows Tom what God has to say about becoming a disciple of Jesus, answers his questions, and prays with him. Then, after Tom is satisfied he has done what he came to do, Bill begins the process of disciplining him--that is, grounding him in the Christian faith.
There are those who teach that every member of the church should become soulwinners, capable of leading others to Christ. In a perfect world, I agree. But the reality is that not everyone is going to do that. Others have gifts and callings, burdens and opportunities, in other directions.
All are witnesses. But not all are soulwinners or midwives.
A witness is any believer who tells others what the Lord has done for him and what the Lord means to him.
We are all commanded to be witnesses. (Acts 1:8 among other places)
A soulwinner (what I'm calling a midwife) is a witness who can assist one wishing to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior into this new life. That means learning certain skills.
A soulwinner will learn a series of scriptures that explain in an orderly fashion how an inquirer can come to know the gospel and give his/her heart to the Lord Jesus. The soulwinner will learn how to respond to basic questions the seeker may have, and to keep the conversation on track. He will develop the ability to lead in what we call "the sinner's prayer." And--just as importantly as everything else--he will learn how to do followup, helping the new believer to grow in the Lord, to join the church, to begin to know his Bible, and share his faith.
The church is blessed that has a corps of midwives throughout the sanctuary every Sunday.
These people are doing the most cutting-edge work of evangelism: helping people enter the kingdom.
They will be doing several things each time the church gathers:
--They will be available to the minister for help during the invitation time, as Bill assisted Tom in the story above.
--They will be on the lookout for first-timers and seekers in church. You will know them, as a rule, by the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look in their eyes. They are unaccustomed to church or to this church in particularly, and in most cases will appreciate a friend stepping up to assist them.
In fact, that may be a better term than witness, soulwinner or midwife: friend. Because that's all it is, doing the thing a good friend would do.
--And, they will be available when ministers or other leaders tell them of particular people who have been coming to church but have not made professions of faith in Jesus. These--those who have been attending regularly for some time now--are often ready and eager to commit their lives to Christ.
Pastors will work to do two things: find just the right people to train as midwives and keep certain other people away from midwifery.
Finding the right people is simple. You look for healthy, growing believers with a natural exuberance about them. Often, they are eager to train to share their faith and assist others into the Kingdom.
Excluding certain others is just as important.
Within every congregation are people with bad mental health, people who are obsessive and compulsive, driven by guilt and afflicted by sinful habits. Send them out as soulwinners or preachers and you will cause havoc in the field and bring shame upon the name of Christ. Anyone who has observed the Christian scene for any time has seen just such people doing the Lord's work in all the wrong ways and causing more problems than they solve.
An obsessive-compulsive soulwinner will browbeat sinners into submission, then almost literally drag them to church, down the aisle, and through the baptismal waters. Their poor victims will be so relieved finally to be rid of their dominator after the last step, they disappear out the back door of the church and are never seen again.
The biggest disqualification for witnessing and soulwinning is sin in the life. Second to it is bad mental health.
No church has such a corps of focused midwives accidentally. Only through much prayer and planning and preparation do we end up with these miracle-working life-changers.
Where do you find such workers? The same place as all the others. "Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He may send forth laborers into the harvest." Believe me, you don't want any other kind than the God-called.
Once you find them, they must be led and trained, then nurtured and appreciated and encouraged. Turn them loose without any accountability and, in the nature of all life in this world, they will wind down and lose all energy, focus, and will.
I am not saying the pastor must be their overseer, although he may need to at first. But as soon as the ministry is going, he should ask the Heavenly Father to raise up one of the most faithful to ride point for this work.
There is a shameful thing happening in churches all across our land today. Someone far from God decides to get up on Sunday morning and go to church. They walk in tentatively, not sure where to go or to sit, when to stand or to kneel, what book to use, the right terminology for anything. They have shown great courage in leaving their comfort zone in search of the missing element in their lives. And what do we church people do?
Nothing. We ignore them. We gear our programs and ministries for those who know the songs, are familiar with where to go and how to do things, and are acquainted with the right words. Anyone else is out of luck.
Anyone doubting this should read the church bulletin and imagine yourself as an outsider without a clue as to what all this means. Would you be drawn to those activities? Would you understand what is going on?
In most cases, this courageous outsider leaves our buildings and returns home without anyone ever learning his name. There will be no followup, no prayer for him, no contact.
No one cared.
Let some of us decide to change that. We will be on the alert for the newcomer, the outsider, the seeker, the questioner. We will be available for anyone and everyone wishing to find the way to God and willing to invite us along.
Let the church have midwives.
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About Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
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