“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). 

How is one saved? This question is not only essential to our own eternal destiny but it is extremely relevant given the “church’s” tendency towards the use of worldly methods to facilitate the gospel message. Ephesians 2:8-9 spells it out clearly and confirms Paul’s sentiments that the Gospel, not us or our methods, is the power of God for salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Therefore, we must be careful not attempt to replace or supplement the God-compelled process of regeneration. 

This begs the question: Have we begun to think that we can replace the power of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit with devices, programs, entertaining music, comedy, technology, and crafty oratory? Paul’s admonition to the church at Thessalonica is well worth believing and heeding: “…because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).  In other words, in the end, it is the wooing and convicting of the Holy Spirit, not human persuasion or manipulation, that does the converting work of God in the sinner’s heart. “No one”, Jesus said, “can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). 

For example, although I’m all for the use of technology as a tool to spread the Good News and multiply our usefulness (this post is confirmation of that), we can’t tweet, blog, text, MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube someone into the arms of a loving and redeeming Savior. That is the work of God by the Holy Spirit and through the activating and reviving power of His Word. Peter tells us that “[we are] born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Again, a question lingers: Do we think we must “help the Spirit along” as if He needs our ingenuity? No, the power is in the pure Word of God administered by the Holy Spirit. They do not need our gimmicks or our manipulation. 

The concept that if we use enough methods or programs, garner enough professions of faith, and throw them against the proverbial wall then some will surely stick is both unscriptural but an affront to the meaning of grace and the Holy Spirit’s pivotal role in true conversion. Man-induced professions of faith (and the use of not-so-subtle coercion and worldly techniques to gain them) are not only meaningless but they point people away for the center of salvation; the Christ of the cross. Paul’s stance was clear: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17). In other words, how dare we devalue the power of the Word, abdicate the function and unction of the Spirit, and presume the cross doesn’t have enough power on its own by trying to “take matters into our own hands.” 

By now you are waiting on me to make some overly simplistic statement on how we should approach effectual evangelism and soul-winning. So I won’t disappoint! Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Please don’t misunderstand. This verse is NOT saying that professional preachers (or the classic church service or “invitation time”) are the only vehicles that God uses for evangelism. Look at the next verse (v. 15):  “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

That’s us, folks!! The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) makes this clear. You know, “as you go make disciples.” It is the true followers of Christ (and all of them) who share the Good News – one-on-one with their neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family members – by telling others what the Word says about Jesus (and not, by the way, just sharing “our personal testimony”). Then we let the Holy Spirit do His convicting, drawing, and regenerating work. Through the power of the Word He will point them to Jesus as their only hope. They will see their sin and will flee to the Savior. And I believe this approach, coupled with fervent prayer for the lost, will produce genuine repentance and confession; the kind that transforms lives and makes sinners into children of God (see John 1:9-14). Why? Because we have done our part and then gotten out of the way for God to do His gracious full and final work! And in doing so He gets all the glory for doing what only He can do – save wretched sinners like you and me.