Our church’s verse for the year is “He that winneth souls is wise”, and while I have no problem with Scripture or focusing on winning souls, I’m a little underwhelmed with the modern concept of “soul winning”. And no, I’m not talking about my frustration with the concept of door-to-door evangelism, though before all is said and done, it might sound like it. You see, my understanding of the foundation of soul winning is found in the Shema Yisrael.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
[this part of the Shema is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, you can read the full text here]
The name “Shema Yisrael” comes from the first words of the prayer, “Hear O Israel”. So when in Mark 12:29, Jesus says: The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord, every Jew that heard this, knew he was referencing the Shema. This is the first commandment, and a great deal of it is concerning the evangelism of the home.
Before I go any further, let me say this: I am not a good man. I struggle to do the things that the Word of God teaches. They do not come naturally or easily to me. And so, what I say next, I say to myself as much as anyone:
If you are not teaching your wife and your children and discipling them daily in the Word of God, you are not keeping the first commandment of God. If you are not teaching your wife and your children, you have no business going out and knocking on the door of strangers.
This is the core of my frustration with modern evangelism. And I believe the church’s failure in the first type of evangelism has affected the second type (Mark 12:31 – love your neighbor), in that because we believe the salvation and mentoring of our children can be so easily achieved (I take them to church and Sunday School), we have also trivialized the salvation of the world: Here’s a cartoon tract about God, pray this prayer and Jesus has no choice but to be your Savior. Next steps? Beats me… Discipleship? I have no idea what that means.
That’s it for now. There is more to be said about this, but personally, I’m guilty of enough without saying another word or reading another reference. Here’s my question: How do we fix this? How do we turn the boat around? How do we redefine the word evangelism, so that when we hear it, the first people we think of, are those that God has given us the greatest responsibility for?