Incidents in Travel and Soul Winning – By Elmer & Julia Shelhamer

Chapter 22

A Confidential Word to Ministers

Many ministers of the Gospel might lead hundreds of people to Christ if they but knew the art of soul-winning. They know how to sermonize. They can run a church, but to bring souls to the point of decision, then lead them through into the kingdom is a lost art.

The reason for this is that many pastors have never been truly born of God. They themselves do not know what that miraculous change, conversion, is by experience. Therefore they do not know how to lead others into it.

In order to win souls ministers should first realize that most people are more or less under conviction for sin. They may not acknowledge it, but conscience and the blessed Holy Spirit have been busy with them from the time they were children. Second, men want to find peace. They desire God. but do not know how to find Him. They grope in darkness, seeking rest. When in company they seem happy, but they wet their pillows at night with tears.

Often only a little effort is needed to lead them to light and blessing. If ministers would only watch this point they would have many souls instead of none or a very few.

May I illustrate? A certain pastor of a large church in South Africa at one time preached a fine sermon that brought conviction for sin. A very wicked woman in his audience sat and wept. She could easily have been led to Christ that night, had the minister only asked those who would, to go into an adjoining room or come forward and pray. But he did not. He let all go home without personal help. Later, our family held a few services in that church. This same woman began to weep. Husband gave an invitation to all who were concerned to kneel at the altar or go into the “vestry.” I prayed with that woman as we knelt together at a chair. I told her to tell God all about her burden and her sins, quoting the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us,” etc. She confessed between her sobs and promised God to live a good life. After some time she found peace, went home and awoke her husband and apologized for all, and her life since is entirely changed. But she told me that she might have found peace before, had her minister only known how to lead her into the kingdom.

Just a word about personal work. After a soul comes forward or, into the inquiry room, well-meaning but uninformed workers hinder rather than help them. They merely sit by the side of the seeker and talk to him and possibly read the Bible. He may need instruction, but what little he needs can be given in a very few words while on their knees in earnest prayer. The seeker should be told to pray audibly, confessing his sins. He should be led to surrender all to God at once — not wait until some future time. If he is at a loss to know just when and how to proceed to make needed apologies to others, he should be assisted He may need a go-between, especially if the case be a serious one. But the main thing is to help the soul to pray clear through to victory.

May I add a few words of caution? Avoid intimacy with those of the opposite sex. Do not lay your hands on one, nor even touch him. This may cause unfavorable comment or it may awaken temptation and later cause a downfall. “But,” you say, “the worker is a holy person and never thinks of anything but God.” That is where you are mistaken. He is human and easily tempted. A good evangelist has hurt his influence by the fact that he seems to prefer to pray with women rather than men. Added to this, he sits or kneels too close to them. I have seen their heads almost touch while he whispered words of admonition.

There are women who take hold of a man’s arm or lay the hand on his back when talking with him. Avoid, all terms of intimacy such as, “Dear sister,” “Dear brother,” when speaking to or praying with others. Satan is always watching. We must keep at the utmost distance from even the “appearance of evil.”

Preachers are falling these days, and we must be careful. The fact that your love is pure does not excuse you. Many saints have suddenly discovered that what they thought was pure, holy love has had too much human and even the carnal element in it.

As far as possible let men pray with men and women with women. If you find it necessary to do otherwise, always avoid holding long conversations with the opposite sex, and if at all possible, avoid being entirely alone with them. A very prominent minister whose beautiful songs are sung around the globe had his study in the church. It was there he advised and prayed with women who needed help, and it was there he fell. I know two talented, Spirit-filled ministers of the Gospel who lost their good names because they allowed kind, holy women to rub their heads when they were ill or suffering with pain. I give these words of warning because the more efficient a man or woman is in the art of soul-winning, the greater is his or her danger. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”