My personal experience of being won over by Christ
Soul winning; we all have heard of it, but what exactly is it? Many see soul winning as persuading others to become Christians. However, this is not the biblical responsibility of Christians. Yes, we are responsible to share our testimony (witness), but God is the one who draws people to Himself, not we. All we do is planting and giving water, God provides the increase (I Corinthians 3:6). Ultimately, therefore, soul winning is the work of God.
Soul winning; who invented it and which instruction did the inventor give? Because when you want to know how something works, you better go to the creator and ask him how to use it. In the case of soul winning, God is the inventor. He has invented it and does the work. Let us therefore have a look at what He says about soul winning:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”Matthew 28:18–20
Instructions to win souls
In the above verse, Jesus did not say we should convert the nations. He said we should teach and make disciples—and no one can become a disciple of Jesus unless he is first converted. After providing the instructions on how to win souls, Jesus ends with the comforting assurance that He will always be with us. It is crucial to note that this promise comes after the instruction to win souls, you should not remove it out of context. Because it means that when we go out and win souls, He will always be with us. It also means that He is the one working through us when we win souls.
Another instruction is in Acts 1:8:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8
Here we are told that we will be witnesses. Witnesses simply tell what they have experienced; they are not responsible to convince the hearers of the truth of what they say. It is important to point out that we will first receive power (when the Holy Spirit comes upon us) and that it is only then that we will be witnesses. We cannot do it without the Holy Spirit. This is also stressed in John 12 verse 32:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
Jesus will draw people to Himself. It is not your job, and neither is it your responsibility. Moreover, you do not have the ability for it. You are just human.
Biblical soul winning, therefore, is witnessing; not persuading.
I am a living testimony of witnessing. It is through the actions and witnesses of Christians that I became born-again.
Should you engage in soul winning?
You may ask yourself, “why should I win souls?”.
10 compelling reasons are applicable:
- To do your duty as a follower of Christ (John 20:21; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20; Matthew 4:19; Acts 1:8; Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4: 2, 5; 1 Corinthians 3:9).
- To save people from destruction (John 3:16-17; Romans 10:14; 2 Peter 3:9).
- To let the Kingdom of God increase (Matthew 9:37).
- To glorify your Father in Heaven (Psalm 105:1; Isaiah 12:4; John 15:8; Matthew 5:16).
- To honor God (Ezekiel 38:23; 1 Peter 3:15).
- To bring joy in Heaven (Luke 15:7).
- To truly be God’s representative on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20).
- To be blessed in the process (Romans 10:15).
- To express God’s love (John 3:16-17; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 5:13-14).
- To prevent shame to yourself (Luke 9:26; Luke 12:8; Romans 1:16).
God simply asks all His children to win souls. It His desire, His will, and His plan. It is His purpose for our lives.
For me, the extra motivation to write about it is because it is through soul winning that I came to the understanding and acknowledgement that Jesus is Christ, and I gave my life to Him. He is my Redeemer, and He arranged my life in such a way that I did not have any choice than to accept Him as Lord over my life. In a timespan of just four months, He brought many entirely different people on my way, all testifying to me in their own peculiar way. That is how I met Christ.
Before I became a Christian
I am born in The Netherlands and raised as an atheist. Due to my upbringing, I hated church and saw ‘God’ and ‘church’ as the same ‘thing’. I did not believe God existed, hence the idea that ‘church’ is a building and an obsolete institute created by men. ‘Church’ only resonated negatively in my mind. I had never been to a church and had never read the bible. Even the standard ‘our father’-prayer, I did not know. I thought Christians were strange people. Additionally, I deeply hated Christians and everything which had to do with Christianity.
I clearly remember one evening when I was watching a nature documentary in a friend’s house, where I was a babysitter for a little girl. That time I was about 23 years old. I enjoyed the beautiful documentary, but when the subtitles followed, I realized that I had been watching a Christian program. I became so angry! Indignantly I switched off the TV and I regretted that I had been watching all along. I kept ‘beating myself up’ in my head, as to why I even watched that documentary.
Well, funny, isn’t it? I am the opposite now.
Start of my journey
I was studying for my master’s and was planning to do a field research in West-Africa, for my thesis. The choice became Ghana. Why? Because of its rich culture, the English language, and the nation’s safety record. I did not have any financial means to get to Ghana and stay there for several months and therefore I applied at several foundations to get funded.
I only approached institutions who did not have any religion as eligibility requirement and the ones which had the explicit rule that you should be an unbeliever to apply for funds. My supervisor advised me to double my budget when submitting my requests, because according to him I would only get half of what I asked for. So, I did. To my astonishment I received every single penny I asked for, with as a result that I had double the funds I needed to fly to Ghana, stay for months, and have enough for anything I would need during my research. In fact, even when I returned to Holland, I still had some funds left to live on.
God was at work, but I did not yet know.
July 1994. I travelled to Ghana and stayed a few days in the capital Accra, to acclimatize to the weather. Then I proceeded to Kumasi, Ghana’s second biggest city, and stayed there till I returned to Holland. I came to study the culture, read books which I could not get in Europe, and to interview intellectuals and citizens. However, I was 24 years old and wanted to see some of the tourist attractions.
On my first day in Kumasi, I wanted to see the Okomfo Anokye sword of which I had read in a tourist travel-book. It is a landmark, which is locally believed to have powers. I could not find the way so I approached a man who agreed that he would bring me to the place. But he added a condition to it: I had to promise him that I would listen to what he would say. I promised.
From there till we arrived at the tourist attraction place, he spoke about eternal life. I was extremely bored because I did not want to hear what he was saying. But I did not interrupt him, nor did I stop him, because I had promised him that I would listen, and I did not want to break my promise. When we arrived, he said he did not know what I wanted there and that all he did was fulfilling his part of the assignment, bringing me to the place. Then he left immediately. Subsequently, I looked at the place and indeed I did not know why I had wanted to go there. I did not waste another second and I left.
Surely, this man did not wake up in the morning, thinking, “today I am going out for soul winning, and I will speak to a ‘white lady’”. No, it was a normal day and he just met me on the road; but he was ready. He was ready to speak about God and God’s salvation, no matter the situation, timing, or person he would meet. He did not wear a special t-shirt, did not have a tract with him, and did not use a megaphone. No, he was just himself: ready to speak about Jesus.
Soul winning by sharing testimonies
In Kumasi I stayed in a Presbyterian guesthouse, which was owned by the church not far from the place. The head pastor of the church lived on the compound too. There were tourists from different nations, mostly in their early twenties. Young Ghanaians, who liked to interact with foreigners, often visited the guesthouse.
One of them was an always enthusiastic and smiling young man. One day he came in a hurry and needed someone to translate from Spanish to English. Why? They were rehearsing a Spanish song in his church, and he wanted to know exactly what they were singing. The words were important to him; he would not simply sing because of the melody. All the tourists were unbelievers, so we looked a bit wary at him. Then he shared his testimony and explained why he was eager to know the words and why he attended church. He had survived a severe motor accident without having even one scratch; and he said that could only be God. And therefore, he became a Christian straight after the accident.
It was his enthusiasm which intrigued me. Not to mention the fact that he said he had become a Christian ‘out of nothing’: no one persuaded him to be a Christian. This became a question mark in my head. How could that be?
When you are ‘soul winning’, no matter your audience, do not let your enthusiasm for Christ be tempered. Spread your testimony! Speak the truth. Tell what has happened to you. You never know the effect it may have on (someone in) your audience.
Soul winning by asking questions
During my stay in Ghana, I encountered several people who asked me questions about my faith (or ‘non-faith’). Here are just two examples:
One morning while walking to the cultural center in the area to work on my research, a teenage boy seated on the side of the road approached me:
Q (boy): “do you know Jesus?”
A (me): “no, I am from The Netherlands”.
Q (boy): “oh, meaning you are into black power”.
I did not understand anything of what he said. How could I know Jesus? He was not alive, was he? What is black power? And why would he assume that if I did not believe in Jesus, it meant I would be the opposite: in darkness. It just did not make sense to me. So, I continued on my way. However, the conversation got in my mind.
The head-pastor of the Presby church, who lived on the compound:
Q (pastor): “do you believe in God?”
A (me): “no, my parents raised me as an unbeliever”.
Q (pastor): “you are an adult now. Is it not time to make your own decisions?”
As much as I did not agree to believe in God, I knew that he was right. I could not simply say that my parents did not teach me so I would not do it. I knew it was true that I had to form my own opinion.
These are two examples of reaching out to win a soul, just by asking questions. In both cases they did not wait for me to initiate a conversation. No, they were in control. And after my answers, none of them ‘disturbed’ me with a tirade to give my life to Christ. No, they knew that the words they spoke were enough, God would do the rest.
Soul winning by reaching out with the Word of God
There was a man who sometimes visited the guesthouse. He had lived in Germany, so we -me being from the neighboring country Holland- chatted sometimes. One day, this man told me that “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30). I was indignant! I was so annoyed: I was not a sinner! What was he thinking!
I did not understand why he said it and I definitely did not agree with what he said. However, the word was planted in me as a seed. Now, more than 25 years later, I still know the incident. And I am fully convinced that the word which I did not like that time has grown into a living plant of faith in me. The word of God never goes out in vain.
Whether someone likes to hear it or not: speak the word of God. God’s word is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Do not feel ashamed or shy and do not even consider what the other person will think or say. That is up to them. Just focus on God and His word. Remember, you are merely sowing God’s word; God will do the rest.
Soul winning by example
The caretaker of the guesthouse had his sister visit. She was my age mate; she was a Catholic. We got acquainted and did many things together. One day we went out for lunch. She wanted to pray before the meal and said that she knew that I did not know how to pray, so she prayed aloud for me and her. I do not remember the exact prayer, but I do remember the instance. I was just looking at her and observing what she was doing. When we were together, she never spoke about her faith. She just did what she was used to: praying before eating. She was sowing into my life, by example.
Jesus as friend
Another example is a girl in the Presbyterian church. After being in Kumasi for some time, I visited the nearby Presbyterian church. My motivation was purely out of interest in Ghana’s culture: many Ghanaians attended church, so I wanted to have a closer look at it, only because of my research for my thesis. I approached my church visit merely scientifically. However, after one visit, I kept attending church service every Sunday. I had realized that every time after the service, I felt peace, and I wanted to further investigate that. In the church there was a girl who always pulled me by her and explained to me why she did certain things.
One Sunday, when her friends had already left church, she told me to come with her and she went to sit in the front row for a communion service. It was there that she softly told me that Jesus was her friend. I had never heard of something like that! How could that be? Jesus was not alive, according to me, so how could he ever be her friend? But she was very convinced, I could see it in her face; she really believed that Jesus was her friend. It placed question marks in my mind: this girl was an adult, in her right mind, but still believed that Jesus was her friend. Could this be real, and could I be wrong?
These two girls left a positive impression, just by the way they lived. That is a good way to win souls. Because people watch more at what you do than they listen to what you say. Perhaps you think you are just living your life but remember that the world is watching. I shall clarify this with examples.
The opposite example
In the same church, there was a choir member with whom I teamed up in various things outside church. I observed the way she lived and noticed that she was devout when church members were around, but when alone with me she never spoke about God and did not even pray. But with church members around she would loudly sing and pray loudly and say “hallelujah” every now and then. In her private life though, which I witnessed outside church, she would never do that, and she never reached out to me about Christ. This just did not seem appropriate to me; I deeply felt that she was a hypocrite.
The other negative example was a pastor who once a while visited the guesthouse where I stayed. When he was conversing with the tourists there, he spoke profanity and made dirty jokes. Moreover, he was always drinking beer. I found that a very weird combination: a pastor speaking filth and drinking alcohol. It placed question marks around Christianity. A pastor does not equal Christianity, but as an unbeliever it is the Christians which will show you Christ (or not).
It is therefore so important that you live the life of Christ, not your own fleshly life. You never know who is watching you, and perhaps someone will decide not to follow Christ because of how you live. Therefore, if you want to witness for Christ, it is crucial to live for Christ. Unbelievers are watching. And they are not ‘stupid’, they see the difference between true Christianity and the fake.
Soul winning through a crusade
After some time, I received an invitation to join a crusade. I had no idea what that was, but I was in for anything which would give me a deeper insight into Ghana’s culture. You must understand that English is not my first language, so I really did not know what a crusade was or meant. And those days there was no internet readily available, neither did smartphones exist; so, I could not quickly check the meaning before agreeing to join. Thus … I joined.
We went with the church bus, on a dark evening. The church choir and band joined the bus, as well as some British people who stayed at the same guesthouse as I, for a few days. I knew they were Christians. We drove for quite a while, until we arrived at a remote village in a desolate place. What transpired then, I will never forget. Not knowing I had joined an evangelism tour! A podium was improvised, and the ‘white people’ (the British group) joined the stage. They started preaching! I felt so bad; if I knew that would happen, I would have never accepted the invitation.
What made it worse for me was the fact that the ‘white’ people were preaching to a group of Ghanaians. I really felt like we had gone back in time to the colonial period and that they wanted to impose their foreign religion on innocent villagers. I even felt that the village should be protected against those evil white people. Because I am ‘white’ as well, I tried to fade in the background. And I did not want to be misunderstood as being the same as them.
The band started playing and everyone started dancing. They pulled the son of the chief into the middle and made him join the dancing; he was obviously not happy. This stressed my feeling of inequality even more: ‘white’ people against ‘brown’ people.
No way back
They tried to pull me in too, to join the dancing. But I strongly objected. I stayed where I was, as far as possible away from the scene. I folded my arms and made an angry face. Unfortunately, I could not leave the place, though I really wanted to get out of there. It was dark, the village was far away, there was no road transportation other than the church bus, and I had no idea where we were. I was ‘locked up’.
Whenever I remember this situation, I smile. God really got me there! No way to escape. God wanted me to be there and see and hear whatever was going on there, even though I really did not like it. And it all started with a simple invitation to join a crusade. You should never underestimate what God wants to do. You have no idea of His strategies, so do not try to reason, and do not try to circumvent or prevent God’s interference (intervention)
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Therefore, do not think twice before you invite anyone to come to church, to join a Christian conference, or to join an outreach program. Just do it. Watch God, He will do the rest. And even if you never see the result of your action, continue to be obedient and sow in the Kingdom of God by spreading His word. It does not matter whether you see the person getting born-again or not. Remember, it is God’s job, not yours.
Soul winning by praying and living the Christian life
The biggest impression of soul winning, however, was made by a British man at the guesthouse. He came to Ghana for a holiday trip. His flight to Ghana had a stopover in Moscow where he had eaten eggs. When he arrived in Ghana, he got sick. Tests were done and it showed that he was suffering from a salmonella bacterium, which had entered his system in Moscow. Initially he could stay in the guesthouse and move around. And that is where I met him.
According to me, that man was weird! When he talked and looked in your eyes, it was like he was not from planet earth. At least, that is how I experienced him. Not long after he became too sick to stay in the guesthouse and he was transported to a private clinic. In Ghana you need family or friends to take care of you when you are hospitalized. Since he did not have any of these in Ghana, I visited him twice daily to assist him.
When I visited him at the clinic, he asked me to read his bible for him because he was too ill to read. He explained to me that he was used to reading the bible every day and afterwards he would always meditate on the word he had read. And since he did not want to skip that habit, he needed my assistance to read for him.
So, I read the bible for him. This was the first time ever that I read the bible! When I finished reading, he started stating aloud what he would normally think in his mind: meditating on the word of God. Up to date I do not remember what I read for him. But I do know that he spoke about the spirit of God which came down as a dove and how he found that so amazing. He kept talking of it.
Without the illness of this man, and without him asking me to read for him, I would have never read the bible. This is how simple it is to spread the gospel and get someone to read the word of God!
He got so ill that he could not wash himself and needed help. So, I washed him at the clinic. And this is where the most impressive encounter with God took place, albeit I did not know it at that time. But up to date -more than twenty-five years later- when I speak of what happened, I am deeply touched.
While I was washing him, he said that God showed him something. He said that God told him that as much he was not able to wash himself but needed me to wash him, the same it is with sin. He cannot wash himself from sin but needs God to wash him clean from sin. God spoke with him, and he shared it with me.
Have you ever done that? Do you have the guts to speak, without knowing how an unbeliever would react? Do you believe that God can reach out through you? Well, this British man did, and it saved my life. Yes, I know it is not he who saved me, but Jesus. But this man allowed himself to be used by God and he sowed a living seed into my life. God can do the same through you. Do not be the one through whom God wanted to reach out but was stopped. Do not forget that you will be held accountable if you do not speak when God wants to speak through you (Ezekiel 3:18; 33:8).
Anytime I visited this man, I updated him about the research I was undertaking. The reason I was ‘free’ to tell him all the ups and downs of my research was because he was really interested. He showed genuine interest in what I was doing and what I was going through. This, I tell you, is the best basis to share the gospel: having sincere interest in the other person’s life.
There was one issue which really frustrated me. I needed to interview a professor, but he had been tossing me up and down for several weeks. Often, I came to his office and waited for hours, sometimes they started locking up the office while I was still waiting in the waiting room. And anytime he told me I should come for the interview, he disappointed me. The interview with this professor was vital to my research.
On one evening that I came to visit the British man at the clinic, I told him that the professor had failed me again. And I told him that I wanted to give up. I left the clinic in a down mood. When I returned to the guesthouse, I joined some other tourists who were seated in an open space, when I saw the professor climbing up the stairs. I did not know what to think. I just stared at him and when he approached the group where I was sitting, I mumbled, “oh, what a coincidence, you are coming to visit someone here and I am also here”. But then the professor looked me straight in my eyes and pointed at me and said, “I came for you. You wanted an interview, I am here; do it”. And I got the interview I was waiting for.
The next morning, I went to the clinic again to assist the ill man. When I entered his ward, he immediately looked at me and asked “and?”. I said, “and what?” He asked me about the interview. I was completely confused. Yes, indeed I had gotten the interview the night before; but there was no way that this man could have known that. But he knew it. So, I asked him how he knew that indeed the night before I got the interview. He told me that he had prayed for me to get the interview.
Now, I was in an even greater shock. How could this be? This was impossible! I had told him just the evening before that I did not get the interview, and now, the next morning, he is convinced that I got the interview, because he prayed for it. This man had absolute faith in God. And he showed it to me. I just could not comprehend it in my mind. I did not believe in God, I did not believe what this man was saying, yet the evidence was there: I had gotten the interview and this man knew it without me telling him. And I had gotten it through this man’s prayer.
This man lived his faith in front of my own eyes. I saw it.
After about three weeks the man still had not gotten well and he had to go back to the UK. Seeing his condition, the doctors had arranged a medical plane from Kumasi to Accra from where he would return with a chartered flight to the UK, accompanied by doctors.
So, the doctor of the clinic and I accompanied him to the small airport at Kumasi. By that time, he could walk by himself. He walked to the plane but returned when he had reached halfway. He was holding something in his hands. When he got to where I was standing, he handed it over to me. It was his bible. He told me that this specific bible was very dear to him, but he wanted to give it to me, so I could read it. He then told me to promise him that when I returned to The Netherlands, I had to let him know and return his bible to him in the UK and he would buy me a new bible in the UK and send it to me. And so it happened.
It is this man’s bible which introduced me to the word of God. I started reading the bible and I have not stopped reading ever since.
This man, despite his personal suffering and sickness, reached out to me. He did not look down on me. He did not treat me as a stranger. And he did not reject me. Neither did he ‘preach’ to me. No, he was just himself. But in everything he did, he shared Christ with me.
It is not our duty to know what will happen with the person we evangelize to
It is through soul winning that I met Christ. Apart from the British man, none of the people who shared the gospel with me got to know that I became a Christian. Up to date they do not know. But that does not matter. God knows that I became His child. And that is all that matters.
After I got born again, I also shared the gospel with others. But I expected people to surrender to Christ right at the spot where I spoke to them. That never happened. Why? Because that was my pride. I wanted them to accept Christ because I spoke so well. However, that is not how it works. It is not our job; it is God’s job. All we must do is be obedient and share the love of God and spread His Word. He will do the rest.
All you need to do is be yourself: God’s child.
Final thoughts: Salvation – by grace; Soul winning – by grace
- The ultimate goal of soul winning is that people get saved. But how do you get saved?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.“Ephesians 2:9
Salvation is by grace; it is a gift of God. You cannot do anything to deserve it. The same with soul winning: it is by grace. You cannot do anything to let a person get saved. All you can do is sow a seed: you plant and water, but God brings the increase (adding people to the Kingdom of God):
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”I Corinthians 3:6-7
- Why should you plant a seed? Because God does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to be reconciled with Him:
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”II Peter 3: 9
- How do you plant a seed? By making use of every moment. Yes, you can go out intentionally to win souls, like on a crusade, an organized evangelism tour, or by standing on the roadside with a megaphone to proclaim the word of God. All is good. I know people who got saved through these modes of soul winning. However, the best, easiest, and simplest way to win souls, is by being yourself, living a God-fearing life, not being ashamed of the gospel, and being ready to be accountable for your faith:
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”Ephesians 5:16
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”I Peter 3:15
- Why should you be spreading the gospel through soul winning? Because there is hope for every sinner. As the saying goes: “every believer has a past, and every sinner has a future”:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11
Let us pray:
Thank You Jesus that You saved me. I was nothing without You and I am still nothing without You. It is by grace that I am Yours; it is by grace that I live. Thank You.
Now, Lord, use me as your tool of love and reach out to a hurt world. Use me to fish for men and be a soul winner. Not to glorify my actions, but to glorify Your Name only, Father. I do not have much more to say. Use me Lord. Amen.
©2021 copyright; Christel Owoo
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.