Apostle T. O. Obadare would say soul-winning is the act of “searching for lost souls and backsliders and bringing them home to Christ.” We do this act of winning souls by bearing witness of Jesus Christ, i.e. telling others about the good news of Jesus’s salvation program. Any serious Christian, church or ministry must intentionally continue to embark on soul-winning, not just for the sake of stability and numerical growth but also as an act of obedience to the owner of all souls, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – who commands that we should go and propagate the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).
Lost Souls: These are people who are loved by God but do not know His love and therefore have not given their lives to Him by accepting the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
- Jesus himself has come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; Mat. 18:11). Jesus started the seeking, we are to continue; our task is not finished yet.
- There is joy over every sinner that is found and brought home (Luke 15:4-7)
Backsliders: Are people who have left faith because of the cares of the world and various winds of doctrine and other problems of life. Since the church is the body of Christ, she must go out there and help Jesus to look for and find the backsliders.
- God wants us to seek the lost(Ezekiel 34:4-6)
- We are to rejoice when they return, as in the case of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:25-29, 32)
In our main text, Jonah 1:6, it is interesting to see that it was the unbelieving shipmaster who is attempting to wake up Jonah (the man of God; the soul winner) and asking him to rise from his sleep. So it is in today’s world that there are numerous unbelievers who desperately need rescue and salvation and are crying to the church to awake from her sleep.
Jonah’s sleeping stemmed from selfishness (not wanting God to save the people of Nineveh – Jonah 1:1-6). Soul winners today are sleeping because of false security in materialism, selfishness, anxiety, fear of rejection and lack of concern for lost souls and backsliders, etc.
Soul-winning exercises have now been reduced to only putting up good behaviors, while public preaching of the gospel has become secondary or a thing of the past. Yes, we can bear witness with good character but this must not replace the act of opening our mouths to declare the love, life, death, resurrection and coming back of our Lord Jesus Christ. We as Christians must not shy away from speaking the good news. Jesus commands to go to the byways and the highways to invite lost souls and backsliders into His kingdom (Luke 14:23). Arise, Oh Sleeper; let’s preach the gospel, despite the various forms of hostility that we face, the world is in dire need of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The four lepers made up their mind to share the good news, despite its impracticality, knowing it was the right thing to do (2 Kgs. 7:9). We, soul-winners, must make up our minds to rise from sleep and the only way the world can know about the salvation of Jesus is if someone (you and I: the body of Christ, the church) would testify of Him (Rom. 10:14-15). Greg Ogden wrote that witnessing is “sharing our faith with our friends.”
One big problem however is that, nowadays whenever witnessing, evangelism or soul-winning is mentioned in church nowadays, many Christians become anxious because we think it’s a hard or shameful work. Greg Ogden recommends these six principles that help to reduce anxiety and free up the body of Christ to do soul-winning:
- “Reduce self-consciousness and increase God-consciousness”:We are so conscious our self that we think we would look bad if our message is not received. Instead, we should just preach Jesus, thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, not about ourselves.
- “Our witness is only one of many influence”:We must know that God has many people that He assigned to witness to souls. You may be just one of them. You may be the one who preaches, I may be the one who nurtures, God is the One who actually saves the soul. Knowing this will reduce our anxiety.
- “Listen by asking probing questions”: Get to know their concerns, people will let you into their lives and you’ll be able to introduce Jesus, the One who can help them.
- “Ask People to investigate Jesus”: Invite people to ‘come and see’ for themselves. Give them the scriptures to read, they’ll find Jesus.
- “Share out of Joy”: Let the joy of your own salvation be what motives you to share the gospel
- “Their best selves await them”: Let them know that the best is yet to come, it can be found in Christ Jesus.
In conclusion, all Christians should arise from sleep and take on the task of soul-winning. The best way and most sustaining way to begin and continue to bear witness is to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). As you know, Peter could not bear witness of Jesus Christ until he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We must rise to the task of soul-winning, the task is not finished yet.
Let’s all pray for the power of the Holy Spirit which can help us do the work assigned to us. He is the enabler.
 Timothy Obadare, Seven Significant Ways Defined by the Holy Spirit for the Edification of the Church of God in the World (Akure: WOSEM Press, 1985), 4
 Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A guide to building your life in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 1998), 164
 Ogden, 167
 Ibid., 168
 Ibid., 169
 Ibid., 170