Many of us are probably familiar with the concept of a “soul winner.” Soul winners are characterized as intentional gospel proclaimers. Evangelism seems to be a spiritual discipline which comes naturally to many and is practiced regularly and embraced as a lifestyle. Indeed, as disciples of Jesus Christ, each of us is commanded and equipped to share the message of God’s grace made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus our Savior (Matthew 10:27; Mark 5:18-20; Luke 9:1-5; Acts 9:19-20; Colossians 1:28; 1 John 1:1-3).
Referencing the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Paul said, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things’” (Romans 10:14-15; cf. Isaiah 52:7).
We can agree that soul winning is not only prescribed in Scripture, but it is the responsibility, duty, and privilege of every one of God’s children. However, does the concept of soul winning exhaust Christ’s command as seen in the Great Commission, or are we called to more?
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commanded His devoted followers to “make disciples” in the power of the Holy Spirit all the while “teaching them to observe” all that He had commanded. In other words, Christ’s disciples were called out of the darkness of their rebellion into the light of God’s grace (1 Peter 2:9) in order to not only become consistent gospel proclaimers (soul winners) but also to guide and instruct new converts in His ways (soul builders).
From the birth of the church in the New Testament, congregations have included those who have remained perpetual “infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). This problem has pervaded the history of the church right into the twenty-first century. It is time for us, as disciples of Jesus, to take up the call of soul building. This command, what I call the Great Construction, perfectly complements the command found in the Great Commission. In obedience to the call of soul building, there are four principles to consider:
A vision for making disciples must first begin with a burden for the lost.
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
In the face of trials, Peter and John demonstrated a dedication to the cause of the gospel. In response to further censure by the Pharisees, they stated, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). This type of unashamed obedience is rarely seen where there is no love or concern for those who are dominated by the darkness of sin. At the risk of gong-clanging, we must ask God to burden our heart with a sincere love for those who are lost (1 Corinthians 13:1).
As we become consistent gospel proclaimers we will have a desire to help new converts grow in Christ.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Paul’s love for his son in the faith, Timothy, is made clear in his concern that Timothy continue the work of the ministry that was entrusted to him. This work has as its starting point the proclamation of the gospel and moves into Paul’s hope that “the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people . . . so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).
Soul building is a costly endeavor.
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Jesus never promised His disciples that His ways would be easy. In fact, the way could described by fairly exclusive adjectives: narrow, only, righteous, lonely, and hard (to name a few). However, Jesus did promise His disciples that He would be with them “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and send them the Holy Spirit who would help them fulfill His commands (John 14:26). The Kingdom of God was not going to be established by highly determined and resourceful men, but by the Spirit through men and women who had denied themselves, died to self, and followed Christ with abandon (Mark 8:34).
The Master utilizes His disciples as an example of a godly life.
Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:6-8
Just as Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), so we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20). Soul Building involves the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, but it must also include the living of the Word in the life of the disciple maker. Ultimately, believers are called to the “ministry of reconciliation” which involves encouraging, admonishing, disciplining, and loving one another for the purpose of becoming more like our Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).