Soul Surgery: Part 4
Part 4 of a 9-part series by Pastor Alan Redpath given over the course of 1959.
Confidence In Soul Winning—Part 1
Having considered something of the Challenge of Personal Witness under the three headings of Significance, Science, and Strategy, we now come to another aspect of this important subject entitled the Confidence in Soul Winning. By this I mean coming so wholly into the confidence of the one whom you are seeking to help along the avenue of personal friendship that you know his own estimate of himself, and see him through his own eyes.
The physician of souls must know his patients intimately, otherwise he cannot possibly diagnose their trouble accurately. Some of the material for his diagnosis, in addition to that which comes through the most important channel of spiritual discernment to which I have referred, will arise out of the study of human nature. This is a study in which we can all engage with the material around us on every hand all the time. There is plenty of opportunity to consider human nature as it is!
If it is worthwhile for the salesman of a business house to study men in order that he may know how best to win them to a desire to purchase his goods, how much more important that study is for us, who would win men to a new life of health and victory in Christ. Just as the doctor needs to know the whole subject of disease, the soul doctor must know sin. I do not mean experiential knowledge, of course, but the knowledge which comes through vital, healing contact with the real life experiences of others. Books can help us only so far, but life takes us much further.
As an example, take a married couple with whom I have conferred. The oldest daughter is aged 16, and there are four other younger children; no commitment to Christ in the home; threatened divorce and complete tragedy. The only answer is to bring both of these people to the Cross that they may see what sin really is, for it is the preaching of the Cross that brings conviction.
Dr. F.B. Meyer was once asked by a fellow-preacher if he could give him any reasons why there seemed to be a lack of conviction in his own ministry. The answer was, “Tell your people on Sunday the things they tell you during the week.” The trouble was that they were telling that particular preacher nothing and he was not in their confidence. His sermons, instead of being woven of the very stuff of their lives, were instead intellectual dissertations going over their heads, and certainly did not move their hearts.
Henry Drummond gave a message in Edinburgh on the subject of the Temptations of Our Lord, and addressed his students by saying, “Gentlemen, I must ask the forbearance of the men here tonight who are in intellectual difficulties if I speak to men who are in moral degradation. It has come to my knowledge from a bundle of letters through the past week from men now sitting in this room that there are a large number with their backs to the wall. They are beaten, and I shall have to consider their cases first.” After such an introduction as that, could there be a single inattentive ear in the whole vast audience of that student body? The Personal Worker who knows men will win men, provided he has an evangelistic passion, and is in constant touch with the Spirit of God. He is not called upon to give a lecture on theology, but rather to meet men where they are on their own level. No one knew sinners better than our Lord; He was the friend of sinners, always alongside them and yet, marvelously, always separate from them.
One might also quote Paul as an example. Restudy his epistles for yourself, and glean from them what he knew about the spiritual diseases of men. The result is suggestive and appalling. If you do not really know men as they are, one might be tempted to say that today that which Paul wrote, for example in Romans 1, might have been true then but could certainly never be true in civilized communities today. The sad fact is that it is true. You need to ask the physician about disease, not the Christian Scientist who denies that it even exists. We should ask the true winner of souls about the sins that cut the nerve of spiritual power in men and women all around us, and thus discover the horribleness of the disease.
The Personal Worker can so often fail, perhaps through ignorance or fear, in not speaking directly and courageously of fundamental sin, and dealing incisively and adequately with the sinner instead of talking about sin in the abstract and in theological language.
The soul surgeon must not only know the soul both in health and disease and realize that everywhere the human heart is amazingly alike, but he must also know the particular individuals upon whom the Spirit of God has directed him to lay siege with all the power of the Spirit working through him. As a preliminary step in gaining confidence, let him study the patient’s tastes, his likes and dislikes, his habits and associations.
A father unexpectedly discovered the type of books his daughter was secretly reading, and that discovery broke through his blind, worshipful belief in her innocence and gave him the knowledge that he needed to make him the real help to her he ought always to have been. How many parents fail tragically in helping their children in some of the delicate and critical problems of their adolescent life through ignorance or reticence, or sheer cowardice! The same would apply with no less force to teach and pupil, pastor and people, and most of all, to us in our work of Personal Evangelism.
This background knowledge of men and sin, coupled with a study of particular individuals, is absolutely indispensable, but our diagnosis of any individual case can never be complete until there is added to our general knowledge of human nature and our specific knowledge of the man we are seeking to win, that knowledge the patient has of himself and which he keeps completely locked away from any human detective, other than one in whom he learns to have complete confidence.
The true winner of souls is, however, not a spiritual detective secretly spying on friends and neighbors with a morbid taste for discovering their failings, and then following them with a kind of spiritual nagging campaign. We do not think of our family doctor as a detective, and far less can we so think of one whom God can use to help us spiritually—that is, who can only help us adequately and permanently when we are as frank with him as with the doctor who nurses bodies back to health. We must remember, however, that the danger of becoming a mere detective is always present, and can only be avoided as we realize what infinite respect, love and consciousness of the dignity and worth of a human soul must be the portion of those who serve as an instrument in the hands of the Lord Jesus to bring men to Himself. Above all, the soul winner must be human, sensitive, courteous, mindful of his own shortcomings, and must respect the reticence of other people.
Henry Drummond said, “Briskness and an impolite familiarity may do very well when dealing with a man’s brain, but without tenderness and courtesy you can only approach his heart and shock it.” Etiquette is founded on respect, and by far the tenderest etiquette is that of one soul with another.