I actually read this book several years ago, but these were thoughts I wrote then for a class. True Evangelism: Winning Souls Through Prayer by LS Chafer, original copyright 1919, but still in print. I read this addition.
The book True Evangelism by LS Chafer is a critique of the techniques of persuasion and coercion that can be used (by some) in the presentation of the gospel. While written nearly a century ago, the concerns shared in True Evangelism remain relevant. Chafer presents a solid case that the true means of bringing people to genuine faith in Christ is through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean we never verbally share the gospel – of course, we do – but what are we relying on? Our ability to persuade, or prayer and the Holy Spirit?
Page 58 made a key point when it compares methods of soul winning in the New Testament with typical modern methods. Peter, Paul, and Silas did not plead with the people to become Christians before they had the desire. The preaching or witness of the gospel first brought people to a point of conviction, and then the needed response of belief in the gospel was more carefully explained and encouraged. (More here.)
Evangelistic efforts can reverse this order. There is pressure or coaxing before the Spirit has brought a sense of need or conviction of the truth. We are trying to create the conviction ourselves. We have misplaced our trust. We trust our method rather than the message.
The gospel has power (Romans 1:16). Do we really believe it? It appears not if we feel the need to add pressure tactics or alter the gospel to make it more “appealing” to the hearer.
Chafer was concerned that pushing people into premature decisions can have dire results. I agree. Repeating words to accept Christ is not a magical incantation. Decisions made because of pressure, emotional manipulation, or in ignorance (without a proper understanding of the gospel) will not likely create a genuine convert. Even worse, people can feel assured of a salvation that they do not actually possess.
Chafer does an exceptional job emphasizing the role of prayer. I thought this statement was a succinct summary (page 69):
Fundamentally, then, the personal element in true soul-winning work is more of a service of pleading for souls than a service of pleading with souls.
The “divine order” is to talk to God about people until there are opportunities to talk to people about God.
I needed the reminder on intercessory prayer. In intercessory prayer, we bear the burden and need of others before God. This led right into the chapter on suffering with Christ which was very challenging. Are we so burdened for the salvation of others that we agonize over them in prayer? I recommend this book.
Related post here: Is Salvation a matter of urgency? (Part 1)