We rejoiced this Lord's Day as a young unmarried couple professed their faith to the elders, joined the church, and communed with us for the first time. They would not mind me sharing that their road to the cross was filled with drug use, jail time, and a child out-of-wedlock. Indeed, shortly several of us will be attending a noon ceremony where Andy graduates from a drug court program. His faithfulness in cooperating with the dictates of this program have kept him from a long-term prison sentence. Near future plans include their marriage and reaching out to other family members. Their presence in our Bible study and lives, coupled with their enthusiasm in the Lord, has been a ministry highlight over this past year.
Perhaps this may appear to be boasting in a ministry success, but be assured it is only a boasting in the Lord. For despite all the joy I have in this celebration, a strange sadness has been in my heart during it. Why I wondered? It took a Scripture and a reminder from a short book to reveal my own heart to me. The Scripture was Proverbs 11:30, which says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise." The joy of watching these two grow has reminded me that it has been far too long since I have witnessed the Lord's miracle of new birth. Yet more than that, I see that my own soul has not been captured enough with this soul-capturing wisdom.
The soil here is hard, and the constant disappointments, disillusionment, and difficulties in seeking to win people to Christ has caused me - far too often - to be discouraged, depressed, and defeated when it comes to soul winning. For with relative ease, a minister can slip into a maintenance mentality. Instead of doing things to reach people, he can just find things to do to impress people that he is doing things. Soon tenacity is replaced with tepidity, fire with fear, and earnest and eager evangelical expectation with excuse-making and entertaining one's self with other interests. The assurance and drive that the Reformed minister is always to have that the Lord can and will convert sinners can be replaced with pious-sounding statements about God's sovereignty that mask his own underlying doubt.
This then leads to the short book of Horatius Bonar entitled _Words to Winners of Souls. _Perhaps I will add this to my January books as Nathan encouraged. For in speaking to ministers, he warned: