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Trolling for Souls

Paul Chappell, the IFB equivalent of a door-to-door magazine salesman

Recently, Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church and president of West Coast Baptist College, wrote a blog post titled Six Places to Find Soulwinning Prospects. Chappell, a hardcore Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), gave six places like-minded Fundamentalists could troll for souls:

  1. Door-to-door witness—This week our church family is working to knock on the door of each of the 80,000 homes in our community with a gospel invitation. We’re doing it in preparation for Open House Sunday (see #3 below), but even after this Sunday, we’ll start over again. Our goal is to saturate our valley with the gospel by strategically, systematically, and persistently reaching out to our community one home at a time. Many of the people in our church today were reached through door-to-door soulwinning.
  2. Community service—Look for ways to engage your community through service. Whether it be hosting a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” or a community-wide Love Works campaign, let people in your area know you care. This is important not only on large, church-wide scale, but also on a next-door neighbor scale. (You don’t need a church-wide event to keep your grass mowed or bring your neighbors a plate of brownies.)
  3. Special days—Days such as Christmas, Easter, and even events you create (such as “Open House Sunday”) can be tremendous opportunities to invite people to come hear the gospel in an evangelically-themed service at church. Because there is a particular date on these events, it helps encourage the people who ordinarily say “someday” to actually come.
  4. Friends and neighbors—Gospel-conscious Christians should cultivate relationships with lost people. Neighbors, coworkers, classmates, baristas—you should know the names of and develop an interest in the people who you see on a regular basis. And you should look for opportunities to share the gospel with them.
  5. Guest follow up—Every Monday morning, our outreach pastor collects the guest cards from Sunday services and assigns these as visits to adult Bible class leaders and faithful soulwinners. These are people whose hearts God is already working in, and they are contacts to be stewarded faithfully and followed up on tenaciously.
  6. Everywhere—Aside from depending on the filling of the Holy Spirit, the most fruitful habit a soulwinner can develop is a consciousness that every person to whom they speak has an eternal soul. Learn to see people as Jesus did—not just through the lens of the immediate interaction you have with them (or the irritation they may bring), but as a person with a soul that will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. A soul-conscious Christian will not only set time aside specifically for gospel outreach, but will find opportunities all week long to witness to the barber, mechanic, grocery clerk, seatmate on the commute, and others.

In other words, Chappell is encouraging Christians to deliberately seek out non-Christians and bug the hell out of them. Chappell is not interested in building friendships or accepting people at face value. Death is sure, hell is hot, and Jesus is coming soon, right? Chappell has no time for being a decent human being. Believing God has commissioned Christians to verbally and confrontationally harass unbelievers, Chappell implores his church and other like-minded churches to use classic bait-and-switch methodology to get the job done. (Please see The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals and Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics.) Hold a Law Enforcement Day service, bake brownies for the neighbors, or rake leaves for widows, but remember these acts of “love” are just a means to an end — getting people saved. That’s what it is all about right?  Yes, but even here Fundamentalist evangelizers have ulterior motives. The IFB formula for church growth goes something like this:

  • Win them (get them saved)
  • Wet them (get them baptized)
  • Work them (encourage them to read the Bible, pray, tithe, give offerings, go soulwinning, attend church every time the doors are open)
  • Waste them (burn them out)

Many Evangelical churches use a front door/back door plan for numerical and monetary growth. The key is to always have more new people (either newly saved or transfers from other Christian churches) coming through the front door than old people going out the back door. (Please see The Pastor Called us Fresh Meat.) The methodology used by the Paul Chappells of the religious world is no different from that which is used by secular businesses. The cardinal rule is one and the same: do something nice for people and they are more likely to buy what you are selling. Chappell knows that making personal contact with people is the first step in getting them to buy his Jesus. This is why many Evangelical churches have special services and contests that are used to motivate congregants to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to church. Think Mother’s Day at an IFB church is all about mothers? Think again. Mother’s Day is just a pretext for getting sinners in the pews so they can be preached at. Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day? All opportunities to troll for souls. Unwitting people who are promised food, trinkets or some other inducement, agree to come to church. Little do they know that they have big fat UNSAVED targets on their backs.

I have no problem with Christians preaching the gospel to people who WANT to hear it. However, Chappell is encouraging the use of subversive (unethical?) methods to entice and manipulate people into coming to church and/or getting saved. Have you ever watched a Billy Graham Crusade on TV? Remember come invitation time all the people streaming out of the seats and coming down to the front so they could get saved? I thought, at the time, look at all those people getting saved! Why I bet they couldn’t wait to walk the aisle! Praise God! Years later, I found out that Graham, along with many other notable evangelists, used a method called “priming the pump.” Knowing that is hard to get unbelievers to take that first step towards the front, Graham would have saved counselors positioned throughout the stadium come forward on the first note of the first verse of the invitational hymn (Just As I Am). Unbelievers, filled with preacher-induced guilt, would see this and be more likely to join the throng at the front. Unbelievers who were still hesitant would then be singled out and not-so-gently encouraged to quickly move to the front so they too could be saved.

Just remember this the next time a kind, loving, compassionate Evangelical sidles up next to you and wants to give you something or be your “friend.” More than likely, they have an ulterior motive — wanting, above all, to usher you through the front door of their church. These gunslingers for Jesus are interested in one thing, putting another notch on their gospel gun.


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    This post, along with the repost from the archives “The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals”, offers some valid points. I’ve attended evangelical churches my entire life (although I don’t really identify so much as Evangelical) and can attest to their broad accuracy. Engage the community for the cause of Christ is a common rallying cry. This methodology is unconvincing to me for precisely the reasons given in these posts. What I take from the biblical account is that Jesus himself engaged the masses because he saw their suffering, and had compassion on them. I don’t get the sense that he saw them as a path to position/power/financial gain, or had some hidden agenda. So I feel that this is where the church errs in their intentions.

    My views on this are shaped by my own experiences with those outside the church. Throughout high school and college I was heavily involved in the gaming sub-culture. As such, many of the friends that I spent large amounts of time with were not religious. They all knew about my beliefs and that I attended church. And I knew about their beliefs. We had a mutual respect for each other’s position, and understood that our friendship was based not on gaining their trust so I could evangelize them, but simply on shared interests and camaraderie. If they wanted to know something about my faith they would just ask. We were able to have comfortable discussions on all kinds of philosophical topics and worldviews because they knew they weren’t my “spiritual project”. This also exposed me to the wider perspectives and feelings on the issue of faith. I’ve definitely benefited from this exposure, and gained a much better understanding of those with differing beliefs.

    About 5 years ago a few of my church friends abandoned their faith and began to self-identify as atheists, skeptics, agnostics, anti-theists, etc. Most of their other Christian friends abandoned them in return. To me they just kept on being my friends. They knew the gospel message and what the bible says, so continuing to repeat it to them would be unnecessary, condemning and offensive. They could see that I understood this and invited me into their extended community of skeptics. I discovered that they really didn’t mind having me join in as long as I was engaging in rational discourse with honest inquiry. I gained even more insight into their perspectives from reading their suggested blogs and literature. But hearing about their personal experiences with people of faith (and the church) is what has taught me the most.

    I’ve come to realize that most people are just looking for answers. Many may be relatively settled in their convictions, but are still open to exploring life’s basic questions. We instinctively understand that what we don’t know will always vastly outweigh what we do know. If people of all faiths (especially Christians) would practice accordingly I believe we could make life a bit more pleasant as we inhabit this rock together.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joel. I enjoy coffee bar, dinner, pub discussions where everyone can enjoy each others company, disagree, and remain friends. Unfortunately, it has been a long time since I have had such discussions. I have had more than a few Evangelicals feign friendship in hopes of winning me back to Jesus. I can spot these fakes a mile away. I have one Christian friend, that’s it. He knows that I am settled in my beliefs and that I do not make rash life changes, so we focus on the things we have in common and not the small number of things we don’t. We’ve been friends for fifty years.

  2. Avatar

    Something I have often wondered: What do Christians get out of trolling for souls?

    Do pastors pressure congregants to evangelize? If the size of the congregation increases, the church gets more people to fill the collection plate—does this translate to an increase in the pastor’s salary? Maybe the pastor gets a promotion to a nicer church?

    Do individual Christians just get the pleasure of bragging to their church mates? Perhaps a mention in the church gazette? Maybe they’re named “congregant of the month”? Or does a free thanksgiving turkey go to the person who brings in the most converts?

    Usually, people don’t go too far out of their way out of simple altruism, yet many Christians give up good portions of their time (e.g., to chat up their “spiritual project” or “mark”).

    (When the cashier at my grocery store asks me if I would like to donate a dollar to the children’s hospital, she’s trying to win a paid day off. In order to be able to pay the cashier who brings in the most donations, the grocery store must either get some portion of the donations as a kickback, or maybe a just the charitable donation tax credit).

    What motivates Christians to evangelize?

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      Many Christian’s are motivated to proselytize because they want to do their part in fulfilling the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20; some out of blind duty, and others out of a desire to serve. Others simply desire to share the grace and love they have themselves experienced. Some purely because it makes them feel good. Still others may believe that they must “earn” their way into heaven with good works (such as sharing their faith), which is a motivation based in fear. This list is obviously not comprehensive, and honestly a lot of Christians would rather just sit on the couch in front of the TV instead.

      Now while the motivations of pastors and church leadership may include those above, as you stated there are additional incentives that might drive them to “encourage” their congregants in this area.

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