I’ve always had an objection to the phrase “saving souls“. You’ve probably heard it used as a measure of “success” by some preachers. They count the number of people who make a profession of faith in their meetings and broadcast the “score”.
Did Jesus come to “save souls”?
I contend not..
I believe He came to save lives. It’s a fine distinction to make but I believe that it has massive consequences to the ministry of the church!
I believe that human beings were created originally to live in an eternal relationship with God. Hell was never designed for us. However, as the account in Genesis shows, mankind fell from grace. Our sinful nature separates us from God, and determines our eternal destiny. Without Christ we go to Hell.
Secondly, I believe that the bible teaches that we were created to spend eternity somewhere. Matematically inclined people deal with the concept of infinity reasonably well. It’s simply the largest possible number. That is, it is still a member of the set of all numbers, just the largest one available.
My contention is that “life” is lived for a finite time here on Earth and thereafter the rest of eternity spent someplace else. There is no disconnect between “time” and “eternity”, since “eternity” is simply “time” going off into the infinite stretches of the future. We spend a single lifetime here on Earth and our response to the person of Jesus Christ will determine where we spend that infinite amount of time once we die: only believing in the saving work of Jesus will we be able to spend eternity in a relationship with God.
Why do I object to the phrase “saving souls”? Simply, it puts the focus on the wrong thing. Jesus called us to be “disciple makers” not “soul winners”. Counting professions of faith is a finite and singular exercise. It demands of us nothing more than to preach the gospel and then ignore the converts.
In short, a focus on “soul winning” alone causes the fruit of our endeavours to wither on the vine. Believers who sit week after week hearing the same messages wont grow and mature.
Healthy churches focus on Jesus saving lives. Saving a life requires, at it’s very outset, faith in the saving work of Jesus Himself. He came that we might live life to the utmost, in relationship with Him. We are called to disciple new believers and to teach them how to walk with God and be fruitful themselves.
Instead of focussing on the moment of salvation, we should focus our efforts on a lifetime of service in the body of Christ here on Earth. Saving “souls” dehumanizes the process, and demeans the individual, reducing them to nothing more than a statistic. Saving lives recognizes the individual’s worth to God – as expressed by the cost paid by Jesus Himself – and tries to be a good steward of the lives entrusted to our care.