Success and the Sinner’s Prayer
As you share the gospel, divorce yourself from the thought that you are merely seeking "decisions for Christ." What we should be seeking is God-given repentance within the heart. This is the purpose of the Law, to bring the knowledge of sin. How can a man repent if he doesn't know what sin is? If there is no repentance, there is no salvation. Billy Graham said, "If you have not repented, you will not see the inside of the Kingdom of God."
Many don't understand that the salvation of a soul is not a resolution to change a way of life, but "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The modern concept of success in evangelism is to relate how many people were "saved" (that is, how many prayed the "sinner's prayer"). This produces a "no decisions, no success" mentality. This shouldn't be, because Christians who seek decisions in evangelism become discouraged after a time of witnessing if "no one came to the Lord."
The Bible tells us that as we sow the good seed of the gospel, one sows and another reaps. If you faithfully sow the seed, someone will reap. If you reap, it is because someone has sown in the past, but it is God who causes the seed to grow. If His hand is not on the person you are leading in a prayer of committal, if there is no God-given repentance, then you will end up with a stillbirth on your hands, and that is nothing to rejoice about.
We should measure our success by how faithfully we sowed the seed. In that way, we will avoid becoming discouraged.
It is obvious from Scripture that God requires us not only to preach to sinners, but also to teach them. The servant of the Lord must be "able to teach, patient, in meekness instructing" those who oppose them. For a long while I thought I was to leap among sinners, scatter the seed, then leave. But our responsibility goes further.
We are to bring the sinner to a point of understanding his need before God. Psalm 25:8 says, "Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way." Psalm 51 adds, "Then will I teach transgressors your ways; and sinners shall be converted to you." The Great Commission is to teach sinners. Jesus said to "teach all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things." The disciples obeyed the command "daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" The "good-soil" hearer is he who "hears ...and understands."
Philip the evangelist saw fit to ask his potential convert, the Ethiopian, "Do you understand what you are reading?" Some preachers are like a loud gun that misses the target. It may sound effective, but if the bullet misses the target, the exercise is in vain. He may be the largest-lunged, chandelier-swinging, pulpit-pounding preacher this side of the Book of Acts. He may have great teaching on faith, and everyone he prayers for may fall over, but if the sinner leaves the meeting failing to understand his desperate need of God's forgiveness, then the preacher has failed. He has missed the target, which is the understanding of the sinner
This is why the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) must be used in the Gospel proclamation. It is a "schoolmaster" to bring "the knowledge of sin." It teaches and instructs. A sinner will come to "know His will, and approve the things that are more excellent," if he is "instructed out of the Law."