Pope Francis again came out against soul winners in a speech to high schoolers recently: “If someone says he is a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, he is not a disciple of Jesus.”
The pope goes on to explain his approach to “evangelization:” “The last thing I have to do is talk.” He opined that: “the Church does not grow out of proselytizing,” but rather “out of attraction” and one’s life “witness,”
This fits in with the popular statement, erroneously attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” There is no chapter and verse in scripture to support this concept.
But it is a very convenient way for Satan to tamp down effective soulwinning.
The root of this may be in a change in the new Bibles. They have altered the Great Commission to read “make disciples” where the preserved King James Bible instructs to go “preach” and “teach.”
At first blush this may seem like a small difference. However, to preach or teach does not depend on a response from the receiver. It simply presents a message, in this case the good news of the gospel to anyone within earshot.
This change in the Bibles now supports the modern concept of relational witnessing where one delays presenting the good news until sufficient friendship has been developed to safely bring up the subject.
However, the Pope appears to take this one step further. His definition of proselytizing is to attempt to persuade anyone from changing his religion. This, of course, fits in with his view of ecumenism. He has, in the past, expressed his view that other religions have some ability to get you to heaven.
In the question-and-answer session after his speech he told the story of how he used to play soccer with Muslims and Jews without any thought that he should say to them: “You are Jewish; you are Muslim. Come, be converted!” He told the questioner: “You be consistent with your faith and that consistency is what will make you mature. We are not in the times of the Crusades.” Here he appeared to equate publicly preaching the word with the forced conversions carried out by Catholics during the Crusades.
Gospel tract users need to understand the subtle dampening this causes upon momentarily sharing the gospel with a stranger by handing him a tract. If we must wait for a friendship to develop before presenting the good news of the gospel, very little witnessing will happen. Our lifespan does not allow time to develop very many friendships close enough to wait for that “right moment.”
Besides limiting the instructions in the Great Commission, this also contradicts the scripture that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). A pantomime of the Christian life is not nearly as effective as a conversation that uses words. In fact, the King James occasionally uses the term “conversation” to illustrate our believer’s lifestyle, which includes speech. (Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1, etc.).
Tract users should not be deceived by these subtle changes in the new Bibles or the philosophy of church leaders. Satan has effectively promoted the concept that tracts do not work. However, history contradicts this, because many revivals have been preceded by a wide distribution of gospel tracts.
There is no doubt today that we need a revival and there is also no doubt that widely distributing engaging, no-nonsense gospel tracts is a help in bringing people to see their need.