What it means to save souls

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (Romans 14:12)

John Wesley famously told his preachers that they have nothing to do but to save souls.

If we are not listening carefully to him, we might fall into the trap of thinking he is aiming at mere conversion. This might sound like an appeal for a kind of altar-rail salvation that takes a much too narrow view of the meaning of salvation but packages well in American culture.

Conversion is important, crucial even. But it is just a step in the process of salvation. It is salvation begun but not salvation completed. Salvation is not complete until the second coming when the book of life is opened and read.

If that is true, then the work of the pastor is not conversion but fruit. Each one of us will stand one day before the Lord who will judge us. And so the work of the pastor is to help people get ready to have their lives laid bear before the judgement seat of God.

Saving faith in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for this work. It is the power to destroy sin and remove guilt and shame, but it is not everything. We can’t be saved without coming to faith in Christ, but coming to faith is the beginning rather than the end of the journey.

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2 thoughts on “What it means to save souls

  1. What does it mean to save souls? It means helping people come to a personal knowledge of Christ as Savior and Lord. It means helping them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. One is like the birth of a baby. The other is like a baby growing up to maturity. It is not one or the other, it is both and. One is the work of evangelism. The other is the work of discipleship. The two are both the work of a pastor. Evangelism is reaching and winning people to Christ. Discipleship is teaching and developing them for Christ. Together they are the absolute essentials of pastoral ministry. Everything else is, and I do mean everything else is … everything else.

  2. John – An excellent insight. Certainly for Wesley, saving souls would have applied to both God’s justifying and sanctifying work, the end of the race as much as its beginning.

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