Sinner’s Prayer Strikes Again & Again

Methods That Don’t Work, Do.
by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC, Sylacauga, Ala.

Although I am told certain evangelism techniques no longer work, nobody bothered to tell Mike and Melissa. I first met them at our church’s Soup (Or Chili) Bowl Fellowship. They showed up on the night the Broncos didn’t. But such events can never be evangelistic, according to Kevin A Thompson:

The greatest pastoral coup of the last 50 years has been convincing deacons that the Super Bowl could be used as an evangelistic event. Evangelistic football? It’s about as likely to succeed as evangelistic dating. 

Several weeks later, Mike and Melissa were still skeptical but searching. They were impressed with the joyful Christian fellowship they experienced at church. When Melissa met with me, her husband Mike was not ready yet—he remained in the car, fighting the conviction of the Holy Spirit. After sharing the gospel of grace with her, I could sense that Melissa was struggling, based upon the baggage in her past, to accept that she could appropriate God’s grace simply by repentance and faith.

Wanting to give her a transferrable witness that she could share with her husband, I found in the church office the well known gospel tract written by Bill Bright back in 1965 entitled The Four Spiritual Laws. I realize such approaches are discredited today by titles like “Honey, We Shrunk the Gospel” by Keas Keasler:  

When did we shrink the gospel? How did Jesus’ announcement of God’s coming kingdom and John’s vision of a renewed world get whittled down to a message about heaven and being rescued from the world?

Following our conversation, Melissa said she was ready to place her faith in Christ for her salvation. We had read the Sinner’s Prayer printed in the gospel tract. Rather than having her repeat it after me, I invited her to pray aloud the words of the prayer. I was careful to explain that these words were neither a mantra nor a spell, but that God was concerned about the attitude and desire of her heart. If she prayed these words and meant them sincerely, then on the authority of the Word of God, Jesus would save her soul and come live in her heart. That’s exactly what she did. Isn’t it peculiar that the Sinner’s Prayer helped this woman express her faith in Christ, when Paul Washer and others are convinced that it sends people to hell:

That Sinner’s Prayer has sent more people to hell than anything else on the face of the earth… (2:25) … the idolatry of decisionism…(3:55).

After Melissa left, she shared that same useless gospel tract with her husband, and later that afternoon, alone in his car, Mike gave his life to Christ, sincerely praying a simple confession like this one: “Lord, Forgive me for my sins. I’m yours.” Five minutes later, Mike received a phone call regarding a job offer he had been waiting for weeks to hear about. We joked about it not always working like that—every time someone is saved they do not receive amazing personal news just moments later—but this was a great day in which both a husband and a wife, separately, placed their faith in Jesus, and also experienced the great joy of God’s provision in their life.

Apparently, God’s sovereign omnipotence is so great that He can even use evangelistic methods that don’t work—like Super Bowl Parties and Gospel Tracts and especially the Sinner’s Prayer. In light of this observation, I plead with the readers of SBCToday to share with me a comprehensive list of all evangelistic methods that no longer work, for I am eager to try them all, that God may again receive glory for doing the impossible.
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Ed.’s note: SBCToday is deeply interested in telling the world about what God is doing in converting lost sinners unto Himself in SBC churches. Please send your report to sbctoday@gmail.com.