What comes to mind when you think of the word “win”?
Given my competitive nature, winning in some kind of sport or game is the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not athletic personally but love to watch sports and am definitely happy when my team wins.
And, given my propensity since I was born to think I’m always right, winning an argument or discussion comes to mind as well. (Yes – now you know my sin nature well!)
Both of these fall under these definitions of “win” from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/:
2 a : to gain in or as if in battle or contest <won the championship>
2 b : to be the victor in <won the war>
The ministry I was involved with for over 25 years has as its strategy to “Win, Build, Send”. Meaning to win people to Christ, build them in their faith, and then send them out to repeat the process. So I have spent a lot of years focused on winning people to Christ.
But recently I was watching an Andy Stanley video that really made me think of how I define the word “win”. If I define it with the definition above, that is a real problem. But I think that there are times when Christians are doing evangelism that they use that definition. It’s the idea that I am right about how someone is able to know God and how they should follow Him and you are wrong. And so my goal is to show you how you are wrong and I am right and get you to agree with me. Then I “win”.
When I reflect on how I defined “win” when it was part of “Win, Build Send”, I don’t think it was as much about winning an argument. Instead it was about trying to clearly present the truth of the gospel, asking God to draw the person to Himself. When they received Christ, they were “won”.
But there is another definition of “win”:
3 a : to make friendly or favorable to oneself or to one’s cause —often used with over <won him over with persuasive arguments>
3 b : to induce to accept oneself in marriage <was unable to win the woman he loved>
This is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-24:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
When Paul talks about “winning” people, he means that he is choosing to be “winsome”. He willingly gives up his personal rights in order to present the gospel to people in a way that is appealing, where they are won over by how beautiful and life-changing it is.
Peter mentions the same idea when he says,
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,” 1 Peter 3:1
It’s the difference in their wives’ behavior because of the gospel that wins over the men. Not a list of reasons they need to believe or an argument about why they are wrong.
All of this has led me to think lately about whether I make the gospel winsome. When people are around me, does it make them want to know Christ? What do they see in me? Judging others? Being negative and complaining about my life? Saying unkind things about others? Being impatient and short with people? Being stressed out? I’ve been convicted that when I give into my flesh and come across this way, I’m not being winsome at all. Why would anyone want to know Christ if my life and behavior is unattractive?
Making the Christian life seem like a list of do’s and don’ts also isn’t winsome. In the video, Andy Stanley gives examples of how to respond to questions by making following Christ an appealing choice. It’s not that now that I follow Christ, I have to keep certain rules. Instead, it’s that I’m given a life that has purpose and joy and protection among other incredible things.
How I pray I will increasingly make the gospel winsome to those who don’t know Christ! I’m trying to be more aware of it all the time, not just when I’m leading a Bible study but also when I’m running errands or spending time with my family and friends. I long for my life as well as my words to “win over” those who don’t know Christ.
(If you’d like to see the Andy Stanley video called “Insiders Outsiders” click here. He includes an example that is a story about Mark Driscoll’s appearance on “The View” with his wife. This was before Mr. Driscoll was forced to resign from his church last fall. My including this link here is not an opinion of Mr. Driscoll since all I know about the story is what I read on the internet. Regardless, it is a good example of how to win people over to Christ.)