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The Soul Winner's Fire

Rice, John. The Soul Winners Fire, Murfreesboro, TN. Sword of the Lord Publishers (Assigned by the Moody BIble Institute), 1941.

The book, referenced above, is described by the author as being a book written with the hope that, “The dear Lord will use” the messages to “warm and make tender the hearts of God’s people in a deep concern for a lost world” (vii), and “start soul winning fires” causing “many Christians to introduce lost sinners to the Savior” (viii). The book is gathered around three primary principles/propositions concerning soul-winning:

1.) Every Christian ought to win souls,

2.) We ought to have a holy passion…, and

3.) We must have a divine enablement (vii).

This book, on so many levels, is an impassioned appeal to preachers to truly be about their Father’s business (“I have a special burden for ministers of the Gospel” - 38). Yes, it deals with the necessity laid upon all men to preach the gospel, but it is particularly suited to address God-called preachers.

This little book supports its propositions (mentioned above) in a calculated way by dealing with subjects that would tend to produce the desired effects. For example:

  1. Hell is dealt with: (3-5, 95-96), as is

  2. Heaven - (8-9, 94). Rice also deals with,

  3. The broken heart and compassion (19-25, all of chapter 3),

  4. Prayer (chapter 5), and

  5. Passion (chapter 4), as well as

  6. The Power of the Word of God (44-47, 53-54, chapter 6)

There is much good to be recommended in this book, unfortunately, among all of the good in this book, there are some items which one needs to be cautioned about. There is a tendency that runs through many of Dr. Rice's works. This tendency is a condemnatory and shaming spirit. It is a negative motivational tendency. This idea/method was no doubt a part of Dr. Rice's temperament and must be assumed to be a means to coerce/persuade people to see things as he sees them. He states, “All other labor is insignificant beside that supreme labor of winning souls….All other efforts are as good as wasted when the results they bring are considered beside the eternal and glorious results of soul-winning” (2).

There also appears to be an overly dramatic pessimism which is displayed at times in the book. For example, on page 5 we read - “1 in 2.5 marriages ends in divorce.” One may also look at that another way. If 1 in 2.5 marriages end in divorce, then that means that 1.5 don’t! Independent Baptists must guard against the tendency to be pessimistic. If we are going to succeed, we do not want to be identified as the party of "negativity" and "NO."

Again, “Jails are full of boys and girls” (5) - I assume he means youth incarceration - Let's consider this argument with today’s numbers….(See…

“Over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement. But even these high figures represent astonishing progress: Since 2000, the number of youth in confinement has fallen by 60%, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.”

This figure is given against the backdrop that there are 25 million youth between 12-17 years of age. 48000 is 0.192% - Any incarcerated child is a sad tragedy, but to make it sound worse than it is is wrong.

Here is another little fascinating (to me)/interesting note discovered in this reading. John Rice said, “I once thought that if I won many souls I would gain the fame and honor of Christian people everywhere. Alas, I find that is not true” (p.10). My observation/question is this. Could it be that the vehemence against “non-soulwinners” is because he felt slighted, and looked down upon? He elaborates on how everyone else gets honor….Except the soul winner (10-11).

To glean the most from this book, it must be read contextually. One of the dangers in Dr. Rices’ books for the present-day soul winner is that he makes soul-winning look so simple with his illustrations. It is like every story is a 30-minute TV drama (or better, a 30-second commercial) where everything always works out in the end! I have collected several illustrations from the book documenting this idea.

  1. The woods are full of them - 18-19

  2. Take away my tears - 20-21

  3. No one cares - Seminary Hill - 22-24

  4. Praying as a girl visits a lost friend - 26-27

  5. The Gypsy - 45-46

  6. Car wreck brings revival - 59-60

  7. Souls won at a funeral - 87

  8. Winning a newly married couple - 87-88

He does acknowledge reality at times - 59, 62, 84.

His 10:1 ratio - (27) is very similar to Bob Gray’s stated philosophy - Attempt to share the Gospel with 5 to get one to listen. Share it with 10 to get one saved. Get 15 professions to get one baptized.

These philosophies/approaches are still permeating the Independent Baptist movement of today. Independent Baptists must discard the bad and retain the good of our heritage so that we may go forward into the future. It is not disloyalty to the past to point out where the “heroes” got it wrong. Neither is it “idol worship” to point out where they got it right!

We must be exceedingly wise in our stand and presentation, however, because there are many these days that seem to want to erase all vestige of the Biblical heritage that we have received from our forefathers and make their names anathema among the brethren.

I remember when I was young, my dad and a friend went to Highland Park to hear Drs. Rice and Roloff speak. They asked me if I wanted to go, but I chose not to. I regret that decision today. Fortunately, we have tapes, and other means, that we can listen to Dr. Rice as he pleads for souls and encourages people to be soul-conscious, reaching the lost with the Gospel of Christ.

Let us follow the example of Dr. Rice in his love for souls!

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