Men are not "saved in masses, but as individuals. Personal influence is a power. We must come close to those whom we desire to benefit."
A careful reading of the writings of Ellen White on soul winning will reveal the following:
(1) Personal work was the method preferred by Jesus.
(2) It is of equal importance with the public effort.
(3) Certain classes can be reached in no other way.
(4) A few words spoken to some individuals privately will do more than the entire sermon has done.
(5) Many souls decide for error because personal work is not done at the right time.
(6) "Many are in the valley of decision, where special close, and pointed appeals are necessary to move them to lay down the weapons of their warfare and take their position on the Lord's side."
I would like to emphasize that appeals must be close and pointed in order for them to be maximally effective. They will move men to decide for Christ only as they are positive, unambiguous, and used by the Holy Spirit. Many soul winners are excellent in the art of persuading men for Christ until they reach the point of causing the other person to act. Here fear of rejection or fear of failure causes many to postpone asking for the decision or weakens them into a half-hearted appeal that invites a turndown.
Persuaders of men have a name for the part of the persuasion process when the prospect decides to do what is desired the close. It is the point in the interview at which an appeal is made for decision and action. It is the clinching of a strong decision for Christ, the Sabbath, or baptism into the remnant church. This is the acid test of a Christian's ability as a soul winner.
The success at the close will be directly dependent upon how well we have done in convincing people of the truth, arousing desire to obey, and implanting conviction that they should take action immediately. There is no sense in asking a person to be baptized if he is not convinced of the truth of our doctrines or if his love for Jesus is not strong enough to create a desire to obey at any cost.
However, certain principles make clinching decisions easier, and we owe it to prospective converts to make it as easy as possible for them to put their wills on the Lord's side. Three important principles will help soul winners to clinch favorable decisions. They are:
(1) Have a positive attitude.
(2) Know when to clinch the decision.
(3) Make it easy for prospects to act.
A positive attitude
The soul winner needs to appreciate the great importance of getting a sound decision. You are dealing with a person whose destiny for eternity hangs on a decision perhaps the very decision he will make now. A decision will be made before you leave his presence. You have a solemn obligation to do all in your power, without violating the person's freedom of choice, to secure the decision for eternal life. You should, therefore, believe that with the Spirit's help you can get this person to make the right decision.
You know that you cannot win everybody, but our attitude should be, "This time, with this person, I will succeed." Act as though deciding the right way is the only decision your prospect can make. After all, have you not spent time on your knees asking for the right word at the right time?
Know when to clinch the decision
The time to try for decision is when you are satisfied that the person believes the truth and is motivated to accept it as a part of his life. This means that the person must have passed through the stages of conviction and desire. Because no two persons are the same, no two prospects will go through the steps to decision at the same rate of speed.
How is the soul winner to know how much talking is enough? The answer lies in the multipleclincher technique. This means that the soul winner should have many methods of asking for a decision. He can then make an attempt to clinch the decision every time he sees a favorable opportunity. If the prospect does not decide, the worker for Cod can continue his appeal and try again. Each time he appeals for a decision, his chances of gaining a favorable response increases. Also, the reaction to the attempt to clinch the decision will reveal what is on the prospect's mind. In that way the soul winner discovers what needs to be done.
How can you recognize a good opportunity to try for a decision? If you will remain alert, you will observe what may be termed decision signals. Decision signals are things the prospect does or says that indicate a readiness to decide.
Here are some examples of things the person may say that indicate he is thinking in terms of making up his mind:
"Will I have to give up tea and coffee?"
"My family will not like this."
"Will I have to give up my jewelry?"
"I don't think my boss will give me Saturdays free."
"My friends will think I am crazy."
Sometimes the decision signal is in something the prospect does.
(1) Take a deep breath and sigh.
(2) Scratch his chin and smile.
(3) Pull his ear and smile.
(4) Lean forward to listen more attentively.
(5) Lean back in a relaxed manner.
Whenever you receive one of these signals, you should stop talking and ask for a decision. To continue talking is to run the risk of losing the decision altogether. At this point you should make it easy for the prospect to act. The devil wants to make it difficult; you should make it easy.
Seven methods of taking decisions
You should make it a habit to make no less than three attempts to get a favorable decision during one interview. Some methods of asking for a decision suit certain kinds of personalities better than others, and you should vary your methods of clinching every time you ask. Here are seven methods I have used with amazing success.
1. The green light
In this method you ask a question that tells you whether the way is clear to move on to ask your prospect to kneel in a prayer of surrender. "Don't you think the Lord will be pleased to see you baptized on Sabbath morning?" "Based on what you have told me, don't we agree that you should follow the example of Jesus in this matter?" An affirmative reply here is the green light for you to kneel in a prayer of complete surrender.
2. The challenge method
This is especially effective with young people. "A decision for baptism is a big and a wise decision. Is it too hard for you? Of course not. You love the Lord, and He will give you the courage you need to do the right thing." At this point you should hand the person a decision card to firm up the commitment.
3. The minor point method
One very easy way to get a decision is to ask for the decision on a minor point. "Would you like to go into the water alone or with a friend?" "Would you prefer your baptism in the morning or in the evening?"
4. The concession method
This is a potent method to use with self-assured individuals who don't like to believe you can persuade them. "I am not sure I will be permitted to baptize you. The church board will have to approve of your baptism, and I am not sure they will. I will promise to do my best for you. If the board should approve of you, you will be happy to follow the Lord and be baptized, won't you?" Bear in mind that a decision card should be used after each of these methods. Always seal a decision with prayer and firm up the decision with a signed card.
5. The inducement method
"After you are baptized, you will receive a beautiful certificate of baptism. Write your name here the way you want it spelled on your certificate."
6. The distraction method
In this method you distract attention from the rite of baptism and focus it on some related subject. "How many people are you planning to invite to your baptism ceremony?"
7. The straightforward method
"Many people who love the Lord are planning to be baptized on Sabbath. I will be very happy to baptize you then also. Simply read and fill in this card."
An excellent time to use one of these clinchers is after you have answered an objection. In fact, I consider an objection to be a decision signal. Always try for a decision when the prospect agrees that his objection has been answered. If an objection is offered when you attempt to clinch a decision, give the prospect the "Why?" treatment.
Find out why the objection is made and why it seems so important. A new excitement will flood your life as you see people baptized you never dreamed would unite with the remnant church. Remember! Ask for a decision at least three times during an interview and use a different method every time you ask. Do this and watch your results skyrocket to the glory of God and the pleasant satisfaction of your soul.
Kembleton S. Wiggins is a former evangelist from the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.