Evangelism Winning On The Home Court
By Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
Talk about a no-brainer premise for starting a discussion. Here it is: Evangelism does not happen without evangelistic preaching. My perception… hopefully erroneous… is that evangelistic preaching is not the usual event in North American pulpits.
Folks, we can have an attractive facility, a strong ushering and hostess team, friendly people—but if the pulpits constantly focus on maintaining and securing those already in the fold—conversions will be rare. Ever wonder why there is so little evangelistic preaching? Several thoughts:
* Evangelistic preaching has not often been modeled.
* This form of preaching is usually not a “great sermon.”
* Evangelistic preaching is too simple.
* Maybe we want to catch many… (The boat was filled) or we will just busy ourselves mending nets. One time Peter caught a boat load of fish; another time he caught one. That one did happen to have a much-needed coin in its mouth.
* Our saints are programmed. They don’t expect to hear evangelistic preaching on an average Sunday.
* Effective evangelistic sermons are too short for our comfort.
* Evangelistic preaching ignores existing problems in the church.
* For some obscure reason we enjoy preaching to saints more than preaching to sinners.
Perhaps all of my observations are wrong. This is one time when I’d like to be. Help me a bit here. Review your last thirty preaching opportunities: How many were evangelistic? I mean preaching aimed directly at reaching a sinner with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second question: Over those thirty occasions, how often was there at least one sinner in the house… and you felt comfortable “feeding” the ninety-and nine? How does that stack up to Jesus’ parable regarding he lost sheep?
Henry Word Beecher, a preacher from another era said, “A sermon is not like a Chinese firecracker to be fired off for the noise it makes. It is a hunter’s gun, and at every discharge he should look to see his game fall.” Perhaps I need to ask myself, “How long has it been since I saw the game fall?”
It is easier to continue business as usual… designing good sermons to titillate the taste-buds of the spiritually obese. You know the ones… those who eat much and do little. Andrew Murray convicts me with his exhortation to seminary students, “Gentlemen, reckon your ministry, your message, a failure unless souls are converted to Jesus Christ.? Am I willing to apply that measure to what I’m doing—right now… this year…. This month? Spurgeon was equally blunt, “…the wretched man who occupies a pulpit and never glorifies his God by conversions is a blank, a blot, an eyesore, a mischief.” They said it…
Brethren, might we have lost track of what our business is? In 1976, an English newspaper reported that on a certain bus route the buses no longer stopped for passengers. The official reason: If the buses stopped to pick up passengers, it would throw off the timetable! The schedule had become more important than transporting passengers. Does a similar misplaced priority ever happen with my preaching? In practical theology, the one measured by our actions—what we do—not what we say, is “one” lost lamb more important than the “ninety and nine?” Is the bus running… on time… but without passengers… busy… but empty!
Preach With A “Lost” Awareness
In the 1990’s the term “seeker-sensitive” swept America. Seeder-sensitive services were built to respond to the “felt needs” of the “unchurched.” Some leaders in the church world reacted with venom. Perhaps such a response was deserved. As it was presented, a seeker-sensitive service entertained… drama; lights and action were all part of the draw. Services were carefully structured to target issues among the unsaved. Church members knew the “dirty laundry” of the church was not going to be hung out before their visiting friends. A broad spectrum of churches experimented with some of these ideas. (By the way, creativity and “trying something new” are not synonymous with the Antichrist. Some experiments won’t work… don’t repeat those… but others will! A few failed efforts does not make you or those you lead a failure. Get up and try something else.)
Could it be that the idea of a “seeker-sensitive service: was a contemporary attempt to have an old-time evangelistic meeting? Perhaps you know the kind I mean. People went to the meeting knowing sinners would be called to repentance. Lost neighbors were invited knowing that the preaching would connect with their life condition. Church services, particularly the preaching, were aimed at the unsaved. What happened in those “evangelistic meetings?” We got what we expected… the lost were preached to… sinners repented… neighbors were “born again.”
My observation is simple… churches must have consistent evangelistic preaching in order to consistently see people saved. Please note:
1. I’m not issuing a call to schedule a traveling evangelist. That may be the only solution for one who finds themselves unable to preach to the lost.
2. A call for evangelistic preaching is not part of a quick-fix promise of church growth. Growing a church depends on an effective process of lifestyle evangelism and then discipline the convert.
Those observations aside, success requires a clear target. Ministry cannot retreat from the importance of a clear purpose. The preacher’s purpose in evangelistic preaching, the purpose of the text, the purpose of the sermon content, of the illustrative materials, of the type of delivery used—all of these and more are crucial to good preaching. In “good news preaching” these things intertwine for the intent of seeing people saved!
Does My Preaching… Hinder Or Help?
Is it possible for preaching… sermonizing if you will, to get in the way of men coming to know Christ? I must always be concerned lest God’s message gets lost in my sermon. Years ago, Ronnie LaCombe, a contemporary evangelist, told of a young man who had run to the altar during a revival. He later asked the, “What did I say during my preaching that made you want to run to the altar?” Did the fellow ever burst his bubble! The man answered, “It wasn’t anything you said, I was just waiting on you to get out of the way.” Knowing Ronnie LaCombe… his preaching was inspired… but the man who ran to the alter was not there for a sermon… he was there for an encounter with Jesus Christ. At times I’m the only thing between a soul and their encounter with God.
On occasion my own pre-determined course has obstructed someone from getting a clear view of Jesus Christ. When Alexander the Great visited the philosopher Diogenes in his humble shelter, Alexander asked if there was any royal benefit he could bestow. “Yes,” said Diogenes, “You are blocking the sunshine. Stand out of the way.” God forgive me for those moments when my “sermonizing” might have been the thing blocking the light!
August Hermann Francke felt so strongly about the need to be consistently evangelistic that he said, “I will never preach a sermon without including in it so much of the gospel that if hearers heard but that one sermon, they might be led to accept salvation.” What an incredible goal.
John Wesley’s test of preaching was expressed in two questions:
1. Does it move sinners to repentance and faith?
2. Does it move Christians to seek holiness of heart and life?
Today, in many churches the second part of Wesley’s test is being realized. Christians are being moved to seek holiness of heart and life! Have we at the same time devalued the first part of Wesley’s test, “Does it move sinners to repentance?”
1. Again, review your preaching of the past two weeks. Were there lost people present who may not have known how to be saved when they left the building?
2. What percentage of your preaching was to the church family?
3. Apply John Wesley’s first test of preaching to your own message last Sunday: Did it move sinners to repentance and faith? If it did not, why not? What could be done to have accomplished that task?
Article “Evangelism Winning On The Home Court Preach Evangelistically” written by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. is taken from Director’s Communiqué the September/October 2006 edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”