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What is Evangelistic Preaching?

by Pastor Philip Ayers

A definition of evangelistic preaching

    Evangelistic preaching is a very effective method for reaching the world for Christ.  It has its roots in the Scripture and throughout the history of Christianity. Evangelistic preaching involves much more than a verbal presentation of the gospel of Christ. It starts with the commitment of the preacher to God and his submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in his every aspect of life. It means hard work in preparing the proclamation message. Each part of the preparation and delivery must be thoroughly thought out and prayed over. The invitation requires as much or more time in preparation as the main body of the message. And all of this must be in keeping with the definition of evangelistic preaching.

    In order to understand what evangelistic preaching is, we must define evangelism. Evangelism is defined by Dr. Robert E. Speer as "the presentation of the truth and life of Christianity both by the Word and by deed, with a view to persuading men to accept it, and to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and in God through Him and to give their lives to His service."[1] J.I. Packer noted the famous definition of evangelism formulated by the Archbishops' Committee in their report in 1918: "To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church."[2] The Student Volunteer Missionary Union defines evangelism as, "The presentation of the Gospel in such a manner to every soul in this world that the responsibility for what is done with it shall no longer rest upon the Christian church or any individual Christian, but shall rest upon each man's head for himself."[3]  Lloyd Perry and John Strubhar conclude that evangelism is "the effective presentation of the gospel in such a manner that the hearer understands its implications and is brought to a place of decision for Christ."[4] Therefore, evangelistic preaching is the proclamation of the gospel. It is one method of carrying out evangelism.

 

Essential components of evangelistic preaching

     Prayer is a major component of evangelistic preaching. Charles H. Spurgeon taught that, "You must anoint your sermons, brethren, and you cannot do it except by much private communion with God."[5] Every major preacher in the history of Christianity had a personal and public life that was powerful in moving God to anoint their ministries. The modern day churches experience great evangelistic movement in their ministries due to prayer. Churchwide prayer ministries add to the effectiveness of soul winning. "Though the forms of prayer ministries vary, the leaders of these evangelistic churches stress that their personal prayer lives and the prayer ministries of the church are inevitably tied to the winning of souls to Christ."[6] Prayer is the key that opens the door into the presence of God. The preacher and church that stays in the presence of God has a hand's up on the heartbeat of His work in their lives. It is in these private times that God reveals the need in people's lives for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Preachers who are bathed in the mercy and grace of God for the forgiveness of their own sins will, with broken hearts, proclaim the gospel of Christ to the lost and perishing of their circle of influence. I believe the passion and compassion for the winning of lost souls happens while praying on our faces before God. It is there that our gratitude to God for saving us is transmitted into our sermons that reach the hearts of our listeners. It is in prayer that our Scripture text is given to us that will be relevant to our crowds. Pray is when we receive our confidence to stand boldly and proclaim God's inerrant Word, even in the face of much persecution and suffering. G. Campbell Morgan affirms that "the highest in prayer is that attitude that seeks and obtains from God, His Holy Spirit."[7]    

    Evangelistic preaching consists of four essential components: invention, arrangement, style and delivery.[8] These components make up an evangelistic message. The invention is the discovery of ideas stage. It is during this time the preacher will spend much time in prayer, communion with the Holy Spirit, and countless hours reading over the Scripture. He will discern the content of his message through the modes of subject matter, theme, illustrations, and sermonic method of preparation. The basis for this information must stem from the Scripture. The preacher "must be faithful to the message God has entrusted to us and we must seek to proclaim it comprehensively so that it can become the source of strength for the future growth of the church."[9] Stephen Olford introduces the priorities that are subject to God's Word, open to the witness of the Holy Spirit, and that contain practical wisdom. He emphasizes prayer that submits to God's sovereignty and the Holy Spirit. There must be submission and dependence upon God's Spirit to produce the message needed for the people, place and time it is presented. Planning and preparation is vital, but only under God's approval. The preacher must be accountable to God. This will produce a sermon that has its theme rooted in the text (textual-thematic preaching). The expository preacher must listen to the text of Scripture he wishes to proclaim.[10]

     The arrangement, according to Isocrates, one of the principal figures in Greek rhetoric, consists of four parts, namely, proem (introduction, narrative, proof, and epilogue.[11]  Arrangement is the method for which a presentation is ordered. This order starts with determining the dominate theme of the text, and writing it down in a simple statement. Next one must outline the integrating thoughts. This too should come from the texts, which will them to be logical and memorable to the hearer. The listener should be able to follow the outline. Olford says the last part of organization is to focus on the thrust " the challenge, the issue, the purposeful function of the text. He explains that ?the turning or hinge point in the whole preparation process is the move from the truths of the text to the theme, thoughts, and thrust of the text expressed homiletically."[12]

     Style consists of the constructs of one?s thoughts, to be used later either verbally or written. Language is used to convey the ideas and emotions of the deliver. Olford writes, "The manner of preaching should assist in the proclamation of the message clearly and passionately (boldly). Whatever helps to communicate the truth of the text clearly and passionately is encouraged. What distracts from the meaning of the text or hinders a clear and passionate communication of the theme (truth) of the text is discouraged. We seek a clear and passionate proclamation of the truth with dependence upon the Holy Spirit."[13] Our styles should be articulate, and understandable by the hearers of the message. Good English with a good vocabulary will help the listener define what is being said. "The evangelistic preacher must develop a style that is natural, simple, life-related, clear, personal, educational, emphatic, animated, moral, biblical, direct, and urgent" [14]   

    Delivery is just that. It is the verbal and visual expression. It has to do with the quality of speech. Speech is used to convey emotions, logic, persuasion, and excitement in the evangelistic message.  The delivery can happen through reading of a written message or extemporaneously. 

    So, how should a sermon be delivered? How do we speak effectively? Bisagno stresses the importance of delivering the message naturally.  The listeners will respond to a preacher who is himself, in and out of the pulpit.  Never try to be someone else while preaching.[15]  These questions are examined by Olford. He states that every sermon should be clear and passionately proclaimed. The message will dictate the manner of communication. The preacher must clearly unlock the secrets of the Scripture to the hearers (apocalyptic purpose). His theological position is seen in his belief in God's Word being the basis of his authority (theological purpose). The proclamation must proclaim Christ as the Savior of the lost (soteriological and Christological purpose). His voice should express the urgency of the hour. Our days are limited until the Lord's return (eschatological purpose).[16]

    A vital essential component of evangelistic preaching is the invitation. An effective invitation is the tool that the evangelistic preacher uses to produce a commitment from hearers of the gospel message. It comes in many formats: after meetings, special appointments, signing of cards, special classes, delayed altar calls, altar calls, raising of hands, standing, and many other methods.[17]  The invitation is the most important part of the sermon. This is believed because it brings a sermon to its end. It applies the truth of the sermon to the listeners. It calls the listeners to make an immediate response to the truth presented. Every evangelistic message succeeds or fails according to the effectiveness of the invitation.  The invitation desires and must have the same amount of time and preparation as the rest of the sermon.  It takes hard work and much prayer.[18]

    The invitation must be scripturally based. It must be transitioned into smoothly and without interruption. An effective invitation is a natural conclusion to an expository / contextual sermon. A properly issued invitation will move people to come to Christ. John Bisagno agrees with the other authors of evangelistic preaching that "every sermon should be marked by an appeal to persuade the hearer to make some kind of response." [19]  Public profession of one's faith in Christ is a necessity with baptism being the preferred method. A major key to effective preaching and presenting of the invitation is the transition. Charles H. Spurgeon declares, "But you are not only to be witnesses, you are pleaders for the Lord Jesus Christ."[20]

 

 

The biblical, theological, and practical justifications for evangelistic preaching

Biblically:  

 II Timothy 3:16-17 declares, "ll scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  These verses make it is clear that God has commanded His Word to be preached, and that no other source is needed for the text.

   There are three words in the New Testament that deal with preaching: kerygma, kerysso, and keryx.  Kerygma is used eight times in the Greek New testament and means "the content of the preaching."  I Corinthians 1:21 illustrates this, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." This message was taken to a lost world and proclaimed. It included repentance and trusting Christ. Apostolic preaching emphasized fulfilled prophecies and the coming of Christ; Christ born of the seed of David; the gospel (death, burial, and resurrection on the third day); ascension of Christ to the right hand of God; and His coming again as the Judge and Savior of men.[21] 

    Kerysso is used sixty-one times in the New Testament, and means "the act of preaching."  Obviously, this preaching was addressed to people making it evangelistic in nature.

    Keryx is used three times in the New Testament, and refers to the "one who makes public proclamations on another's behalf."  The Greek literally means "herald."  I Timothy 2:7 refers to this, "For which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ; I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying ; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."  The Apostle declared that he was a preacher sent from God to preach the gospel of Christ. Gospel, evangelion, means "good news."  Evangelion is a synonym for kerygma.  The thought here is that the content of the message is the good news of Christ. Romans 16:25 illustrates this, "Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel (evangelion), and the preaching (kerygma) of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began )" The good news is the atonement of lost sinners through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on the third day according to the Scripture (I Corinthians 15:1-4).

   The use of evanelizo, meaning "to bring good news or the announcing of glad tidings", is further evidence for the justification of evangelistic preaching. It is used fifty-five times in the New Testament. I John 3: illustrates this, "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."  This is the theme of the gospel that an evangelist proclaims. The overmastering and all-consuming priority of our lord is also apparent in His marching orders to His followers- the Great Commission contained in Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8.[22] The Bible calls this person an evanglistes or "a bringer of the good news."  He is referred to three times in the Greek New Testament. [23]

Theologically:

    Theological system is the construct in which what Scripture teaches thematically is systematized topologically. Every statement about Christ is doctrinal. David Larson points out that right doctrine of revelation and inspiration accompanies evangelistic preaching. This preaching comes out of a right doctrine about God, sin, salvation, and the hereafter.[24]

    The doctrine of Anthropology and Hamartiology teaches that man is a sinner by birth. He inherited the sin nature of first Adam. He is eternally and everlasting separated from a righteous and holy God. Therefore, there is justification for evangelistic preaching that will proclaim the doctrine of Christology and Soteriology. Christology teaches that Christ is the virgin born Son of God. Therefore, He lived a sinless life which allowed Him to satisfy God's wrath toward a sinful mankind, once He willingly gave Himself on the cross to death, was buried, and rose the third day from the dead. Evangelistic preaching tells the lost that they need to turn away from their sin to Christ and be saved (Soteriology).

Practical:

    It just makes good sense that evangelistic preaching is a major tool in the hands of Godly men to win the lost to Christ. It is biblically and theologically sound. The only way for a person to be saved is to come to Christ by grace through faith. The hearts of men, women, boys and girls must be stirred by the good news of Christ. "The focus of evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel " the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ on the basis of His death, and resurrection on our behalf.[25] Evangelistic preaching is the practical way of moving those hearts. Preaching God's Word stirs the practical side of man " his emotions, and will. I Corinthians 1:21 speaks to the practical side of evangelistic preaching, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."  The wisdom of the world, the discoveries in science, medicine, and technology has not brought man closer to God. These things tend to feed man's pride and self- sufficiency. However, evangelistic preaching, though very practical, places man in front of God. People have to consider the trends, currents and tendencies of their day. The functional elements of an evangelistic sermon are the persuasive elements of the sermon " namely, the explanation, argumentation, illustration, and application.[26] These elements can move people toward eternal decisions about their relationship with Christ. With evangelistic preaching comes an invitation to be saved. This is a very practical way to accomplish the main task of evangelism. [27]It works! People's lives are changed for every.

 

Personal reflections on the importance and status of evangelistic preaching today

    My preparation for this class has been like experiencing a revival in my spirit. I have gone through a personal re-examination of my values and motivation for evangelism. It has been since 1989 that I have academically studied the great preachers who have gone before us. Of course, I have reviewed their lives singularly in preparation for a sermon illustration, but that lacks the power of their testimony when seen as a collected group of Godly men. Their commitment to their call and their willingness to preach the entire council of God motivates me to follow in their example. My messages have weakened over these many years due to the lack of outward results. I pastor a very tradition single-celled church. Over nineteen years of preaching has not changed their opinion of evangelism. Their view is that evangelism is teaching their children about God. I found myself slipping into the topical preaching style, dealing with subjects such as overcoming depression, and the like. My messages left out the need to repent, and the naming of sin. How easy it was for me to join the politically correct crowd. I thank God my fire has been rekindled within me through the Holy Spirit. This class material was the tools God used to bring it to pass. Dr. W.A. Criswell expresses it nicely, "We are to win souls for the Savior."[28] Dr. Adrian Rogers expresses my heart's desire, "We need God-called men who will take the book of God and preach the Son of God with the anointing of the Spirit of God. We need men with warm hearts, wet eyes, clear heads, and tongues aflame."[29] Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "We are to seek our neighbor's conversion because we love him, and we are to speak to him in loving terms God?s loving gospel, because our heart desires his eternal good." [30] I want my life to make a difference for God. As we sing, "May all who have gone before us find us faithful!"  I desire for my Savior to say upon my home going, "Well done, good and faith servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of the Lord." Matthew 21:25 Today, evangelistic preaching is of vital importance to me.

    The books stress the importance of the major elements of evangelistic preaching. They speak of the necessity of prayer, the commitment of the preacher to Godliness in his personal and public life, the importance of proper sermon preparation, delivery of the message, and giving of the invitation. The materials address follow-up and discipleship as part of evangelism. In many churches, such as those illustrated in Effective Evangelistic Churches, evangelism is being carried out. These churches emphasize intentional evangelism, and conversion growth.[31] However, this is not the case in many Southern Baptist churches. Our denomination speaks of 13 percent of our churches that did not baptize one person last year. That indicates that there is a great need for preachers to be called back to our roots, and start to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our congregations and to the world. Thank God for men who are doing that, but shame on those who are not!

   

   


[1] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 10.

[2] Perry, Lloyd M and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 10.

[3] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 10.

[4] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 10.

[5] Spurgeon, C.H., The Soul Winner, (Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim Publications, 1978), 113.

[6] Rainer, Thom, Effective Evangelistic Churches, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996, 15, 71-79.

[7] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1998), 219.

[8] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 26, 27.

[9] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, 83.

[10] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, 90-102.

[11] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 34, 35.

[12] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, 144-155.

[13] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, 136.

[14] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 166.

[15] Bisagno, John R., Letters To Timothy, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 159.

[16] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, 210-212.

[17] Streett, R. Alan, The Effective Invitation, (Old Tappan, New jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984), 170-179.

[18] Streett, R. Alan, The Effective Invitation, 152.

[19] Bisagno, John R., Letters To Timothy, 166.

[20] Spurgeon, C.H., The Soul Winner, 181.r

[21] Streett, R. Alan, The Effective Invitation, 23-34.

[22] Larson, David, The Evangelism Mandate, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Publishers (Division of Good News Publishers, 2002), 16.

[23] Streett, R. Alan, The Evangelistic Invitation, 32-36.

[24] Larson, David, The Evangelism Mandate, 18-20.

[25] Larson, David, The Evangelism Mandate, 20.

[26] Perry, Lloyd M. and John R. Strubhar, Evangelistic Preaching, 74, 76.

[27] Streett, R. Allan, The Evangelistic Invitation, 142.

[28] Streett, R. Alan, The Evangelistic Invitation, 14

[29] Olford, Stephen F., Anointed Expository Preaching, xiii.

[30] Spurgeon, C.H., The Soul Winner, 22.

[31] Rainer, Thom, Effective Evangelistic Churches, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1979), 4, 21-22, 28, 41, 53, 64, 96.

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