Further to yesterday’s post listing the first four characteristics of evangelistic preaching, here are the remaining four marks.
Evangelistic preaching will be plain. If we love sinners and we are anxious for them to be saved, we will be clear and plain in our structure, content, and choice of words. If we can use a smaller word, we use it. If we can shorten our sentences, we do so. If we can find an illustration, we tell it. Everything is aimed at simplicity and clarity, so that, as it was said of Martin Luther, it may be said of us, “It’s impossible to misunderstand him.”
And this is exhausting work. People may think at times that doctrinal sermons are harder to prepare and preach than evangelistic sermons. Not if you are really going to edit and trim and modify until your message communicates the profoundest truth in the simplest way possible. That involves real labor, sweat, toil and tears. In Preaching and Preachers Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
If I am asked which sermons I wrote, I have already said that I used to divide my ministry, as I still do, into edification of the saints in the morning and a more evangelistic sermon in the evening. Well, my practice was to write my evangelistic sermon. I did so because I felt that in speaking to the saints, to the believers, one could feel more relaxed. There, one was speaking in the realm of the family. In other words, I believe that one should be unusually careful in evangelistic sermons. That is why the idea that a fellow who is merely gifted with a certain amount of glibness of speech and self-confidence, not to say cheek, can make an evangelist is all wrong. The greatest men should always be the evangelists, and generally have been; and the idea that Tom, Dick and Harry can be put up to speak on a street corner, but you must have a great preacher in a pulpit in a church is, to me, the reversing of the right order. It is when addressing the unbelieving world that we need to be most careful; and therefore I used to write my evangelistic sermon and not the other (pp. 215-16).
When we go into the pulpit with an evangelistic sermon, let’s not go in defensively, and apologetically. Yes, it may be an “apologetic” sermon, but we are not apologizing for the truth. When we go in front of sinners with the gospel, let’s not come across as if we have something to hide or be afraid of. Let’s not hedge and qualify. Let’s not “discuss” or ”share.” Let’s preach with powerful, bold, divine authority. People need to hear, “Thus says the Lord.” This isn’t an option, this isn’t just another idea; this is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
And let our evangelistic sermons also be characterized by perseverance. We preach. No one’s converted. We do it again. We preach. No one’s converted. We do it again, and again, and again.
How often should you preach an evangelistic sermon? That will largely depend on context. In Scotland, I was expected to preach one evangelistic sermon and one teaching sermon every Sunday. Once a week is probably too much if you and your church are not used to this. But how about once a month? And you can tell your congregation that on such a morning/evening this is going to be a sermon for the unconverted, so that Christians will think, “I can take my friends to this. This is something I know my boss could listen to with some understanding.” Make it regular, and make it known that this is what you are going to be doing.
Above all, of course, evangelistic preaching is to be prayerful – before, during, and after. Pray to be delivered from the fear of man. Pray that God would give you a passion for souls. Pray that you would be able to communicate naturally and easily and freely. Pray that you’d get a hearing for the gospel and that you’d be able to present Christ so that you ”disappear.” And pray afterward that the seed sown would bring forth a harvest of saved souls, and that the church will be revived and built up.
“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:3).