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).

  • Flora Compton

    We are thankful for your emphasis on ‘heart’ as well as ‘head’ and ‘hand’ and that you have dealt with this issue of the lack of Evangelistic preaching. Most of the preaching in North American Reformed Churches is for the head. ‘Read’ lectures by ministers and note-taking by those who listen, give evidence of this. When your heart is truly gripped and convicted by the Holy Spirit, you don’t take notes! It is very sad that one has to go to a non-Reformed church to hear Evangelistic sermons.

    My husband, David Compton,wrote on the thread after your first message. He preached the Gospel faithfully for close to fifty years. He is 81 now and doesn’t preach regularly but when he has preached lately he has been rebuked for defining clearly that ‘sin is any want of conformity or transgression of the Law of God’ as the Shorter Catechism states and preaching evangelisticaly. ‘We don’t need that’, he is told.

    I was converted in one of the congregations you pastored in the Highland of Scotland under the ministry of Rev. Malcolm MacLean. I thought that I was a pretty good person until he preached on “God be merciful to me a sinner”, clearly defined what sin was and asked us to go home and pray, ” God show me myself”. I prayed that prayer and when I had a glimpse of how a Holy God saw me, I was afraid to sleep in case I woke up in Hell. What joy I experienced and continue to experience as I realised and continue to contemplate what Christ has done for me. Mr MacLean told me that he often felt like Satan was sitting on the corner of the pulpit trying to keep him from preaching like that!

    What has happened to that kind of preaching – the preaching of John the Baptist, Peter on the day of Pentecost, Paul who could say,”Woe is me,if I preach not the Gospel’ and continue ‘We are ambassadors for Christ,as though God were pleading through us, we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” 2 Corinthians 5:20?

    I’m sure the “Evil one’ must be very happy to see Ministers of the Gospel taken up with Gender and Family issues etc. We listened to your own sermon on “The end has come’ and I know that for me, it has not only revitalized my gratitude and wonder at the mercy of God towards me but increased my burden for unconverted family members, neighbours and the ‘lost’ around me. What a fearful thing it will be to be separate from God and anything that is good for ever and ever. What a responsibility preachers have – they who have solemnly, before God, taken on the responsibility for never-dying souls!

    Flora Compton ( for David and Flora Compton)

  • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

    I think you’re right, Flora, about the lack of emphasis on the law and sin. If there’s no problem, who needs a solution?

    I didn’t know you were converted under Calum Maclean’s ministry in Lochcarron. He’s such a Gospel-centered man, in the best sense!

    And yes, what a huge but blessed responsibility to preach the good news!

    • Flora Compton

      Yes, Calum MacLean was truly convicted,” Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel”. He didn’t neglect the ‘head’ either. He encouraged me to read John Murray’s ‘Redemption Accomplished and Applied” as soon as I was converted and told me to underline what I did not understand and bring it to him. I could not have been nurtured and taught by more loving and faithful Christians than he and Sandra. I praise God for them.

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