4 Kinds of Evangelistic Sermon

Every sermon text can be preached with an evangelistic application. But this isn’t “evangelistic preaching.” Remember our previous definition: “Evangelistic preaching is preaching that expounds God’s Word (it is expository) with the primary aim of the conversion of lost souls (rather than the instruction of God’s people).”

I was planning on following up that definition with some reasons for why such evangelistic preaching is so rare today. However, while reading through the great comments last week, I realized that there’s still some confusion about what an evangelistic sermon looks/sounds like. So, before returning to the “Why so rare?” question tomorrow, let me outline some examples of evangelistic sermon texts/topics, grouped into four categories.

“Warm-up” sermons
These are sermons we preach to clear and prepare the ground for the gospel. They address some of the common objections to Christianity, the caricatures of and prejudices against Christianity. Such “apologetic” sermons will set out to prove the truth and relevance of Christianity, and demonstrate its doctrinal and practical superiority. Examples:

  • Proofs of the resurrection
  • Evidence for creation v evolution
  • One way or many ways to God
  • Do only good people go to heaven?
  • Bible’s analysis of current economic, social, moral problems, etc.

These sermons are aiming at conversion, especially the early stages of conversion. They are clearing away all the rubbish that has accumulated in a sinner’s mind, to gain a hearing for the gospel. They deal with issues that will open the pathway for Christ and His grace. That’s why I call them “warm-up” sermons. We are taking sinners who are cold, prejudiced, and opposed to Christianity, and using God’s Word to break up the soil, warm the heart, and provide an opening for the core message of Christ and His grace.

Warning Sermons
Some warning sermons are characterized by a focus on the more threatening aspects of God’s character, especially His attributes of holiness, justice, sovereignty, and power. Other warning sermons may focus on human sinfulness, inability, frailty, and mortality. We may expound and apply the law, showing what God defines as sin and wickedness. We might deal with the speed of time, the uncertainty of life, the imminence of death, the certainty of judgment, the length of eternity, the reality of hell, etc. These are all warning sermons. They are designed to alarm the complacent, the comfortable, and the thoughtless; to make them anxious, and fearful, and even terrified. Examples:

  • Remember Lot’s wife – and Saul, and Judas
  • God’s law
  • The end-of-time parables
  • Revelation’s great white throne, bottomless pit, etc.
  • Ecclesiastes’ view of the best this world can offer, etc.
  • The Psalmist’s view of our frailty and mortality, etc.

The great aim of these sermons is to convict, to bring our hearers to an awareness of their perilous state before God, and their need of repentance.

Wooing Sermons
Having prepared the way for the Gospel with “warm-up” sermons, and having shown the need for the Gospel with warning sermons, we then come with a wooing word. We explain the wonders of the Father’s willingness to send his Son to sinners, and to save them by His suffering, death, and resurrection. We also focus on the Lord Jesus; His willingness to come, suffer and die for sinners; His tender, wise and winning ways with sinners. We explain the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating and renewing the hardest of hearts. We explain that God saves by grace through faith, not by merit through works. We are trying to address people who are trembling, who are fearful, who are scared, and are seeking to draw them in to the love and the mercy and the grace of God. No pastor can pluck the chord of grace enough. Examples:

  • The prodigal son
  • Christ’s tender dealings with sinners during his ministry
  • The sufferings of Christ on the cross
  • The atonement
  • Free justification
  • The Gospel invitations and commands
  • The sufficiency and suitability of Christ, etc.
  • Adoption

If the aim of the warm-up sermon is to demonstrate relevance, and if the aim of the warming sermon is to bring people to repentance, the aim of the wooing sermon is to bring people to rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Will Sermons
Every sermon is ultimately addressed to the will. Yes, we address the head; and through the head, we address the heart. But we don’t just want to give people facts and feelings. We want changed lives. That’s surely the aim of our preaching. Ultimately, then, every sermon is addressed to the will. But evangelistic sermons, and especially this fourth kind of evangelistic sermon, are addressed especially and repeatedly to the will.

These are sermons that bring people to the signpost at the junction, with two choices. These are sermons that bring people to the ballot box, where they must cast their vote. They bring people to that point where they are faced with the two great and ultimate options: faith or unbelief, life or death, heaven or hell. These are sermons that are full of persuasion, pleading, and arguing and beseeching. Examples:

  • Paul and Agrippa
  • Jesus and the woman of Samaria
  • Parable of the wedding invitation
  • Paul on Mars Hill
  • Peter at Pentecost
  • “Choose you this day whom you will serve”
  • Narrow/broad way
  • Revelation 22:17
  • Elijah on Mt Carmel
  • “Stretch out your hand”
  • “Lazarus, come forth”

But, is man not totally depraved? Are we not “dead in trespasses and sins?” Are we not spiritually “disabled?” Is the will not in bondage? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. There is no question the Bible teaches this. However, as the examples above show, the Bible also describes the depraved, dead, disabled and enslaved will being addressed. It may seem illogical to us, but God has chosen to free the will, enable the “disabled,” and give life to the “dead” by the persuasive preaching of the Gospel.

These sermons have content for head and heart, but are especially focused on pressurizing, yes pressurizing, the will. The truth is pressed home so closely that every hearer is “forced” to make a choice. The Puritans used to speak of the Gospel vice that squeezes hearers so tightly that they cannot but say “yes” or “no.”

From this range of sample evangelistic sermons, I hope you can see that this isn’t the kind of preaching that will sound repetitive. There is a great range and variety of evangelistic sermons. There is no need for us to sound the same every time we do this. The Word of God has provided us with so many models and so much material that we can preach evangelistically and freshly every time.

Any other kinds of evangelistic sermons that I’ve missed out?

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Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

What is Evangelistic Preaching?

In my Twinterview with Tim Challies, Jeremy Walker asked me to identify particular dangers facing the church in the West at this time. One of the dangers I mentioned was “Preaching becoming too academic and less evangelistic.” As that might be an enexpected danger to list alongside Militant Homosexuality, I’d like to take a few paragraphs just to explain what I mean by that.

There has been a welcome resurgence of expository preaching in the Reformed church over the last 20-30 years, and especially of “consecutive expository preaching” – preaching through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter. But together with that resurgence of consecutive expository preaching, there has also come a decline in what I would call “converting evangelistic preaching.”

What do I mean by “converting evangelistic preaching”? Let me give two negatives to begin with. I don’t mean teaching sermons with an evangelistic PS; a doctrinal sermon with a brief concluding appeal or call to the unconverted to seek Christ, believe in Christ, look to Christ, etc.

Neither, at the other extreme, do I mean content-less sermons made up simply of repeated evangelistic imperatives, commands, invitations, and exhortations; sermons that have nothing for the head but are all addressed to the heart or will.

What do I mean, then, by evangelistic preaching? Let me put it positively: Evangelistic preaching expounds God’s Word (it is expository) with the primary aim of the salvation of lost souls (rather than the instruction of God’s people). Stuart Olyott says it is to “preach from the Bible with the immediate aim of the immediate conversion of every soul in front of us.”

So, what really distinguishes evangelistic preaching from all other kinds of preaching is its obvious and unmistakable aim – conversion. Its target is unconverted hearers. And its conscious and deliberate aim is to call, invite, and command needy souls to repent and believe the Gospel.

Why has this kind of preaching become increasingly rare in many Reformed Churches? I’ll give you my answer next week, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on it first.

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