Well, good morning to you all, and thank you to Jim for those kind words and for the welcome. I know everybody says this everywhere they go, but it really is a privilege for me to be here today, and for such an event, and to speak on such a very important topic. I have been sort of wondering why on earth you picked me, but I feel like I should be wearing an 'L-plate' round my neck, because everything I'm going to say today, I'm still learning - and I'm learning a great deal moment by moment, and I think we're all in the same school, aren't we? I hope we are anyway, whenever we stop learning we're in trouble! But I want you to know that I don't stand up here portraying the idea that I'm an expert in all this, far from it - but whatever the Lord may have imparted to me through His word and through ministry experience, I'm going to pass on to you, and hopefully it will be a benefit for you today and in future days.
I want you to turn with me first of all to Mark's gospel chapter 16, and initially I think this was to be one session, and I was really wondering how I was going to cram it all together - and then someone rang me and said: 'We're going to give you the two sessions', which I greatly appreciate. So it very easily lent itself into splitting this up - if we're talking about 'Preaching Evangelistically' - what I want to do this first session is talk about 'The Preaching', and in the next session I want us to think about 'The Preacher'. We could spend both sessions on 'The Preaching', or both sessions on 'The Preacher', but we want to get a bit of balance here. I think both are important, and I actually think one is more important than the other, but we'll touch on that a little bit later - whet your appetite for the next session, perhaps!
Just two verses for a bit of a springboard to what we're going to enter into now, verse 15, we'll read verse 14 as well, sure, for three verses. Verse 14 of chapter 16 of Mark: "Afterwards He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'".
Now, right throughout the New Testament we have this exhortation: 'Preach the Gospel'. 'Preach the Gospel', here it says, 'to every creature'. I'm sure you're familiar with 2 Timothy 4 and verse 2: 'Preach the word; be instant', be ready, 'in season, out of season', to preach the word. I don't think I would have any argument with any of you today to say that preaching is certainly out of season, it's out of vogue - and equally such, preaching the gospel as a practice is not in peak season. There is a dearth of gospel preaching, and there is a decline in the preaching of the good tidings of the Gospel.
Now I could spend, probably, both sessions talking about the reasons why that might be, and I'm not going to do that. But I am going to give you two reasons - certainly far from exhaustive, but two possible reasons why there is a decline in and a dearth of gospel preaching. The first is a very practical reason: there is pressure upon pastors and preachers to teach Christians only, because they feel that if they were preaching the Gospel they would be literally preaching to the converted, because the people sitting in the pews before them are believers. I have been in pastoral ministry for a while, and I understand what it is to have pressure to be original when you're preaching to the same group of people every single week - and then when you come to the Gospel which, let's face it, has a particular nucleus of truth that is unchangeable, it's very hard to be original with that, and fresh every time you come to preach the good news. But the danger is that then you fall into this trap of saying: 'Well, there's nobody here anyway, so let's just preach from the word', and teach whatever way you want expositionally, and then you miss out on this great privilege, and this command that we have from the Lord, to preach the Gospel.
Now you say: 'OK, but is that not a great problem when there's no fish in the pool' - well, yes, of course it is. But here's the issue: if you haven't got the right crowd, get the right crowd! That's the answer! Get the right crowd! 'Easier said than done', I hear you say. Well, the first thing to do is go out of the building to get the right crowd. The original commission was 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel'. I think today that there is a greater argument for open-air preaching of the Gospel than there has been in perhaps hundreds of years - to go outside and preach the Gospel in the open-air, where the people are. But of course going out of the four walls of the church does not just mean a public proclamation of the word, but there are various types of outreach that we can engage in to reach people with the good news.
Now, having said that - if we haven't the right crowd in our congregations, we need to get the right crowd, if that means going outside the four walls of the church, so be it - but I want to exhort you today not to give up on preaching the Gospel in church. There are a number of reasons why I want to say that to you, but you, hopefully, in your mind are coming back to this objection: 'But if the people aren't there to preach the Gospel to, then why wouldn't you give up on it?'. There are some who are just going out, reaching out - which is good - but they have ceased preaching the Gospel in a church capacity. Well, to remedy that, what I would say to you is: we need again to encourage our people to invite people to hear the Gospel. Now some of you might right away say: 'Well, that's a very old-fashioned concept'. Well, it may be, but it's a very biblical concept. I know that the biblical order is to go out, but there also is precedent to bring people to hear preaching of the Gospel.
One modern example of this, whatever you think of Franklin Graham and his father Billy Graham, certainly when he came to the Odyssey, Franklin most recently, one very impressive thing to me was their 'Operation Andrew' project. I don't know whether you heard of what that was, but it was the idea that you thought of three or four unconverted people that you know of, and way before this event was convened you were to pray about inviting them along. There were little bookmarks given out, and you put their name down and you prayed in your quiet time for those folk, and made a concerted effort in bringing them along. We need to get back to that, and I believe that is not happening in our churches. I believe our members are not inviting people to hear the word of God. There could be a whole range of reasons why that is, but I've got a hunch that Christians generally are not witnessing one-to-one to people in ordinary everyday life.
Now let me give you - and this is a bit facetious, and you'll forgive me for being a little bit naughty with this - but can you imagine someone in the workplace, on the factory floor, talking about the Lord Jesus and sharing their faith; and eventually getting a person to realise we're sinners in the sight of a Holy God, and so on and so forth, and sharing the Gospel with them - and you know all the usual to-ing and fro-ing that goes on in the questions. Then they get them to the point of thinking: 'This person needs more', and can you imagine them saying, 'Now, would you like to come along to my church on Wednesday night at 7 o'clock, we're having a cookery demonstration?', or, 'flower arranging?', or, 'You can learn to make a Pavlova'. It just doesn't figure. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I know that there are bridge builders that are necessary, and sometimes we just can't jump in with two feet, we have to build up relationships with people and so on and so forth, and get a rapport and even friendship at times to witness to folk. But sometimes I believe that some of our new schemes of 'evangelism' are only a copout. It's because people, because they're afraid of one-to-one witnessing, want the church to do it for them. What we should be doing in private, building up relationships, breaking down bridges and barriers, we're expecting the church to do because we can't do it and don't want to do it. This element of a confrontation in evangelism, one-to-one encountering people with the truth, it's not happening among our ordinary people - because if it was happening, and you had that aforementioned conversation, the next obvious thing would be to say: 'Would you come along to church with me where you'll hear all about this?'. Do you understand where I'm coming from?
We need to encourage our people to witness again, and to invite people to where they will hear the Gospel. I hope you don't think this is a hobbyhorse of mine, but I am concerned about some of the techniques that are being used in evangelism today. Because we have a need to be transparent in our evangelism, clear and plain - and some of the things we use at times, I can't say anything but that they are cultish in the way we lure people by, at times, benign activity; and they don't read the small print, that there will be an epilogue at the end of whatever it is you're doing. Then, all of a sudden - the person comes in wanting to learn this that and the other - and you ambush them with the Gospel! I think they are justified at times in feeling that 'There has been a hidden agenda that I haven't been let in on' - that's the way the cults operate. I think we should be upfront with what we're about, what we believe in, and if people want to reject it that's their prerogative - because they're going to reject it eventually when they find out, if they find out, what we're about.
Now we need to re-educate people to, as I call it, gossip the Gospel. That's part of what preaching was in the book of Acts and in the New Testament - it's not everything that preaching is of course, we'll see that in a moment or two - but we need to re-educate people to witness one-to-one. Because of that, and if that is achieved, it is therefore desirable that there is an established Gospel opportunity in the schedule of the life of the church, so that anybody in your congregation knows that if they invite someone at a given time, at a certain place, and they're not saved, they will hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I don't care whether it's Sunday night, Sunday morning, Wednesday night, it doesn't really matter - all those things are irrelevant - but I feel it is important that a New Testament Church has an established Gospel witness that you can bring people along to.
Now, even if that doesn't work, and I think it will work if everybody is in it together, even if that doesn't work don't lose faith in preaching the Gospel in a church environment. Here's further reason why: you've got children in your congregation, children who are not getting saved because their Mummy and Daddy's saved, but they need to be born again and they need to hear the Gospel in order to be saved. You've got what used to be called 'false professors', people who believe they are saved and are not saved and need to waken up to that fact - they are in our congregations. You're not going to tell me everybody is saved, even on our membership roll, are saved? There are backsliders in our congregations, and some of our congregations are full of them! Lukewarm Christians, and they need the Gospel preached to them, they need to be reminded of what they first believed. Even over and above all that, believers in Christ need to hear the Gospel - they do, for several reasons. They need to understand it - it's up for debate, and we're not going to go into it today, what you've got to understand in order to be a Christian - but children can understand many of the things that we need to understand to be a Christian. So it's when we go through the threshold of faith that often we start to gain a greater understanding of everything that has happened to us, and we need to teach them that through the preaching of the Gospel. But equally believers need to understand the Gospel because they are the ones we're expecting to go out and share it. If you stop the average Christian, or particularly Christian young people in your congregation, and ask them to give you the Gospel in a nutshell, you will be horrified at what they will say to you. So we need to preach the Gospel in our churches for those reasons.
So one of the reasons why there is a dearth and a decline in Gospel preaching may well be the pressure to teach Christians only, because we feel we're preaching to the converted if we preach the Gospel in church. A second reason for this decline - now stay with me here, because some of you are maybe going to fall off your seat when I say this - some are theologically predisposed against preaching the Gospel. Oh-ho! Now don't worry, I'm not going to tread where angels fear to, going into the whole Calvinism-Arminianism thing. The reason why I'm not is because two of the greatest evangelists that ever lived were of opposing camps: George Whitefield and John Wesley, which testifies that your theology ought not to be an excuse for not openly and freely preaching the Gospel - it wasn't for them and it shouldn't be for us. There are no excuses for not preaching the gospel, and sometimes I wonder - and this has happened to me in my own life - that our convictions can be restrictions when it comes to going and preaching the word freely. Now let me say to you, without even entering into any of these controversial issues, if your theology in some way is preventing or hindering you freely and openly preaching the Gospel, I'm saying this graciously: your theology is wrong, or at least it's deficient at some level, if your theology prevents you preaching the Gospel.
Now listen to a number of verses, you can turn to them if you desire. Romans chapter 10 verses 14 and 15: 'How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!''. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:17: 'For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect'. First Corinthians 9:16, this is a marvellous verse: 'For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!'. OK? So make sure that you're not theologically predisposed to not preaching the Gospel.
Now some ask the question: 'Aye, but hold on a wee minute, what is preaching the Gospel? Does it have to be an oration, or a sermon?'. So that's why today, preachers are being replaced by so-called evangelistic illusionists, contortionists, ventriloquists, and dramatists, and every other 'ist' that you can imagine. While in the New Testament, it's very clear that though you can gossip the Gospel, as I've said, there was the New Testament apostolic 'Kerygma' which was a heralding forth, a proclamation, publicly, of the message of God. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:21, Paul tells us: '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'. God has ordained this public proclamation of the 'Kerygma', the evangel, as the way to save souls.
So it's preaching this message, but someone else will say: 'Well, does it matter what you preach, as long as you preach the word?'. I hear this sometimes, people quote that verse in the Psalms: 'The entrance of God's Word brings light'. They say: 'Well, it's enough just to go systematically through the word, and when you get the Gospel you preach the Gospel, and touch it and so forth, but it's God's word'. Well, I have seen folk saved when I wasn't preaching a direct Gospel message, but that's not an argument against preaching the Gospel, is it? Your car might freewheel nicely down a hill, but that's not a reason not to use the accelerator, and you'll find that out when you try to go up the hill. The great question in our preaching, where this is concerned - and I want you to remember this, for this is vital - is: what is your aim and objective in your preaching? What is your aim and objective in your preaching? Evangelistic preaching is aimed at winning souls, its objective is catching men, and the Gospel is the appropriate net for catching men. Now if God sovereignly decides, as He sometimes does, to draw fish out of the ocean by other means, that is His prerogative - but His command to men is to fish using the Gospel.
Now, that's my introduction, which leads on to my first point. There are seven points - and they're not all as long as that, I assure you! - on the preaching. The first, leading out of what I've said, is this: we must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching. This is important - before you even start about technique or content, you must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching. By other types of preaching, I mean: teaching, instruction, exhortation, and so forth. I have been in pastoral ministry for, in total, about 11 and a half years or something like that, some of you much longer - but I found it a challenge, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and our Bible Study was on a Monday night - but it was hard to, apart from one after the other, it was hard to jump from the different, I would call it, 'genres' of preaching. On Sunday morning you were teaching something, going through say the Sermon on the Mount, Sunday evening you were coming in with a one-off Gospel message, and Monday night you had a 50 minute to 1 hour Bible exposition, real in-depth stuff. It was hard jumping from one to the other, yet I noticed and observed practically that whenever I was doing a Gospel Mission, for maybe a week, two weeks or three weeks, you got into a mode - that's the best way I could put it, and it showed me that there are different modes in our preaching. You have to learn to a certain extent to jump from one to the other, and it's hard when they're all conglomerated together over a weekend.
But here's really what I'm saying: there is a difference between evangelistic preaching and exhortation, or Bible teaching, and when we preach the Gospel we are not preaching about the Gospel. There's a difference between preaching the Gospel and preaching about the Gospel. For instance, many preachers teach about the Gospel, but they never preach it. Now you might think I'm splitting hairs, but I'm not, because God's Word does not call us to academically analyse the Gospel, or to extol the Gospel and its glories - although we can do those two things - but when it comes to the 'evangel', we are actually called to preach it! Now I know that not everyone has the gift of the evangelist in the New Testament sense, but even if you're in pastoral ministry or you're aspiring to that, Timothy was told by Paul to do the work of an evangelist. Even if you aren't an evangelist, you're to do the work of an evangelist. Lloyd-Jones and others made this distinction between evangelistic preaching and preaching which is instructional, practical and otherwise. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I'm not saying Gospel preaching isn't to be instructional, or Gospel preaching isn't to be practical. It can be, and should be, both of those in a sense, but primarily it must have the objective - here we are back to that again - the aim of winning souls. Not just filling the head with further knowledge about what others have believed, and what you have believed, but an exhortation for others to believe. Therefore there is a great difference between evangelical preaching and evangelistic preaching. We have hundreds of evangelical churches, but there are not as many where you will have evangelistic preaching - there is a difference.
So the first thing I want to say regarding the preaching is: you must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching. Flowing out of that again, the second point I want to make is: as far as possible, therefore, use evangelistic passages in Scripture. Now I think the book of John is wonderful for preaching the Gospel from, obviously so because John gives us his purpose statement and it's universal in nature - we read of it in chapter 20 and verse 31: 'These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name'. So the purpose of the writing of the Gospel of John was that others would believe, so it's filled with evangelistic content. Now of course all Scripture is profitable, but I find it helpful (and this is just a practical thing that you might be able to use) when I'm preaching evangelistically to use conversion stories in the Word of God, to use what I call 'Jesus encounters' where people met the Lord Jesus. That, I find, can be more effective than preaching concepts - the reason being, because the stories are already personalised, they are already wearing human flesh, they're wearing clothes, if you like, they are real human life situations. The technical term for it might be 'theological narrative', in other words, it's a story but it's teaching a theological truth. John is a case in point: chapter 1, Nathaniel; chapter 3, Nicodemus; chapter 4, the woman of Samaria at the well; chapter 5, the man at the pool of Bethesda; chapter 8, a wonderful passage of Scripture, the adulteress caught in the act, going to be stoned. Go to the other gospels and you've got the demoniac, I was preaching on it last night - wonderful! It preaches itself, a wonderful story of the power of the Gospel message. Then, if you're not using conversion stories, there are many Gospel illustrations - for instance, the prodigal son is just that, in Luke 15; Luke 16, the rich man and Lazarus, a wonderful illustration. You can go into the Acts of the Apostles, and you've got conversion stories there: Paul on the road to Damascus, Cornelius, and many others.
Now it's not wrong to preach concepts, don't misunderstand me, and it's not wrong to use texts - but if you're using concepts and using texts, you then need to do a bit more work illustrating them and applying them, and there needs to be constant meaningful and personal application throughout the whole of the message - but conversion stories sort of do that for you already, that's why I like to use them. So you must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching, but secondly, as far as possible use overtly evangelistic passages. I think sometimes many doctrinal problems and confusions come in when people start to use passages that have got nothing to do with the Gospel evangel, and then people get confused.
Thirdly, and this is one that might sound strange initially: we ought to preach according to the agenda of the Holy Spirit. We ought to preach according to the agenda of the Holy Spirit. Now I'm going to deal with the Holy Spirit in the personal life of the preacher in our second session. When I talk about the agenda of the Holy Spirit, I'm not talking about being open to the Spirit when you're seeking a message to preach evangelistically - I think that's very important. Equally, I'm not talking about what we might call the inspiration of the moment, and some of you preachers know what I'm talking about - when you're standing there, and there's something you haven't prepared to say, but you find an impression, a compelling to say it, and you believe it's from the Holy Spirit, and you do that. I believe it's important to be open to that when you're preaching the Gospel, because God might have something to say to folk there that you don't realise. But what I'm talking about is different than that, when I talk about preaching according to the agenda of the Holy Spirit, I'm talking about our content in our preaching.
I want you to turn to John 16 for this, to what I feel is one of the most neglected portions of Scripture concerning the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We're going to read verses 7 through to 15, John 16: 'Nevertheless I tell you the truth', verse 7, 'It is to your advantage', it is expedient, 'that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you'.
Now here is the Holy Spirit's agenda for the content in our preaching that we ought to follow: one, make much of Christ. Verse 14, the Spirit would come to glorify Christ, He would take of the things that are Christ's and declare them to people. The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit was to glorify Jesus every day from His ascension to His second coming. If you're not glorifying Christ in your preaching, you're not preaching according to the agenda of the Holy Spirit. Our preaching must be Christ-centred, all of Christ, make much of Christ. There is a danger here, because there are many angles you can come to evangelistic preaching at. You can preach about sin, and your message might be primarily about the wages of sin - death - or something like that. Or you could come at it from another angle, you know, we are but a vapour and our life disappears. You could come at it from the brevity of life, you could come at it from judgement, and you could spend the whole time talking about a concept, and Christ is sort of left to the end, tagging on there - and, 'Oh, here, this Man is the answer!'. Christ must be central to everything that we're preaching, because the Holy Spirit's desire is to preach Christ. I believe, as Spurgeon said, that if you preach Christ the Dove will come down, if you focus on Christ the Dove will come down, if you focus on the Dove the Dove will fly away - focus on Christ!
Two, preach against sin. Verse 9, the Holy Spirit would convict 'of sin', verse 9 says, 'because they do not believe in Me'. Now we must preach Christ and preach against sin. We've got a problem on our hands today, because many people don't believe they are sinners. That's why the law needs to be used by Gospel preachers as a measure to show people that they have fallen short of the standard of God. Men need to be made to see the holy God of heaven, and the awful sinfulness of their sin - and the law is the way that God has given us to do that. But that's not chiefly what I'm getting at, although that's vitally important, what verse 9 is talking about here is proclaiming that sin can be forgiven because of the cross, but unbelief can't. Look at it again: the Holy Spirit would convict of sin, 'because they do not believe in Me'. We read it at the very beginning from Mark 16:16, Jesus said 'He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'. We have to preach Christ, we have to preach against sin using the law, but we have to preach that all manner of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven of men except one sin - and I'm not going to get into an exposition of what the unpardonable sin is in the New Testament, but I believe it is unbelief, intransigent unbelief. That's the sin God cannot forgive, that's the sin that will condemn us to an eternal hell: unbelief. So we are to preach that the cross means sin can be forgiven, but you've got to believe, you've got to repent and believe the gospel.
Make much of Christ, preach against sin, particularly unbelief - and three, verse 10, look at it: 'of righteousness', the Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness, 'because I go to My Father and you see Me no more' - that is justification by faith. Jesus says: 'I'm going to my Father, and you'll see Me no more'. He was going via the cross, via the empty tomb, He's ascending to heaven to be with His Father, and that is the conviction of righteousness that the Holy Spirit brings: because Jesus died, rose again, and is ascended, we can have the righteousness of God by faith, justified by faith we have peace with God. Do you see it? Preach Christ, preach against sin and unbelief, and preach justification by faith alone through the death, resurrection, and through the intercessory ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Four, the agenda of the Holy Spirit is to convict, verse 11, 'of judgment, because the ruler of this world', or the prince of this world, 'is judged'. We are to preach the defeat of Satan through the cross. The Lord Jesus spoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, through His death on the cross. For this reason the Son of God was manifest, to destroy the works of the devil. We are to preach the victory of the cross over Satan, but also preach judgement - not judging people from the pulpit, that's not what we're talking about, but the judgement the Holy Spirit wants to bring to bear on people is this: that if you follow Satan, you will follow him to where he's going. The condemnation that is come upon Satan is the condemnation that will come upon this world, as John says: 'this is the condemnation... men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil'.
This is the agenda of the Holy Spirit, and you will see that it all revolves around Christ and His cross, doesn't it? Preach Christ; preach against sin and unbelief; preach justification by faith through the cross, the resurrection, the ascension; and preach the defeat of the prince of this word, Satan, and the condemnation of those who follow him, because of the cross. Is it any wonder Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23: 'We preach Christ crucified'? He said in chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians, 'Brethren, when I came to you, I did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified'. And if you want the Gospel in a nutshell, go to 1 Corinthians 15 verses 1 to 4: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures'.
Spurgeon was right when he said: 'I will get to the cross by fair means or foul'. If you are so strung up - and I believe in expository preaching - but if you have got that ideal like an idol, and you will not allow yourself to come out of a passage of Scripture to preach either Christ or His cross, you're not preaching the Gospel according to the agenda of the Holy Spirit. Now I know that might raise some questions for some of you, but you'll have to answer them - maybe you want to talk to me about that afterwards. Some might say: 'Well, what about apologetics?'. Apologetics is simply defending our beliefs by the means of reason. I have to say that you can see this in the New Testament, in Acts 24 and 25 Paul, it says, reasoned with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and judgement. He reasoned with Felix. In an increasingly secular and sceptical society that we're living in, it's going to be necessary to have apologetic elements to our preaching - but can I just say a word of warning? Our preaching ought not to be apologetically exclusive, only apologetic. There is a danger that we can try and pander to man's reason, and we need to realise that there is a power in the Gospel truth all of its own. This is a spiritual thing we're involved in, this is a supernatural thing. Paul said, did he not, 1 Corinthians 2 again and verse 14: 'The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'. He said also in that chapter 2, verses 4 and 5: 'My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God'.
Now, a man was never argued into the kingdom of God - never! It's important to use reason, as Paul did, but there's more to it than that. Our preaching should not be apologetic, exclusively so - there are those elements, but there is much more to it than that. Now my first three points were theoretical: we must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching; two, as far as possible use overtly evangelistic passages; three, preach according to the Holy Spirit's agenda. Now these next four points are going to be more practical regarding the preaching manner - and they're shorter, you'll be glad to know!
First: be passionate. Oh! Be passionate! I feel a bit redundant in saying this, because it's not like you can switch it on or off. You're either passionate about the Gospel, or you're not! This comes via burden. The great prophets of old, it was the burden that pushed the message out from them - and that burden comes with communion with God, it comes with sharing God's heart for the glory of His darling Son, Jesus Christ, and sharing God's heart and pain for the peril of lost humanity - and you only get that alone with God. But also there is a lack of passion because we have unbelieving believers. What I simply mean by that is: half of us, if we're honest now, we intellectually assent to particular doctrinal truths, but deep down in our hearts we are practical atheists when it comes to some of them. It doesn't affect us, we don't feel it. Maybe you've heard of that story of Charles Peace, I often use it. He was being executed for heinous crimes, and there was a clergy man walking in front of him with the prayer book reciting various incantations, or whatever they were, about where the wicked and unrepentant and unregenerate go, and the judgement and so on, and hell and eternal death. He tapped him on the shoulder as he was going to the gallows, and he says: 'Excuse me, Reverend Sir, can I ask you: do you believe what you're saying?'. This is a man on death row: 'Do you believe what you're saying?', and he says, 'Yes, of course I believe what I'm saying'. He says: 'If I believed what you believe, I would crawl on my hands and knees across the four corners of the world on broken glass to warn people'.
It comes down to it, doesn't it? Do we really believe? Do you feel your Christianity? Do you feel your Christianity? That's important - and we're afraid of feelings: 'Hell', what does that word do for you? 'Hell' - Dick Dowsett in his masterful book about hell says: 'Either you don't really believe in hell, or you're culpably callous'. That's something to think about, isn't it? The blood of Jesus - we sing about it, we hear about it, and we've sort of got familiar with it. There is no greater travesty than a man who preaches about the Passion without passion. Oh, how we need passion! Why should people get excited about our message, if you aren't excited yourself when you're preaching it? You can't expect the fire of heaven to fall on you if there's icicles dripping off your lips, showing a cold and frozen heart.
All we need to do is look to our Master, the Lord Jesus. I love that verse in John 7, where it says: 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out', it means 'cried out with a loud voice', 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink'. Now nobody likes to hear bawling and shouting from the pulpit for half an hour, it would put you mental! But we need to be able to get excited, and if we're not getting excited there's something wrong! Not only did our Lord at times raise His voice, there were times He wept. He stood over Jerusalem and they would not come to Him, and He wept over it. Now sometimes I hear people saying, and it astounds me: 'You shouldn't use or show emotion when you're preaching, you should just let the Holy Spirit do the work'. You'd think the Holy Spirit wasn't involved in creating emotions. Emotions didn't happen at the fall, you know, God created emotions. Now I know they're very fickle, and you have to watch them, and they have to be controlled by the will and other things - but God intends us to use all the man as we preach. Listen to what I'm saying: if there is a fire, I shout; if there is a death, I cry; if my son goes lost and is found again, I rejoice. If we believe that this Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, we ought to be animated about it - but the issue is: is it real to me? Is it real to me? That will determine whether we're passionate or not. How can we move people if we are not moved ourselves?
Be passionate, fifthly: be natural. Preaching is not a performance. Now I know it's different than dialogue and conversation, but you really should preach in a manner that is conversational in a sense. Now what I mean by that is: you should talk in a natural way. You know the way years ago they used to put on pulpit voices and things like that, maybe they still do - I have to be careful! You know you wonder, you talk to the man in the aisle, and you wonder is it the same man that was in the pulpit! Now we live in a TV entertainment generation, and this is becoming increasingly more important I believe: congregations are conditioned to be spectators and not engage with the man in the pulpit. Amusement means, I hope you know, 'switch off your brain', and we're used to sitting like zombies watching the television - but we're not engaging, the people in front of us, we're not interacting with them. People come into our churches, you know, and that's how they behave: they sit down there, and they think 'That's very interesting', 'Ah, that was interesting', but it doesn't affect them, it's nothing to do with them. But you see when you come down from that sort of pulpiteer mentality, and come down to them - I don't mean literally come down, you can do that if you like, but come down to where they're at, and talk to them as if you were talking to them one-to-one - they start to sit up and listen, and think 'This guy's actually speaking to me'. I think that's vital, but you can't do that if you're not natural.
Spurgeon, when he was talking to students on one occasion, he went over to the piano and he pressed one of the notes. He said: 'Do you know what note that is?' - Do you know what it was? 'B natural', he says, 'B natural'. We've got to make sure we're not contrived in our manner, and we're not using cliches - yes, use biblical language, use words like 'sin', and all the rest, but if there are words that the ordinary Joe Bloggs doesn't know, explain them. Use them, but explain them. Be natural - the autographs of the New Testament Scripture testify to this fact: that God used human personalities in the inspiration of Holy Scripture. You can see that in the different autographs of different books, their personalities come out. God still uses personality in preaching. It has to be sanctified, if you have humour use it and don't abuse it. Spurgeon talked about 'tickling the oyster', so that it would open the shell, and then he would slip the knife in. I knew Ivan Thompson, some people didn't like Ivan Thompson's humour, but Ivan was able to use his humour - one minute you were doubled in two laughing, and the next minute he was in with the truth. But please, for everybody's sake, if you don't have humour don't try and be funny! That is the worst thing in the world! Be natural, be natural.
Sixth: be simple. Some of you don't have far to go, I know, on that one - but be simple. Now I'm not talking about being simplistic, there's a difference. You must be full of truth, we're not to dumb down the truth. You can be informative and you can be interesting without going over people's heads. I would love, in the College, somebody to do a thesis on this one, this would be brilliant - and you can correct me if I'm wrong on this one - I don't know that anybody was ever converted in their sleep. Was there? Was anybody ever converted in their sleep? So don't be putting people to sleep, you've got to be interesting. Preaching is not a lecture - and sometimes some of the preaching that's going on today, it's just like a lecture. It's not an essay, it shouldn't be just some kind of written form that you just read out verbatim - just photocopy it and hand it out, don't waste your time preaching it. Neither is it a commentary, and this is where we need to be careful - especially those of us, and I'm one of them, who believe in expository preaching. We can become like a running commentary. I heard a preacher on one occasion doing a wonderful exposition of Luke's Gospel, and it was tremendous - but I was left afterwards feeling numb, because I felt 'So what?'... that's honestly the way I felt, there was no application, there was nothing for me, there was nothing for my heart, it was all cerebral. Then somebody afterwards told me that he was doing a commentary on the book of Luke, and all his messages were being transcribed into commentary form. Now listen, when we're preaching the Gospel we are not writing commentaries, we're looking for converts! We're not trying to scratch the ego of people in our congregations who know a thing or two, and as biblical literacy increasingly declines in our land, we're going to have to get simpler - it's as simple as that.
Whitefield said you should use market language. Now I'm not talking about being crude or rude, but we need to speak in a way that the people understand. That can be using illustrations as windows to shine on the truth. We ought to be always applying. There was a well-known evangelist called Peter Brandon, and he was amazing. He would have went into the Floral Hall years ago - some of you can remember that there in the town, the dance hall - and he used to ask for everybody to stop for 5 minutes. He used to ask whoever was organising it for 5 minutes, and he would preach for 5 minutes. He would go into the boxing rings in the King's Hall, and he would ask for 5 minutes, and he would preach to them for 5 minutes. He would go anywhere and everywhere. On one occasion he was in a little kitchen house in the East End of London, and there were all these wee women, East End women, and he was preaching on John 10 verse 9: 'I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved'. He talked about how you have a door to your heart, and you need to let the Lord in. Very simple, Sunday School type language, and a wee woman put her hand up and said: 'What are you talking about, you've a door to your heart, what are you talking about?'. He sent up one of those arrow prayers to the Lord, 'Help!', and he just felt: 'Right, your eyes are a door to see; your ears are a door to hear; your nose is a door to smell; and your heart, your soul, is the door that you come to God with'. She said: 'Why didn't you say that in the first place?'.
Now that's a good principle to remember when gospel preaching - and I say it to myself all the time: 'Why didn't you say that in the first place?'. Be simple, and perhaps this is why some of the great Gospel preachers were textual preachers. I know some of you might have a problem with that, but that is a fact, isn't it? Some of the greatest Gospel preachers were textual - and I have a hunch that the reason was that it's better to hit one nail ten times, than to hit ten nails once. Do you catch my drift? It's better to hit one nail ten times than ten nails once.
Now, quickly, the seventh and final - be passionate, be natural, be simple, and preach for a verdict. Preach for a verdict. Now I'm not going to enter into the debate about altar calls, the pros and cons of invitation systems and so on - but what is clear, I think, from the New Testament, is that Jesus invited men and women to leave their sins and to follow Him, and He often did it publicly. Zacchaeus is an example, to whom Christ said in effect: 'Come down, come home, come now, and come as you are'. The 3000 on the day of Pentecost Peter was preaching to, we read in Acts chapter 2: 'With many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation'. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized', that was confession, 'and that day about three thousand souls were added to them', that's quantifiable. There was confession and it was quantifiable, people came to Jesus. Often there is an outward response that confirms what has happened inwardly, and you Baptists should know that baptism is the biblical way to do that, and we have given up on it - even the Baptists! I hope the days come back when we're preaching over open tanks, why do we have to have six months class to see that people are really saved, and then understand what baptism is? Did Paul do that? Did Peter do it on the day of Pentecost? No! They trusted the Holy Spirit! They might have false professions, we all have false professions, even how careful we are we always get false professions - some of us can't even get false professions these days! But the fact of the matter is: there was an outward sign, and we as evangelistic preachers, we have to put people on the spot - in our preaching I mean, not buttonholing people personally, I'm talking about in our preaching. There is a drawing in of the Gospel net.
Now we have to be careful that we are not interfering with the divine process of conviction, but it is our duty to attempt to bring the person to that point of decision - it is! Jonathan Edwards advocated earnest pleading with sinners. Spurgeon used the inquiry room, and personally interviewed converts himself. He backed D.L. Moody when he came on his campaigns. Spurgeon's successor, Dr A.C. Dixon, asked seekers to come forward. Finney used mourner's benches and inquiry rooms. Lloyd-Jones, when ministering at Sandsfields, he would, after the meeting in the evening, ask people to sit in the front pews if they were concerned about their souls. Later at Westminster Chapel in London he would receive people one by one into his office just as a doctor would in a surgery. Now the pros and cons are for you to judge, but whatever you do in your evangelistic preaching, preach for a verdict! Yes, we're interested in new births, not miscarriages, not early births, or lifeless births, we're interested in the real thing. A principle I have is: I try to bring a person as close to the point of repentance and faith that I can, and when I feel that they're almost there I back off. Maybe that will not work for you, but whatever you do - Moody used to be criticised about his methods, and this is what he said: 'I prefer the way I do it to the way you don't do it'. It's good, isn't it? I prefer the way I do it to the way you don't do it.
Let me recap on those in case you missed them, and I'm finished: one, you must distinguish between evangelistic preaching and other types of preaching; two, as far as possible use overtly evangelistic passages; three, preach according to the Holy Spirit's agenda - if any of you missed that in its sequence, talk to me - four, be passionate; five, be natural; six, be simple; seven, preach for a verdict. You've listened well.
Don't miss part 2 of this message: “Preaching Evangelistically Part 2 - The Preacher”
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This sermon was delivered at a Seminar for Men in The Baptist Centre, Moira, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Preaching Evangelistically Part 1 - The Preaching" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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