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We Desperately Need Evangelistic Preaching

volume 19, number 36, August 27, 2020

“We proclaim Him.” -Colossians 1:28

Only 23 percent of Americans attend church or synagogue every week while 40 percent of Americans claim they are very religious.[1] Another study paints an even bleaker picture, saying that only 17.7 percent of the American population attends a Christian church on any given Sunday. This means that only 52 million Americans normally attend church on Sunday.[2] The number of people actually attending church today, of course, due to COVID-19, is far less than that. And there is an alarming increase in licentiousness (people live as they want without consideration of the demands of God’s law) in evangelical churches where people are obviously ignoring the fact that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb.12:14). These realities strongly suggest that our churches very well may be filled with false professors of Christ. Can we not, therefore. agree that we desperately need evangelistic preaching? I know what the missional pundits are saying, that this sort of thing does not work in today’s culture. People could have told Paul the same thing when he embarked on his missionary journeys into utterly pagan cultures. Nothing has changed. People are no different today than they were fifty, one hundred, or one thousand years ago. If we still need evangelistic preaching more than ever, this then begs the question—what is evangelistic preaching? What were Paul and the other apostles proclaiming? We can summarize our answer to this question by saying that evangelistic preaching is to proclaim the whole counsel of God, focusing on the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and was raised from the dead. It is to preach with complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and conversion. It is to make clear the bigness of the true and living God, touching on His mighty attributes. It is to apply the Law of God to the conscience of the hearers, trusting the Holy Spirit to convince and convict them of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in ungodly ways, and of all the harsh things these ungodly sinners have spoken against God (Jude 15). It is to put forth in a glorious and winsome fashion the unfathomable riches of Christ, the great lover of sinners who gave Himself willingly for all His people. It is to lift up Jesus with great joy—His incarnation, suffering, death, humiliation, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation to the Father’s right hand in glory. It is to preach for a verdict. People must be cut to the heart by the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, where they cry out, “What must I do?” It is to persuade people on the spot to call on the name of the Lord to be saved.

This is evangelistic preaching. This is the great need of the day. This alone is God’s prescribed way to usher sinners into His presence, to turn them from darkness to light, to transfer them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. For God declares that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But then He asks, “But how can they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Indeed, how beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news.” Paul quotes Isaiah who asks, “Who has believed our message?” To which Paul responds, “So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:11-17). Here’s the bottom line, my friends—God uses evangelistic preaching to usher people into His kingdom. It is His ordained means. So, if you are a preacher, one called by God to proclaim the excellencies of Christ who called you from darkness into light; then rejoice with fear and trembling. Glory in your privilege of proclaiming the excellencies of Christ to a lost and dying world which is moving rapidly to perdition. But even if you have not been called to gospel ministry, you too are under obligation to make known the beauty of Christ in your daily living.  

But why evangelistic preaching? Aren’t there more effective means of communication? After all, we now have the internet and all the amazing technology that goes with it. We have music and drama skits, videos; and many churches and preachers make use of these things with apparent success. Also we are told that people today want more “say” in their lives. They do not like to be “screamed at” or lectured to. So some suggest that perhaps a more casual approach making use of dialogue may be a better way to go. And many today, both within and outside the church, are pretty nervous about open air preaching. Some believers wonder if it is effective. Some say it actually is harmful, counterproductive. I remember preaching a while back at Yale University and a freshman female student who said that she was a Christian, in tears said to me, “We have been trying to reach the people of this campus in a more gentle way and you men have come here and destroyed all that we have been trying to do.” And to be sure, there is often tremendous opposition when street preachers are preaching Jesus on the college campus and at large sporting venues. To go further, many evangelical pastors seem to think evangelistic preaching is generally unnecessary in their congregations. After all, they reason, their people are already Christians. “My job,” they say, “is to build up the saints. Besides, I believe we ought to earn the right to be heard by building relationships and being a presence in the community. Then we can share Jesus with people we have come to know.” So this means, in this line of thinking, that evangelistic preaching just does not work today. “Maybe it worked up to fifty or sixty years ago, but now things have changed. We need new wine in new wine skins.”

So, what is the Biblical warrant for evangelistic preaching? For one thing, consider the prophetic nature of evangelistic preaching. We know that Moses was a prophet and God told him that a greater prophet would come (Deuteronomy 18:15). Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord, and the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:20-21). Both Moses and Samuel spoke forth the word of the Lord. They were commissioned by Yahweh to herald His truth. When Jeremiah was terribly discouraged at the hardheartedness of the people of Judah, especially at the persecution he faced from Pashur the priest, Jeremiah wanted to quit. He wished he had never been born. The opposition was too great for him. His preaching had resulted in reproach and derision all day long. However, when Jeremiah wanted to quit and go home, he came to his senses and said, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,‘ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it,” (Jeremiah 20:9). He knew he must warn people to flee from the wrath of God which was coming, and to turn to Yahweh, the lover of their souls, for their only source of refuge. 

As Israel faced the impending invasion of the Assyrians, Isaiah received a prophetic word from Yahweh. “Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God, speak kindly to Jerusalem. Call out to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins,” (Isaiah 40:1ff). Later he says, “Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God,” (Isaiah 52:9-10). Isaiah goes on from there in putting forth the prophetic word by saying, “Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, like a root out of parched ground . . . He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities, and the chastening for our well being fell upon Him . . . all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him,” (Isaiah 53:1-6). The Old Testament prophets were called by God to proclaim His judgment and the way by which that judgment could be removed. They were to make clear the mind of God on all matters of life and death. Jesus fulfilled the Spirit anointed office of prophet by His incarnation and, due to our union with Him, we are now prophets of God as well. This is true of every believer, not just evangelistic preachers. Everyone who has been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is to proclaim Jesus. All who have been extracted from the domain of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God are to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9). 

We at Vanguard Presbytery are deeply committed to evangelistic preaching from the pulpits of our churches and church plants, to the streets of our cities, and to the campuses of our universities. What about you? Do you really believe we need more evangelistic preaching? If so, will you pray, asking God to raise up more men who will engage in it? One of my great passions is to see more and more evangelistic preaching in the churches and in the streets. If the lost will not come to the church, then the church must go to the lost; and if the lost are in the church (and they certainly are), then preachers must regularly preach full blooded evangelistic sermons, calling their lost visitors and members to repent and believe the gospel. True gospel transformation is the need of the hour. 

1.  <> Erin Duffin, January 17, 2020
2. <> Outreach Magazine 7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America.

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