As the one who is called to occupy the pulpit week after week, pastors have a particular opportunity to evangelize the lost and model to the congregation what it looks like to preach the gospel faithfully. While the task of evangelism cannot be limited to the pastor alone, a church’s evangelism does often begin with the pastor. So often, it is the pastor’s preaching of the gospel that will equip his people and set them on fire for evangelism.
We must regard the people as the wood and the sacrifice, well wetted a second and a third time by the cares of the week, upon which, like the prophet, we must pray down the fire from heaven.
Therefore, in speaking to his pastoral students, Spurgeon understood it was imperative that they had a proper understanding of what it meant to preach the gospel. In his book, The Soul Winner, Or How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour, Spurgeon gives three foundational principles for a right understanding of pastoral evangelism.
Evangelism is instructing a man that he may know the truth of God.
First and foremost, evangelism is about teaching others the content and truth of the message of the gospel. Before God works in someone’s heart, he will first work upon his mind through the faithful instruction of the truth of the gospel.
It is ours, then, to give men something worth their hearing; in fact, to instruct them. We are sent to evangelize, or to preach the gospel to every creature; and that is not done unless we teach them the great truths of revelation. The gospel is good news. To listen to some preachers, you would imagine that the gospel was a pinch of sacred snuff to make them wake up, or a bottle of ardent spirits to excite their brains. It is nothing of the kind; it is news, there is information in it, there is instruction in it concerning matters which men need to know, and statements in it calculated to bless those who hear it. It is not a magical incantation, or a charm, whose force consists in a collection of sounds; it is a revelation of facts and truths which require knowledge and belief. The gospel is a reasonable system, and it appeals to men’s understanding; it is a matter for thought and consideration, and it appeals to the conscience and the reflecting powers.
The job of the preacher is not merely to shout at people, “Believe!” Nor is it our goal merely to work our hearers up to an emotional state so that they assent to whatever we tell them. Rather, we must teach and explain what they are to believe.
The field of instruction is wide if men are to be made to know the truth which saves. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good,” and it is ours as the Lord’s instruments to make men so to know the truth that they may believe it, and feel its power. We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to seek to turn them from darkness to light.
Evangelism involves impressing the truth upon him so that he may feel it
Evangelism is not merely information transfer, leaving a person’s life and emotions untouched. Such a ministry would be useless. Rather, evangelism seeks to engage a person’s heart through the evangelist’s own heartfelt engagement.
A sinner has a heart as well as a head; a sinner has emotions as well as thoughts; and we must appeal to both. A sinner will never be converted until his emotions are stirred. Unless he feels sorrow for sin. and unless he has some measure of joy in the reception of the Word, you cannot have much hope of him. The truth must soak into the soul, and dye it with its own colour. The Word must be like a strong wind sweeping through the whole heart, and swaying the whole man, even as a field of ripening corn waves in the summer breeze. Religion without emotion is religion without life.
While Spurgeon warns against emotional excesses and psychological manipulation, he also recognizes the danger of a heartless, purely intellectual approach to the gospel. If someone rightly understands the gospel, this knowledge will inevitably move their hearts and their affections. Evangelists must appeal, then, both to the mind and to the heart.
You and I must continue to drive at men’s hearts till they are broken; and then we must keep on preaching Christ crucified till their hearts are bound up and when this is accomplished, we must continue to proclaim the gospel till their whole nature is brought into subjection to the gospel of Christ.
The goal of evangelism is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to work regeneration
We must keep in mind the distinction between our role to teach the gospel and impress it upon our hearers and the supernatural work of the Spirit to bring one to salvation. The former is our responsibility. The latter is God’s. Apart from the Spirit, we can do nothing to bring another to saving faith.
I have already insisted upon instruction and impression as most needful to soul-winning; but these are not all—they are, indeed, only means to the desired end. A far greater work must be done before a man is saved. A wonder of divine grace must be wrought upon the soul, far transcending anything which can be accomplished by the power of man.
As evangelists, we must have a proper view of our absolute dependence on God and yet our real responsibility to share the gospel. Far from making our role meaningless, it is our confidence in God’s sovereignty over salvation that gives us hope in every evangelistic conversation. Far from making evangelism pointless, we rejoice in the honor of being God’s ambassadors of the gospel.
This might seem at first sight to put human instrumentality altogether out of the field; but on turning to the Scriptures we find nothing to justify such an inference, and much of quite an opposite tendency. There we certainly find the Lord to be all in all, but we find no hint that the use of means must therefore be dispensed with. The Lord’s supreme majesty and power are seen all the more gloriously because He works by means. He is so great that He is not afraid to put honour upon the instruments He employs, by speaking of them in high terms, and imputing to them great influence.
In their preaching, pastors must model this kind of evangelism to their people. They must ensure that their people know the content of the gospel and are able to share it with others. They must model the kind of earnestness that moves the hearts of their people in their love for God and love for the lost. And they must teach their people to pray with an absolute dependence on the Spirit for His supernatural work of regeneration. In so doing, the pastor multiplies his own evangelistic efforts a hundredfold as his people are equipped to share the gospel with others.
Join us for a conference on Evangelism hosted by 9Marks and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To learn more and register, go to: https://www.mbts.edu/about/conference/9marks/