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Pastoral Evangelism: What It Isn’t

Geoff Chang January 10, 2023

Spurgeon often attributed the tremendous growth of his church not to his personal evangelistic efforts, but to his congregation’s.[1] At the same time, he understood that pastors, including himself, also have a duty to share the gospel. Certainly, as those called to preach and lead, pastors will have particular opportunities for evangelism in their work. But whether in the pulpit or out of it, pastors are to always be on-duty for Christ. Spurgeon once charged his students that even in times of relaxation, a minister should “conduct himself as the ambassador of God, and seize opportunities of doing good; this will not mar his rest, but sanctify it.” Pastors should always be looking for evangelistic opportunities. “To be a holy talker for Jesus might be almost as fruitful an office as to be a faithful preacher.”

Spurgeon once prepared a series of lectures to his students on pastoral evangelism, and they were recorded and published after his death in The Soul Winner, Or How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour. In his opening lecture, Spurgeon gives a definition of evangelism (or “soul-winning”). But as important as knowing what evangelism is, a pastor must also know what it isn’t.

Here are three cautions from Spurgeon on what evangelism isn’t:

Evangelism is not to steal members out of other churches.

We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth.

There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandisement of our own party; and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us! The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. We would do a great deal to make a Paedobaptist brother into a Baptist, for we value our Lord’s ordinances; we would labour earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free-will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth, and not upon the sand of imagination; but, at the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures. We would bring men to Christ, and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterward to secure them for our various folds.

Evangelism is not to inflate your membership rolls

We do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year.

Do not, therefore, consider that soul-winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms, and the swelling of the size of your church. What mean these despatches from the battlefield? “Last night fourteen souls were under conviction, fifteen were justified, and eight received full sanctification.” I am weary of this public bragging, this counting of unhatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils. Lay aside such numberings of the people, such idle pretence of certifying in half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime. Hope for the best, but in your highest excitements be reasonable.

Evangelism is not simply to generate enthusiasm

Nor is it soul-winning, dear friends, merely to create excitement.

When the Spirit of God is abroad, and men’s minds are stirred, there must and will be certain visible signs of movement, although these must never be confounded with the movement itself. If people imagine that to make a dust is the object aimed at by the rolling of a carriage, they can take a broom, and very soon raise as much dust as fifty coaches; but they will be committing a nuisance rather than conferring a benefit. Excitement is as incidental as the dust, but it is not for one moment to be aimed at…

Do not aim at sensation and “effect.” Flowing tears and streaming eyes, sobs and outcries, crowded after-meetings and all kinds of confusion may occur, and may be borne with as concomitants of genuine feeling; but pray do not plan their production.

It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over.


In these cautions, Spurgeon was commenting on various pastoral malpractices in his day. And such temptations continue in our day. In their zeal for seeing the lost saved and their churches built up, pastors too often resort to false substitutes for true evangelism. But if we are to see true, lasting fruit in our ministries, if we are to truly win souls for Christ, we must reject such gimmicks and remain faithful to our calling as ambassadors of the gospel.

(Next – Pastoral Evangelism: What It Is)

Join us for a conference on Evangelism hosted by 9Marks and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To learn more and register, go to:

[1] “Somebody asked me how I got my congregation. I never got it at all. I did not think it my business to do so, but only to preach the gospel. Why, my congregation got my congregation.” Speeches at Home & Abroad