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TGC is doing a very helpful series on evangelism, asking pastors for counsel on some good questions. Thus far:

In the latest entry, Pastor Ryan Kelly gives a thoughtful and nuanced answer to the question of the role of evangelistic preaching on Sunday mornings.

Below is but one of his points, which is worth highlighting. He explains that in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, Paul acknowledges the presence of unbelievers in the gathering of corporate worship and provides counsel for how to instruct:

He tells the Corinthians that unbelievers will not understand "tongues," but they might understand "prophecy." The hope is that an unbeliever might come to conviction, repentance, faith, and worship. But this will only happen through intelligible proclamation and worship. For most of our churches, the proper application of this passage has less to do with avoiding tongues in corporate worship and more to do with avoiding a kind of Christian-ese verbiage, which could be almost as confusing to unbelievers as tongues. Practically and specifically, this might shape a pastor's preparation and communication in the following ways:

  • By dropping many of evangelicalism's common idioms, such as "invite Jesus into your heart," "make a decision for Jesus," or "it's a real God-thing."
  • By defining biblical-theological words or concepts that, though they may be common in Scripture, are foreign to the secular culture--e.g., propitiation, atonement, substitution, etc.
  • By knowing how certain biblical words or concepts are also used in the world, but in a very different way. For instance, the world loves stories of "redemption" where a misunderstood, seriously wronged down-and-outer pulls himself up by his bootstraps and comes out on top. But in the biblical concept of redemption, we are wrong, not just wronged; we are helpless, not just misunderstood; we need utter and complete rescue, not just a leg-up.
  • By describing and illustrating biblical concepts in plain, even culturally aware, vernacular.
  • By anticipating the common objections and doubts that unbelievers might bring to that Sunday's passage, and answering those objections in patient, human, and clear ways.
  • By tying the themes of the passage into the big picture of the Bible's storyline. Of course, this is simply what we call biblical theology, but many of us preachers need to use this discipline less as a means of wowing the saints with new-found inter-canonical connections and more as a simple demonstration to unbelievers that the Bible is a whole and has a grand story.
  • By explaining the parts of the service: what is happening in the service and why the church does this or that particular thing

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8 thoughts on “Evangelistic Preaching on Sunday Morning?”

  1. Beth says:

    Justin, I’m getting a 404 error message when I click on the links

  2. gerwin says:

    Hey Justin, the links don’t work…

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Sorry. Should be fixed now.

  3. Ted Bigelow says:

    [quote]For most of our churches, the proper application of this passage has less to do with avoiding tongues in corporate worship and more to do with avoiding a kind of Christian-ese verbiage, which could be almost as confusing to unbelievers as tongues.[/quote]

    Really?

    So when God spoke tongues through a believer in a worship setting, it was for other believers, and not for unbelievers.

    And that means today we craft our preaching for unbelievers?

    1. Robert says:

      Craft for? No. Sensitive to? Yes.(There is also an assumption that all Christians really understand the thinking behind ‘christianese’ which is not well founded, imo.) In any case, I am not ‘getting’ your hostility. Did you read the passage to which he was referring? It seems you’re issue is with Paul. I guess you’ll have to settle that one on your own.

      This isn’t a discussion about should we be ‘seeker sensitive,’ so I think whatever alarm bells are going off in your mind are misplaced.

      1. Robert says:

        Pardon the typos. “You’re” should say “your,” etc. Curses!

  4. Good post and suggestions. We just lost a great one at doing this. Last week Dr. David Nicholas went to be with the his Lord. He was 79 and had recently started training pastors in what he called a “Gospel Boot Camp” to train them in how to do what Jesus did on the Emmaus Road, what Philip did with the Ethiopian Eunuch and what Spurgeon attempted to do in all of his messages, “Make a bee line to the cross.”

    Evangelical pastors need to wake up to the fact that their preaching week-in and week-out is their best opportunity to equip their people in how to share the gospel themselves. Our congregations learn to proclaim the gospel with clarity by hearing us proclaim it week after week, defining terms, making it clear, showing its necessity, etc. They need this from us.

    For too long we have designed everything to make it easy for them to invite others and failed to model for them how to do it themselves. The unintended consequence is that they, the average congregation, no longer knows how to share the gospel in a clear, complete, logical and sequential manner.

    Dr. Nicholas and his his church Spanish River Presbyterian (Boca Raton, FL) helped to plant over 250 churches and he was a master at proclaiming the Bad News/Good News. We need to pick up the banner.

    1. Linda says:

      Well said, Marty!

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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