The Pastor and Evangelism: Part 2
With the resurgence of Protestant theology in recent years, there is a growing interest in Christ-centred expository preaching. This is partially due to the number of audio and video resources available on the internet. It is highly commendable that many pastors opt for a verse by verse, in-depth Bible exposition as the main source of teaching/preaching for the growth of the saints. However, there seems to be negligence or avoidance of preaching evangelistic sermons to the church on a regular basis. Some seem to relegate anything evangelistic to small groups or to a discipleship program in their churches. As a result, the art of persuasive gospel preaching is hard to find! The following are some practical suggestions to incorporate evangelism into pastoral ministry.
1. Regular Evangelistic Preaching
One of the ways to incorporate gospel preaching into pastoral ministry is to have a separate service on Sunday or any other day to address mainly non-believers. This would allow a pastor to prepare sermons intentionally, regularly and systematically to address the non-believer. And, it would be a good idea to encourage church members to ask their non-believing friends and colleagues to attend these evangelistic meetings rather than attend the regular in-depth Bible exposition services. The famous British preacher, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones always made sure that there would be an evangelistic sermon for the Sunday evening service. The sermons he preached on Sunday evenings are published by the Banner of Truth which is a great value for your money.
In many circumstances, it is difficult for the church to gather together twice on Sunday. In such cases, allocating one Sunday in a month for an evangelistic service would be a good idea. Again, this would allow a pastor to think seriously about addressing the non-believer. Church members need to be taught not only to share the gospel with others, but also to invite them to church.
2. Gospel-Saturated Visits and Conversations
One of the things that entail pastoral ministry is visiting people in the congregation. Oftentimes, there is someone in a family that comes to church who is not a believer. This gives a great opportunity for the pastor to ask probing questions about the meaning and purpose of human life and to explore the answers that can only be found in the life, death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
People are more attentive to listen to the gospel on their deathbed. When I heard about a friend of mine who was terribly ill, I made sure I visited him repeatedly. With every opportunity to see him, I presented the gospel. Many times, I saw him sob as I spoke about the love of the Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. When the news hit me that he was no more, it caused me deep pain. But, my joy of sharing the good news with him before he died outweighed the sadness that was caused because of his death.
A pastor has to think about making use of various opportunities his ministry offers. He has to plan and pray intentionally for gospel opportunities in his visits. He must be willing to present the gospel when he knows there will be a group of unbelieving people, whether it is at a wedding, a funeral or a birthday party.
3. Being an Evangelist in the Family
A married pastor has a great opportunity to share the gospel with his wife and children on a regular basis. Writing about the necessity of sharing the gospel within the family, Steven Lawson recalls an incident of how an elder’s wife in his church got saved. Many pastors I’ve heard of are thankful to their parents who shared the gospel on a regular basis when they were children.
Single pastors, also, must seriously think about sharing the gospel to the lost within their families by reaching out to them as often as they can. Singleness is not an excuse to live isolated lives, but to submit entirely to the Word.
4. Being an Evangelist While Travelling
One of the things pastors need to cultivate is to grab hold of every opportunity God gives to evangelize in their day to day lives. Travelling is one such activity that allows people to meet others who are completely outside of their radar. Apostle Paul is our role model in this endeavour. He endeavoured to preach the gospel in all circumstances of his life to people from all walks of life (1 Cor. 9:16,19; Acts 26:1-29).
A pastor should make use of every opportunity to share the gospel with his co-passengers while travelling. Oftentimes, we wonder how to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. I know of a very godly preacher who talks about a strategy of being a patient and gracious listener with co-passengers, so that there is room to present the gospel in the end. There are different ways of how the gospel can be shared while travelling. In everything that we do, we need to be intentional.
A Word about Open-Air Evangelism
Every pastor may not have the gift to be an open-air gospel preacher, but every pastor has to think about how he can reach out to his community with the gospel. It must be understood that open-air gospel preaching is not the only method of evangelism.
The Gospel is the Only Remedy to Pastoral Burnout
Being an elder is a very stressful and demanding calling. Pastors suffer for a myriad of reasons that are not visible to an average congregant. It is, therefore, understandable that a pastor may feel utterly tired—emotionally, psychologically and physically—after doing some long, relentless ministry. Therefore, some pastors opt for a sabbatical or an extended period of holiday. But with limited budgets and poor understanding of ecclesiology, many churches in our country have no idea of how a pastor can be rested and rejuvenated meaningfully.
With all the possibilities of rest at hand, there is nothing like rest in the everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father. When pastors feel discouraged that they are underperforming in the ministry, they can remind themselves that Jesus performed everything that God requires of them. When pastors succumb to the pressure that they need to outperform every other pastor, they can remind themselves that there is nothing to prove because Jesus has proved everything. When pastors feel that they have become the objects of suffering and ridicule, they can get comfort from the fact Jesus became an object of suffering and ridicule. When pastors feel tempted to sin, they can remind themselves that Jesus was tempted too, but he never sinned.
If there is one important thing that pastors need to do daily in their busy schedule, it is to remind themselves of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is by looking at the author and the finisher of our faith that we get the endless energy to do almost impossible tasks. The gospel is the best antidote to apathy, hard-heartedness and vainglory in the ministry. Isaac Watts, the hymn writer expresses the gospel better than none other. He seeks to melt our hearts to be passionate evangelists while being pastors/preachers/elders in our local churches.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
To read Part 1 of this series of articles (The Pastor And Evangelism – Part 1), click here.
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