Preachers and Preaching

  1. It is wrong to put direct pressure on the will. The will should always be approached primarily through the mind, the intellect, and then through the affections. The action of the will should be determined by those influences.
  2. In the end it may produce a condition in which what has determined the response of the man who ‘comes forward’ is not so much the Truth itself as, perhaps, the personality of the evangelist, or some vague general fear, or some other kind of influence.
  3. The preaching of the Word and the call for decision should not be separated in our thinking
  4. This method surely carries in it the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion.
  5. There is an implication here that the evangelist somehow is in a position to manipulate the Holy Spirit and His work. Some organizers today even predict the results.
  6. This method tends to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all. People often respond because they have the impression that by doing so they will receive certain benefits.
  7. You are encouraging people to think that their act of going forward somehow saves them.
  8. It raises the whole question of the doctrine of regeneration. This is the most serious thing of all. This work is the work of the Holy Spirit, and His work alone, no one else can do it. And as it is His work it is always a thorough work; and it is always a work that will show itself.
  9. No sinner ever really decides for Christ.

 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones  – Preachers and Preaching, Zondervan, 1971, p. 269-279 (summary of his main points).

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Evangelizing “Christians”

Via Rick Thomas: Counseling Solution

Wives come to counseling hoping to get their husbands fixed.

Husbands come to counseling hoping to get their wives fixed.

Parents come to counseling hoping to get their children fixed.

Friends come to counseling hoping to get their friends fixed.

The counselor sits and listens to their stories, illustrations, and anecdotal evidence that could persuade any jury that the other person is guilty.

If allowed to continue, I think the typical counselee could talk for hours about what the other person did to them, or how they were hurt by the other person.

I do wonder to myself sometimes if people think that counseling is a place where they can vent, just to get things off their chest.

There is a fine line between conveying information and venting.

The former is speech that is redemptive, while the latter is speech that flows from a heart of bitterness.

It is not unusual for a counselee to be more interested in getting the situational difficulty resolved than repairing their relationship with Christ.

Rather than seeking to understand the objectives and purposes that God wants to accomplish through their troubles, they only want the other person fixed. Unfortunately, getting the other person fixed is not a promise from God.

Getting fixed is a choice that each person can make. It is a personal choice, not a mandated choice and no spouse or counselor can guarantee that the other person will make that choice. Therefore, the goals within the counseling process must be higher than getting another person to change.

Do you want God?

It is rare for a counselee to come to me with a greater interest in what God is trying to do, teach, or illuminate, than what is going on in their horizontal life. Last year a lady was honest enough to say, “I really don’t care what God is up to, I just want my husband to be nice to me.”

This kind of attitude and hope is when counseling devolves into negotiations rather than helping a person to learn more about God, while growing into a deeper relationship with Him.[1] As odd as it may sound, it could be that God’s main point is for her to draw closer to God.

What I’m really talking about is the need to evangelize Christians before they can be biblically counseled. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a Christian is re-introduce them to God.

You do this so they will have the right trajectory set in their hearts, before they attempt to resolve the horizontal problems in their lives–assuming it is God’s will for their problems to be resolved the way they hope. If they don’t do this, then counseling will turn into negotiations:

  • The counselor says to the wife: I will give you a spiritual husband, if you will stop nagging him.
  • The counselor says to the husband: Your wife will give you sex if you will provide better care for her.
  • The counselor says to the parents: Your son will repent, if you guys start modeling Christ in your home.

Some people reading this might not see a problem with this approach–though it is not biblical. If you compared what some counselees want versus what the Savior taught, then it becomes clearer:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26 (ESV)

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. – Matthew 10:21-22 (ESV)

When the brother turns against the brother or that which is more common: when the husband and wife turn against each other, we act as though some strange thing has happened to us.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. – 1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)

Your first question

All situational difficulties, regardless of what they are, have a triunal-dynamic-tension: God, man, and the situation. You cannot have a problem and God not be part of that problem. At some level, in some way, He is working in your trouble. This was the testimony of Joseph and Job in the Old Testament and of Paul in the New Testament. (See Genesis 50:20; Job 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

The first question any Christian should be asking when trouble comes should be along these lines: “My life is going sideways. My husband is doing such and such and I want to know what God is up to. Can you help me learn more about God so I can be sustained during this trial?”

Friends, that is a rare counseling question from a counselee. Typically the first question is about what is going on horizontally in the life of the counselee. And the real big question, whether asked or not, is how can the nonsense in my life cease.

If we believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-everywhere, also called omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, which all Christians should believe, then we know that God is in our troubles. We also know that He has a plan for the troubles He is writing into our story.

Now let’s just get wild in our thinking here: it could be that God has brought this pain into your life for a greater purpose. Let me press the point a bit more: and it will never go away. You don’t believe me? Go ask Joni. This is crazy thinking, I know…but it is also biblical.

When I’m partly to blame

Some troubles happen to us, (i.e. Joseph, Job, and Paul), and we are not necessarily the cause of the troubles, in part or in whole. However, most of our troubles–particularly relational ones, are caused at least in part by us.

In such cases of our personal culpability, many counselees do not seem to realize that part of the reason they have this kind of trouble in their lives is because there is something broken regarding their relationship with Christ. They won’t see that this is more about them and God, than them and the other person.

Recently I met with a lady who told me, “I am very angry at God.” I had to draw this out of her. This is not what she led with. Don’t you think she should have led with that? There is no more important statement she could have made to me.

Sadly, her thoughts were elsewhere–what she was going to lose in her marriage and family. Her thoughts were as logical as me cutting my foot off and then complaining about not being able to run.

There is a disconnect, something missing, or something not understood regarding her relationship with Christ. Whatever that is, it must be fixed before she begins to address or repair her marriage and family–assuming God has plans to fix her marriage and family.

To be angry, frustrated, or discontented with God, while trying to fix the horizontal relationships in your life is a fool’s mission. It does not work that way in God’s world. Our job is to authentically seek God first, while lining up our other desires behind Him (Matthew 6:33).

We’re pragmatists at heart

The sad news is that many of the Christians I have counseled are not genuinely interested in my God-centered approach to counseling. “Just fix my problem” is the implication of their requests to me.

The tension is that we disagree on counseling methodology. I’m trying to deal with their hearts first, as it pertains to their impoverished relationship with the Father and they want me to primarily deal with the practical and external dysfunction in their lives.

While I don’t want to ignore the practical dysfunction in their lives, and I don’t ignore it, I do make a strong appeal for them to think about, focus, and practically work on restoring the brokenness they are experiencing with God. In short, I am “evangelizing” them all over again–or re-introducing them to Jesus Christ.

What they don’t see (or won’t see) is that if they do not fix their relationship with the Father, there is no way they can truly change or experience real peace, joy, and relational unity in the world in which they live.

You cannot have authentic harmony in the relationships in your world when there is disharmony between you and your heavenly Father. It just does not work that way.

Let me illustrate

Anger, for example, is not so much of a problem between two humans as it is a problem between the angry person and God. The angry man is making a strong case, as revealed by his anger, that God is not coming through for him.

He feels as though he has no choice but to blow-up in order to get what he wants. This is a man-centered approach to accomplishing goals. His anger-sin keeps him from a rich and vibrant relationship with God.

If he repaired his relationship with God, he would be able to patiently endure a lot more than what he is currently going through. He also would have a Spirit-empowered perspective on his situation.

This perspective would help him to govern his heart through the situation. Thus, he would be enabled to model what Paul learned in Philippians:

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)

Criticism and gossip are two other behavioral sin issues that create strains in relationships. The real issue with the critic or the gossip is a diminutive relationship with the Father. The critic or the gossip feels compelled to put others down, which is a form of self-righteousness–”I am better than you are.”

A person who truly understands the Gospel would not be compelled to gossip or criticize another person–especially their spouse. The Gospel-centered person is not characterized by self-righteousness.

And when it does manifest in his heart–what does the Gospel-man do? He quickly repents and moves on. He lives in the daily awareness of what Christ did on the cross and his gratitude that the Savior would save him radically alters how he views, talks about, and responds to others.

Only a proper relationship with Christ can give him this kind of perspective. However, if the only or the primary thing that matters to him is fixing a broken relationship, then there is a good chance he is going to miss God–who is in his brokenness, seeking to show Himself strong.

Evangelizing Christians

There are an amazing number of folks who call themselves Christians, who come to counseling only to get some form of behavioral modification. God has been marginalized in their thinking and their lives and when I draw attention to this, they become frustrated.

They say they are Christians. They ask for Christian counseling. I counsel them as though they are Christians by addressing the most important issue in their lives–their relationship with God. But, seemingly, this is not valued by them.

Some Christians have been so psychologized and secularized that talking to them about the Gospel and how they are not walking “in line” with the Gospel is viewed as strange (Galatians 2:14). In such cases, it is easy for counseling to turn into negotiations:

  • On my end of the table I have Christ alone, with no guarantee that your relationships will ever change.
  • On their end of the table is one card: I want my relationships to change.

Time for honest confession

I am one of those Christians who needs to be evangelized. I understand their struggle because it is my struggle as well. There have been times in my life when I wanted my situation to change and that was the only thing that mattered. A life sentence of brokenness did not appeal to me.

And there have been many times when God did not change my circumstances, no matter how hard I wished, hoped, or prayed. And I’m sure there will be more times in my future where I will cry out to God for a change and, just like my past, it could be His good will for my life to not change my circumstances (Genesis 3:18).

The Lord is slowly teaching me that the first place I must look in times of trouble is not for a method of escape, but to the God of hope. My starting point for all of my troubles has to be the evangelization of my heart.

I need to remind myself all over again about the Gospel. I need to remind myself that if God can solve the worst problem in my life–my lack of relationship with Him, through the power of the cross, He is able to solve any other problem that should arise in my life.

Even if I cannot see Him working in it. Even if He chooses not to change the situation according to my hopes, if my heart is right with Him, then I will be okay.

My first and foremost responsibility in all of my situational difficulties is to evangelize my heart. The best place to evangelize my heart is on my knees, in my closet, begging God to change me, with no expectation that He changes anything else.

So, here are some questions for you:

  1. Do you spend more time thinking about your problems or God?
  2. Do you spend more time trying to change your problems or trying to change your heart?
  3. Do you spend more time trying to change other people or trying to change you?
  4. Will you unconditionally surrender to God? You’ll know this has happened when contentment, peace, rest, and faith begin to annihilate all forms of anger, criticalness, anxiousness, and worry. This kind of life is born in a closet of prayer.

Merry Christmas

Look to Christ

From the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Savior sweat pardons, the cry comes, “Look to me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” From Calvary’s summit, where Jesus cries, “It is finished,” I hear a shout, “Look and be saved.” But there comes a vile cry from our soul, “No, look to yourself! Look to yourself!” Ah, look to yourself, and you will be damned. That certainly will come of it. As long as you look to yourself there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what God is, and what Christ is, that can save you. It is looking from yourself to Jesus. Oh! there are men that quite misunderstand the gospel; they think that righteousness qualifies them to come to Christ; whereas sin is the only qualification for man to come to Jesus. Good old Crisp says, “Righteousness keeps me from Christ – those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but only those who are sick. Sin makes me come to Jesus, when sin is felt; and in coming to Christ, the more sin I have the more cause I have to hope for mercy. – CH Spurgeon

You Must Never Walk Away From Him

O unite me thyself with inseparable bonds,
that nothing may ever draw me back from thee,
my Lord, my Saviour. – Valley of Vision

Ligon Duncan Explains the Charge of Calvinists as Poor Evangelists

Via Provocations and Paintings

It has been said time and time again that Calvinists are poor evangelists. I just listened to a sermon this morning where a preacher said, “Well, if you believe that half the people are damned to hell, then why in the world would you go and evangelize?” The Caner brothers charged Calvinists believing in election as an excuse to be lazy, to not knock on doors, that it saps the evangelism of every church it infects, and so on. Ironically so, Mark Dever points out the following stats:

14.8% decline in the United Church of Christ
11.6% decline in the PCUSA
6.7% decline in the United Methodist Church
5.7% decline in the American Baptist Churches
5.3% decline in the Episcopal Church
5% growth in the Southern Baptist Convention
18.5% growth in the Assemblies of God
21.8% growth in the Christian and Missionary Alliance
40.2% growth in the Church of God
42.4% growth in the PCA
57.2% growth in the Evangelical Free Churches

* Statistics from the last 10 years in denominational life found in Dave Shiflett’s book Exodus.

The SBC saw 5% growth where the PCA saw 42% growth. Looks like those of us in the SBC can learn something from that disease-infested, lazy Westminster boys who sit around and see how “hyped” they can get. Even with all our megachurches, “million more” campaigns, decisional regeneration emphasis, and dishonest statistics one would think that the SBC could at least make it to 10%. But I guess that the Founder’s fault right? That’s what they want us to believe. It’s those Calvinist’s fault that over 10,000 churches didn’t baptize one person (all of which we must presume have been eaten away by the doctrines of grace).

Here’s where Ligon Duncan responds. While Duncan gives a seven-point response in his post, I want to quote him on number three:

“Calvinists are often considered poor evangelists because of historical ignorance. The standard fare of anti-Calvinism (Calvinism kills evangelism and missions) so often served up in the SBC and in wider evangelicalism is, of course, wrong. Dead wrong and demonstrably wrong. The greatest evangelists and missionaries of Protestant era have been Calvinistic or Reformed. That is, they have embraced and preached the doctrines of grace. Whether it is Bunyan or Spurgeon, Carey or Nettelton or Whitfield or Duff or Stott, that you are talking about – the Baptist tradition, the Congregational tradition, the Anglican tradition, the Presbyterian tradition and so on – find the hall of fame evangelists and missionaries and you’ll find folks who live, breathe, teach and preach the doctrines of grace.”

This reminds me of Steve Hays’ recent post “Ahistorical Theology.” In response to why he believes the PCA has seen such growth, Duncan replies,

“the growth of the PCA (and other strong reformed churches like CHBC and CLC and GCC and BBC) is not because we are better evangelists but because we have a better evangel (that is, a more biblical one) and a gracious, sovereign God who is at work changing hearts by his Spirit.”

Not better evangelists but a better evangel . . . if only we could only embrace that reality.

What is The Power Behind a Pulpit?

The pulpit drives the health of the congregation.  When the pulpit is weak, the spiritual health of the congregation is weak. What makes a strong pulpit? What makes a strong pulpit is expositional preaching. Without true expositional preaching, the congregation will contract all kinds of disease.  Diseases that will eventually lead to death.  The life source of a congregation is in the power of God’s word. Congregation needs a consistence diet of true expositional preaching. Expositional preaching motivates the congregation to see the holiness of God and see the sinfulness of man. True expositional preaching exalts Christ and not man.

Eric Davis posted a great article on Church-Planting and Pulpit-Priority.  Eric emphazised the importants of expostional preaching and how it relates to church planting. Here are some points taken from the article:

  • Nothing is more sacred than sound exposition of the God-breathed word before the redeemed, where every morsel of the mind of God is unpacked to the church. They gather together because the pulpit ministry is not lesser community, or in opposition to it, rather, it is the pinnacle of biblical community.
  • Accurate exposition pumps life into the church so that the word richly dwells within them, launching the saints to use their gifts and do the work of the ministry with all wisdom. Strip the church of expository preaching, and you cripple God’s people from using their Spirit-gifts. The Spirit-inspired word is what gives power to right use of spiritual gifts.
  • A rich pulpit ministry is not hindering from mission, it equips for it. Exposition is not in conflict with evangelism, it is evangelism. When the Bible speaks, God speaks.
  • exposition evokes evangelism, and not the opposite. God’s people need to feast. The lost need to know God from all angles, in all his glory, through exposition, and see his regenerate people committed to transforming community. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). Give yourself to exposition and watch Spirit-filled community and evangelism take off.
  • When the exposition of the word is de-emphasized, the flock will not only have little content, but little direction for evangelism. Little pulpit, little evangelism.
  • Exposition assumes the message is extracted from careful exegesis, interpreting the passage in its grammatical-historical context, then applied. The pastor actually gets out of the way by submitting to every jot and tittle through exposition. Reading the passage then discussing around the topic in the passage is not necessarily expositing the passage
  • Exposition ensures that God, not men, are speaking. With every verse unleashed, the Spirit casts more light on Christ himself. After all, that is what the flock needs; for comfort in struggle; motivation to press on; meaningful community, and God-glorifying evangelism.
  • “If you want to be relevant, become an expositor.”

Read the entire post here

Reformed Perspective on Evangelism

This article is the compilation of Rev. Hanko’s writings in Volume 5, Issues Number 18-22, of Covenant Reformed News. Several of the readers had asked for a Reformed perspective on evangelism, and since this was such an important matter, Rev Hanko spent several issues on it.

Part I

First of all, then, let us be sure that the Reformed faith is not uncomfortable with evangelism. The two are not incompatible. Indeed, the Reformed faith and churches have the only real ground for evangelism. It is the Reformed doctrines of sovereign unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace that give a reason to do evangelism and hope for fruit in that great work.

Think of it this way: how can there be any real hope of lost sinners being saved through evangelism if salvation depends on their free will? Sinful men and women have difficulty choosing which shoes to wear when dressing in the morning. How then shall they choose to be saved, especially if they truly are lost? How shall sinners whose minds are darkened by sin (II Cor. 4:4), and at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7), come to the knowledge of the truth, unless it be by sovereign, effectual grace enlightening their minds and freely granting them all of their salvation?

It is here first of all, therefore, that Reformed evangelism is unique. It sets out the true Biblical basis for evangelism. It does not believe that God loves and wills the salvation of all, that He sent Christ to die for all without exception, and that it now depends on man’s free choice whether he will or will not be saved.

Rather, the Reformed faith teaches that God chooses who shall be saved (Jn. 1:12-13, 15:16, Rom. 9:16, Phil. 2:13, Jas. 1:18) according to His eternal love for them in Christ; that He provided salvation for them in the death of Christ on the cross (Gal. 6:14, Col. 1:21-22) and that He powerfully and infallibly gives them that salvation by the irresistible work and grace of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:37, 44, Eph. 2:8-10). Thus, in Reformed evangelism there is the sure hope that these at least will be saved. There is no such hope in the teaching that salvation depends on man’s willing or running.

But how does the preaching of the gospel fit into this? Does this not, as some charge, make the preaching of the gospel unnecessary? Evangelism, after all, has to do with the preaching of the gospel. That is what the word “evangelism” means.

In answering these questions the Reformed faith teaches two things about the preaching of the gospel. First, it insists, as Scripture does also, that the gospel is the means God uses to find His elect (Acts 14:47-48) and to bring them to saving faith in Christ and so to salvation. In the second place, the Reformed faith teaches that the gospel as means is powerful. That power by which men repent and believe does not lie in the sinner or in his will, but in the gospel. By it sinners are powerfully called (Rom. 10:17), given repentance and faith (Acts 11:18), have their minds and wills changed, and are thus sovereignly, irresistibly, and sweetly drawn to Christ (Rom. 1:16, I Cor. 1:18, 24).

It is the doctrine of free will, therefore, that destroys evangelism. The teaching that God loves all men simply reassures sinners that all is well with them. The idea that Christ died for them only confirms them in the mistaken notion that their situation is not desperate. To say that they have the critical choice in their own salvation – that God depends upon and is waiting for them – just establishes them in their rebellion against God and teaches them that they are as gods! It does nothing for the salvation of lost sinners!

Part II

We emphasize this time the important truth that evangelism is nothing more or less than preaching the gospel! If we are preaching the gospel we are faithfully doing evangelism.

As obvious as this seems, many have forgotten it. Thus they talk endlessly about evangelistic methods and spend a great deal of time drawing up complicated and expensive evangelism schemes for their church. It never seems to enter their mind that evangelism means preaching.

Believing that evangelism is preaching the gospel we reject the dreadful, though long-established, practice of setting aside every Lord’s Day evening for an evangelistic message – teaching in the morning, evangelism in the evening. There is nothing Biblical about this practice.

Apart from the fact that such evangelistic services tend to degenerate into services where the same message is heard week after week, but “hung” on different text each time to the utter boredom and frustration of those who desire to learn the truth, this practice has forgotten the simple truth that all gospel preaching is evangelism. No matter what passage of Scripture a person is preaching upon, if he is preaching properly he is preaching the gospel. There is no such thing as a special “evangelistic” message.

Perhaps, however, Christians and Christian ministers have forgotten or do not understand that all Scripture reveals Christ and is therefore the gospel in the fullest sense of the Word (Jn. 5:38-39). If the Scriptures are properly preached, Christ is preached. If Christ is being preached, the gospel is being preached. And if the gospel is being preached, then sinners will be saved by it. It is God’s appointed means for their salvation.

We are afraid that the practice of having evening “gospel” services betrays a lack of trust in the gospel as the means God has chosen to use for the salvation of His own. Thus, such services tend to become attempts to arouse emotions, to frighten people, or to produce some kind of “decision.” Certainly there is very little of the Word of God expounded in such services and even less dependence upon the Holy Spirit for fruit.

But there are other reasons why devoting a service each Sabbath to preaching to unbelievers is wrong. It betrays a wrong view of the church, as if the church is ordinarily a place for unbelievers, and it overlooks the teaching of in I Cor. 14:23. There the Word suggests that it is not a normal but an exceptional thing that an unbeliever comes into the worship services. The church is for believers and their children.

There is another problem here as well. That is the idea that the work of evangelism ceases as soon as someone “gets saved.” If evangelism is preaching the gospel, and if preaching the gospel is preaching and teaching “the whole counsel of God,” then the work of evangelism has only begun when a person repents and believes. At that point he still needs by gospel preaching – evangelism – to have the way of God expounded more perfectly (Acts 18:26) and to be rooted and grounded in the truth (Col. 2:6-7). This aspect of evangelism is almost entirely neglected today.

This does not mean, however, that there is not a difference between preaching the gospel in the church and to those who are outside the church, or that Reformed people believe only in preaching the gospel within the church. The gospel must be preached everywhere that God in His good pleasure sends it!

Part III

We have established the fact that evangelism is nothing more nor less than the preaching of the gospel. That is what the word “evangelism” means. From this it follows that all preaching of the gospel is evangelism, including preaching to those who are already saved, the members of the church. This aspect of evangelism is almost entirely neglected today so that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6).

We have also established the fact that gospel preaching is preaching “the whole counsel of God,” that is, all of Scripture. There is, therefore, no such thing as, nor any need for a special “gospel” message or “evangelistic” service, especially when that is nothing more than haranguing sinners or pressing them for some decision.

We would add that the call to repentance and faith is not just for unbelievers either. Those who are already saved need to hear that call in order that they too may turn from their sins (and they do commit sin as long as they are in this body of flesh) and that their faith may be stirred up and strengthened. This is also part of true evangelism.

With this in mind there is no need for the preacher to divide the congregation up into groups in his own mind or in his preaching, directing some of his preaching to one group and some to another. ALL the hearers need to hear whatever God the Lord says in a particular passage of His Word. There is not one message for the church, another for the world, one for the “unconverted,” another for those who are “saved and safe” (as a certain preacher once put it).

Even the promises of the gospel, though they concern and are only for those who repent and believe, must be heard by all, if for no other reason than that their condemnation may be the greater when they do not believe. True gospel preaching is the exposition of the Word of God, including its solemn call to repentance and faith, to ALL who hear.

In that connection we wish to emphasize here that the Reformed faith believes in the preaching of the gospel to those who are outside the church as well as to those who are saved and are members of the church, to the heathen as well as to Christians. Here also the Reformed faith is not
the enemy of evangelism.

Even here, however evangelism may not be limited to those who have never heard the gospel. Those also who have heard and departed, those who make a profession of Christianity but do not know the truth of God’s Word and those who are members of churches where the gospel is not preached or not preached purely are also the objects of evangelism. When Jesus spoke of fields white for harvest He was thinking especially of the multitudes who were fainting and scattered abroad as sheep that have no shepherd (Matt. 9:36-38).

What the Reformed faith does oppose is the preaching of lies – that God loves everyone and wants to save everyone, leaving the impression with the unbelieving that all is well. It is the enemy of the idea that the promises of gospel are for all (note: they must be preached to all but are not FOR all). The things promised are only for such as repent and believe under the preaching of the gospel, not for everyone conditionally. To preach otherwise is to give false hope to those who do not believe and to suggest that God is helpless in the face of continued unbelief. This Reformed evangelism may not and will not do!

Part IV

We have been emphasizing the truth that evangelism is nothing more nor less than the preaching of the gospel. If this true then ALL gospel preaching is, strictly speaking, evangelism, whether it be to the heathen, to the scattered sheep of apostatizing churches, or to the congregation of God’s people.

Evangelism can be described, however, as preaching the gospel to those who are outside the true church with a view to their salvation. There is a difference between preaching the gospel in the church and to those outside, to Christians and to the heathen, whether to the heathen living in foreign countries who have not heard the gospel, or the to the heathen who are so numerous in our own Western countries where the gospel has been preached for many years. These differences while important are not essential.

The differences, we believe, are three.

First, in preaching to those who have not heard the gospel before, the message must be simplified and preached in such a way that those who hear understand clearly what the evangelist is saying. This is especially difficult when preaching to heathen who have never heard of sin, grace, redemption, and of so many other gospel truths.

Let us remember here that Jesus, when He preached to the people, preached to them in parables, so that even those who continued unbelieving would hear and see what Jesus was saying. Thus, in His parables he used illustrations taken from their everyday life to make the truths of the gospel as plain to them as possible.

Second, this kind of gospel preaching will address the audience as unsaved in showing them the need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. The preacher will beseech and persuade those who hear, pressing upon them the demands of the gospel and the urgency of their own need (II Cor. 5:18-21, cf. also Matt. 3:7-12).

There is, however, no essential difference in the message that is preached to professed unbelievers and to the church. The difference is in the audience and their need, and in the aim of the preaching (saving the unsaved). This will to some extent affect the presentation and emphasis of the message, but it is the gospel which must be preached.

Indeed, we must see that even in preaching to the heathen and unbelieving, the whole counsel of God must be preached, including predestination, limited atonement, the Trinity, creation, providence, and all the other truths of Scripture. Jesus and the apostles preached these truths even to those who were not saved (Jn. 10:11, Acts 2:23, 13:17, 14:15-17). We must continue to preach them today.

These truths are very often neglected in mission preaching and even rejected as unsuitable for preaching to the unsaved. This is not only contrary to the example of Jesus and the apostles, but cuts out the heart of the gospel message, i.e., that GOD was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (II Cor. 5:19).

Third, mission preaching involves going out to preach to the unsaved (Matt. 28:19). We have already pointed out that the church is seen in Scripture as the gathering of believers and their children and that the presence of unbelievers is thought of as an unusual and exceptional thing (I Cor. 14:23). It will not do, therefore, for the church to attempt to carry out its calling to engage in missions by holding an “evangelistic service” every Lord’s Day evening.

Part V

We have emphasized that evangelism is preaching the gospel and that whether in the church or in missions it is the whole gospel – the whole counsel of God – that must be preached (Acts 20:26-27). It is wrong to neglect certain revealed truths or to suggest that they are a hindrance to evangelism.

Reformed evangelism, however, not only preaches the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace, but it is controlled by them as well. We have already seen how the doctrines of grace control the evangelistic message in that they require a message that does not declare a Christ for all, a will of God to save all, or a universal love of God.

The sovereignty of God also controls the goals and methods of evangelism. For one thing, God’s sovereign command limits the means of evangelism to the preaching. As important as such things may be, medical work, education, building and agriculture are not evangelism and are not the calling of the church as she engages in evangelism. In Scripture there are no such things as medical and agricultural missionaries. These things may and even ought to be done alongside the work of evangelism, but they are not the church’s work, nor does one need to be ordained and sent by the church to do them.

So too, we would emphasize the Biblical truth that evangelism is the work of the church, not of mission boards and societies. The command to preach the gospel is a command that Christ gave to His church and to no one else (Matt. 28:19-20).

And, since Scripture teaches that evangelism, the preaching of the gospel, is the work of ordained men, there is no place for women missionaries. We find it very curious that churches who would never allow women to preach and hold office at home, see nothing wrong with sending them out as missionaries to preach the gospel to the heathen.

Nevertheless, the Sovereignty of God does not only control evangelism in requiring preaching as the God-ordained means of evangelism. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty controls even the aims of evangelism.

For example, a church that believes in election ought not think that the goal and purpose of evangelism are to “give everyone a chance.” In that case her goals in evangelism contradict the truths of predestination and limited atonement she confesses.

Nor is the goal of evangelism to save everyone. In preaching the gospel both in the church and on the mission field the evangelist (preacher) must understand that preaching has a twofold purpose. That purpose is the salvation of God’s elect and the hardening and condemnation of the rest (Rom. 9:18, 11:7, II Cor. 2:14-17).

Those who are not willing to preach the gospel on those terms ought not be engaged in the work. Indeed, Paul suggests (II Cor. 2:14-17) that ignorance of this twofold purpose of the preaching is the reason many corrupt the word of God as they do today by hiding, neglecting, or rejecting certain truths of Scripture in their evangelism.

The goal of evangelism is not even preaching to everyone. Both in the OT and in the NT the gospel is sent by God when and where He wills (Acts 16:6-8). There are those who lay a huge burden of guilt upon the church by suggesting that the church is not fulfilling her calling as long as the gospel is not preached to every living person, when the Lord has given neither the opportunity nor means to do it. This is wrong. Our sovereign God determines also when and where the gospel will be preached.

Part VI

In this last installment on Reformed evangelism there are several more things we wish to emphasize. First, and In connection with our last part, we wish to point out that evangelism is the calling of the church and must be pursued vigorously, both within and outside the church. The fact that God does not desire the salvation of all men without exception and that the gospel throughout history is only preached when and where God wills, should not limit the church or cause her to neglect her work.

In the work of evangelism the church of Jesus Christ, in obedience to His command, for the glory of God, and for the salvation of God’s elect, must seek and pray for the opportunity to preach the gospel (Col. 4:3-4, II Thess. 3:1), for men to preach it (Matt. 9:37-38), and for fruit on the work of preaching (Rom. 10:1). And, when God graciously gives the means, men, and opportunity, then she must use that opportunity to the utmost.

Indeed, the opportunity to preach the gospel (referred to in Scripture as an “open door” – Rev. 3:8) is seen as one of the blessings God in Christ gives to the church when she is faithful. What a disgrace if the church despises that blessing of God!

Second, we wish to clarify what we said in the previous article about evangelism as the work of the church. If it is the calling of the church to do evangelism and to engage in missions, then it is also her calling to support those who are sent to do that work. Missionaries and evangelists are preachers of the gospel and it is to the preachers of the gospel, wherever they labor, that Scripture refers in such passages as I Cor. 9:7-14. We abhor the practice, common in so many places, of sending the mission preachers out to raise their own support. So too if mission work is the work of the church, it the calling of the church to provide this support, not mission societies and mission boards.

Third, we need to emphasize the fact that because evangelism is the work of the church all believers have an important part in that work, though they themselves do not preach. They have the important calling to pray for the work, to support it in that way and with their gifts, and to be themselves witnesses of the truth in all their life. Without faithfulness on the part of God’s people, no evangelism work can prosper.

May this important and necessary work be done faithfully, therefore, and may God add His indispensable blessing to it.

Rev. Ronald Hanko was ordained and installed in 1979 as minister at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. In 1986 he accepted a call to serve as pastor at Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Houston, Texas. In 1993 he was called by the Hudsonville MI Protestant Reformed Church to serve as missionary in Northern Ireland. In 2002 he accepted the call to serve the Lynden Protestant Reformed Church, Lynden, WA

Freeness of Grace

“I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, ‘You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for Myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What Does Evangelicalism Look Like in America Today?

Don Carson, Mark Dever, Phil Ryken and C.J. Mahaney share their view on the topic of evangelicalism and what it looks like today in America. Do we look like a New Testament church? Why? If your answer is no, what must we change? How can we change?

Pray For Malaysia

Pray for Malaysia and for me this week. I have a hectic schedule as soon as I arrived here. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday night and I will be leaving for Ipoh  this morning. Will spend a day or two in Ipoh and then I will be going up north to Taiping for a day. Travelling back to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday and stay till Tuesday. God has laid a heavy burden in my heart for those I will be visiting.

My Reading List on the plane: Evangelism and the Sovereignty God – J I Packer; Foundation of Grace – Steve Lawson; The Gospel and Personal Evangelism – Mark Dever; What is Providence? – Derek Thomas

 

Malaysia (Asia)

 

Geography Area: 330,434 sq km
Two distinct parts: Peninsular (West) Malaysia on the Kra peninsula of mainland Asia (PM), and East Malaysia (EM) consisting of the territories of Sarawak and Sabah on the northern third of the island of Borneo. Well-watered, tropical rainforest.

Population:27,913,990 Annual Growth: 1.72% Capital: Kuala Lumpur  Urbanites: 72.2%
Religion

Largest Religion: Muslim

 

Religion                 Pop % Ann Gr
Christians 2,632,289 9.43 1.9
Evangelicals 1,207,985 4.3 2.9
Muslim 17,476,949 62.61  
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