The Way of Life
One of the first commands that Jesus gave his disciples at the outset of his ministry was “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Therefore, every follower of Christ is a fisher of men. Similarly, after his resurrection, one of Jesus’ first commands was for his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). So, every disciple is a disciple-maker. This is the essence of David Platt’s ministry and writings in his books Radical and Follow Me. He emphasizes the truth that evangelism and local and global disciple-making are not special callings for a select few Christians, but rather it is a divine command for all Christians. Obviously, pastors are included in this. In fact, pastors are to be the head of the evangelistic beast that invades communities and nations with the liberating and glorious gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). While this is a daunting command, the people of God should find joy in the grace bestowed on us by God to be partakers in bringing salvation to sinners. There is no greater calling and no higher honor. Evangelism is the way of life for the Christian. Found sheep want to seek and to find lost sheep.
With that in mind, evangelism is a mighty means through which the pastor glorifies God in his ministry. There are two areas of a pastor’s ministry in which evangelism should be prominent.
1. Evangelism should be prominent in a pastor’s preaching.
2. Evangelism should be prominent in a pastor’s leading.
Evangelism in Preaching
“To teach and preach the gospel to those who are unbelievers with a view to their conversion is an awesome privilege” (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, On Being a Pastor, 136). The pastor has a unique opportunity every Sunday morning/evening. He has the opportunity to preach to men and women. Among these men and women will always be both regenerate and unregenerate persons. Of course the saints of this local body will gather to worship and hear the Word of God exposited. But what must also be on the pastor’s mind as he prepares his sermon is the reality that there will be some if not many unbelievers in the assembly. Now, these unbelievers may be nominal Christians who are exalting a “Jesus” that looks more like them than it does the Jesus of the Bible. They may be drug addicts who have come to the end of themselves and have come to church on Sunday morning as a last resort. Still yet, these unbelievers may be a friend, co-worker, or relative of a member who has been invited to attend. Nevertheless, there will be unregenerate men and women listening to the preaching of the pastor. Thinking about this should without a doubt impact the content of the sermon. With this reality in mind, how much of a pastor’s sermon content should be therapeutic, “feel good”, and Osteen-like? (The answer is none). Sermons should be preached with a gospel accent. Christ should be preached in some way from all of Scripture. And a call to believe on Jesus should be a part of each sermon. Men and women should be compelled to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus from the pulpit. Our sermons should include the same fervor for men and women to repent and believe that led to the conversion of Charles Spurgeon. The urging of the uneducated preacher for those gathered to “Look unto God” (Is. 45:22) for salvation spoke in a special way to Spurgeon. God speaks through his Word, reveals through his Word, and saves through his Word (Rom. 10:17).
Now, some suggest that between the two services on Sunday, one should be “directly evangelistic in nature” (Prime, On Being a Pastor, 136). However, the gospel should be on display in every service even if implicitly from the Old Testament. Derek Prime duly notes that people are converted under the hearing of sermons directed toward Christians (Ibid, 136). So, whether the sinner’s need for the gospel is preached or the implications of believing the gospel is preached, the pastor evangelizes from the pulpit and he should take joy in this and look forward to an altar call each and every Sunday morning knowing that despite his own fears, Jesus will be with him as he makes disciples (Matt. 28:20).
Evangelism in Leading
The pastor-shepherd is called to lead the flock entrusted to him. One major aspect of this is that the pastor-leader is to be an example to his flock. As he follows Christ, he is to urge his flock to follow him (1 Cor. 11:1). It is not heretical or cultic for a congregation to follow their pastor—it is biblical (as long as the pastor is following Christ). But run if he pulls out the Kool-Aid (too far?).
The pastor is to lead his flock by being an example in personal evangelism. A zeal for the salvation of those sheep that have yet to be gathered by the Good Shepherd should flow from the heart of the pastor to the heart of his flock (John 10:16). “To care for the flock is not enough; those other sheep whom the Chief Shepherd wants added to it are to be sought and found” (Prime and Begg, On Being a Pastor, 228-29). The church has been commissioned to multiply. The church is on a mission to glorify God by proclaiming his name among all peoples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20; cf. Rev. 7:9). The culture of a church resonates with her pastor. Therefore, it is necessary for a pastor to lead his flock in evangelism. Personally, he must be involved in making disciples and in evangelistic efforts. He must frequently urge his congregation to be gospel-minded and have the gospel on their lips every day. The pastor must also organize missions trips and partnerships. His vision and plan should have striking evangelistic elements. When the sheep see their shepherd following the Good Shepherd into the battlefields of the world to wield the Word of Christ to urge sinners to repentance and faith, they will follow. A culture of evangelism and missions in a church is contagious among true believers and it will be healthiest when the pastor is the initiator. “[Pastors] should lead from the front by striving to set an example in personal evangelism and by involving themselves in all church outreach endeavors” (Prime and Begg, On Being a Pastor, 229).
In closing, evangelism is an honor and joyous grace by which we participate with God in the salvation of sinners. Evangelism should be prominent and poignant in the pastor’s preaching and leadership. And when it is, God will be glorified, the church will be multiplied, and his people will be satisfied.