The Pastor and Evangelism


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).

Conclusion

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.

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3 thoughts on “The Pastor and Evangelism

  1. Mathew:

    Great points. Among the list of pastoral responsibilities, this I think is the most important – to both preach the gospel, and lift up the value of evangelism.

    As a pastor, likely the biggest challenge to this is taking the time to be in regular contact with people who don’t know Christ. In other words, one can preach the gospel, one can tell others to do evangelism, but the challenge is to model it personally so that the value is infused into the church.

    I share some of these thoughts here:

    http://www.evangelismcoach.org/2010/how-pastors-lead-congregational-evangelism-1/

    Thanks for sharing!

    Chris

  2. Matthew,

    Strong words. Thanks for the post. Allow me to offer a few thoughts.

    First, although I am in full agreement with the idea that we are all to be “fishers of men,” I wonder if you could show how what Jesus states to the apostles is carried over to the believer today. I believe it does. However, what hermeneutical grounds do we have for this jump and application? Also, what other NT texts would support this idea of being “fishers of men”?

    Second, the idea that there will be those who do not know Jesus in our pews on Sunday seems a safe bet. I think, however, softening the language creates for better writing. You state that this is “always” the case. There may or may not be unbelievers in attendance. At the end of the day, we don’t assume that all are believers, so we call people to follow Jesus throughout our expositions. At least, I think we should :).

    Third, how can you call a “nominal Christian” an unbeliever? I assume you are using the term Christian loosely, to refer to cultural Christians, as opposed to…true Christians? I think we are clearer when we do not attach the term Christian to those who are unregenerate. I may be missing something here and welcome push-back.

    Fourth, should the pastor be the one who is organizing mission trips and partnerships? I wonder if we assume the pastor should be doing these things instead of seeing these as something others in the church could do. I think of Pastor John here in Minneapolis. He shares his faith, not as much as others do b/c of his personality, but he tells people about Jesus. But he isn’t organizing mission trips, or creating new partnerships. Other staff members are doing this. I think the pastor(s) have a role to play but am hesitant to lay that burden on them exclusively. I’d imagine we would agree.

    I enjoyed your writings today. Keep it up and thanks for letting me engage.

    1. Thank you for your feedback Jonathon. I truly appreciate your insights and concerns. I agree with you that I need to expound more on Jesus’ statement that he makes his followers fishers of men and provide more NT support for this idea. I was trying to not to take up too much space and keep the focus on the role the pastor plays in evangelism. So that blunt statement was one that I was trying to use to set the stage that Jesus commands all of his disciples to make disciples to knock out any notion that evangelism was solely in the hands of the pastor. However, you are right in that I should have given a little further discussion and explanation of how it carries over rather than just making an explicit statement without heavy support. I will keep that in mind in the future.

      Yeah, yeah I see what you mean about my “always” statement. There may well be services in which all assembled are believers. I had on my mind the easy-believism, cultural Christianity that seems to mark much of America which I feel leads to more congregations with professing believers who are actually unregenerate. But I see your point. “Always” was not the right word since that is a claim I simply cannot make. And I agree wholeheartedly that our expositions should include a call of people to follow Jesus. Plus, I agree that “softening the language creates better writing”. I am naturally very passionate and it will from time to time show in my writing–sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. I have been praying that God would use that passion for his glory and the building up of others rather than the tearing down of others. Thanks for the catch.

      To my use of the phrase “nominal Christians”. I do have in mind here unregenerate persons who believe they are Christians. I am referring to people who have for example created their own distorted version of “Jesus” that coincides with their agenda. These people may be die-hard legalists who attend church and participate in church events in order to please God, but have never trusted Christ. I probably should have used nominal “Christians” or cultural “Christians”. You are totally right in that the word Christian should not be used to refer to unregenerate persons. Is there a better, more appropriate term I could apply when speaking of such persons? My whole point in even mentioning them was to show that it will not be merely the dirty meth addict sitting in the pew who is without Christ, but there is a great possibility (especially in the States) that squeaky clean and morally sound, moms, dads, and college students (to name a few) are without Christ. My case (which could be rendered clearer) was that a pastor should desire, seek, and preach for the repentance of sinners each and every Sunday and that there is more than likely going to be unbelievers in attendance each week. Or at least as you have noted, we shouldn’t “assume that all are believers”.

      And to your fourth point, I admit that I should have done a little further editing (aka: I was lazy toward the end of the piece). After rereading my section where I stated that the pastor should be organizing missions trips and engaging in partnership with missionaries, I notice that I give the impression that this lies solely in the pastor’s hands. I do not believe this. Thank you for this catch. I meant to assert that the pastor should be an example in evangelism in the sense that he doesn’t leave it totally in the hands of his congregates without ever engaging in any personal evangelism. There may be church members who (maybe because of their personality) are more gifted at evangelizing that maybe even the pastor. The statement concerning missions trips and partnerships was unnecessary for my point and probably caused more confusion than anything. I will be more careful in the future to be clearer in expressing my thoughts.

      Again, thank you for your encouragement, thoughts, and help. I am a young, growing, and passionate writer/thinker who has a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the journey. I enjoy exchanges like this and hope to have more of them with you. Praying for you and would love to meet and talk sometime when you come down to visit.

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