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Jan 31

Evangelism and the Sunday Morning Pulpit

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

Last week, Ryan was asked by John Starke at the The Gospel Coalition to answer an important question about the convergence of evangelism and the Sunday morning sermon. In this post, John asked Ryan, Is it appropriate for pastors to give evangelistic sermons or is Sunday morning strictly for the edification of believers?

In his third point, Ryan explained the nature in which a sermon can can apply the gospel to both believers and unbelievers:

I believe there is a way to preach the gospel to both believers and unbelievers since the gospel is what both believers and unbelievers need the most. In Romans 1:15, Paul relays that he is “eager to preach the gospel” to them—to Christians. This suggests that the gospel is not only to be preached to unbelievers as “the power of God unto salvation” (v. 16), but also to believers as the centerpiece of the Christian life. Similarly, Paul’s confrontation of Peter’s ethnic hypocrisy centered on the concern that this “conduct was not in step with the gospel” (Gal. 2:14)—i.e., it was inconsistent with the unifying purposes of the gospel. This concept, often called “the gospel for Christians,” is increasingly being enjoyed in articles, books, blog posts, and sermons, so I won’t belabor the point. But let me elaborate on the benefits this model of preaching has for believers and unbelievers.

As an able preacher exposes believers’ sins as a misstep with the gospel, and as he once again unfolds the hope, forgiveness, and freeing power of the gospel, non-Christians are listening in on it all. And they’re not only hearing the basics of the gospel, but are also getting a sense of what it’s like to be a Christian. They’re hearing the ongoing cycle of guilt, grace, and gratitude, which is essential to conversion and sanctification. They’re hearing the kinds of things that are expected of those who follow Christ, how they wrestle with temptation, and that the unshakable grace of God is greater than sin. Such preaching has an inherent protection from a Pollyanna gospel, which promises only peace, acceptance, and joy, since the struggle for sanctification is openly addressed. Such gospel-centric preaching also provides unbelieving listeners with an apologetic for the failings and hypocrisies of Christians they’ve known. Of course, at some point in the sermon, the preacher can more directly address the sin-sickness, pain, and rebellion of blatant unbelief (non-Christians). Then it will be useful to be more thorough and explicit about the facts of the gospel, how salvation was accomplished, and what precisely to do to receive his mercy. In all of this, the preacher has not only shown non-Christians what the gospel is and what the Christian life is like, but has also shown Christians how to talk to non-Christians about the gospel. He has also given his members a reason to invite their non-Christian friends to come next Sunday.

Visit The Gospel Coalition’s Blog for Ryan’s full answer. John’s question to Ryan was part of a larger series of posts on the subject of evangelism at the TGC blog. Read John Starke’s recent post clarifying the lessons he has learned about evangelism in the course of this series.