I have been thinking much about what we call “evangelistic” preaching in our churches. I think most of us use this terminology to refer to a sermon that is specifically aimed at people who are not Christians with the vague hope they may be converted. It seems to me that for many people the aim of an evange­listic service has been blunted by sever­al factors, which sometimes discourag­es them. Here are some of the factors that may influence our thinking.

Firstly, the same people often re­spond in such a service, which usually doesn’t attract too many people in the first place. This makes us question its value. The people who respond may be weak or problem people – or occasion­ally someone we know is a bright and committed Christian.

Secondly, in the normal course of our Gospel work, we see conversions take place anyway so what is the point of an evangelistic service? Isn’t it better to keep us consistently doing what we are doing and reaping the results?

Thirdly, some people have been so discouraged with evangelistic endea­vours that they do not even attempt them anymore. They expect nothing to happen and so nothing does. Some­times a defeatist attitude is prevalent because nothing organised ever seems to go well.

There are also other problems asso­ciated with evangelistic events. It seems to me, as someone who travels around doing evangelistic preaching, that often church leaders do not really expect any­thing to happen and are therefore of­ten unprepared for any consequences to evangelistic sermons. For instance, I personally expect people to respond to the Gospel presentation, but often have to contend with the fact that the church to which I have been invited has no cards or papers available for names to be taken, nor are there pencils – or even any give-away booklets. I have al­ways maintained that names collected after an evangelistic event are a great pastoral treasure for the minister who has eyes to see.

God’s Greater Purposes

When an evangelistic sermon is faith­fully preached in the power of the Holy Spirit a number of things may happen and they are not always connected to conversion. Of course, one hopes that true conversions will indeed take place, and thank God they often do, which is the point of evangelistic events in the first place. But as the Good News is pro­claimed other things happen as well. Who are these people who sometimes hand in their names to indicate they have responded to the sermon?

1. Some may be true and faithful Christians who simply feel stirred by what they have heard. They may have given in their names not be­cause they are in any special need, but rather as a way of saying, “Yes, I agree with all that. I support it, I be­lieve it with all my heart – here is my name.” It may be nothing more than an affirmation of what has been heard.

2. Others may have been reminded of long forgotten sins and be sud­denly troubled and unsure of them­selves.

3. Some may feel they have not re­ally made the great commitment after all.

4. Others may be stirred out of a personal or cultural or habitual “Christianity”. They may have been in church for years without being saved, but now suddenly the penny has dropped.

5. Yet others may become over­whelmed by the huge personal problems they face. They may have been struggling for a long time, but now the proclamation of a Saviour brings to the surface all the ugliness of their lives.

The point is not to lose confidence in the simple proclamation of the basic fundamentals of the Good News on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit is pres­ent when the Word is preached. Who knows what His purposes and plans are for an evangelistic meeting and the people who attend? While we are look­ing for new converts He may be using the occasion to revive cold and dead hearts or long forgotten Gospel memo­ries or preparing some of God’s people to finally bring to resolution old and long-standing problems.

Continue to Preach the Gospel

All our churches should, without fail, continue in evangelistic activities, which should always be contextually relevant. They should expect things to happen. But if the expectations are only going to be one-dimensional, there may be disappointment and frus­tration. Rather see each response as a new pastoral opportunity either to af­firm or clarify the Gospel for some pur­pose. Never despise a single name that comes in. Contact them, pray for them and speak to them. Not only may some weak brother or sister be helped, but some hardened sinner hiding behind his religious mask may suddenly come into a brand new saving faith.

God will not give up His divine pa­tience until the last of His elect are saved and we should not give up our evangelistic enthusiasm so long as we remain either in ministry or as a wit­nessing member of a local church.