Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Preacher/ Bible Teacher: Before You Preach/Teach that Text, Evangelize with It!

Steps in Sermon Prep

Dear Preacher/Bible Teacher,

What are your steps in sermon/teaching preparation? Hopefully, you pray fervently about the text on which you are going to preach, you look carefully at the text (first in the original languages, if possible) and compare translations, you see how the text is mentioned/developed in the rest of Scripture, and you see how the text directly relates to Christ and His gospel. Then, you look to sound commentaries to see how other faithful preachers/teachers have understood the text throughout history. Finally, you consider how the text applies to your particular audience: what are the most likely concerns/misunderstandings/areas of disobedience that confront your congregation or class?

May I suggest an additional step in preparation?

Before you preach/teach the text, evangelize with it!

Takin' It to the Streets

You want your congregation/class to 'put feet to their faith:' don't just tell them, show them!

As a regular part of your sermon/teaching preparation, I would encourage you to make use of the text you're studying in evangelism [that is, OUTSIDE the walls of the church-building]. This may be done in several different ways, such as:

1. Street preaching (if you live in Louisville, you may be encouraged in street preaching through looking up the "Unplugged Gospel" group on Facebook).

2. Speaking with friends about the text (especially if you are bi-vocational, you can discuss the text with friends/co-workers who are not Christian: you may get some blank stares at first, but hopefully it will promote some good questions/conversation).

3. Personal evangelism (whether door-to-door, visiting people who have visited your church, or conversations with strangers on the sidewalk, don't just use a scripted conversation from someone else, 'write' your own 'script,' starting with the passage you have been studying).

Additional Considerations

Now, obviously, if you are a full-time pastor and preach 3+ distinct sermons a week, there may be some texts that you honestly don't have time to employ in evangelism outside the church before you preach them, but let this be the exception, rather than the rule.

Also, if you are preaching through books of the Bible verse-by-verse (or section-by-section/chapter-by-chapter depending on the type of literature): an excellent idea, there will be some verses/sections/chapters that do not lend themselves so easily to evangelism, but these parts of Scripture are, of course, organically connected to texts that are excellent for evangelism. Commit to evangelize with the text, and then skip a little ahead if you must!

Benefits

In addition to the most obvious benefits--glorifying Christ in gospel proclamation, the possible eternal salvation of the person you are evangelizing, and your own reward in Heaven for being faithful in evangelism-- [worthy enough motives indeed!], there are numerous other benefits to using your text in evangelism before preaching/teaching the text, such as:

1. Urgency in your message. You may know that most of your congregants/class members are fellow believers, and it may be easy to become complacent about the fact that the words in Scripture are the necessary words of life. Speaking with those outside the church about the text may give you a sense of urgency about the vital matters either in your text or related to it.

2. Clarity in your message. Communicating with those who may not be used to a church environment will help you to communicate in such a way so as not to assume a great deal of background knowledge on the part of your hearers: knowledge that is increasingly uncommon in our biblically illiterate culture anyway.

3. Christ-focus in your message. On the road to Emmaus, Christ taught His unwitting disciples about Himself from "Moses and all the Prophets" (Luke 24:27). It is the job of the preacher/Bible teacher to not only teach concepts, but to point people to the living Lord Jesus from whatever text is studied. Using your text in evangelism outside the church will force you to examine how your text leads people to Christ and His gospel.

4. Anticipating objections to your message. "The Bible says it, that settles it:" for the preacher/Bible teacher who trusts in Christ, who Himself taught the infallibility of every letter of Scripture (Matt 5:18), this statement is-- in a real sense-- our creed. But for those who are outside of Christ, there are many parts of Scripture that are offensive or objectionable (i.e., virtually everything except Matt 7:1 and 1 John 4:8b). Your congregation/class will be influenced by worldly attitudes toward Bible teaching and/or regularly encounter those who are hostile towards right doctrine. If you are regularly using the texts you teach in evangelism outside the church, you can gain first-hand knowledge of how non-Christians react to those texts, and you can better consider how to equip your congregation/class to deal with objections.

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