Guest Column – Conrad Mbewe
Encouragements for evangelistic preachers
We come to the end of our series on evangelistic preaching. It is such an important topic, because we are dealing with the reason why Jesus left heaven to come and die on the cross. It was for the purpose of glorifying God through saving sinners.
In the previous two articles I expressed concern about the dearth of evangelistic preaching today and addressed how to find fresh evangelistic material from the Bible, in a regular, church-based, evangelistic preaching ministry.
Often, sadly, those of us who are preachers know all about this, but fail to do it. One reason could be that earlier in our ministries we tried to maintain a consistent evangelistic ministry, but came away barren. This must surely be painful.
Warrant for success
So I want to provide biblical encouragements for those who want to go beyond giving a mere nod to all that I have written thus far. I want to look at our warrant for success in this work.
In order for us to be encouraged, we need to peep into the hearts of those who were relentless soul winners. There is no better biblical example than the apostle Paul. Writing to the Corinthians, he spoke of many situations that would have made him give up. Yet, he did not do so, because he believed that conversion was a work of God.
He wrote: ‘Having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart … The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel…
‘For God, who said, let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
Conversion is a sovereign, electing act on the part of God. No one can know Jesus Christ as Saviour without a regenerating act of God. God infuses life and light into the dead soul in order for that person to see the gospel as saving truth.
God’s regenerating work precedes conversion. The gospel proclamation comes as an effectual call, to which conversion is but the response. Yet, we must understand and be convinced of the fact that God uses means to bring about this work of regeneration.
He uses his Word to bring life to the dead. This life is not innate in the Word, but the Holy Spirit uses the Word to give life.
James and Peter both teach that the second birth is through the instrumentality of the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Charles Wesley wrote about this in his hymn, when he said, ‘He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive’.
Another wonderful picture of it is when Jesus, standing at the tomb of Lazarus, said, ‘Lazarus, come forth’. The words of Jesus gave life to dead Lazarus.
It would make a world of difference if as preachers we truly believed this. When we preach the Word of God and God is pleased to do this ‘heart operation’, as he did with Lydia in Acts 16, no one in the whole world can resist his call.
Once you see this vital connection between regeneration and preaching, then you will say like Paul, ‘We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:2).
You will refuse to use tricks to wring decisions out of people.
Remember that you have an ally in the soul of every sinner — the conscience. As Paul did, you must address the conscience. Remember, how unregenerate Felix trembled at the preaching of Paul, when he zeroed in on him with a sermon about faith in Christ, righteousness, self-control and coming judgement (Acts 24:24-25)!
So what then should we do, in the light of Paul’s example? We must plead with sinners in preaching and also plead with God in prayer. This is our twofold task. We should ask God to make bare his holy arm and save his people through our preaching.
A story is told of a young discouraged preacher who came to C. H. Spurgeon and asked why his preaching was so barren. Spurgeon said to him, ‘Do you honestly expect that God will give you converts each time you preach?’
The man said, ‘Of course not; but at least once in a while’.
Spurgeon responded and said, ‘That is where your problem is. You lack faith!’
Salvation is a sovereign work of God, but from Paul’s example we see that evangelistic preaching is also a work of faith. It is said that Spurgeon often entered the pulpit saying, ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit’. Let us do the same and see the salvation of our God.
The challenge that faces the Christian church is that every generation must be re-evangelised. So, we cannot afford to be discouraged. We must press on, through evangelistic preaching, to pursue sinners in every nook and cranny, until the Master’s house is filled and his table full.
The author is pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, and an international conference speaker