Jesus is the center and circumference of the Bible. He is the Promised One of the Old Testament and the Holy One of the New Testament. He is both the Message and Messenger of Salvation. No one else can lay claim to that fact. Every called preacher is a messenger of the gospel but only Jesus is the Gospel. Mark, chapter one tells us, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, … ‘repent ye, and believe the gospel.’ ” and Mark 3 gives record of Jesus sending His twelve disciples out to preach. Thus, preaching and calling sinners to repentance was the priority of Jesus. Therefore, bold evangelistic preaching should be a priority of preachers in every generation. Believers should pray for pulpits to be aflame with the vibrant proclamation of the gospel. Jesus gives a model for preaching that should be used to reach the masses that need Him. Permit me to mention several aspects of the Jesus preaching model.
The Jesus preaching model is proclamational. Jesus was the greatest preacher to ever proclaim the truth. He was the Herald from heaven who knew who sent Him and what His mission was. His proclamation came on the heels of John the Baptist being imprisoned for bold preaching. Even on the heels of John’s imprisonment, He boldly proclaimed that people should “come.” His message was a call to leave sin and self and follow the Savior. He asked people to leave their sinful lifestyles and live a life of holiness. No one can be saved and remain as they were. Billy Graham once said, “We are dangerously close to saying to the prodigal that you do not have to return to the Father, we will make you comfortable in the pig pen.” However, the Jesus model of preaching proclaims that people must repent. They must turn to the new life offered by Christ Jesus. Good proclamation asks people to unequivocally leave sin and self and come to the Savior. Martyn Lloyd Jones described preaching as “logic on fire” and said, “We must bring truth and substance, not just flash and style. The content of our message must be deeply rooted in Jesus and His word.” The Word of God instructs preachers to preach the word in season and out of season, when it is convenient and when it is inconvenient. The Jesus preaching model gives a bold announcement with eternal importance about Jesus and His message.
The Jesus preaching model is invitational. It is illogical to preach without an invitational appeal. Virtually every sermon should be followed by an invitation. Jesus used words like, “Come,” “follow me,” and “believe” as a way to give a call for sinners to be saved. If Jesus gave His hearers an invitation to “come,” to “follow,” then so should preachers in every age. Churches will not grow and the kingdom will not expand if preachers do not give invitations.
A Christian layman traveled quite often on business trips and always attempted to worship in a local church on the Lord’s Day. While visiting one particular church, he heard a great sermon presented by a very capable preacher. After church the layman spoke to the preacher and congratulated him on a wonderful sermon. During their polite conversation the layman told the preacher that if he worked for his company, however, he would be fired for something he failed to do. The preacher then asked, “What did I do that you think was so wrong?” The layman replied, “You got my attention with your voice, manner and presence. Your oratory skills, reading and theological delivery aroused my interest. You warmed my heart with the passion with which you preached. But then you stopped without asking me to do something with the sermon. In the business world it is important to get people to sign on the dotted line.”
Too often preachers stop short of asking people to do something with their sermon. Jesus gave invitations and sent His disciples out to preach and give invitations. They appealed for people to do something with their sermons. A Jesus preaching model must contain a distinct opportunity for a person to walk away from sin as their friend and be reconciled with Jesus as their newfound friend.
The Jesus Model of preaching is expectational. Jesus never gave a sermon or invitation without expecting a response. He demanded repentance in Mark 1:14 by asking people to change their mind about sin. In Mark 1:15 He followed up His appeal for repentance by asking them to believe. The words “believe” and “repent” are words of action which suggests repentance and faith are inseparable. Faith is the foundation upon which repentance rests. Thus, when Jesus gave an invitation it was with the expectation that His hearers would do something with His appeal. His appeal was sometimes met with a “no” as with the Rich Young Ruler and sometimes with a “yes” as with Zacchaeus. However, Jesus was bold in asking for a response to His sermons. His invitations were given with an expectant heart. Every gospel preacher should follow His model of expectation.
There are few results in some churches due to shallow expectations. Jesus made clear to His audience that He was asking a response from them and gave clarity as to how He wanted them to respond. Jesus also stated what they should expect from Him in return. He said to His disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Whoever drinks of the water I give them will never thirst.” In each case Jesus gave an appeal followed by a promise. In that promise lay His expectation. The Jesus preaching model contains an expectation regarding the appeal that has been given.
The Jesus preaching model is developmental. Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Soul winners are not born but made. That is why every sermon should be laced with instructions containing eternal developmental significance. Jesus took common, ordinary working men and converted them into soul winners and servants who fished for the souls of men. He developed them into an evangelistic force that changed the world.
When a preacher stands to deliver a sermon, he should appeal to lost men to be saved and for saved men to grow and develop. The greatest platform in every church is not the teaching lectern, but the pulpit. The man of God should deliver a well prepared sermon which has been prayed over with a goal of helping his hearers develop into a spiritual, reproductive soul winning army. His proclamation should both attract the lost and develop Believers. After preaching one Sunday a young lady in our congregation became burdened over her lost dad who lived in another state. She asked me how she could win him to Jesus. I told her about a soul winning class that was to begin in two weeks. She joined that class and studied her Continued Witness Training Manual diligently. The time came for her and her military husband to travel home. She witnessed to her dad with nervousness in her heart. No one could have been more anxious than that young lady. However, by faith she believed God would save her dad. I can not express to you the depth of joy that was experienced when she called to say, “Preacher Wayne, he got saved! He got saved!” I could hear the tears of joy and excitement in her voice that she, her dad and her husband were experiencing.
The Jesus model of preaching is both evangelistic and developmental.
The Jesus model of preaching is eternal. Only heaven can know the endless benefits of preaching. Jesus was constantly leading men to think beyond the temporal and focus on eternal things. The normal course of man concentrates on things like, which job can I acquire and how much money will I make, which house can I afford or which team should I support. The temporal thought centers on such things as the latest fashion and human popularity. Jesus on the other hand constantly pressed people to reflect on such things as heaven and hell, life and death. He caused potential followers to count the cost of redemption and discipleship. The rich young ruler refused to follow, for he was very wealthy. He was forced to decide between material things and heavenly things. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, met Jesus and readily left his tax collection business in order to answer the call to salvation. The Jesus model of preaching always exhorts men to choose eternal life rather than the temporal life.
Dwight L. Moody declared that the greatest mistake that he made in his ministry was sending people home one Sunday without giving an invitation. In October, 1871 Moody told his congregation to go home and think about the message and come back next Sunday and make a decision for Christ. Before they came together again, a fire started in Patrick O’Leary’s barn and spread throughout the area, leaving 300 people dead and more than 100,000 people homeless. Moody declared that he had never since dared to give an audience a week to think about their salvation. I have never seen that congregation since… I would rather have my right hand cut off, declared Moody, than to give an audience a week to decide what to do with Jesus.
A preacher’s failure to give an invitation deviates from the Jesus preaching model. Jesus declared that He came to seek and to save those who were lost and His paradigm for accomplishing that mission incorporated preaching that was proclamational, invitational, expectational, developmental and eternal. May preachers in every age be wise and follow the Jesus preaching model.
Dr. Wayne Dickard serves on the trustee board at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Dickard earned a Doctorate of Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastored several churches in North Carolina and South Carolina over a 30 year ministry before retiring in 2015. Currently, he serves as the interim pastor of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in Belton, SC.