Some things go together – a boy and his bicycle, a little girl and her doll, and a bride and her groom. Preaching and evangelism are like these – they logically go together.
Jesus was a preacher. We read in Mark 1:14, “Jesus came…preaching.” Jesus Himself said in Luke 4:43, “I must preach…for I was sent for this purpose.” Jesus’ primary purpose was not to heal the sick, feed the multitudes, or clothe the naked. His priority was preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He understood that man’s most important needs are spiritual, not physical.
Jesus was God’s first evangelistic preacher. Many have followed His example, but no one has surpassed His effectiveness. Jesus was both the message (the evangel) and the Messenger (the Evangelist). He was the Word of God (cf. John 1:1-2) who preached God’s word! Indeed, no one else has ever spoken like Jesus! (cf. John 7:46)
Our Lord was sent by the Father to preach and win souls. Thus, every preacher should follow Jesus’ example by preaching evangelistically. A preacher should open his Bible and preach for a verdict – the conversion of men, women, boys, and girls. He should expect people to either accept or reject the gospel each time he shares it. The Gospel divides humanity. The preacher literally stands between the sinner and eternity – heaven or hell.
I have preached evangelistically since 1977. I can attest to the fact that more people are saved at a church that preaches the gospel and offers an evangelistic invitation than at a church that does not. If people come to church and are not given the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved, a reprehensible tragedy has occurred.
At the heart of every great church is an evangelistic pulpit. If the pastor is evangelistic, the people will be also. But if the pastor fails to preach persuasively for a verdict, the church members will not be inclined to reach people for Christ. For a church to be on fire, the pulpit must be on fire.
To understand our topic, we should define both evangelism and preaching. The late Dr. Roy Fish served for forty years as Professor of Evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He defined evangelism as,
The compassionate sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit with lost people for the purpose of winning them to Christ as Savior and Lord that they in turn may share Him also with others.
Phillips Brooks defined preaching as, “The communication of truth by man to men. It has in it two essential elements, truth and personality.” The “truth” that must be preached comes from the Bible and it focuses on the life and saving work of Christ.
A combination of these two definitions explains the nature of evangelistic preaching.
The spirit of evangelistic preaching is compassion. The preacher must love those to whom he preaches.
The message of evangelistic preaching is the good news (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, which focuses on Jesus’ atoning death for sinners and His bodily resurrection. This is the “truth” rooted in Scripture of which Brooks spoke.
The power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables the preacher to speak persuasively. He also convicts the hearer of sinfulness, lack of righteousness, and judgment before God at death (cf. John 16:8).
The recipients of evangelistic preaching are lost, non-Christian people. They need to repent of their sin, believe savingly in Jesus, and receive Him as their Savior and Lord by calling on His name in prayer.
The purpose of evangelistic preaching is to win lost people to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That is why the Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians six different times to “win” lost people to Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-24).
The messenger of evangelistic preaching is the preacher. Evangelistic preaching involves “The communication of truth by man to men.” God uses people to share the saving message of Christ with lost people (cf. Romans 10:14). Like a farmer, the preacher cooperates with God for the harvest. His preaching tills the soil of the hearts of men and sows the seed of the Gospel. God then sends the rain and sunshine of His Holy Spirit and causes the germination of the Gospel seed (regeneration) and its subsequent growth (sanctification). What a blessed partnership the sower enjoys with the Giver of the gospel seed!
I once read of an effective rural preacher who was trying to explain how he preached. He said, “First I read myself full, then I pray myself hot, then I turn myself loose!”
Indeed, evangelistic preaching should come from a full head and a hot heart. If the preacher studies without praying, his sermon will lack power. If he prays without studying, his message will lack content. The former is like shooting a bullet without gunpowder. The latter is like shooting a blank with no bullet. Both miss the target! Evangelistic preaching must be balanced with both passionate delivery and sound biblical content.
Evangelistic sermons must be bathed in prayer. A preacher who rarely talks with God has no business trying to talk for God. A preacher must also study God’s word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). He must explain, illustrate and apply a biblical text, share the truth of the gospel, and conclude by lovingly and articulately inviting his hearers to repent of sin, believe in Christ, and receive Him as Savior.
The need of the hour in our churches, our Southern Baptist Convention, and our nation is for genuine evangelistic preaching. If a preacher should be able to do anything, he ought to be able to preach. If he preaches, he ought to preach evangelistically.
Preacher, why hesitate? “Preach the word… do the work of an evangelist!” (2 Timothy 4:2, 5)
 Roy Fish, “Church Evangelism” (Class notes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1981).
 Phillips Brooks, Lectures on Preaching (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1880), p. 5.
Editorial Note: This article first appeared on www.preachingsource.com (9/1/2016) under the title “Evangelistic Preaching.”
ABOUT: Steve Gaines serves as the Senior Pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN and the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has served in four churches as senior pastor over the past 30 years. He holds a Ph.D. in Preaching from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX. Steve is married to Donna Gaines and they have four children.