Evangelistic Sermons for Follow-Up Work

What type of preaching is best suited to establishing new believers following an effort?

By F. B. JENSEN, Pastor, Richmond, Virginia

The Bible and the Testimonies have some pointed suggestions in answer to the ques­tion, What type of preaching is best suited to establishing new believers following an effort? Not every type of preaching will fit into the scheme of things to the best advan­tage in the Sabbaths that follow a city effort. There is, however, a type of preaching that will always adapt itself to follow-up work—the evangelistic sermon. Not every pastor knows how to preach evangelistic sermons. He may think that he does, but that makes it all the more difficult.

Preaching is an art that must be caught, and can scarcely be taught. Once a faulty method has been caught, it is next to impos­sible to get rid of it. The true evangelistic sermon is rather conversational in style. It is just talking with men and women about the dearest thing on earth. It is so important that one cannot speak in a tame and lifeless man­ner.: It is a matter of life and death, and, therefore must be uttered in such a manner that the listeners will know that they must do something about it. Years ago Nehemiah said: "They read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." Neh. 8:8. And the Spirit of prophecy has given us this gem:

"In all our work, more attention should be given to the culture of the voice. We may have knowledge, but unless we know how to use the voice correctly, our work will be a failure. Unless we can clothe our ideas in appropriate language, of what avail is our education? Knowledge will be of little advantage to us unless we cultivate the talent of speech ; but it is a wonderful power when combined with the ability to speak wise, helpful words, and to speak them in a way that will command attention."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 380.

Unfortunately many who have not been taught to use the voice properly have come to the erroneous conclusion that to command at­tention it is necessary to shout. According to some preachers, to speak with power is to make a great deal of noise. Who of us has not been greatly disturbed when at a camp meeting a preacher tries to substitute shouting for the power of a great message? Before the sermon ends, his voice is cracked, and the preacher goes home feeling that he has de­livered a great sermon, because he has lost his voice. This is a sad commentary on one kind of preaching, but that is not the kind that succeeds in following up a large effort.

Stop to analyze the situation for a moment. The evangelist has cultivated a pleasing ad­dress. He has worked for years to gather the best materials to convince his audience. He has buttressed his sermon with fine illustra­tions, and has learned to offer an effective prayer. He has studied the very best meth­ods of attracting the people, and under the spell of appealing music and a stirring sermon, souls are moved. By and by the message grips, and many decide to cast their lot with the advent people. Under the most favorable conditions they have been assured that they are taking their stand with God's remnant church, and that this message is the greatest thing in the world.

At that sublime pinnacle of interest, they leave the large tent or tabernacle to join the little church without the evangelist, the Bible worker, the evangelistic song leader, and the evangelistic setting.

Pastor's Sermons Contrasted With Evangelist's

Now the responsibility rests upon us local pastors. The pastor may be a good Christian, and a most sincere minister. But usually he cannot preach as effectively as the evangelist. The difference is too great, and many come to feel that perhaps they have been deluded about this message's being the greatest thing in the world. If it were, the pastor would be stirred about it, and would tell them so, just as the evangelist did. If it is not big enough to stir the pastor's soul, how can it stir the soul of the congregation? God must have sensed this situation, else He would not have sent us this counsel:

"I feel constrained to say that the labors of many of our ministers lack power. God is waiting to bestow it upon them, but they pass on from day to day, possessing only a cold, nominal faith, presenting the theory of the truth, but presenting it without that vital force, which comes from a connection with Heaven, and which sends the spoken words home to the hearts of men. They are half asleep, while all around them are souls perishing in darkness and error."—"Gospel Workers," p. 35.

is obvious that power in preaching is of two kinds. One kind is the sincere expres­sion of man himself—the power of deep con­viction in the message he utters. Through the power of a voice trained to say what needs to be said in the most accurate, convincing, and forceful manner, the effect can be height­ened by the fine use of words carefully selected to reinforce the sincerity of the speaker. That is the thought expressed in the Testimonies.

"Knowledge will be of little advantage to us unless we cultivate the talent of speech ; but it is a wonderful power when combined with the ability to speak wise, helpful words, and to speak them in a way that will command attention."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 380.

The other power is direct from God. With­out the presence of the Spirit, no soul will be touched and no heart reborn. God is wait­ing to bestow such power on every minister. We need an unction from on high.

It needs to be said with emphasis that the pastor's sermons usually suffer by being con­trasted with the evangelist's sermons. The pastor's sermon is too often mediocre. One obvious trouble with the mediocre sermon, even when harmless, is that it is uninteresting. It could as well be left unsaid. It produces the effect of emptiness and futility, largely because it establishes no connection with the real in­terests of the congregation. It takes for granted ways of thinking which are not in the minds of the people. It misses the vital concerns which are there, and in consequence uses a method of approach which does not function.

Even in a poorly endowed preacher, this state of affairs is unnecessary. No one who has any business to preach at all need preach uninteresting sermons. The fault generally lies, not in the essential quality of the min­ister's mind or character, but in faulty meth­ods. He may have been wrongly trained, or he may have blundered into a faulty technique, or he may have never clearly seen what he should be trying to do in a sermon. Having no aim, he hits a target only by accident. Every sermon should have for its main busi­ness the solving of some problem—a vital, important problem, which is puzzling minds, burdening consciences, and distracting lives. And any sermon which tackles a real problem, throwing even a little light on it, and giving practical help to those who are trying to find their way, cannot be altogether unin­teresting.

To endeavor to help people solve their spir­itual problems is a sermon's only justifiable aim. The reason for preaching the sermon in the first place, and the inspiration for its method of approach and the organization of its material, should not be something outside the church or congregation, but something inside. Within a few minutes after a sermon has started, wide areas over the congregation ought to begin recognizing that the preacher is tackling something of vital concern to them. He is handling a question they are puzzled about, a way of living with which they have dangerously experimented, an experience that has bewildered them, a sin that has come perilously near to wrecking them, an ideal they have been trying to make real, or a need they have not known how to meet. One way or another, they should see that he is engaged in a serious, practical endeavor to state fairly a problem which actually exists in their lives, throwing all the light of God's word upon it.

People often blindly sense that there is something wrong with a sermon, although they may not be able to analyze it. The text was good and the truth undeniable. The subject was well chosen and well developed. But for all that, nothing happened. The effect was flat. So far as the sermon was concerned, the congregation might as well have stayed at home. It may have been a "beautiful ef­fort," but it did not influence human lives,

The reason for this can commonly be traced to one cause: the preacher started his sern on with the wrong end in view. He made it the exposition of a text or the elucidation of a subject, instead of a well-planned endeavor to help solve concrete problems in the lives of his congregation. He need not have had any other text or any different materials in his sermon, but if he had envisioned his object rightly, he would have arranged and massed. the material differently. He would have gone into the sermon with the real interest of his. congregation at heart, and would have found that the whole procedure kindled his own soul as well as those of his listeners.

Every problem the minister faces thus leads back to one basic question: How well does he understand the thoughts and the lives of his people? That he should know the gospel goes without saying. But he may know it ever so well and yet fail to get it within reaching dis­tance of anyone unless he intimately under­stands people. Preaching is wrestling with individuals over questions of life and death. And until that vision of it commands the preacher's mind and method, eloquence will avail him little and theology not at all.

In answering the question, What type of preaching is best suited to establish new be­lievers? I would say : The best type of preach­ing for this purpose is, first, evangelistic; and secondly, problem solving. If evangelistic preaching brought people in, it will also keep them in. The evangelist is constantly solving problems, both theological and spiritual. We pastors must continue to do just that thing, and as a result the losses will be few, and the congregation will be strong and healthy in Christ Jesus.


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By F. B. JENSEN, Pastor, Richmond, Virginia

October 1939

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