Pointers to Progress

Three short articles


If the evangelist is to carry his people through a series of sermons that will lift their minds from the world and ail them with the Spirit of God, then he must preach big ideas, presenting a message that will not only challenge his hearers' thinking but lift them out' of their environment. Can it be that too many preachers fail on that very point? Perhaps they only inform people, never transforming or transplanting them. It is a divine art to be able to use words of salvation that will lift people into a heavenly realm. That gift is what made apostolic preaching what it was.

One of our real problems as preachers is the fact that so many o£ our sermons are just too shallow to stir anyone. We often wade ankle deep in our message when we ought to launch out into the deep and let down our nets for a draught. It is big ideas that move men to big decisions. Small talk, restricted thought, will never really grip hearts for Christ.

"Preach so that the people can catch hold of big ideas and dig out the precious ore hid in the Scriptures." Evangelism, p. 169.


There are some preachers who seem to excel in being obscure. Billy Sunday once said, "The trouble with some of you preachers is that your people are going to hell while they are trying to figure out what you mean.'.' Is it possible that people who listen to us will actually be lost simply because they cannot understand our theological expressions?

Recently I received a letter from a good brother who was wondering why he was losing his audiences. He started off with an audience not many, to be sure but at least enough to make it a meeting. But in a few nights there were none left. A study of his approach and the sequence of his subjects would suggest that he was bringing them into some of the most challenging truths too quickly. He had not laid a foundation on which to build a real structure. To me it was evident that the people were staying away, not because they were dishonest, but simply because they did not understand what in the world he was talking about.

The generation to which we preach, in the home land at least, is largely an educated generation. And because of that, we might get the impression- that since they can read and write and many of them have a university degree, they know all about salvation; but the fact is that their education, instead of leading them to God, has actually led them away from salvation, for the Lord has been largely lost in the modern scientific approach to life. Even if they are educated, we do not need to feel that we must be so profound. Educated people above all others appreciate simplicity.

It takes a great teacher to be simple. That preacher who said, "After all, my message is for the intellectual and elite," really revealed his lack of understanding of the principles of true teaching. Of course our message is for the elite, but you may not have many of those in your audience. What about the others? When Jesus sent preachers out He said, "Go ye into all the world." I knew another man who said, "Well, I am not going to compromise my literary style." Why not? We are not sent out to save a literary style but to save men and women. A Baptist minister in Los Angeles recently made this statement: "I have learned that my first duty is not to be profound, but to be understood." And that is right. People must first of all understand, not science, not history, but salvation. All else is only a setting in which to bring salvation to men.

John Wesley at one time in his ministry used to preach his sermons to an illiterate servant girl in her early teens. She was instructed to raise her hand each time he used a word or expressed a thought she could not understand. He knew that if he could make her understand, then he could be assured that his audience too would understand.

One of the greatest weaknesses among us as preachers is that we swamp the people with facts and history and everything else long before they know anything about Jesus Christ. He is often lost, as it were, in the scenery. When we preach let us turn the spotlight of truth on God's blessed Son and let the people see Him working through it all. It is a great art to be able to speak of deep things, but in simple language.

"Preach the Word so that it will be easy to comprehend. Bring the people right to Jesus Christ, in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered. . . . As you bring to them the Word of God, presenting it in a simple style, the seed will grow, and after a time you will have a harvest. The seed sowing is your work; the propagation of the seed is the Lord's divine work." Evangelism, p. 178.


By: R. Allan Anderson

it was John Watson who said near the end of his preaching career,, "If I had to begin my ministry again I would preach more comforting sermons." Why did he say that? There is such need of comfort there are so many discouraged people to listen to the preacher.

When we as preachers look at an audience, we are looking into the' eyes of men and women who are facing all kinds of doubts, perplexities, and distresses. They see no way out of their particular problem. It may be difficulty in the home. Or we may be looking into the eyes of some young people who are struggling with tremendous temptations. In any case, these all need comfort.

Not merely pastoral sermons, but all types of sermons even evangelistic sermons must be comforting. Although the evangelistic sermon is preaching the most marvelous revelation of truth in wonderful lines of prophetic and doctrinal revelation, it must still be in the setting of good tidings, our messages must always be comforting.


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January 1952

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