A meeting for the preaching of the gospel has been the weekly practice of assemblies through the years, and has been honored by God in that many have been saved, especially among the families of Christians and, occasionally, among neighbors and friends. Even though it is increasingly difficult to get visitors into these meetings, it is important not to get discouraged to the point of converting such to ministry meetings. Our children need to hear the plain solemn preaching of the gospel, and, it is a preservative for the assembly even if few get saved (1Cor 15:2-4).
The preacher for this meeting is most often one of the local brethren who may have limited gift, so that the believers may be reluctant to invite neighbors. I would like to offer some suggestions for such brethren, especially the younger ones, to help in preparation, content, delivery, and follow-up of such responsibility for preaching
Cultivate the spirit of a soul-winner; that is, live the gospel, looking for opportunity to speak to people you encounter about the Lord Jesus Christ, in a sincere but gentle manner. You will learn how people think, and how to apply the gospel in simple Bible terms; and you may even get them to attend the gospel service.
Then, remember that the spiritual state of the preacher gives weight to his message. The evangelists in the Acts were described as being “filled with the Spirit.” This only comes through time in the presence of God for self-examination and judgment upon the flesh before crying to the Lord for a message. These are holy exercises to be cultivated if one is to be fruitful in the gospel.
Next, think of the message. God’s Word must be presented with clarity and simplicity for all. It is not a sermon to impress the Christians. There are many gospel texts and narratives on which to base the message, not contemporary, sensational, or catastrophic events. Consider, as examples, the preaching of Christ, the apostles, the teaching of the parables, or encounters the Lord had with people. Learn to incorporate the meanings of solid gospel truths such as salvation, redemption, reconciliation, justification, condemnation, enmity, believing, etc. Avoid obscure texts and long readings. Use neither slang nor colloquialisms in handling divine truth. Use Bible terminology. The Holy Spirit inspired it; He also uses it to convict and convert. Do not use insulting or derogatory terms in describing the sinner’s condition – the Bible doesn’t. Avoid unscriptural statements we often hear such as “God wants to have a relationship with you.”
As young “preachers,” we were advised to make sure the message contained the “3 R’s:” Man’s Ruin, God’s Remedy, and the Sinner’s Responsibility. With this in mind, you will find gospel material everywhere in the Bible. In fact, in the regular study of the Scriptures, keep a note pad dedicated to gospel outlines. Avoid apologetics and debate-styled messages. Preaching the gospel is not about intellectual argument; it is a declaration from Heaven, a command that sinners repent and believe the gospel. Only God can illuminate the blinded mind; salvation is a divine revelation. Primarily, the gospel is the good news about the Lord Jesus – His death, burial, and resurrection. The message ought to glorify and attract to Him.
What about illustrations? C. H. Spurgeon told his students that such “can be like a window which allows light into the room,” thereby enabling the hearer to grasp the truth being presented. They should be used judiciously, to clarify or apply a particular point. Illustrations may be human experiences, but death and dying stories are often overdone. An effective technique is to base a message on one or two good gospel verses, then, go through the Scriptures and draw out an event, statement, or personage which illustrates them. To further this, if you can use a current event or personal experience to introduce your subject, you will be Scriptural, for that characterized Peter’s or Paul’s preaching in the Acts; it gets the interest of the audience more quickly.
Here are some suggestions on delivering the message which may be beneficial. To counteract nervousness, use notes; point form is better than a narrative. Notes help you keep on track and should be in large enough print to be seen quickly. Points allow a quick glance downward, whereas a narrative requires your eyes to be down constantly. Learn good eye contact with your audience rather than preaching to the walls. Display a pleasant countenance. The audience will connect and follow.
Avoid shouting and arm waving which might turn off the hearer. Preach with compassion and with the enthusiasm becoming the announcement of the greatest blessing a person could be offered. The power to save is in the gospel, in the Scriptures, and not in your voice. Shouting by a preacher with a quiet disposition, is “play” preaching and ineffective. Present yourself with the posture, dress, and dignity of a representative of the King of kings.
At the close of the message, the hearers must be instructed to believe this gospel if they are to be saved. But “how” to believe is the Spirit’s work and should not be overworked and pressed. When you have finished your message, your work is done; go home and pray for God’s blessing upon it. Give a friendly handshake to your audience as they leave, and have good tracts to give out at the door to everyone, even the Christians, so the visitors won’t feel singled out.
A gospel meeting should be characterized by hearty singing and genuine prayers for God’s voice to be heard and for sinners to respond. May each of us be fruitful in our attempt to “sound out the word of the Lord.”
Here is an addendum to the previous comments about gospel truth and Scriptural language. It summarizes how the meaning of Bible terms can be helpful to explain the gospel.
Salvation relates to the sinner being hopelessly lost, and needing rescue. Redemption relates to the sinner being enslaved by sin and needing deliverance. Regeneration relates to the sinner being spiritually dead and needing to be born again. Reconciliation relates to being an enemy of God and needing to submit to His peace terms. Forgiveness relates to a sinner having offended God and needing remission of the debt of sin. Justification relates to a sinner’s guilty conviction by God the judge and receiving divine righteousness. Cleansing relates to a sinner’s unfitness for God’s presence and the need for removal of defilement. A sinner needs to learn his need and God’s provision for that need in all these circumstances.