Society of Fellows
A faithful evangelistic preacher is a formidable weapon in the hands of God. The great need in America is for more faithful evangelistic preachers. To preach evangelistically is to preach the gospel with the intent that it might impact people for Christ - to move the lost to be saved and to motivate Christians to greater love for and surrender to Christ.
In a way Ezekiel was an evangelistic preacher. He called people to repentance and surrender to God. Ezekiel 2 gives some insights into how we can be evangelistic preachers. Whether you are a pastor or an evangelist, I believe God wants you to be an evangelistic preacher. Do you want to be an evangelistic preacher? Lets look at the qualities or characteristics of an evangelistic preacher.
I. Preach called. (v. 1-3)
Ezekiel was a called man. He was called into the presence of God, called to preach by God, and called to understand the audience to whom he would preach. There is no way Ezekiel could preach to rebellious people without being called. Because Ezekiel stood before God, he could stand before people. As a son of man, he would be sent to men.
Are you called to preach? Do you preach called? No prophet in the Bible applied for the job. They preached because God called them and they couldnt do anything else. Dont preach because family and friends want you to preach. Dont preach unless you must. If you can do anything else, you probably should. Be prepared though, because there will be many who dont understand or care.
Legend has it that Demosthenes filled his mouth with stones when he was practicing his speeches. A seminary preaching professor did this with his students. At the beginning of the course, they practiced their preaching with a mouth full of marbles. As the course progressed, the number of marbles was reduced, one at a time. Finally, the students were pronounced ready to preach after they had lost all their marbles!
Take your preaching seriously, for many will think youve lost your marbles. Preach anyway. The God who made the world can make you a preacher. And when God appoints you to the job, He can anoint you for the job.
Remember, the call to preach is a call to live as a preacher should. The late R. G. Lee once said we preachers are "called men of God not in a profession chosen by mere human preferences or occupied for personal pleasure or promotion."1 It is said of Spurgeon that whatever he was in the pulpit he was in private, and whatever he was in private he was in the pulpit. Dont be an evangelistic preacher who lives like he needs to be evangelized himself.
II. Preach continually. (v. 4 - 5)
God told Ezekiel the people to whom he would be preaching were obstinate and stubborn, but he was to preach to them anyway. He was to preach continually. His success would not be measured in terms of the peoples response, but in terms of his obedience. God was telling Ezekiel this so he wouldnt be surprised if the people didnt fall all over themselves heeding his preaching.
Every time we preach there are many in our audience who dont plan to do a thing about what were preaching. We must preach anyway. The only way we can do that is to ask God to give us a love and concern for those to whom we preach. To love to preach is one thing; to love those to whom we preach is another. A God who cares cannot be represented by those who dont.
Preach continually. Preach in season and out of season. Preach to those who want to be saved; preach to those who dont. Preach to Christians who desire to go on with God; preach to those who do not.
A pastor told a friend he had been preaching continually for many years and he doubted if anyone could remember many of his sermons, and whether they had done the people any good. His friend reminded him that he had been married for 30 years and had eaten 32,850 meals and that he probably could not remember many of the menus. But he assured his pastor friend that the meals had done him good and his sermons had done his people good. Preach continually; your preaching is doing more good than you know.
R. G. Lee tells a story about a boy whose father was away from home. As the little boy was looking at his dads picture on the wall, he said to his mother, "Mother, I wish father would come out of that frame."2 We need to keep preaching till Jesus comes out of the frame of the Bible and into the hearts of our listeners.
Now with all this talk about preaching continually, dont think were talking here about the length of the sermon. A man trying to find a church for the first time, arrived while the pastor was preaching. "Is the service over?" he asked. The usher at the door replied, "Yes, but the preacher doesnt know it yet." As evangelistic preachers we dont need to stop preaching, but we do need to know when to stop sermons.
III. Preach with courage. (v. 6)
God told Ezekiel not be afraid of the people or their words. Though they would test him with their stubbornness and hardness, though they would pierce his very heart and soul, he was to preach with courage. These people were in captivity for their sin, yet they were as obstinate as ever. Ezekiels preaching would bring forth all kinds of opposition, but he was to boldly preach on. It takes courage to be an evangelistic preacher for we are calling people to turn from their sins and most people like their sins.
A young preacher went to a church in Kentucky, not far from the Kentucky Derby. Because he wanted his first sermon to be memorable, he preached a fierce condemnation of horse racing. After the service, a leading member hastened to remind him of where he was and of the fact that many members of the congregation were breeders and trainers of fine thoroughbred race horses. The preacher took the hint. On the following Sunday, he preached a roaring sermon on the evils of smoking. Again, he was cautioned, being reminded that the church was located near many tobacco farms and many members were dependent upon the tobacco industry for their livelihood. The next Sunday the preacher bitterly denounced whiskey only to be told that Kentucky was the home of several distilleries. In desperation he asked, "Well, what can I preach on?" The church member replied, "Preach against those heathen witch doctors. There isnt one of them within a 1,000 miles of here."
J. Harold Smith says that every preacher who trims himself to suit everybody will soon whittle himself away. No one should preach who fears people more than he fears God. I agree with R. G. Lee who once said, "We must, without apology, without fear, without ceasing, preach and practice our beliefs carrying them out to the point of suffering."3 The day may come when we will face opposition to our preaching like weve never seen before. We have a generation out there that respects political correctness more than evangelistic preaching. But if there ever was a generation that needs to hear a clear word from God, it is this one.
A good way to get courage is to read verses like Psalm 27:14 which says, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart."
IV. Preach content. (v. 7)
God told Ezekiel to preach His words to them. Do you want to be an evangelistic preacher? Preach Gods content, Gods Word, Gods Son. If we will lift up the written and living Word, Jesus will draw people to Himself through it. And those who reject it, as many would do to whom Ezekiel was sent, at least they will know that a man of God has been in their midst.
A minister was preparing his sermon notes one Saturday night. His daughter stood at his elbow watching. "Does God tell you what to say?" she asked. "He certainly does." She looked back at the notes and replied, "Then why do you scratch a lot of it out?" We can scratch out our words, but never Gods. If you are not sure about your message, dont preach until you are sure.
Let your preaching be like a needle in a compass, always pointing in the same direction. Dont be like the weather vane letting the wind of popular opinion turn you about.
There is enough content in the Bible to keep all of us busy preaching until Jesus is through with us. There is no book like it. As R. G. Lee said, "The Bible is a book above and beyond all books as the sun is beyond an earthly lamp in brightness, as an orchard is beyond one fig tree in fruit bearing, as an eagle is beyond a sparrow in flight power, as Niagara is beyond a mud puddle in glory."4 He also believed, "It is the one book which art cannot adorn, which opulence cannot enrich, which patronage cannot exalt." Oh, how privileged we are to be Gods delivery boys of this great content.
V. Preach with conviction. (v. 8-10)
Notice here that God told Ezekiel to eat the words He was giving him to preach. Ezekiel was to take Gods message and internalize it so he could preach it with conviction and power. Evangelistic preaching needs to be done with emotion, feeling, and conviction.
A preacher was preaching softly, monotone, and without a lot to say. Someone in the back kept calling for him to speak up; he couldnt be heard back there. Finally a man sitting near the front got up, walked to the back and said, "Sir, if you want to hear this sermon, I would be very happy to change places with you." It takes a great amount of skill to take the gospel and make it boring, tedious , and dull. Vance Havner believed if a preacher couldnt put fire into a sermon, he should put that sermon into the fire.
Dr. Lee left no doubt where he stood. In his own unique and eloquent way he said, "Preach it. Not as epicures in philosophy, not as feeders of inflamed popular appetite for amusement, not as administration of laughing gas for the painless extraction of sin, not as dainty tasters of intellectual subtleties, not as experts in speculative cleverness dealing in the airy abstractions of a up-to-date gospel, but with a wooing urgency that lifts up the crucified Lord."6
A minister once asked an actor why actors portraying fiction can move people more than ministers preaching truth. The actor replied, "Because we represent fiction as though it were fact, and ministers represent fact as though it were fiction." If actors displayed as little feeling on the stage as many ministers do in the pulpit, their careers would be very short. Dont be like the preacher who tape recorded his sermon, then sat down to listen to it and fell fast asleep. Preaching with feeling, sincerity, and passion that moves people to love and obey Jesus is what evangelistic preaching is all about.
It has been said that preaching is not the art of making a sermon and delivering it; preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that. The kind of preachers this world needs are preachers who preach called, continually, with courage, with content, and with conviction. Preachers like that are evangelistic preachers.
Written by Phil Glisson
1. R. G. Lee, A Charge to Keep, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1959), p. 12
2. Ibid, p. 82
3. R. G. Lee, Bed of Pearls, (Broadman Press, Nashville, TN, 1956), p. 70
4. R. G. Lee, By Christ Compelled, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1969), p. 46
5. R. G. Lee, A Charge to Keep, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1959), p. 16
6. R. G. Lee, Great is the Lord, (Fleming H. Revel, Westwood, NJ, 1955) pp. 53-54
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Phil Glisson is a full-time evangelist who has preached in hundreds of churches from 1971 to the present. He holds the B. A. degree from Union University, the M. Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the D. Min. from Luther Rice Seminary. He and his wife, Teresa are the parents of three children, Linda, Andrew and Jonathan.