Monday, February 25, 2008

Preaching The Gospel and Methodologies

Back on November 17, 2007 I promised that I would cover a few more distinctions that may help us in doing ministry.  This is one of the remaining topics.

When asked what the best method/approach to evangelism is, my response is, "Preach the Gospel."  Often the questioner will look at me as if I'm a bit dense in the head, and thinking I've not understood she/he rephrases the question, "But what is the best method for preaching the Gospel?".   Then my reply is, "Preaching the Gospel IS a method - it is THE method - it is GOD'S method."

While you will have to throw out his Anglican sacramentalism, Roland Allen's book "Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?" (originally written in 1912; 2nd ed. 1927; Eerdmans ed. 1962) will be a refreshing read to many who may have missed it.  How did Paul do missionary work?  He preached the Gospel !  How did Paul plant churches?  He preached the Gospel !  How did Paul carry out his "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18)?   He preached the Gospel !  Allen clearly makes the point that preaching the Gospel IS Paul's method.

How does God "save those who believe" ?   Answer :  "through the foolishness of the message preached"  (1 Cor. 1:21).    What is God's "power ... for salvation (including justification, sanctification, and glorification)  to everyone who believes" ?   Answer:  "the Gospel" which Paul was "not ashamed" to preach (Romans 1:15-16).   Paul, even under tremendous pressure,  had no alternate method, no "plan B"  -  only the "boldness in our God to speak to you the Gospel of God amid much opposition"  (1 Thess. 2:2,4).

Paul did seem to have some methodology/strategy for meeting people and deciding how he would spend his time.  He would go "to the Jew first" and if the Jews were not receptive he would preach to others until he saw who would be receptive and preached to them (Acts 13:45-52).  How did he decide who was receptive?  He preached the Gospel to them !   Paul would go to places where he thought people who had some spiritual interest might be gathered, and then he would preach the Gospel to them (Acts 16: 13-14).   There are methods for meeting people, for building relational bridges of love into their lives, but the preaching of the Gospel is not up for methodological variance.
 Yes, methods of doing things may and must keep changing.  They are temporal and finite.  I assure you I would not have been writing a "blog" twenty years ago.  We are always preaching the Gospel in the context of culture which is changing.  We want our message to connect with people's receptors.  But, the message does not - must not - change.  The Gospel we preach must be the same Gospel Paul preached or it will not save.

Jesus did not say "go into all the world and be the Gospel" - He said "preach the Gospel".   Paul did not go into Corinth to take surveys to find out what people wanted to hear, but rather with "weakness and in fear and in much trembling" he determined that he would know nothing among them "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" so that their faith "would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Jesus and Paul did not avoid warning people about eternal punishment and hellfire (Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43ff, 2 Thess. 1:6-10, and many more)  hiding behind some notion that such is not their "purpose" or "ministry".   Warning people to flee from coming wrath is a major purpose of Gospel communication (Matt. 3:7 cf. 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9).

If you preach the truth that is eternal, you will always be relevant, because the eternal is always relevant.  If you adapt the Gospel to try to be relevant, you preach "another Gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7) and make yourself irrelevant in the process.  Far better a smaller group of faithful believers looking for heaven, than a larger group of make-believers who just want their "best life now", and don't even really get that  (2 Tim. 4:1-8). 

The Gospel IS God's method.


  1. I like to read some of the blogs around the fellowship, and I have come across yours. If I may comment, I appreciate the simplicity of the truth of this post. When we peel back the layers of all the methods we try, it really comes down to getting out there and spreading the message, doesn't it?

  2. So what do you recommend when it comes to means and manner? Is door to door better than megaphone in the mall parking lot? Small group voluntary studies as opposed to accosting individuals? Are some ways of carrying out the method more or less biblical than others?

  3. I recommend "speaking the truth in love" (Eph.4:15). I've seen all the approaches you've named be used of God, and I've seen them all do more harm than good. The best ways are the ones you will actually use when the opportunity arises, assuming you speak in truth, grace, boldness, clarity, and love. If preachers are actually doing expository, evangelistic preaching from the pulpits I believe God will draw the lost to come and hear the message. Yes, God may use some means, some invitation, some trial, etc. to draw the person. But, if preachers are not preaching the Gospel, but rather self-help messages or entertainment "hooks" or feel-better pop platitudes, God will not be drawing people to hear that stuff because it will not save. People may feel drawn to those kinds of preachers, but that drawing is not by God.

  4. Zach . . .

    Thanks for your gracious comment.

  5. I would guess that some of puzzlement is related to the word "preach". For many people, it is associated with a sermon which occurs weekly inside a church building where a large gathering takes place. This is indeed a possible and often effective location and manner of evangelism, as untold numbers of people can attest. However, that kind of verbal expression represents one location (usually in a church building) and manner (extended monologue in front of a large crowd).

    Perhaps the word "proclaim" the gospel is a better representation of what is meant - which, for many people, doesn't limit the verbal expression of the gospel to a certain place or approach. Proclamation does not have limitations in our contemporary English vocabulary that "preaching" does. This is in no way a criticism of "preaching", but simply a recognition of its connotation in our context.