Can I admit something? I have typically feared the evangelistic sermon. I have preached at camps, in revivals, in churches, and in other settings for about 20 years now. And (please don’t vote me off the island) until this past year, I have always been uncomfortable with the evangelistic sermon.
What changed? I’m glad you asked. I am a DMin student at TEDS, a school chosen out of needing an experience outside of my Baylor and Baptist years of education. Last fall, I took an independent study course on evangelistic preaching because I knew that I feared it and I was terrible at it. Here are the two lessons I learned.
Lesson #1: The transition is key
There are multiple ways to get from the body of the sermon to the invitation. It’s a skill, though, and requires some practice. And if you’re not comfortable with it, the best bet is to script it out.
Here are two particular ways that are helpful. The first can be found in Zack Eswine’s Preaching to a Post-Everything World. He takes the teaching of his mentor Bryan Chappell (Mr. Christ-Centered Preaching himself) on the Fallen Condition Focus and expands it to include the finite nature, the fragile nature, and the faltering ways of humanity. All are avenues that demonstrate our desperate need for God’s grace. The strength of this approach is that it allows you to get to the invitation from basically any text without having to whiplash the hearers who were hearing about Ahab and Elijah in one sentence and the crucifixion in the next. An example: “You ever feel like Elijah? On top of Mt. Carmel in one moment and having no hope the next? Anyone ever waver like that? If so, remember that God has provision for you…”
The second way to make the transition to invitation is by Billy Graham’s question. At the close of every sermon, no matter the topic, Graham would always pose the question he wanted his hearers asking. In NT preaching, we often see the hearers stopping the preacher to ask a question. Graham assumed his preaching would prompt the same. But because of his environments, they would not and could not stop him to ask. So he asked for them. “Some of you may be here tonight and ask, ‘Billy, what do I need to do to have this kind of love in a loveless world?’” He was a master of it.
And that leads to…
Lesson #2: Be Clear
When you begin the invitation, be clear on two things. Be clear on the proper response to the Gospel. I break it up into three things: turn from your sin, trust Christ to forgive you and give you new life, and commit your life to Him. Turn, Trust, Commit.
The second thing to be clear on is how you want them to physically respond. The spiritual response is Turn, Trust, Commit. But what about the physical response? Do you want them to sign a card? Walk an aisle? Meet you in the back? Raise their hands? However you ask them to respond, be abundantly clear.
I’m about 70% more comfortable with my evangelistic preaching than I was last year. I still work hard to move from sermon body to invitation. Being the child of two teachers, I’m more inclined to let the “lesson” speak for itself, although I have been prompted by the Spirit to more often engage the lost who attend. I hope this little effort of mine helps you to do the same.