THE PLACE OF EVANGELISM IN PULPIT MINISTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:2
We are going to discuss this morning The Place of Evangelism in Pulpit Ministry. And my first word has to do with world evangelism. Only the gospel can meet the world’s needs. Commerce and government, philanthropy and education, filled with its superficial sense, and in the hands of shallow or even evil men, only accentuate that need. A force is needed which will cut down to the roots, which deals with life in the name and by the power of God which marches straight upon the soul and reconstructs character which saves men, one-by-one. Here we are flat upon the issue and not to evade or confuse it.
I will put it unmistakably. It is our duty to carry Christianity to the world because the world needs to be saved and Christ alone can save it. The world needs to be saved from want and disease and injustice and inequality and impurity and lust and hopelessness and fear because individual men need to be saved from sin and death, and only Christ can save them. His is the only power which will forgive and regenerate which will reach down deep enough to transform and will hold until transformation is fixed. Now that is my introduction about the place of evangelism in our pulpit ministries. I could not emphasize it too much.
Now, we speak of the preacher as an evangelist. The verb euaggelizomai is also translated by our infinitive "to preach." This word emphasizes that the message of the preacher is the good news of salvation. The first aim of the evangelist is to proclaim to the world the good news about Jesus Christ. Obviously, that requires an understanding of the message. What does it mean to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?" Is that the same as saying let Jesus to come into your heart, open your life to Christ, or to make Jesus Lord of your life?
If we read "The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanses you from all sin," what does that mean to the individual in the marketplace? Do you explain that truth in terms unchurched people comprehend? Take that biblical assertion apart and you are working with theology. Theology is basic to evangelism. And evangelism is vital to theology. God’s truth demands proclamation as well as study. If we propose to be Christians then we must get on with Christ’s business.
Napoleon’s lieutenants carried in their jackets, close to their hearts, a map of the world. World conquest was their purpose because it was Napoleon’s purpose. For that, they fought, sacrificed, suffered and died. Christian scholarship exists to serve Christ’s people in the world, to save the world.
My next discussion is on the Bible in soul-winning. There is always two-way traffic in preaching. Naturally, the preacher must prepare thoroughly. No amount of efficient administration can take the place of waiting upon the Lord to hear what He would say through His Word and carefully preparing that Word, that message.
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains the classic challenge to preacher, 2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word! Be urgent in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching." Paul reminds Timothy that it is all the more necessary because of the false teaching that is prevalent. And that certainly is the clarion call of today.
Those of us who love God’s Word and believe in its purity must be bold and imaginative in its proclamation. The truth needs to be heard loud and clear. This stands out most of all in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14, where Paul is discussing the place of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul takes great pains to emphasize that the use of the gifts should be for salvation, edification and upbuilding. For those who want to preach the gospel of the Christian faith, and that is we, the Apostle Paul leaves absolutely no doubt as to what the message must be, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness." [1 Corinthians 1:23]
The motive of the preacher must be to lead men and women into an experience of a sound saving and steadfast faith in Christ. The message of the New Testament preacher must consist basically of the death, resurrection, deity and Lordship of Jesus. This is the gospel that is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes." That’s Romans 1:16.
Now, I have a passage here on prayer in evangelism. The most important human factor in effective evangelism is prayer. There have been great awakenings without much preaching. There have been great awakenings with absolutely no organization. But, there has never been a true awakening without much prayer. The first great in-gathering in human history had its origin on the human side in a ten day prayer meeting. We read of a small company of early disciples, quote, "These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer." That’s Acts 1:14.
Remember, when we pray for others, it deeply affects our own lives, also. Prayer is a real factor in our lives. And we live in Christ’s presents by the true conversational method of association. We cannot estimate the place and power prayer has in winning others to Christ, prayer for others in intercession, and prayer with others as we take them individually into the very presence of God.
First, there is prayer for them. No matter what your method, or lack of method, may be, take those for whom you are working to God in prayer. Pray for them by name. One of the most efficient means some have used is that of training men and women to call upon their neighbors and personally invite them to services, not a formal invitation, but a friendly one. Then in the visit, pray for them and with them. After all, the greatest method in the world, the greatest means of all of winning others to Christ is persistent, patient, faithful prayer.
Then, I have a passage here on the use of the Bible in soul-winning. May I remind you of something I have already mentioned, the vital use of the Bible in soul-winning. That means that we ourselves must know the Word of the Lord and how to use it. A necessary element in winning men to the Lord is a knowledge of, and proper use of, God’s Word.
Then I have here is an example, "The Romans Road of Salvation." It has three parts.
Part number 1: We’re all sinners, Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10-18.
Number 2: We’re all saved by the love, mercy and death of Jesus Christ. That’s Romans 5:6-10, and especially Romans 5:8, and Romans 6:23.
And then: The third part is our public, unashamed confession of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9, 10 and 13.
Now, do you all have that? All of you ought to all have "The Romans Road of Salvation." We’re all sinners, Romans 3:10-18 and 3:23. Second, we’re all saved by the love, mercy and death of Jesus Christ. That’s Romans 5:6-10 and 6:23. And three, we’re saved by the confession of faith in Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9, 10 and 13, "The Roman Road of Salvation."
Remember to have an open Bible before your companion as you read. Reading to a man will not help a listener, and reading with you will. Let the eye help the ear and make it personal by letting him follow you as you read. It’s a precious thing to do to open your Bible with that one that you are trying to influence for Christ. And it’s an effective way to present the gospel.
Now, I have a word here about preaching for a verdict. Perhaps most important is that preachers should demand some kind of a decision on the part of the hearers. Certainly, this was true of the New Testament preachers. When John the Baptist had finished preaching the people knew they had to make a decision. Jesus preached for a decision. He insisted that His followers make an unequivocal commitment of their lives to the Father. Our Lord ended the Sermon on the Mount with the parable of the two houses and the call to hear the Word of God and do it, Matthew 7:24-27. Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, was more than ready when the audience asked what they ought to do with their sense of conviction. That’s Acts 2:37.
But, as a herald, the preacher does not depend on a response from the audience. It makes no difference whether the hearers agree or disagree. The preacher’s mission is to proclaim a message from God to anyone who will listen, and on the base of it to make an appeal.
God never releases His power for personal aggrandizement or carnal objectives. On the contrary, He only sends His Holy Spirit to seal unto the day of redemption that which fulfills His redemptive purposes. Therefore, the motive of the preacher must be to lead men and women into an experience of a sound, saving and steadfast faith in Christ.
Let us take a few minutes to amplify this further. No preacher of the gospel has fulfilled God has design unless men and women propose their saving faith in the power of God, which is in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Now I take an example of powerful preaching. The city of Corinth looked incurable. Sexual depravity, centered in the very temple of Aphrodite overlooking the city, was so widespread and popular, it seemed impossible to oppose. Paul knew the superstitious fears of the masses in Corinth and was aware of the dishonesty of its politicians and the generous injustice of city courts. The acclaim enjoyed was that it as one of the chief cities of the Roman Empire. How could he reach it? How could he change it? It looked impenetrable and unassailable.
But, then, he remembered his message and its resource. And he began to preach, "not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:4 That demonstration derives from what he describes in some detail in the subsequent verses as "the wisdom of God." It is also what he terms in chapter 4, "the mysteries of God." It has several outstanding characteristics of which I now name three.
Now, this is "the power of God", "the mystery of God." When Paul began to preach this message in Corinth, in dependence on the power of the Spirit, hearts began to change. Acts 18:8 says: "Many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized." And there sprang up in that pagan city a group of changed, regenerated people. They lost their fear and their despair. Under the impact of new life within they were gradually changed into loving, caring, wholesome people. Some still struggled with residual aspects of their past, but the city was never the same again. As a result, the history of the world changed as well.
There is much more I could say. But, perhaps this is enough to see the enormous consequences of true preaching, and the terrible blight that falls upon a congregational, a community which is deprived of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
My plea is, let preachers stop feeding people with moral platitudes and psychological pabulum. Let us say once more, with Jeremiah, "Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Jeremiah 15:16
So, I am going to take the audacity to speak of my own ministry in its devotion to and reflection of a ministry of evangelism. In my first church, in Marlo county where Cameron is the county seat, in my first church, I had eighteen members. And as I said, my salary was twenty dollars per month. And I lived on it. The church had died. And one of my friends in school had preached there and resurrected it and asked them to call me, seventeen years old, as their pastor.
So, we had one deacon in the church, one deacon. His name was Robert Stoner, an older man. He had a wife who was not a Christian. And that was my first convert. I won her to the Lord, and that was my first baptism. I baptized her in the river that circled the little country place where I was pastoring. That was my first baptismal service.
I can never forget my first wedding. I was pastor at Pecan Grove that did not have a church house, but they did have a tabernacle. And I was preaching a revival meeting in the tabernacle. There came a couple to me on a Saturday night and asked that I marry them. That was my first experience of marrying. To my amazement, when I stood up to preach the following Sunday morning in the tabernacle, they were there. And they came forward at the invitation and gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus. And I baptized them that afternoon, the couple, in Coryell Creek. That was my first wedding.
And I could never, ever, of course, forget my first funeral. This is in the beginning of the Depression. And, oh, people were so poor, and especially farmers, country people. One of the men who had a farm had on it a little shanty. And in that shanty lived a couple. They had a little baby. And I went to see the couple and the little baby. It was sick unto death and soon died. My first funeral. They put that little baby in a wooden box. And after the service, my first funeral service, they put the baby in the box on the back of a flatbed truck. I had a little Chevrolet coupe at the time. And I put her next to me and I put him on the other side of me. There was just one seat, one row of seats, in the little coupe.
So, we put the little box with the baby on the flatbed truck. And I followed it out to the cemetery in my car. And as we followed that flatbed truck, holding, in a box, that little baby, she began to cry, just weep inconsolable. And to my amazement he put his arm around her and he said, "Sweetheart, don’t cry. We’re giving our lives to the Lord Jesus. And someday, we will be in heaven and the God will give us back our little baby in heaven." That was my first funeral service. I have never gotten over it. The wonderful, wonderful comfort in the time of sorrow and hurt, finding refuge in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus.
So, in my pilgrimage as a preacher, I was pastor of a country church named Jackson Grove, in Kentucky. I was a student in the Seminary. It was a quarter-time church, in time it became a half-time church. Well, while I was preaching in Jackson Grove, a group of men, a committee of men, came to see me there and said, "Our church is dying. We don’t have services any more. But, our community, our rural community is filled with young people. And we just wondered if you would come over and preach to us on Sunday afternoons, when you come to preach on Sunday mornings and nights at Oakland?"
So, I said, "I surely will. I’ll be glad to do it."
They took me to the church house. I never saw anything like that. I did not know weeds grew like that. The weeds had grown up to the eaves of the roof. And the house was filled with dust and had a dead squirrel in it, he’d gotten in there somehow and couldn’t get out and died. So, I got the community together. And we cut down the weeds. We brushed out the dust. We repaired the windows. And I preached.
You know what I did? I chose a big, tall teenager. He was a boy, a great big, tall fellow for his age. I chose that teenager. And I said to him, "We’re going to start here at the church and we’re going down every road in the community, every one of them. And we’re going to stop at every house." And the reason I wanted that boy was because there in Kentucky, in the country, you didn’t know how those people would receive you if you were a stranger and came up to the house and asked to come in. So, I had that boy go with me, and I started at the church and I went down every country road, every lane. And I stopped at every house. And that boy, they all knew him, of course, he grew up there, that boy would tell them who I was, and that I had come to see them.
So, I announced to the family, or whatever group was there, that I had come to read to them the Word of God, the Bible, and to get on my face, my hands and knees, and to pray for them. And would I be welcome to come in and read God’s Word and pray? Without exception, I was never refused. I would go in. I would open my Bible. I would read it. I would say some exhortation from His Word. Then, I would kneel and pray. And I told that big, tall teenaged boy, when I get down and kneel, I want you to kneel, too. It was like a jackknife folded together to see that boy kneel down there by me. And I prayed for them.
So, the time came for the revival meeting. And I held a revival meeting. And you won’t believe this. Bowling Green, a town of about a hundred thousand people now, is the county seat of Warren County. And Barren River flows right through the middle of it. You won’t believe that the biggest baptismal service that part of the world ever saw was when I took them down, my converts, to Barren River and baptized them in the waters of that river. There was a multitude of them saved. That is what it is all about. That’s it.
Dear me! The power of that kind of a witness is indescribable. Whether you are eloquent or not, whether you are learned or not, whether you are good-looking or not, all of those things, ultimately, do not matter. If you have it in your heart to win those people to Christ, you will have a marvelous response. They will love you in return.
So, I come to the Church here in Dallas. I have been here fifty-three years. Forty-eight of those years, I was Pastor of the Church, preaching three times every Sunday. Then, after that, why I was preaching at the beck and call of the Pastor. Now, you listen to this. I can’t believe it myself. In the fifty-three years I have preached in that First Baptist Church in Dallas, I have never had a service without a response, without a harvest, without people coming down there to give their hearts and lives to the Lord Jesus. In fifty-three years, I have never had a service without a harvest. God blesses and helps that preacher whose heart is in winning people to Christ. He just does.
Now, I’m going to take an example of just one. In the city of Dallas, at that time, was the richest man in the world. He owned the East Texas oil fields. That’s another story how he came into possession of them. His name was H.L. Hunt, the richest man in the world. For some reason that I cannot know, he started coming to our church. And as time went on he brought his wife with him. He had four children. And as time went on, he brought those four children. And as time went on, he made an engagement with me; he made an engagement with me. "I want to come and see you, and bring my wife and my four children." He came to see me at the Church, brought his family, had me talk to them, pray with them, read the Bible with them, explain the way of salvation and the meaning of baptism. And all six of them responded.
And upon a day, at the Church, in the baptistery, I stood there with Mr. Hunt, with Ruth, his wife and those four children. And I baptized all six of them. And as the days passed, at that time, we called it a Bible institute, and it met in our church, at that time, they gave me three million four hundred thousand dollars, three million four hundred thousand dollars, they gave me three million four hundred thousand dollars, and I bought this property here, that block there and this block here. I bought this property. And with the four hundred thousand dollars I paid three million dollars for the property, with the four hundred thousand dollars we remade the whole thing. They were going to tear down this building at the corner. They don’t build buildings like that anymore. And Jack Pogue gave me the money to put the dome back on it. And we remade it, and made it as it was.
And there has never been a more marvelous providence in my life than the privilege of seeing the accreditation commission come here and accredit our school. And the only thing they demanded, academically, is they wanted to call it a college, not a Bible institute. And they wanted to give it my name. I greatly objected to that. But, they said, "Listen, if you call this some name, like, I don’t know, Calvary College, Salvation College, you call it some religious name, they will never know what kind of a school it is. But, if you call it Criswell College, and name it Criswell College, you won’t have to explain. Everybody that hears of it, refers to it will know it is a school committed to the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and the winning of the lost." So, in keeping with their demands, the accreditation committee, they called it Criswell College. That’s been going on ever since.
And as you know, we have more ministerial students already in our school than any other institution in the world. You and your companions, there are more of you here in this school than in any other institution in the world. And we’re just beginning. We’re just starting. I’m praying that we will have a gift and it will build a dormitory. I often think of my own mother, and my own going to school to collage. I was seventeen years old and my mother took me to Baylor and stayed with me for the first year I was at Baylor, I was seventeen years old. It is hard for me to realize that the mother of a seventeen year-old youth could come to the big city of Dallas and just dump him out. She should want some kind if assurance that that boy was taken care of. So, I’m praying for a dormitory. And when a seventeen year-old boy is called to preach comes to our college, we have a place for him to stay, or for a girl who’s given her heart and life to the Lord. And I could tell you this when that day comes to pass, and we are given that dormitory, instead of having five hundred and two students, as we presently have, we’ll have over a thousand. It will grow enormously.
The hand of the Lord is upon us. That’s why you’re here, getting ready for a marvelous and glorious soul-saving ministry, preaching and teaching the infallible Word of God, and doing it to reach men and women and families for Christ, evangelism in the pulpit, in the heart of the preacher.
All right, Dr. Allen. I just enjoyed bring with you. Do you, or does anyone of you want to say anything or ask anything? Do you want to make any observations?
Well, let me answer it. Somebody came to Spurgeon, and said to him, "Mr. Spurgeon, all of your sermons sound alike."
And Spurgeon said, "That’s right. Wherever in the Bible I take my text, I make a bee-line to the Lord Jesus."
And I think that is easily possible. No matter what section of the Bible you are preaching, you can easily, if it’s in your heart, you can easily make an appeal for the Lord Jesus. You can do that. And you can prepare to do that.
Son, I can easily understand how somebody, if he didn’t have it in his heart, could look upon a special service, Fourth of July service patriotic service, other’s Day service, a Father’s Day service, unique service, whatever, and I can see how preaching through the books of the Bible, you can come upon that kind of a question.
I can tell you truly, after seventy-one years of experience, I can tell you truly, if you have it in your heart to present Jesus and the way of salvation, and to make an appeal to the lost, you will find a way to do it. I don’t care what you’re preaching. You may be over there in Jonah or in Nahum. Or, you may be in the Revelation. But, no matter what, if you’ve got it in your heart, God will show you how to do it and make it effective. He really will.
Now, I never said that. God said that. And the Roman Road that we spoke about: we are all sinners. And Christ died to save us. Then, we come to chapter 10, "If thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead; thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation." I never said that. God said that: His infallible Word. You must openly, publicly confess your faith in the Lord Jesus. God says so. And when anybody, a child, a youth, a family, when they accept Jesus as their Savior, God says that you are to go down there and publicly, openly and avow the commitment that you have made in your soul to the Lord Jesus.
They’ve got to come down. They’ve got to come down. I so well remember, when preaching in Oakland, in the little church, there was one store in the tiny village. And I had, I had prayed with that man, talked to him, I won him to Christ. And he, the following Sunday, when I was preaching, was came forward. So, when I got through preaching, I gave the invitation. I never fail to drive to that invitation. Down the aisle he came. Took me by the hand and said, "I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior and I give my life to Him. But, I’m going back to my seat."
I said, "You can’t do that. You are going back to your seat?"
He said, "Yes, because, all my life, I have said that I would never stand up there before people and tell them about what I think about the Lord Jesus. So, I’m going back to my seat."
I looked at him in the eye, I was just a kid, I looked at him in the eye, and said, "You go back to your seat and you’ll go back lost. You can’t be saved and not stand up here and give your heart publicly and openly to the Lord Jesus. So, you just make the decision. You go back and you’ll be lost. You stand here before this congregation and confess the Lord, and you’ll be saved." Well, he paused for a long time, holding my hand up there, at the front of the church and finally said, "I’ll stay and I will openly confess my faith in the Lord Jesus."
Now, preacher, I don’t say that. God says that. You must openly and unashamedly confess your faith in the Lord Jesus. Well, what if you live over there in Saudi Arabia and to do that is to have your head cut off? Fine. You may not be able to make that confession of faith where the sultan or whatever they call the man that leads in political life there, where those people hear you. But, there will be a place where you can confess that faith, always. And you’re to do it.
You had a first question, son?
I hate to say it, because I don’t like to criticize these Bible churches. But, I can tell you what I think the Bible teaches. They’re not true to the Word of God if they don’t drive for that invitation.
Well, Spurgeon just had another way of doing it. But, man alive, did he win people to Christ. And he had an after-service. But, you have to do it, I think. There has to be in that message a climactic appeal. Then, you can do it as you please. But, it has to be done.
That’s right. I think you’re correct, eminently correct. And I think the Holy Spirit has spoken to you.
All right, son.
That’s right. That’s why I say as I say as I say. And that’s why we’re here. Let’s stand up boldly, courageously for the Word of God. If God says it, that settles it. And I am standing here as an exponent of that infallible, inerrant revelation. And all those things that you read in the Bible, about confession, about baptism, about the assembling of yourselves together and all the other things, just do it as God says it. And it is remarkable how God will bless you in it.
I might do it personally. He is talking to you right if you were a Mormon and I had an obligation. But, publicly, in some manner, proclamation, no. I just stand up there and open this Bible and do the best I can, proclaiming what God’s Word says. Then the appeal of course, is made to believe the testimony of the Word of the Lord. But, I don’t think, in all the years of my life I have ever, openly, publically in the pulpit, delivered a message I denounced a religion, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses or whatever. I don’t think so. And I would say, after all these years and years, I would still commend that choice to you. Don’t stand up there and berate and degrade and confound another faith or another religion. I don’t care what it is. But, just proclaim the Word of the Lord. Stand on it. And let the Holy Spirit take it to their hearts.
I am a great believer, and I have a message that I’m going to present here on the Holy Spirit. I am a great believer in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And that isn’t just because I read the Bible. That is because of the experiences of my own life. I remember one time there is a state encampment in Oklahoma called Falls Creek. They usually have several thousand people there. Well, I preached there back yonder in the years past several times, for the week. And I remember one time preaching there at Falls Creek and the executives of the denomination were there. I started at 11:00 o’clock. And at 2:00 o’clock, at 2:00 o’clock, we were still in that service, crying, weeping, praying to God or praising His name.
Isn’t it wonderful to have an experience like that? It’s like going to heaven. And I think the Holy Spirit is able and wiling to avow His presence with us. It’s just a marvelous thing to see the Holy Spirit come down.
Well, lads, I’ve got another big engagement a head of me. And I will see thee next week. I just love this.