Admonitions for Preachers

Tuesday is for Preaching

This week I will be preaching at First Baptist Church, in Bolingbrook, IL. First Baptist is led by a bright young pastor from Texas with a great mind, a superior education in the biblical languages, and a fantastic heart for God. This week, he is away and has asked me to deliver the word of life to the congregation of First Baptist.

I will also have with me three boys from our neighborhood who are coming to hear me preach. They are all African-American junior high age whose family is going through significant upheaval right now. They are part of a crowd of boys from the neighborhood who regularly play basketball on our driveway. Their presence on our driveway is part of our outreach to the community and a bone of contention with one of our other neighbors.

Never having had children, this neighbor finds the presence of a dozen young boys on our driveway, feet from this neighbor’s driveway, to be unsettling. The really unfortunate thing about this state of affairs is that the person in question is a professing Christian. We have chosen the advance of the gospel at the cost of our neighbor’s ire.

I have never heard Andy Stanley preach, but I did hear him speak over the internet to a group of pastors. Here’s one of the things he said that resonates with me:

“When you make decisions based on keepin’ rather than reachin’ you are headed for decline.”

I may not have the quote exactly right, but you get the gist.

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, NY has said:

“I find that if I preach as if non-Christians are there in the congregation, our people invite their non-Christian friend.”

Admonitions to Preachers:

  1. Stay engaged in your neighborhood.
  2. Choose evangelism over harmony, but keep working at harmony.
  3. Spend the bulk of your time reachin’ and you will pastor a church that grows.
  4. Spend the bulk of your time trying to keep sheep happy and you will pastor a church in decline.
  5. Preach as if non-Christians are in the audience and soon they will be.

Prayer Requests:

  1. My preparation for this week’s message.
  2. The response to the gospel in the heart of my young neighbors coming to worship this week.

5 thoughts on “Admonitions for Preachers

  1. Thanks Marty for your admonishment to preach as if non-Christians are in the audience and to hold on to the hope that soon there will be non-Christians in the audience. I will prepare my sermon for this Sunday with this in mind.

    Since I am a visual person, I think I will recall the faces of my non-Christian neighbors with very little understanding about Christianity. As I and my family engage my neighbors intentionally, as we pray with them and alone, as we build our friendships with them, I will try to prepare my messages as though they’ve given me the permission to speak into their lives and to share the gospel with them so they can make sense of it in their own world.

    It would be interesting to get feedbacks from the Christians at the church where I serve if they notice anything different in my message this coming Sunday, if they can envision their non-Christian contacts actually making sense of the message. Perhaps, when they gain the confidence that their pastor will consistently speak to their non-Christian friends on any given Sunday relevantly, clearly and compellingly, they will more likely to invite them to the church.

    Perhaps, as you say, soon I will be preaching to many non-Christians in the audience! That’s exciting stuff!


  2. Keepin’ vs. Reachin’ – Part of the problem with the Christian’s that I know is that they have not internalized, in any significant way, a gospel pattern of thinking. It seems like a large percentage of the new testament letters revolve around correcting existing believers misunderstanding of an appropriate gospel pattern of thinking. The apostles seemed to know in detail what the misunderstandings were so that they could be addressed specifically.

    Since the apostles readily addressed these issues I don’t think any pastor should assume that his existing congregation even knows the difference between pursuing virtue in their life or ministry to non-christians from a position of gospel power vs. self generated works. Perhaps this provides an opportunity for preaching to non-christians and christians in the same sermon, thus helping to keep and reach at the same time. In addition, disciplining that is done outside the Sunday morning preaching may need to organized with an awareness that this gospel deficiency probably exists in a significant part of the members in the room.


  3. I would agree with the rebel except that Jesus told us to go and make disciples and my concern is that we have become very good at creating a Christian world made up of low-impact high maintenance converts instead of high impact low maintenance disciples. It is the cause of the decline of our church and ultimately our voice in the community and the world. What do you think?


    1. Amen. I agree 100 percent. The problem is that when we divide disciple making into parts (i.e. evangelism and discipleship) we emphasize one and deemphasize the other. When this happens we lose the proclamation side. Proclaiming the gospel develops disciples spiritually. When we allow disciples to claim but not proclaim we create low-impact high maintenance “disciples”.

      Making disciples is unitary. If they won’t risk rejection because of their proclamation it truncates their own spiritual growth and development.


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