In my last post, I spent a good amount of time talking about the need to be evangelical in the preaching and to have harsh preaching against sin.
So that you do not get the wrong perspective of what I believe is good preaching I am not stating that the congregation needs to be pounded week in and week out with condemning preaching. No. That is no way to build up a congregation. Nor am I calling from some fire and brimstone preacher that is constantly condemning. Preaching always needs to be balanced. Sometimes that may call for harsh preaching against sin. Other times that will call for encouragement and comfort. But always there must be calls for growth and growth never happens in the Christian life without removing what is holding us back: sin. There always must be the balance of law and gospel. The one can never exist without the other. We always need the strict preaching of the law, to understand the cross.
What I was addressing in my last post, was what I regard as a lack of harsh preaching against sin in the PRC, not saying that the preaching always needs to be harsh.
Is evangelical preaching beneficial and useful for a well-established congregation?
This is an important question. Many churches in the PRC have been there for many years. Many of the members are very well-versed in the doctrines of the Christian church. This is certainly something that the PRC should be praised for. I am very grateful for the doctrinal training I received in the PRC. I have been greatly benefited by the many hours of catechism instruction I received. This is one great beauty of the Reformed tradition: children brought up in sound, Biblical doctrinal and history.
I argue that evangelical preaching is very useful for well-established churches. It prevents complacency, dead orthodoxy, and reminds the congregation to be about the things of the Kingdom of Heaven. It encourages the members to be spreading the gospel in their own individual lives, boldly speaking of their salvation, and praying for the growth of the church.
Evangelical preaching is also very important for the members of the church, not just for the lost. It is a constant reminder to Christians of their wondrous salvation. It is a constant, beautiful look at God’s amazing grace in saving us wretched sinners! In being reminded of God’s great wrath against sin and being pointed to the substitutionary atonement of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we are brought to ever greater revelations of God’s attributes. I can speak from my own personal experience. It brings me great joy to hear of my wondrous salvation week by week. It does not get boring or dull. It is beautiful to hear!
The truth also is that we as Christians are foolish. We need the constant reminder of the gospel. If we understood the gospel in its full beauty we would have much fewer problems in our daily walk of sanctification. If we understood the beauty of the Son of God, who humiliated himself to the point of death and the sufferings of hell for us, we would be more conscious of our sins. We would be less inclined to abuse the cross of Christ with our sins. If we understood the beauty of the fact that our heavenly Father crushed His very own eternal Son for our salvation, while we yet hated God, we would be inspired to countless ages of piety.
We need to be ever reminded about the gospel!
And this will further drive us to study doctrine in ever increasing depth. If there is a problem among our young people, particularly in daily personal devotions and an interest in reading doctrine and doctrinal literature, perhaps they need to be reminded of the beauty of the gospel. The more we understand the beauty of the gospel, the more we will want to know more about it, and about the God who has saved us.
A church and not just its pastor should be evangelical.
This is an important point. I found personal evangelism was never ever really spoken of in the PRC. If it was, it was perhaps in a brief lecture, but nothing generally came out of it. Often the idea was that you let your life, your work ethic, your behaviour and morality do the preaching for you. The only problem with that is that your morality can never tell somebody about the gospel. Your morality, which may exist in the Muslim as well as the Christian, can never speak of Jesus Christ.
An extremely important way in which the whole church can be evangelical is through prayer. The individual members of the church should be in constant prayer regarding the ministry of the church. Prayers should be continually offered up that the white horse of the gospel would ride triumphantly throughout the world. That the gospel would more and more be preached to the lost. We should be on our knees praying that gospel preaching would be effectual in the salvation of many, so that many more may praise God with lips of adoration!
I must say that members in the PRC, myself included, were often hesitant to talk to visitors to the church. There simply is no training or discipleship in how to deal with visitors. The congregation is not trained in how to share their faith. One of the seminary professors did come to the church to give some lectures on evangelism and made some good points, also telling us that to grow in our evangelism we need to be discipled in it. He even said he would be willing to come back in a couple months to help us in that. But nothing ever came of it (and here I condemn myself, as much as any other), leaving me to ponder what good was it? What good are words, if they lead to no action? The church needs discipleship in the area of evangelism!
The task of talking to visitors should not just be left to the pastor, elders, or members of the evangelism committee. It is very sad if it is. We as Christians should be overjoyed to be able to tell somebody about Jesus Christ! We should always be ready to give an answer, not just on the finer points of doctrine, but on the basic principles of Christianity.
Why does this reluctance exist? Have we forgotten the importance of the foundational principles of our faith? Have we forgotten the importance of sharing the faith?