Preaching is the most important, powerful form of communication. The Western nations today — as never before — urgently need the solid, strong spiritual medicine of good preaching. When a preacher creates a sermon under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the result is an intellectually stimulating and spiritually illuminating message that can effect life change.
An evangelistic sermon, if based on the Word of God and anointed by the Holy Spirit, can effect the greatest possible life change. In the sovereignty of God, it can speak to an unbeliever and turn his or her heart to faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s consider seven aspects of an effective evangelistic sermon:
1. Topic
Choosing a specific topic and developing it usually works best, whether the topic is God Himself, loneliness, forgiveness, freedom, peace, purity, happiness, heaven, or true Christianity. The chosen topic should interest the listener and relate to his situation. As we speak, we should go from what the listener knows to what he doesn’t know, from what he’s looking for to what he’s not looking for but needs.
We’re free to use our imagination and creativity when trying to communicate the message of salvation. Look at the example the apostle Paul provides. As explained in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, he would adapt his presentation of the Gospel in any given situation. When he wanted to lead a Jew to Christ, he talked about topics of relevance to the Jewish way of thinking; to the Gentiles, he became like a Gentile.
Remarkably, Paul could adapt his message to reach any and every audience. In one week, he could preach in the Jewish synagogue (Acts 17:17a), in the marketplace (Acts 17:17b), then to the intelligentsia of Athens (Acts 17:18-31). His sermon to the Areopagus demonstrates our need to target our presentation of the self-same Gospel message to the specific groups before us.
2. Message
While the announced topic of an evangelistic message may not be necessarily sacred, the message itself is and can’t be changed or tampered with. The core of any evangelistic sermon has to be Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. Otherwise, the message is not evangelistic, ignoring the Gospel.
The heart, the backbone of any evangelistic message, can be summarized this way: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Or compressed even further into what some have called the miniature Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16). Preacher, saturate people with these Gospel truths, which can be planted in people’s hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit and bear fruit for eternity.
3. Language
It’s crucial to preach an evangelistic sermon in simple, understandable terms. A profound theological dissertation or word study may be great for those already part of God’s eternal Kingdom. But for those who are not, we need to speak in simple terms, not evangelical jargon. Biblical terms like justification, redemption, and regeneration need contemporary equivalents, without diminishing their depth of meaning. Simplify difficult terms so your message can be understood by all listeners.
4. Illustrations
An effective communicator uses contemporary examples and anecdotes. This helps keep the listeners attentive. If at all possible, use illustrations from everyday life. Billy Graham often quotes from the newspapers, citing events and personalities of the day, to highlight the urgency and relevance of his message.
5. Focus
An evangelistic sermon shouldn’t be used as a platform to change the audience’s political viewpoint. Your objective is to win hearts to God. You can’t afford to offend others. The message of Good News is for the whole world. Your message must center around Jesus Christ and proclaim that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died for our sins, rose from the dead, is alive, and is coming again. Everyone who believes this message, no matter his past or what his political persuasion, inherits eternal life.
We can’t afford to preach against this or that issue. Rather, let’s preach for Christ, proclaiming the Good News of eternal life in a positive way, with power from above.
6. Structure
As with other types of sermons, the evangelistic message needs to hang on a logical structure.
The overall objective, of course, is to rail people in the audience to decide for (or against) Christ.
The theme can vary, as noted above, depending on which topic might interest your audience.
The introduction must capture the attention of your listeners within the first few phrases. If you start an evangelistic sermon in a rather predictable manner, your audience won’t hear you out. If, on the other hand, your opening remarks are compelling, you will have hooked your audience and they’ll listen to the central part of your message.
Ideally, the body of an evangelistic message should have only three or four main points, making it easier for the audience to remember them. I’m afraid I break this principle too often, and pay for it visibly.
The conclusion of an evangelistic sermon invites listeners to make a commitment to Christ. At that climactic moment, the preacher –who is God’s voice and mouth (see Jer. 15:18 and 1 Pet. 4:11a) — asks listeners to repent and believe the truth he has just proclaimed.
7. Climax
An evangelistic sermon should lead to a climax, confronting listeners with the need to make a decision for the claims of Christ. By a climax, I don’t mean something necessarily emotional, but rather something spiritual, something that engages the listener at every level of his being — intellect, emotions and will.
Jesus demanded that people make a decision about Him (Mat. 4:19, John 3:36). Make your listeners see they’re at a crossroad. Preach in such a way that unbelievers face a dilemma and must ask, “What am I going to do with Christ?”
Without a call to commitment, an evangelistic sermon is dysfunctional. Lutheran pastor George Fry said in Christianity Today some years back: “Perhaps the preaching of the churches is not persuasive because the disloyalty of our decade [indeed, this generation] has been the divorce of theology and evangelism…. Theology without the practical purpose of making converts degenerates into irresponsible skepticism. The consequence of this situation is a faith that is neither intellectually sound nor emotionally satisfying.”
Importance of the Invitation
When I was young, I attended a church that preached the Good News of salvation in a theological, doctrinal, and biblical way. I thank God for that church. But there was one problem: practically no one was ever being converted; the church wasn’t growing. Whenever one person trusted Christ, it felt like a revival. How sad, after the Gospel was preached so accurately, that nobody trusted Christ!
The heart of the matter was we had instructive evangelism instead of decisive evangelism. The preaching of the Gospel should go hand in hand with an invitation for the listener to believe, to surrender, to receive Christ, to trust Him for salvation.
Some preachers exclude invitations to trust Christ from the sermons because they don’t want to offend anyone or tarnish their well-manicured image. Others give no clear-cut call to commitment, fearful if no one makes a public stand for Christ that they will have “failed” (far from it). Still other preachers believe salvation is solely God’s responsibility, so they don’t try to persuade anyone to trust Christ. How different the approach of the apostles Peter (Acts 2:44-46) and Paul (2 Cor. 5:11-13)!
I’m not suggesting one should give an overly emotive appeal. Nor am I saying we have to give a lengthy or negative invitation, obligating someone to respond and shaming the unconverted by manipulation and glib techniques. But if we’re afraid well offend someone by giving an invitation, our blossoming evangelistic efforts will never reach fruition.
If you want to preach an evangelistic message that yields fruits, give people an opportunity to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” On many occasions Jesus gave His listeners a clear opportunity to make a choice between surrender or rebellion, light or darkness, hope or despair. So should we.
As we communicate the message and give an invitation, we need to confront unbelievers as Jesus did, in a compassionate and loving way (Mark 10:21) so they won’t close their ears or heart to God’s voice. I find people want to know what steps to take to respond to Christ. Ours is the pleasure of telling them quite specifically and simply.
My insistence on giving an invitation is borne out not only by Scripture but also by experience. My mother admitted, “I had been on the verge of receiving Christ many times, but I didn’t do it because the preacher wouldn’t give me the chance. Give an invitation to receive Christ every time you preach the Gospel. Remember it might be somebody’s last chance to receive the Lord.”
Do you preach a Gospel that demands a decision? Or do you preach a message so diluted people leave with the feeling you are nothing more than a friendly communicator?
So much still needs to be done to win the world for Christ. How long will people in our congregations and communities have to wait until they are given a chance to respond to the Gospel? Are we willing to show compassion and try urgently to win the lost to Christ?

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About The Author

Luis Palau and his ministry have shared the Gospel with more than 1 billion people through evangelistic events and media. He has spoken in person to 30 million people in 75 countries, with more than 1 million registered decisions for Jesus Christ. Luis Palau festivals have produced some of the largest audiences ever recorded in cities from south Florida to South America. His radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish are heard by millions on 3,500 radio outlets in 48 countries. Among other top-tier programs, Luis currently hosts Luis Palau Responde, an international Q&A program in Spanish, and Reaching Your World, a devotional-style program emphasizing biblical wisdom. He has authored close to 50 books, contributed articles on issues of faith to countless publications, and counseled business leaders, political leaders, and heads of state around the world.

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