The pastor of a church who desires to grow through conversion faces an exciting frustration!
Every message a pastor gives cannot be directed to non-Christians. If it was, he would have a church full of infant Christians – individuals who know how to enter the Christian life but have never learned how to live it. But at the same time, if believers have genuine relationships with non-Christians, there should be unbelievers frequenting the church service on a regular basis. Therefore, how does one appeal to lost people in a non-evangelistic setting such as a Sunday morning service where the message is directed towards believers, not unbelievers? How does he deal with this rather “exciting frustration?”
Let me offer several suggestions that pastors throughout the nation have found beneficial.
The Sermon Is Not the Only Place to Make an Appeal
Sometimes we need what Winston Churchill called “the genius to recognize the obvious.” We overlook some of the simplest and most natural ways to make an appeal to lost people.
For example, it can be done the way one takes up the morning offering. I once heard a pastor say to his people, “In a moment we are going to take up the offering for the expenses of the ministry. If you are visiting with us this morning, we would request that as the offering plate is passed that you not place anything in it. Instead of giving a gift to the church, we’d like you to receive a gift Christ has for you. Jesus Christ paid for our sins on a cross by dying as our substitute, taking our punishment and rising again the third day. Therefore, through personal trust in Christ we can receive His free gift of life eternal. Instead of giving, just sit there and meditate upon what God would like to give you. Right here this morning you could receive that free gift. Would the ushers please come to take up the offering?” I thought what a natural, honest and direct way to make an appeal to lost people.
It can even be done the way one introduces a paragraph of the Scriptures he’s about to speak from. For example, suppose one were speaking from 1 Corinthians. It would be most natural and effective to say, “I always enjoy speaking from the book of 1 Corinthians because the individual God used to write this portion of scripture was a man by the name of Paul. Prior to coming to know Christ, Paul called himself a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violently arrogant man. He had every reason to think I’m too big a sinner for God to save.’ But he recognized that on the cross Christ did not die for some people, He died for everybody.
Because he paid the price for our sins by dying in our place and rising again, God can now extend the free gift of life eternal to anyone who will simply put their trust in Christ. So if you think you are too big a sinner for God to save, rest assured that as we study this paragraph in 1 Corinthians, that is most certainly not true.”
You Appeal to Them the Way You Illustrate Your Message
Pastors who effectively use illustrations are the most likely to relate to lost people. Lost people do not understand the Bible, but they do understand life. Therefore, a pastor who uses illustrations effectively tells the lost person that he understands not only the scriptures but him and life.
Years ago I was speaking in a church on the subject of marriage and the family using Genesis 2:18-25. I was addressing the subject, “Why did God start it all?” I told the audience that one of the reasons God instituted marriage was for companionship. God plainly said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” I then addressed the subject of loneliness, giving the illustration of a 29-year-old single man from Topeka, Kansas, who said, “For myself I can only describe the word ‘loneliness’ as being a gut-level sick feeling at the pit of your stomach. It’s so far within yourself that you fear you are in a trap and will never be set free.” After the service, a non-Christian sought me out and said, “You could not have described me any better. That quote really penetrated.” I had the privilege of taking him aside and leading him to the Lord.
You Can Appeal to Them Through the Conclusion of Your Message
A conclusion of a message has to appeal for action. God does not want everyone there to merely hear what has been said. He wants them to act upon what has been said. Suppose, therefore, you have been preaching on John 13:1-17 where Christ washed the feet of the disciples. That has absolutely nothing to do with how to get to heaven, does it? But what would be more appropriate than at the end of the message to encourage believers that a mark of greatness in God’s eyes is not how many servants you have but how many people you serve?
Then in a most effective way you can say to lost people in the audience, “My message this morning has been to believers. But maybe you are here today and you do not know for sure if you were to die you’d go to heaven. Before you think about how you can serve the Lord, may I encourage you to think of how the Lord has served you? Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, did for you and me what we would never do for another. He died on a cross to take the punishment for your sins and rose again the third day. Because the price for sin has been paid, you can receive the free gift of life eternal. If you have not received that free gift, I would love to talk with you and help you arrive at that point where you know beyond the shadow of any doubt that if you were to die, you’d go to heaven. But do not even think about serving the Lord until you first understand how He has served you.”
You as the Preacher Are Not the Only One Who Can Make the Appeal
A church of any size has more than one person involved in the service on Sunday morning. Those people can be of tremendous assistance to the pastor in appealing to lost people. The choir or worship team can do it through selecting a song with a message to non-Christians in it. For example, Kathy Troccoli sings a song: “I Call Him Love.” Imagine non-Chris-tians sitting in a service directed to believers but hearing words like these: “Some call Him a mystery — a power without a face. Some feel He’s a distant father that they could not embrace … I call Him love. I call Him mercy. I called Him out of my darkness and pain, and He answered my need.” What better way to appeal to lost people?
The worship leader can even do it the way he introduces a particular song. For example, suppose in a service where one uses a mixture of hymns and choruses that the leader chose one of the old time favorite hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It could be introduced by saying, “There are moments in our life when we wonder if God really cares.
The person whose song you are about to sing was a man acquainted with pain. Joseph Scriven was born in 1819. At the age of 25 he decided to leave his native country of Ireland and migrate to Canada. One of the reasons was the sorrow he was experiencing because of the accidental drowning of his fiancee the night before they were to be married. Upon arriving in Canada and learning of his mother’s serious illness, he wrote her a letter of comfort that enclosed the words of this song.
Some time later, a friend who came to visit him saw this poem scribbled on paper near his bed. When he asked Mr. Scriven if he had written the words, he replied, ‘The Lord and I did it between us.’ If you are here and have not trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, we encourage you not to sing these words but instead to listen as we sing them. Joseph Scriven and many others have found in Jesus Christ the greatest friend they will ever know. So much was He our friend that He died on a cross in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, and rose again so that through personal trust in Him we can receive the free gift of life eternal. If you have not trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, perhaps today could be that day. And while you are on earth He’ll be with you, and when you die you’ll be with Him. Together let’s sing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.'”
Someone else who can appeal to lost people is a person who gives a brief testimony. People in your church know that their brothers and sisters have come to Christ but seldom know the circumstances. Why not on a fairly regular basis have individuals give a testimony that clearly presents the gospel to the lost? One word of caution — believers often don’t know how to give an effective testimony. That time is so critical; it’s important to have them to write it out, allow you to read it, make any suggestions and then re-write it prior to giving it. Through a clear testimony, the lost person comes to understand how he, too, can come to know the Savior.
Speaking to non-Christians in a service directed to Christians is an exciting frustration. It’s a frustration in that the entire service is not directed to non-Christians. But it’s an exciting one because there are so many easy, sensible and relatable ways to do it. Variety is often called the spice of life. It also is the spice of evangelism.
When you use varied ways to appeal to non-Christians in a non-evangelistic settin, you end up making an eternal difference in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. If we take seriously the brevity of life, it is important that we relate to lost people in one way or another in every single service. Pastors speak to dying people. That lost person who sits in your service today may not be in any service tomorrow. The time to introduce him or her to the Savior is now.
The pastor of a church who desires to grow through conversion faces an exciting frustration!