I love pastors. To be a shepherd of a congregation is a high and holy calling. They are often overworked, underpaid and can be vastly underappreciated. So, it is with a bit of hesitance that I write this article.
My hope is not to add a burden but to give a challenge. Pastors who take the challenge of sharing the Gospel every week will inevitably see people radically transformed by the timeless message of Jesus. And it is this that will give them the pastoring fuel to keep charging ahead in the high stress struggles of ministry mayhem.
Over the years I’ve talked to hundreds (thousands?) of pastors about the priority of giving the Gospel in every sermon. In my interactions with them I’ve heard seven primary reasons for why some chose not to give the Gospel in every sermon. My hope in this article is to list these seven in rapid succession and quickly demonstrate their lack of validity.
Here we go…
1. “I don’t have enough time.”
In a 30-minute sermon jam packed with exegesis and illustrations it’s often easy to pass over the Gospel because of the clicking clock. But as my grandpa used to say, “You make time for what’s important to you.” And if the Gospel is truly important to us and for our people then we must create space in our sermons for the Good News of Jesus.
Without it our practical sermons become self-help sermonettes and our deep theological lectures are nothing more than dusty discourses. With the explicit gospel, our sermons pack the power unleashed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. “I want to go deeper with my people.”
Here’s the problem with this weak excuse. Everything else is the kiddy pool compared to the Gospel because it ties in every major doctrine that matters. How could one member of a Triune Godhead become flesh, live the life we couldn’t live and die the death that we deserve? How could this same God-man be resurrected physically and then live his life through us spiritually? How could this have been prophesied hundreds and even thousands of years beforehand in the Holy Scriptures?
How could we dare declare the Gospel theologically shallow?
3. “It’s not practical enough.”
Read Romans 1-11 (a treatise on sin and salvation) and it sets the foundation for the practical “now what’s” of Romans 12-16. Dive deep into the Gospel saturated ocean of Ephesians 1-3 and you won’t get just one practical command—but over 30 await you in chapters 4-6. Why? Because the basis of every practical action step in the New Testament is based on the footsteps Jesus took on our behalf to the cross and from the empty tomb! We die to ourselves in very practical ways because he died for us in a very literal way.
The Gospel—an accurate Gospel—doesn’t have to be made practical. It is the most practical theology in the whole of Scripture.
4. “My congregation will get bored with it.”
If you give the Gospel in the same way week in and week out this may be true. But it is the job of the preacher to “turn the diamond” and expose every dazzling angle of this message to our congregations in the light of God’s Word. If handled in a worthy way, the glory of redemption should never lose its shine.
Unpack it in fresh language. Share stories of people who have been transformed by it. Use different passages to explain the Gospel. Keep turning the diamond until your congregation is in awe at the breath-taking beauty of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
5. “Not every sermon ties into the Gospel.”
In every passage in the whole of Scripture there is a single scarlet thread that must be found, pulled and preached. That scarlet thread inevitably will take you to the foot of the cross.
Over a century ago in the city of London a church that seated 10,000 was erected. Every seat would be filled again and again with throngs eager to hear the young preacher exude spontaneous oratory so powerful and precise that it would have made William Shakespeare envious.
Charles Spurgeon may have been the greatest preacher of all time. So what was the secret of his preaching success? He gave the Gospel in every sermon. Here is how he described his preaching style, “I take my text and make a beeline for the cross.”
As it has been said, the key to great preaching is great subjects. And there is no greater subject than the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
6. “Sermons are for the building up of the saints, not the reaching of the lost.”
Actually, sermons are for the building of the saints (Ephesians 4:11,12) and the reaching of the lost (2 Timothy 4:1-5.) We are to “do the work of an evangelist” even if we, like Paul’s protégé, Timothy, are more pastoral by gifting. Both building the saints and reaching the lost can simultaneously exist in every sermon. Why concede it must be either/or when the stakes are so high?
Before I went full-time into Dare 2 Share (a ministry dedicated to equipping Christian teenagers to share the Gospel relationally) I was a pastor for ten years. I loved doing expository sermons that would build up the saints. But then toward the end of every sermon I would make a “salvation segue” that would turn the conversation toward those in the room who didn’t know where they stood with God.
I had our congregation trained to keep their eyes open and pray for the lost to respond (instead of start putting their stuff away) as I gave the Gospel and a bowed head, closed eyes, hand raised type of invitation. In those 10 years, there were only two weeks I can remember where nobody responded to the Gospel message.
Because people knew that the Gospel would be given every week, they were eager to invite friends, family, co-workers and neighbors our to church. Not only were the lost reached but the saints were built up because they actually participated in the evangelism process by bringing people with them to church. Evangelism doesn’t stunt growth. It’s catalytic to growth!
7. “I’m afraid that nobody will respond to the Gospel and I’ll look like a failure.”
Now, although I haven’t heard all that many pastors flat out say this, I know it’s true. There is an intimidation factor when you give the Gospel in a sermon and give people a chance to respond…because there’s a chance nobody will respond.
I’ll never forget Pastor Rod. He had built a congregation but was not fully “gospelizing” every sermon. After hearing me talk about it he decided that he would start giving the Gospel every week in every sermon no matter what.
Weeks passed by and nobody responded. He was discouraged yet determined. He knew that the Gospel had inherent power to save. He just had to keep giving it clearly and consistently.
I’ll never forget the day he breathlessly called me and told me when the first person in his services put their faith in Jesus as a result of his Gospel presentation. He was in tears.
Imagine that happening week in and week out. Imagine your people so excited to invite their yet-to-be-reached friends so they too can hear the Good News message through your sermons.
So, let’s drop the destructive excuses that hold us back from preaching the glorious Gospel in every sermon!