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Avoid leaving ‘a fog in the pew’ via biblical preaching, he counsels

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Effective evangelistic preaching is clear, balanced and Christ-centered, Timothy Beougher told a group of pastors and seminary students March 27.

“I tell my preaching students that if there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pew,” Beougher said. “Preaching is not a time to show off all we know. No man can give at once the impression that he is clever and that Christ has nothing to say.”

Beougher addressed a group that included area pastors and students in a workshop on evangelistic preaching, which was part of the “Power in the Pulpit” preaching seminar hosted by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Beougher is the associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary.

In his workshop, Beougher outlined 10 points that should typify both the evangelistic message and the evangelist himself. He illustrated the points with quotations and anecdotes from evangelical pulpit legends, including 17th-century Puritan minister Richard Baxter, 19th-century British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19th-century Methodist John Wesley and modern evangelist Billy Graham.

In addition to being Christ-centered and clear, evangelistic preaching should be Bible-centered, cross-centered and balanced, Beougher said.

“It was Spurgeon who told his students, ‘Take your text and make a beeline for the cross,'” Beougher said.

Beougher told of an encounter he had had during a lunch date with the teaching pastor of one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, one that takes a pragmatic approach to evangelistic preaching.

“I asked him what role the Bible played in [their preaching philosophy],” Beougher said. “And he said, ‘We try to weave the message of the Bible into what we have to say.’ Preaching that draws the net is Bible-centered. It is God’s Word that changes people’s lives, not our ideas.”

In his discussion of balanced preaching, Beougher warned of expounding the love of God divorced from the impending judgment people face in rejecting Christ. The doctrine of hell has all but flamed out in modern pulpits, he said.

Beougher said Baxter believed love and fear are both important in reaching people.

“He realized that there are two great motives to our evangelistic preaching,” Beougher said. “If ever in the past there was an imbalance of preaching on fire and brimstone, and I am not convinced there ever really was, the pendulum has swung very far in the other direction.

“Now we have a heavenly Father who is presented as a grandfather that basically says, ‘Do whatever you want to do.’ There’s no sense of holiness, no sense of judgment, no sense of the wrath of God against sinners. We have totally lost that perspective. Some theologians are telling us today that everyone knows they are sinners, they just need to be told how to be saved. That is absolutely, patently false. People do not understand that they are sinners under the judgment of a holy God because we have replaced theology with sociology.”

Beougher also spoke of the preacher who draws the net, noting five characteristics that should mark his ministry. He should be a person who maintains a life of personal devotion, preaches with passion, trusts in the power of the gospel, invites people to come to Christ and keeps a broken heart for the lost, Beougher said.

“Spurgeon said preachers who seldom invite people to come to Christ seldom see people come to Christ,” Beougher said. “There are many debates regarding methodology, but don’t get hung up on methodology. We would do well to heed the words of Spurgeon.”

Commenting also on Christians who see the unregenerate as the enemy in the modern culture war instead of the victims of the enemy, Beougher asked, “Why is it that we who follow the compassionate one lack compassion?

“Ultimately, they are held captive to the true enemy, Satan, who has blinded their eyes, who holds them captive. We must keep a broken heart for the lost.”

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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