One of the most important things that the preacher does is preach. Of utmost importance in the life of the church is the public worship service. It is the time when the Gospel is preached and sinners are invited to the Lord Jesus Christ. The public service is the important thing in the life of a church!
Following are a number of rules which might be helpful in conducting an evangelistic worship service:
1. The Pastor Should Be There. It is important that the pastor be in his own pulpit. I have made it a policy through the years to be in my own pulpit every Sunday. Some preachers would not feel this advisable, and certainly that is understandable. However, as much as possible, the pastor should be in his own pulpit.
2. Claim the Spirit Fullness. If a preacher is prayed up as he should be, and talks to the Lord periodically, he should be able to preach all the time. Simply a prayer of claiming the Spirit fullness before he goes into the pulpit, is sufficient many times. Many preachers ruin their disposition, their sermon and their spirit by waiting too late on Saturday night to agonize, or, by waiting too late on Sunday morning. The agonizing should be done previous to the service, and a simple claiming by faith the fullness of God’s spirit will many times suffice before the service. This does not discount the agonizing in prayer and the many hours a preacher should pray for the services and for the power of God-but the preacher should realize that God wants to fill him, and if he has met the conditions of God all week long in his life, then he can have His fullness on Sunday.
3. Have Real Humility. Humility is not cowardice; neither is it timidity. Humility is a feeling that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” There is a fine line of distinction between a person who is “cocky,” and a person who is humble. A cocky person says, “I can do all things.” A humble person says, “I can do all things . . . through Christ.”
4. Work on Yourself before the Service. Before the service, go alone and ask God to put you in the mood of the sermon. If you are going to preach against sin, think how awful sin is-ask God to stir your heart against it, and make you realize how dirty and black it is. If you are going to preach on heaven, try to walk the golden streets a while before you go into the pulpit. If you are going to preach on hell, turn the lights out for a while and think about how awful hell must be, and ask God to put you in the right mood for the sermon. This is important!
5. Get Everyone to Participate in the Preaching Service.
That is one reason for the song service. If the people sing, and participate in the first part of the service, they will be relaxed for the invitation. Many churches find it wise to have the people shake hands at the first part of the service. This may become a formality if not handled properly. The people should definitely be loosened up in the early part of the service, and feel themselves a part of it. Many people never feel like part of the service, but like spectators. This should not be.
There are several ways the right feeling can be achieved. As mentioned before, hand-shaking is a good way. Then, a definite effort to get all of the congregation to sing in the song service is good. To do this, some old songs must be used, which all of the people will know.
Also, it is good to have a time to recognize visitors to have them stand, say a few words about them, make them feel at home.
6. Get concerned People to Lift Their Hands. Sometimes in the early part of the service, it is often good to have the people bow their heads for prayer. Then ask the people who are praying for an unsaved friend in the service to lift their hands. This will do several things: First, it will let you know if you have many prospects. Again, it will let you know the people in your church who bring lost souls to the services. Also, the person who raises his hand indicating that he is interested in a lost one, will usually be sitting next to or near the unsaved friend. This will let you know who the unsaved are so that you will be able to give them special attention later in the service.
7. Preach to Get Results. Preach to get results! Never become the teacher type or the lecturer type, and never get used to a “dry haul.” When you preach a sermon on tithing, expect people to start tithing. When you preach against a certain sin, expect people to give it up. Always expect additions and conversions in the services. Preach to get results!
8. Train the People to Be Openly for You. This should be especially true when the preacher is a frank person. The visitors in the service, especially the unsaved, need to be conscious of the fact that the people there are for you, and believe what you are preaching. If they feel as if you are fighting an uphill battle and that the people are against what you say, your sermon will be ineffective. However, if they feel that in the power of the Spirit you are preaching Jesus in such a way that your people are for you, then they, too, will be impressed with the service.
Train your people to say “Amen” often. It is certainly helpful in an evangelistic preaching service.
9. Do Not Reveal the Closing Point. Many of us in our preaching will make such statements as, “Now, in conclusion”; “Finally, may I say”; “My last point is . . . .”
These statements are sometimes dangerous. The sinner knows five minutes before you finish; hence, he digs in and prepares himself for the invitation so that he does not respond. However, if your closing is abrupt and a lost person does not suspect that you are about finished, you have crept up on him and he will not have time to prepare himself for the invitation. Many people may be reached, using this method.
One of the most glaring errors of many churches is that just as the preacher nears the conclusion in his sermon, the organist tiptoes like a sniper in battle, to the organ, letting the people in the congregation know that invitation time is near-and letting the lost person brace himself for the invitation. Then the choir director whispers the number to the choir, and they begin to shuffle pages. We eliminate that in our church by using the same invitation hymn at the close of each service. If there is a change, the pastor announces the number at the beginning of the service. The invitation should be abruptthe people should not have their attention diverted until time for the invitation itself.
10. Do Not Fuss over Past Sins. Many preachers ruin their effectiveness by preaching against the sins the members committed during the past week. They cannot undo a single one of them. However, they would do well to preach against the sins they might commit next week, and lead them to avoid those.
11. Do Not Close the Service on a Low Note. It is good to start the service on a high spiritual plane and to close the service on a high spiritual plane. If there is any skinning, or roof-raising to be done, do it in the middle of the sermon. Then, bring the sermon back up to a high spiritual level. People have a way of remembering the last part of the service. If the service is closed on a complaining, fussing note, then the people subconsciously register that and are not as prone to return. However, if the service is closed on a high note, a victorious note, all the time, then the people will subconsciously have the desire to come back.
12. Do Not Ask for Rededications Until Souls Have Been Reaped. Reap the souls first. Many times preachers have people come to kneel at the altar to rededicate their lives, begin family altars or begin tithing, and clog the aisles so that the lost people cannot get down them. Always try to reap the sinners first. Then, afterwards turn to the Christians and lead them to a deeper life. Do not block the aisles with Christians so that the lost will be discouraged from coming.
13. Use Soul Winners in the Invitation. This is dangerous sometimes; however, it can be used effectively.
Have some key people in your church (many times some deacons) observe as the hands are raised for prayer in the invitation. Then, after singing a while, if these who raised their hands do not come, they may be approached by the soul winners, who may be able to lead them to Christ.
Promiscuous wandering around during the invitation is often hurtful. It should be guarded carefully in order not to hurt people, and lead folks farther away from Christ. However, when a person raises his hand, he is under conviction, and usually can be won by an effective, tactful, Spirit-filled soul winner.
It is hoped that the foregoing suggestions will be helpful to many pastors as they lead their churches to be evangelistic centers. God knows that if we worship in Spirit and in truth we will bring sinners to Christ week by week.
For the past forty-two months in the Miller Road Baptist Church someone has been saved every week, and someone has been ready for baptism each Sunday evening. May God be praised! These methods have been used of the Lord week after week in the bringing of souls to Christ. May God use them to bless your heart.