November 8, 2016

Stop Shutting Off Your Brain When Your Pastor Preaches the Gospel

by Jordan Standridge

Over the years I have noticed a trend that when a pastor says the words, “if you don’t know Christ and you are here this morning…” most of the congregation present starts closing their Bibles, may even talk to one another and perhaps even get up and start walking out. I’ve even noticed sometimes when the preacher puts the Gospel in the middle of the sermon that some people, used to shutting off when they hear those magic words, started shutting their Bibles thinking the sermon was over despite the fact that the preacher was only halfway done.

bored-in-churchNow I completely understand the sentiment. Usually, when the pastor shares the Gospel it is at the end of the sermon and people are just getting their things together in order to be able to leave quickly after the service. Also, many mothers are simply being kind and want to be able to relieve the nursery workers from their children. Perhaps many people are absolutely secure in their salvation and simply shut off whenever they hear something that doesn’t apply to them.

I would like to encourage you to rethink this attitude.

Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about evangelism, how to teach it and how to motivate people to do it. I’ve written quite a bit on it on this blog and sadly the evangelism posts are the ones that seem to get the least attention. Many people say it is because it is a topic that convicts people a lot and that they would rather not feel condemned over it. Others may not share a post because they don’t want to seem like a hypocrite.

I’ve had many people ask me to help them in their evangelism, but perhaps I have neglected one of the most important places where people can learn to do so: the part of the sermon where the Pastor addresses the unbeliever.

There are three reasons that come to mind as to why we must fight the temptation and focus on the preacher as he shares the gospel with us.

The first reason is that people don’t know how to share the gospel. I’ve gone out sharing the gospel with many people. Some who have been Christians most of their lives, and sadly I’ve noticed that they don’t know what to say when it comes to sharing the Gospel. The beauty of it is that it’s never too late to learn and it brings me great joy that they are willing to humble themselves and grow in this pivotal area. Maybe it’s the first time they’ve done it, but it dawned on me that they all have heard the Gospel countless times from the pulpit. Most pastors I know regularly teach the Gospel from the pulpit.

I’ve talked to so many professing unbelievers who have grown up in the church and yet don’t even know what the Gospel is. I’m talking about dozens upon dozens in the last year alone who attended hundreds of sermons growing up and could not tell me what Christians believed about how someone goes to Heaven. We just shut off our brain. The minute we hear the pastor transition into the gospel we close our bibles and start thinking about what we’re having for lunch, but if we would stop and listen perhaps we would get better at sharing the gospel ourselves.

The second reason is that it makes you thankful for your salvation. Hearing the gospel should never get boring. We should be able to listen and be amazed each time.  As we hear the pastor explain the way of salvation, we should examine our hearts and each time we should walk away with great thankfulness to Christ for saving us. Every time I share the gospel I am reminded about how blind those I am speaking to are. This leads me to remember how blind I was prior to knowing Christ. I’m also reminded of how forgiving God is.

So many people who are sitting in the pews as the pastor talks about the forgiveness people can receive in Christ are in broken relationships, holding grudges against others. Perhaps hearing about how much God has forgiven us will be a reminder to us about how much we then must forgive others around us. We are simply too fragile, and forgetful to shut off our brains when the pastor starts preaching the gospel and must focus on the words he is speaking.

The third reason is that people may not be saved around you. We all know it is God who saves. He doesn’t need anything from us in order to perform the miracle of regeneration. But we do play a part in the ministry of reconciliation, as ambassadors we share the gospel with our lips, and we do our best to expose the lost to the Word of God.

There is little that is more distracting than people who are preparing to leave. Shutting our bibles, grabbing our keys, picking up papers are very distracting and can keep people from paying attention to the preacher.

Instead, those who are confident in their salvation should remain quiet and focused, and perhaps even pray that God would use the words the preacher is saying to open up the hearts of unbelievers present. It is discouraging for the preacher to see people disengage, perhaps it may discourage him from preaching the Gospel in the future or to be too quick and leave out essentials components, and the unbelievers around you might get distracted and be kept from hearing the truth.

The next time your pastor starts addressing the unbeliever in the room, say a quick prayer for those around you, be reminded of what Christ has done for you and take notes so you may learn a thing or two about how to explain the Gospel a little better to a dying world that desperately needs to hear it.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • Christina

    Thank you for this post. It is a wonderful reminder…..especially about how that part of the message is important to the believer. I have always just thought it important to be still and listen as an encouragement to other believers (a previous church used to tell us to close our eyes and bow our heads during the salvation message to encourage focus) but I never really thought of the impact on myself. Thank you for that additional perspective.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks Christina! Glad it was helpful.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    You left out the first thing I thought of: If you’re gathering your things, checking your $%^& email and leaving–or looking like you can’t wait to do so–before the end of the message, that’s just being rude to whoever is speaking. It’s like continuing to look at your watch when someone’s trying to talk to you, as if to say, “Can you hurry it up, pal? I’ve got to see a guy about a horse.”

    Even if you’ve “heard it all before” a million times, at least give the pastor the respect of being attentive and quiet until he’s done. Try switching places with him, seeing people fixing to leave as you’re still wrapping up your remarks. That’s so annoying.

    And while I’m at it, can I just give a shout out to people who come into the service with their tall lattes in hand, sipping on them throughout the service and munching on a muffin? Where I come from, there’s NO EATING OR DRINKING in a worship service. Come in ready to be reverent and quiet. You’re there to meet with the Lord, not have snacks and chat.

    OK, off my soapbox.

    • Benders

      Is regular coffee ok?

  • Creighton Ring

    Thanks Jordan! Your article reminds me of a service I was listening to, where the preacher (a missionary) explained the gospel to a small church congregation. He finished his message, and because it was a more informal gathering, a man among the listeners asked, “Why do you preach the gospel to us? You know we are Christians here. We all know the gospel.” The missionary replied, “My brother, we all must be reminded of the gospel each and every day. We must be continually desirous of the example of God’s grace in the forefront of our minds.” He went on, “If we do not, our minds will be crowded with every other clever-sounding idea, most of which will have ourselves at the center.”

    If I might add one thought to yours, it would be for all of us to remember the extraordinary blessing it is to be in a church where the gospel is preached faithfully.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Amen! Thanks Creighton.

  • Jordan, this is so good. As a preacher and a listener, this is just so helpful.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks Clint.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    Somewhere along the line we were taught that when the pastor started to give the salvation message, that was our cue as believers to begin praying for those present who did not yet know Christ. It’s funny, even when I’m listening to the radio and the pastor gets to that point, I begin to pray. #conditionedresponse

  • kevin2184

    Great reminder (and admonishment). Thanks Jordan