The Evangelism Mandate: Recovering the Centrality of Gospel Preaching

David L. Larsen Crossway Books, Grand Rapids September 1, 1992

Larsen, professor emeritus of preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, aims this book toward “pastors and Christian leaders and students in seminaries,” with the goal that theological education may better instruct future leaders to preach in order to bring people to Christ.

The first part of the book deals with soteriology, the second with the preaching event, and the third with strategies for evangelism. The subtitle suggests that this is a book on evangelistic preaching, but this is not the case. Even the second section of the book, “Sent to Preach,” deals more with the historical continuity and sociology of the gospel proclamation. Only a dozen or so pages in the chapter “The Technology of the Evangelistic Sermon” deal with evangelistic preaching as such. Larsen says an effective evangelistic sermon must be biblical, doctrinal, Christological, apologetical, and passionate. And he stresses the need for the preacher to be dependent on prayer and to be devoted to Christ.

The homiletical modus operandi that Larsen recommends—understanding the original situation, finding the general principles, and applying those principles to contemporary situations—is remarkably congruent with the threefold exegetical, theological, and homiletical processes taught by the Department of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Seminary. A timely reminder not to forget the role of imagination, creativity, and storytelling concludes this brief chapter.

A discussion of the evangelistic invitation in a subsequent chapter is useful; further development of the role of the invitation and how this could be incorporated in sermons that are not primarily evangelistic, without violating the intent of the biblical text (or the integrity of the homiletician) would have been helpful. After all, most preachers are not preaching evangelistic sermons week after week; yet all of them no doubt desire to extend an invitation to their unsaved listeners to trust Christ, even when expounding passages that are not explicitly evangelistic in intent. It would also have been helpful if the book included some guidelines on how to preach topical evangelistic sermons.

Incidentally the book also includes a chapter on the “lordship salvation” controversy, in which Larsen presents what he calls a media res, which, in his case, is actually closer to the “lordship” pole. The chapter is irenic except for the section titles: John MacArthur’s view is termed “Concussion,” Charles Ryrie’s is “Consternation,” and Zane Hodges’s is “Convolution.” Clearly the author’s uncanny ability to alliterate sections within chapters attests to his homiletical prowess!

A postscript includes “five classic evangelistic sermons” from Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Stewart, George Truett, and Billy Graham, along with Larsen’s biographical and contextual annotations of each of these five preachers, as well as a guide for analyzing the sermons. Perhaps equally useful—if not more—would have been an appendix with a list of Scripture texts from which the pastor could craft evangelistic sermons.

As a general book on evangelism from a pastor’s perspective The Evangelism Mandate may be of some value. For one interested in honing homiletical skills for pulpit evangelism, help must be sought elsewhere.

—Abraham Kuruvilla

April 1, 2004

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2004 vol. 161 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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