Pastor’s Column: The Evangelical Season of Advent
This world is not our home. It is hard to imagine feeling at home in a world where our brothers or sisters are beheaded before our eyes. Time would fail me if I were to start talking about cancer, ethnic injustice, abortion, and rape. How shall we respond to these things?
Enter the season of Advent—a time when we feel the pain of this world with spiritual honesty. We cannot suppress the pain. We cannot minimize or ignore it. We stare at it a little longer. We lament over it more deeply. And we ask more desperately for Jesus to come again and make all things new.
Mournful Longing and Anticipation
Advent is a season of mournful longing and anticipation. It spans the generations. The Israelites of old waited for the Messiah to come, but they missed the wondrous mystery—that the Messiah would come not once, but twice. Christ has come once and we now find ourselves waiting (like Israel of old) for the day when he will “disperse the gloomy clouds of night and earth’s dark shadows put to flight.” In this Advent season we will explore what it means to wait well as we rest in Christ’s first victory and await his final victory.
We lose heart when we lose sight of Jesus and his victories. Weary believers need to take heart. Those who don’t love Christ need a newheart. Both require a clear line of sight to Jesus.
Advent and Easter: Evangelistic Seasons
Let me make a very personal appeal. Advent and Easter should be the most evangelistic seasons of the church calendar. In our culture, we observe a surprising willingness to attend church during these times. Some people come to church only twice a year (Christmas and Easter). Rather than criticize them, let’s capitalize on this willingness for the good of their souls. Invite them to church. Better yet, invite them to come with you to church. Consider making Christmas cookies for your neighbors and including an Advent invitation card with the cookies. The recipe is simple: Bake, decorate, go, invite, come home, and pray. And then keep praying. Let us be an inviting and praying people this Advent!
Expository Evangelistic Sermons
What will people hear when you bring them to Bethlehem? The Advent sermons I preach are what I call expository evangelistic sermons. “Normal” expository sermons take the main point of the passage as the main point of the message and apply it to the life of the congregation (with a focus on the gospel). Evangelistic sermons, on the other hand, have an exclusive focus on the gospel. So an expository evangelistic sermon still takes the main point of the passage as the main point of the message, but now there is only one application: Repent and believe the gospel. The sustained focus on the gospel is so sharp that the evangelistic thrust becomes much more piercing.
With these sermons, I try to enter more fully into the mind of unbelievers, and I give more space to consider and answer their potential objections. I work harder than ever to use language that any non-churched person could understand.
Invite and Pray
Advent will not bear widespread evangelistic fruit without widespread congregational prayer. Please pray. We know that apart from God we can do nothing, but all things are possible for him—so pray to him. And then pray even more as part of a sustained plea for more souls to see the glory of “the fountain filled with blood.” Let us compel them to come in! “Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains!”