Calvary Road Baptist Church


First Corinthians 14.23-25

It is once again time for me to spend an entire service addressing a very important issue that most congregations are confused about, the important role you can play in bringing a sinner to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. My text for this evening is First Corinthians 14.23-25. Please turn there. When you have found that passage, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

23    If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24    But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25    And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

Tonight I will deal with some of what are called the means of God’s grace. That is, I will deal with some of the instruments and vehicles through which God ministers saving grace to lost people. At no time should you think that I believe anything can happen for a sinner’s eternal good apart from the blessings of God, even though my main thrust this evening will be your role and responsibility in evangelism. I am going to say nothing about the message that is preached that leads to conversions (which must be the gospel), or about the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting sinners. My message will be primarily practical and application oriented, seeking to show you where you should and can fit into God’s plan for reaching the lost for Jesus Christ.

There are three basic views employed in constructing a philosophy, an approach, to evangelism. That is, three basic approaches are used to get the message most effectively to the people in need, those who do not know the Savior. Let me make mention of them one at a time, commenting a bit before moving on to the next:


This is the so-called personal soul winner, the personal witness, the individual who recognizes the personal responsibility he has to do what he can to bring the lost to Christ. However, frequently misunderstanding what the Word of God says about evangelizing the lost, this sincere fellow believes that it is incumbent upon him to begin a conversation with the lost man, to broach the subject of spiritual things and eternity, to present the gospel to him, and to then persuade the lost man to pray a sinner’s prayer and receive Christ, and to do all of these things at one sitting.

This individual may be profoundly sincere, but does not at all recognize what must happen to bring a sinner to faith in Christ. A major consideration in bringing a sinner to Christ, and one that is most frequently ignored, is time. Unless there is an unusual moving of God, it just takes time to bring a sinner to Christ. Time spent presenting the gospel. Time spent praying. Time spent counseling. Time spent by the sinner striving. Time spent by the sinner thinking. Time spent by the sinner counting the cost. And time spent doing many other things besides. Failure to recognize the role of time leads to frustration and a very foolish pushing of sinners by the Christian who is eager but impatient to see someone converted. The result? Very frequently, false hopes.

A second factor in bringing a sinner to Christ is the call of God. Study the Word of God and find a single place where a sinner was brought to Christ without the involvement of a God-called preacher. In those places in God’s Word where enough detail is provided for us to discern, we see remarkable similarity to what happened when Philip dealt with the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was an anointed preacher of the gospel who God had already used in starting a revival in Samaria before he was dispatched to deal with the eunuch.[1] Not to say any individual cannot bring a sinner to Christ, but only that Christians sometimes needlessly beat themselves up when they find little success without the cooperation of others in their church to accomplish the goal of seeing someone converted to Christ.

If you are looking for the Biblical pattern of evangelism, you must quickly discard the notion that the norm is any single individual dealing with a friend and bringing her to Christ by herself. It does not usually happen that way. That is why the spiritual members of our church find success when they bring a friend to church, or bring a coworker to church, or bring a neighbor to church, and will then direct them to me for answers to their questions, will direct them to me for counseling, or will direct them to me simply so that visitor can establish a relationship with the man we hope will become their friend’s pastor. John R. Rice once admitted (and I cannot remember where I read this) that most people are not converted by means of personal evangelism, but under gospel preaching. May I go one step farther and suggest that it is unlikely that you will ever bring a sinner to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ yourself? Why not? Am I saying that there is something wrong with you? Not at all. I am simply stating what is evident from observing the gospel ministry for 35+ years, from studying evangelism in the New Testament, and from reading about evangelistic practice in centuries past.

I refer to individual efforts to bring the lost to Christ, because there are some who behave as though visitors are their personal property, not to be handled or befriended by anyone but them. May I suggest to you that when you approach evangelism that way it is virtually guaranteed the person you bring to church will not be converted, and that because the supposed Christian is grieving the Spirit of God by being selfish and trying to meet his own goals and needs, rather than selflessly see that sinner come to Christ? Therefore, recognize that it is not always the case that you will be the key figure in that person continuing in the church, or that you will be the key figure in encouraging that person to close with Christ. Sometimes, and every one of you folks should recognize this, the person God uses to get the sinner to church can end up being a real obstacle to that same person’s conversion, unless you are willing to step out of the way if necessary for that sinner’s benefit. This you will do if you are spiritual, because love seeketh not her own, First Corinthians 13.5. Turn to Second Timothy 3.16 for some corroborating testimony:

16    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17    That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1     I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2     Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3     For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

Whom are these words directed to? Timothy. A pastor. It is not a popular truth in these days of freelance Christianity, in these days of antiauthoritarianism, in these days of pride and rebellion, in these days when the calling and enabling of the man of God is denigrated by false professors, but the Bible was given to Christians for use, primarily, by the man of God. Look at verse 17: “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Therefore, the idea of each church member becoming a slick and polished soul winner is a false notion that was introduced by the decisionists who frequently undercut the ministries of God-called pastors.

This is not to say that your role in evangelizing the lost is not absolutely critical. However, it is not as a so-called soul winner. It is not as an evangelist. It is not typically as someone who opens the Bible to deal with the lost in an attempt to persuade them to pray and ask Jesus to save them. That is not normally the scenario we see when the lost come to Christ. Evangelism is a cooperative effort.


Some people are really good at bringing in visitors. You have winsome personalities and the most charming dispositions. Keep up the good work. It is a wonderful benefit to a church and to the cause of Christ for such social skills to be properly channeled. However, there are others whose attentions are directed elsewhere, to their families and through their families. That is, they focus their entire evangelistic efforts and concerns on their own family members. Or, if their immediate family members are converted, they will work through their kids or other members of their families to bring the lost to Christ. Though this is wonderful, there is nothing in God’s Word that expresses the thought or idea of a family necessarily being among the most effective evangelistic tools. It is a nice idea, and quite popular these days, but there is no scriptural support for such a notion. Remember that Paul was unmarried, and the Apostle Peter’s marriage is only mentioned in a couple of passages in passing, never in the context of effective evangelism.

I am a pastor who is sharply focused on issues of marriage and family. When I came to Calvary Road Baptist Church 27 years ago, I found a church that was profoundly ignorant and unskilled in matters of marriage and family. One person in a leadership position admitted to me that he did not know how to act toward his spouse. I have worked hard over the years to strengthen the family units in our church. That said, there might still be a strong tendency toward scriptural imbalance in our views about the family. Our church families may still have a tendency to view their own families as the be all and end all of happy Christianity. Of course, that view of the family is unscriptural.

The Christian family unit should be seen as a means to an end, but never as an end in itself. That is, the family unit should be seen as a means of meeting the physical needs of spouses and children, and a means of supporting the ministry the church and the pastor to meet the spiritual needs of the family members. For example, who in God’s Word is clearly shown to be responsible for the souls of family members? Is it dad? No. Is it mom? No. According to Hebrews 13.17, they are the ones referred to in verse 7, the gospel ministers: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” How strange this must seem to people who have an unbalanced view of the family, with the pastor occupying a position of prominence that they think rightly belongs to moms or dads. Could it be that some people’s views of the family unit and its proper role in the grand scheme of things needs further development?

Despite what is clearly taught in Hebrews 13.17, there exist in this world parents who think it their “duty” to protect their children from the pastor, when they are actually interfering with efforts at trying to see them and their kids come to Christ. Other parents see the church as a ministry of support to the family, when actually the family is a ministry of support to the church. “But the family existed before the church, pastor!” Yes, but the church will exist long after your family has been disbanded to greater things.[2] As well, Christ died for the church and not the family.[3] I say this so newer Christians will recognize that a family event should normally defer to a church evangelistic effort, rather than skipping church to do some family or home thing.

I have saved something for last under this heading to make a final strong point about the family. Turn to Matthew 10.32-38:

32    Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

33    But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

34    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35    For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36    And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

37    He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38    And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

The Lord Jesus Christ warned His disciples about the potential danger of family members. That word “foes” in verse 36, is a substantive, the word ecqroi, which refers to personal enemies.[4] The Savior declared that members of our own family could be our adversaries in spiritual conflict. That is not a good foundation on which to build a philosophy of family-centered evangelism, is it. As well, how is one to tell when a family member is a “foe,” since all family members are not foes? Perhaps you should consider the possibility of that family member who opposes your committed involvement in the church’s efforts to reach the lost for Christ as a likely “foe.” Still reachable, to be sure, but more directly opposed to you than one who is merely lost. Therefore, please do not imagine family duties and responsibilities to be a substitute for serving God, or to take precedence over serving God. Families should be rightly seen as support ministries, not ends in themselves. Far more important than you relaxing in the den with your children on Saturday nights is for your kids to see you serving God on Saturday nights, and in church during special services and on Sundays. Give your kids what a few of our member’s moms and dads gave them . . . a legacy of faithfulness and personal commitment to being in God’s house, ready to be preached to, and ready to serve. Some of you are to be commended. You are building such a legacy to give to your children. Keep up the good work.

How can you have this kind of family? Sometimes it comes about when first one and then another spouse who are already married are converted and their home is transformed by God’s grace. More frequently, it occurs when a strongly committed Christian marries a strongly committed Christian, and their family life takes a back seat to their service to Christ. When the husband and the wife have misconceptions about the place of marriage and family in the Christian lifestyle, or when one of them is an adversary to real commitment and ministry, then it is very tough. What should you do when some member of your family opposes or impedes your commitment to faithful attendance in church and your steadfast determination to serve God no matter what? Do right. You do not need to argue with anyone, just do right. If your wife wants to stay at home, put the kid in the car and come to church. If your husband wants to take off every weekend to go kiting around the country, stay home, attend church, and serve God. After all, you, not your family, have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Ephesians 2.10. Are there strategies that you can employ to reach your lost spouse and children? Absolutely, as some of our members can attest. However, those strategies are very individualized and not appropriate sermon material for everyone to hear. Please do not think there is nothing you can do.


The view that the individual or that the family unit is the primary means of evangelism in the spiritual conflict for lost souls is, in my estimation, the result of at least a woeful misunderstanding of the role of the church congregation in a Christian’s life and in a Christian family’s life. In the worst case, the inclination toward stressing the individual in evangelism, or the family in evangelism, is the result of rebellion and a refusal to bow to scriptural authority. The individual, or the head of the household, wants to retain autonomy, thus relegating the Biblical approach to evangelism to the back burner, if there is any effort to reach the lost at all.

Our text, however, shows the true place of the congregation in evangelism. Read First Corinthians 14.23-25 together with me again:

23    If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24    But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25    And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

Of course, most of the occasions in the New Testament when we see God’s Word being preached it is to a large crowd, marvelously brought together by the Holy Spirit by one means or another during that time of great revival and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, even on those occasions, the effort to reach the large assemblies of lost people involve the efforts not only of the preacher, but also teams of co-laborers who worked to get that baby church started. What we have in our text that is so unusual is a glimpse of what happened during a normal church service, when the congregation gathers for worship. This is how it works after the apostle and his colleagues have moved on to another community. We see the whole assembly come together, with lost people of various backgrounds in attendance, verse 23. Notice, in verse 24, the role the entire congregation plays in the preaching. That unsaved person is “convinced of all,” is “judged of all.” The result, verse 25, is that he is converted. So you see, each and every one of you is vitally important in connection with the preaching of God’s Word, referred to as “prophesy” in verse 24. Your interest, your enthusiasm, your agreement, your rapt attention, the body language, the eye contact, the nods and murmurs of “That’s right” and “Amen,” all have a have a profound effect on the preaching of the gospel.

How damaging it is, then, when you come to church yet do not sing. Our ushers should bellow during the congregational songs . . . or resign as ushers. Our staff should lift up their voices during the congregational songs . . . or resign their positions. Our Sunday School teachers and choir members should sing loudly. . . or quit. After all, David, in Psalm 7.17, wrote, “I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.” In Psalm 13.6, he wrote, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” Additionally, most of you have heard from my sermon on the matter the proper use of the word “Amen” during preaching, and its great benefit.

Can you imagine what harm is done by a man or a woman whose unsaved brother or sister, whose unsaved son or daughter, whose unsaved coworker or neighbor is in the auditorium, yet he does not sing, yet her voice barely rises above a whisper? What do you suppose happens when someone is out of sorts with the preacher and refuses to even look at him when he preaches? No need to imagine, it happens. Bring someone to church, and refuse to sing loudly, and refuse to look at the preacher. Incredible.

Thankfully, it is unlikely that most visitors would notice such a thing, though many members notice, and this preacher notices. Therefore, though the visitors might not consciously be aware, do you not think a visitor would be less convinced of all, less judged of all, than if all sang, than if all made eye contact, than if all were enthusiastic in their support of the preaching? O, how important it is that you come to church ready to sing, ready to be attentive, ready to make eye contact, ready to eagerly convince and judge the lost, and ready to receive God’s Word for your own benefit.

If it is hurtful to the evangelistic effort to come and mumble rather than sing, to come and sit but not pay attention to the preaching, to display animosity, disinterest, or distance by your body language and posture, then imagine the damage you do by staying home, by thinking the need to come to church so inconsequential that your attendance is not necessary, not urgent. Your absence speaks volumes to the unconverted, and to your lost family members. If you have a lost acquaintance in the auditorium, how can you stay home when the gospel is preached? If you have a lost colleague in the auditorium, how could you stay home when the gospel is preached? Or a family member? To stay at home when the unconverted are at church, or even worse, to stay at home and thereby keep the unconverted at home with you, does not only fail to convince them and to judge them that they need Christ. You do by such neglect convince them and judge them that they do not need Christ!

Have you ever had a tremendous opportunity come your way, only to let it slip through your grasp because of inattention or foolishness? I have, and I am thoroughly embarrassed by some of the missed opportunities I look back on from time to time. I love you folks. There is not not even one of you here tonight that I would not give my right arm for. You have such talent, such potential. You are in so many ways so gifted, while I am a relatively unimaginative fellow. However, unless your efforts, skills, and abilities are channeled through God’s ordained gospel enterprise, the church, your life will end up a hollow and unfulfilled shell compared to what might have been.

Do you have an unconverted brother or sister, son or daughter, mom or dad, friend or coworker? Then do what is necessary to be in church whenever the gospel is preached. Do what is necessary to participate in your church’s outreach. Volunteer in whatever ways you can to improve your church. Maybe you are not married, and have no children to be concerned with. Or perhaps your kids are very young. Or maybe your brothers, sisters and parents are already converted. Do you not have nieces and nephews you care about? Is there not a future to prepare for? If you are so selfish that you care for none but your own, then at least invest your life today in the hopes that your efforts and participation will be used by God to make our church better tomorrow. Some of you are thinking, no doubt, “But I’m in school,” though few I am happy to say think that way. Let me tell you that I wouldn’t give five cents for any so-called Christian who won’t serve God in college, and who won’t miss a class from time to time for Christ’s sake. Better a B in a class with God pleased with your life spent for Christ, than an A in a class and no service to God in college. If you cannot serve God and go to college, too, then you are not college material. If you do things God’s way around here, in the years to come, if Christ tarries, I promise you that you will not regret it.

Serving God together and seeking to reach the lost and bring them to Christ as a whole congregation, working together, supporting each other, praying and giving together, we will see God work in ways that will never be seen when the effort is unscripturally confined to individual effort or to a misguided notion of the family. Let us be a church that knows what to do come special services. We pray hard, turn out, sing loud, and pay attention. Let us be a church that knows what Saturdays are made for, for reaching out as a church. Sundays, of course, are the Lord’s day, made for church and preaching.

I am excited about what I want God to do with our church. I am looking forward to seeing God work in your lives, seeing God more tightly knit our hearts together, as we serve Him and seek to bring sinners to Christ in this great gospel enterprise.

[1] Acts 8.5-39

[2] Ephesians 3.21; Hebrews 12.23

[3] Ephesians 5.25

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 419.

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