The Evangelism Mandate: Recovering the Centrality of Gospel Preaching By David L. Larsen (Kregel Publications, 1992).

David Larsen, professor emeritus of preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, aims this book towards “pastors and Christian leaders and students in seminaries,” with the goal that theological education may better instruct future leaders to preach for saving souls.

The Evangelism Mandate is divided into three parts: the first dealing with soteriology, the second with the preaching event, and the third with strategies for evangelism.  If one expected, from the subtitle, that this was a book on evangelistic preaching, one would be disappointed.  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 preaching per se.  Therein, Larsen, helpfully delineates the characteristics of an effective evangelistic sermon—it must be Biblical, doctrinal, Christological, apologetical, and passionate.  Then again, any Gospel presentation, not just one from the pulpit, must necessarily be marked by these qualities.  Quite rightly, Larsen stresses the prerequisites of the preacher’s dependence on prayer and devotion to Christ.  The homiletical modus operandi that he recommends—understanding the original situation, finding the general principles, and applying those principles to contemporary situations—is remarkably congruent with the tri-fold 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 text (or the integrity of the homiletician) would have been very 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 trust Christ each Sunday, even when expositing texts that are not explicitly evangelistic in intent.  One would also have liked to have seen some guidelines for topical evangelistic sermons.

Incidentally, there is also a chapter on the “Lordship” controversy where Larsen takes 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: MacArthur’s view is termed “Concussion”; Ryrie’s is “Consternation”; and Hodges’ “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, as well as a guide for analyzing the sermons.  Perhaps equally useful—if not more—would have been an appendix containing a list of Scripture texts from which the pastor could potentially 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 one’s homiletical skills for pulpit evangelism, help must be sought elsewhere.

Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (2004): 253–254

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