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Preaching for Unbelief



This post is part of a teaching series on Catalyzing Mission through Preaching.

Read part one and part two.

Your church will never be more missional than its leaders. Your preaching will not be fruitful in leading people into mission if you’ve not surrendered to the mission yourself.

If you want to preach for the sake of mission you will preach with the expectation that there are unbelievers in the room listening every week. If you preach or teach in such a way that you are assuming unbelievers are in the room, you are going to use helpful and clear language that would help unbelievers understand the basic truths of God and the gospel. See, preaching evangelistically is not just about preaching the gospel, it is more. It’s preaching with clarity, conviction, and compassion the truths about God to the culture of those around us.

Your City is in the Room

Preaching as if your city is in the room is crucial for your church and catalyzing for the mission because it will help everyone in your church do three things: 1) learn to speak the gospel in their everyday life, 2) feel free to invite friends or people they are engaging in mission to the gatherings, 3) be transformed by the gospel themselves because we’re all unbelievers.  

First, they learn how to start preaching the gospel effectively in everyday life not using churchy language. They are taking their cues from you and how you preach.

Second, they are going to think that it might not be a bad idea to have unbelievers with them when you gather. They now know you are talking to their friends and they’ll begin thinking things like, “My friends are going to hear this either from me or from him but somehow they are going to hear this.” This will move the mission forward through evangelism.

We Are All Unbelievers

The third thing, I believe Christians will be transformed by the gospel. I’ve learned that it is best to assume everybody is a non-believer in my church. Because the truth is we are all unbelievers, there are still areas in all of our lives where we struggle with unbelief. Often, our objections to the gospel are the same as those of our unbelieving friends. The people in my church need to be evangelized.

When I assume that our people have unbelief and that it affects all of life, I preach the gospel to their unbelief. In other words, I preach to the Christian and the non-Christian at the same time and they both get the gospel as the answer. When I do that, I’m helping our people understand that the only answer we have for all of life is who Jesus is, what he has done and who we are in Christ.

When they start to get that then it starts to mobilize people in evangelistic ways, because they start realizing, “Man this is changing me it could change my neighbor.” When I have the mission of making disciple-making disciples in mind, I’m thinking, “How am I evangelizing to everybody in the moment through my preaching?” That’s key because that’s what is necessary for making disciples.

The only way to preach like that is is to have relationships with friends and neighbors who do not believe the gospel. Your church will never be more missional than its leaders. Your preaching will not be fruitful in leading people into mission if you’ve not surrendered to the mission yourself. Unfortunately, this is radical! Preacher, you have to be on mission in the world yourself to preach for the mission.

How does assuming everyone is an unbeliever change the way you preach?

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Author Jeff Vanderstelt

As the visionary leader of Saturate and the Soma Family of Churches, Jeff Vanderstelt gets to spend his days doing what he loves—training disciples of Jesus to make more disciples of Jesus and equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. Additionally, Jeff is on the leadership team of Saturate the Sound, a local church collective focused on gospel saturation in the Puget Sound. Jeff has authored Saturate, Gospel Fluency, and Making Space. He and Jayne, his wife, have three children: Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie. Connect with Jeff at his website or on twitter @JeffVanderstelt.

More posts by Jeff Vanderstelt

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