Why We Must Proclaim the Gospel to the Congregation
Although the gospel is God's power to save souls and the mandate for gospel proclamation applies to all believers there may be a temptation for preachers (guest preachers and pastors) not to proclaim the gospel to the congregation. This may include a congregation of familiar faces during the Sunday worship service or another occasion when people assemble. Some reasons may include an assumption that the entire congregation is saved, indifference to unbelievers, or a belief that the gospel is solely for unbelievers. Sadly, these reasons are rooted in ignorance and apathy and do not justify a preacher's reluctance to proclaim the gospel. On the contrary, here are a couple reasons among many why we must proclaim the gospel to the congregation:
1. We Cannot Assume that the Entire Congregation is Saved. Preachers must not automatically assume that every person is saved simply because they are present on Sunday (or on other occasions) or because their name is on the membership roster. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians to test and examine themselves regarding the genuineness of their faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). The apostle John identified apostates who defected from the church (1 John 2:19). In the case involving the Corinthians, they would have been considered "members" of the church. Therefore, while the congregation that gathers may be primarily made up of believers, preachers must consider the possibility that one or more visitors, or even members could be unsaved.
2. Believers Need to Hear and Rehear the Gospel. Preachers must proclaim the gospel to the church (and be willing to communicate it in manifold ways). By taking the time to unpack the gospel's rich truths (Jesus's Messiahship and deity, substitutionary sacrifice, resurrection, etc.) and blessed rewards (salvation, reconciliation, redemption, justification, etc.) preachers teach the members how to evangelize, promote their sanctification, and highlight the gospel's priority in the church. The apostle Paul stated that he was ready to preach the gospel to the believers at Rome (Romans 1:15). This is a fascinating statement. Paul's passion for the gospel fueled his willingness to proclaim it to Christians! If preachers are passionate about Christ and His gospel, they must be ready to proclaim it, even to believers. Moreover, believers need to be reminded that their salvation on the basis of faith in the gospel should translate into godly living (Romans 12-16). For pastors, may it not be said that those they shepherd fail to see the gospel's relevance to their lives or lack the ability to proclaim it because they rarely hear it taught and proclaimed to them.
3. Preachers Need to Practice how to Proclaim the Gospel. Preachers should seek to grow in their ability to proclaim the gospel in at least two ways. First, they should always work at bridging the verse or passage they are preaching to man's need for salvation. Look for ways to connect the passage to God's character, mankind's depravity, man's need to be reconciled with God, and the good news concerning His Son. For passages that prove to be more challenging than others preachers should ask themselves how are God's attributes on display, man's sin evident or suggestive, and/or Christ pictured or foreshadowed, particularly when preaching the Old Testament (John 5:39, 46; Luke 24:27). Also, this will challenge the preacher to communicate the gospel in varied ways as did Christ and the apostles. Secondly, preachers should seek to grow in their ability to proclaim the gospel to diverse congregations. Preachers must be able to communicate to the less educated and the highly educated, the "elite" and the non-elite; the point is no matter the composition (educationally) of the congregation. In essence, this is what Paul meant when he called himself a "debtor" to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the unwise (Romans 1:14).
Preachers must avoid the temptation not to proclaim the gospel to the congregation. Unbelievers' souls are in jeopardy, the sanctification of believers are at stake, and pastoral ministry requires it. Therefore, by God's grace, preachers must proclaim the gospel to the glory of God and the salvation of unbelievers. Moreover, as they teach and proclaim it, then can exhort believers to live godly lives on the basis of Christ's work. May we not let indifference, wrong assumptions about the congregation, or a resistance to growth prevent us from proclaiming the gospel.