What are you pretending not to notice in your place of ministry? I hated that question with a passion when it was first asked to me by a mentor in the ministry, but the question has never left my mind.
A leadership principle I’ve learned is that the problems we ignore will continue. In other words, things that we allow to go on without challenge will only increase.
Rick Warren has stated that if there are lots of divorces happening in his congregation, he will preach a series of sermons dealing with divorce. He believes emergent issues demand pulpit attention.
One disturbing fact in our modern culture is the conversation about Hell, or the lack of conversation about it. Many church members say they never hear a sermon on Hell. I sincerely doubt that faithful expositors of God’s Word are ignoring the subject entirely, but is it possible it is not being talked about much or enough?
Why should preachers preach messages on the doctrine of Hell? Here are five reasons:
1. Because there is much false teaching about Hell: Pastor and teacher John MacArthur says there are at least three false views circulating about Hell. One of those is Annihilationism, which teaches that unbelievers simply cease to exist. A second false view is Universalism, which teaches that all unbelievers are in the end saved. A third erroneous view is Inclusivism, which teaches that only people who have heard and rejected the Gospel will go to Hell, but not those who have never heard. These false teachings can be addressed and corrected through faithful Bible preaching on Hell.
2. Because there is much confusion about who will go to Hell: I remember hearing pastor and theologian R.C. Sproul describe asking the diagnostic questions from the Evangelism Explosion training material to his preschool age son. When he asked his little boy if he would go to Heaven when he died, the youngster answered affirmatively. When Sproul asked the lad why the Lord would let him into his Heaven he answered, “Because I am dead!” Confusion also abounds on who will be in Heaven and Hell.
John MacArthur, in a sermon focused on the doctrine of Hell, cites a study that indicates 75% of Americans believe in Hell, but only 4% believe there is any chance at all they will go there. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.
3. Because Jesus preached on Hell: An article by The Gospel Coalition titled, “The Uncomfortable Subject Jesus Addressed More Than Anyone Else”, says that Jesus talked about Hell more than any other person in the Bible. If Jesus, God living among us, prioritized teaching and preaching on Hell, then surely an annual sermon series, or at least a couple of messages per year, seems necessary. Jesus also talked more about Hell than He did about Heaven.
4. Because preaching on Hell moves saved people: Oftentimes when I preach a message addressing the doctrine of Hell, I will hear saved people express concern for their unsaved friends and family members. God’s people are moved by the fact that some of their loved ones will spend eternity forever separated from God in a literal, eternal, conscious state of unescapable, punishment, torment in Hell. Some of God’s people will be moved to plead with their lost friends and family members to flee from the wrath to come.
5. Because people we know will spend eternity there: Lost people must be warned about Hell. While we cannot frighten someone into salvation, it is possible that the reality of Hell may increase the fear of God and point our loved ones to read the Bible and attend a local church. Adrian Rogers said, “Eternity is too long to be wrong”. We must warn our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, friends, acquaintances, and even church attenders that there is a Hell, and that God has made a way for them to be saved.
Possibly the most important reason to preach on Hell is not mentioned in this list but is the underlying motivation of each of them: people will be saved from Hell. When faithful Bible expositors address the reality of Hell and the gracious work of Christ to seek and to save that which was lost, then some listeners will do exactly what the Bible says to do: repent and believe the Gospel. When was the last time you preached a message focused on the doctrine of Hell? What happened as a result?