John Wesley, George Whitefield, D. L. Moody, Billy Graham, Duncan Campbell… these are all some of my evangelistic heroes. These people seemed to have a gift, or an anointing, or both, for seeing people come to faith when they preached.
I long to see more people get saved. I want to see my nation return to Jesus. So what can I do to learn from the preaching of these giants who went before me?
One of the things I constantly come back to in the preaching of John Wesley is his confidence in the power of the Gospel. He believed that when he clearly taught the truth about who God was, and the salvation God offers people in Jesus, then people would respond.
It’s impossible to fully know how he preached his sermons, but many scholars now believe Wesley was a good preacher, but not an especially great one. His sermons were not filled with stories. His style was not dramatic. He did not reduce people to tears with the way he produced certain words. His style of preaching was logical, reasoned… some might even say boring. But he clearly expounded the Scriptures, and the response of people was anything but boring. In his lifetime he saw 140,000 people saved through the Methodist movement around England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Perhaps this can be an encouragement to us. By all means, develop and work on your preaching, and become the best preacher you can possibly be. But remember also that it’s not the power of oratory or the polished nature of a sermon that brings life to people; it’s the power of the Holy Spirit and the nature of God’s grace that draws people to Him. Maybe God can use the humblest of preachers as well as the best ones, if only we have a confidence in the Gospel as a relevant and life-changing message for people. Maybe this is partly where the church in the UK has lost its way. If we don’t have confidence in our message, how can we hope our hearers will?
When Wesley first started a Methodist Society in Newcastle, all he had was a couple of followers there, a burning passion to tell people about a God of love, and a confidence in the Gospel message. The rest is history.
Standing at the end of the street with John Taylor, [I] began to sing the hundredth Psalm. Three or four people came out to see what was the matter, who soon increased to four or five hundred. I suppose there might be twelve to fifteen hundred before I had done preaching…
Observing the people, when I had done, to stand gaping and staring upon me with the most profound astonishment, I told them, ‘If you desire to know who I am, my name is John Wesley. At five in the evening, with God’s help, I design to preach here again.’
At five the fill in which I designed to preach was covered from the top to the bottom. I never saw so large a number of people together…
For more on John Wesley, click here for info on how to order your copy of A Blueprint for Revival: Lessons from the Life of John Wesley.
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.