how to preach with wesley and the early american methodists

Donald Haynes shares this from his recent “Wesleyan Wisdom” column in the United Methodist Reporter, “Recovering the Power of Wesleyan Preaching“. It is a list of the attributes of “Methodist preaching from Wesley’s time through the 19th century” determined by a prominent chronicler of the movement (“David Hempton, an Irish Methodist who teaches at Harvard Divinity School, writes in his book Methodism: Empire of the Spirit“). I imagine I stack up well on some and not as good on others. Not that it should go without critical engagement, but this is a good list we’d do well to reference for modern preaching in our Methodist tribe.

According to Dr. Hempton, Methodist preaching from Wesley’s time through the 19th century was:

  • based on a selected biblical text (not a prescribed one);
  • delivered extemporaneously or from a loose structure of notes;
  • designed to evoke a response—conversion, sanctification or “warmed up” spirituality;
  • delivered in plain language, enlivened by illustration, anecdote or humor;
  • within the accepted canon of Wesleyan-Arminian theology
  • measured by fruitfulness, not eloquence;
  • communicated more from heart to heart than from head to head, not bypassing the mind but not aimed directly at it;
  • based on accepting the authority of the Scripture at face value; and
  • preached by preachers of much the same social status as their listeners.
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