John Wesley once said he did more good preaching one day while standing on his father’s tomb than he did for all the many days he preached from a church pulpit. (See picture in blog header for an illustration of this.
He’d been denied preaching from a pulpit because of the doctrines he insisted on preaching with great energy. So, he climbed on top of his father’s tomb in the church yard and preached to the crowds.
Last week, I heard an early Pentecost sermon that emphasized the message that the church became the church when it was gifted with the ability to preach in the languages that people could hear. When I reflect on this story about Wesley, I think 18th century field preaching was a kind of Pentecost preaching. The language was not changed, but the mode was. Preaching was made audible to the people so that it might be heard.
I’m often not creative enough to figure out how to carry the examples of the early Methodists into our own context. I am too wooden and literal in my attempt to think about applications. But as Pentecost approaches, I am convinced this kind of pentecostal preaching is needed among us. We need to preach in the languages people can hear. We need to find modes and places of preaching where it can be heard.
In all this, we must not abandon the gospel and our convictions about it. We don’t want to confuse speaking in a language that people can hear with preaching “peace, peace” when there is no peace.
But how do we find the boldness to follow John Wesley’s example to climb upon the tomb’s of our fathers and preach the gospel in languages and ways that allow it to be heard to the millions among us who do not hear it today?