Wesley’s four moves of effective preaching

The minutes of the early Methodist conference record John Wesley’s advice to preachers. He said a preacher should aim to do four things:

  • Invite
  • Convince
  • Offer Christ
  • Build up

Wesley does not explain what he means by these terms.

I take them to mean something like the following:

  • Invite – to lay out for the congregation a vision of Christian holiness and/or Christian life; to invite them into this life by showing them what it means in its fullness.
  • Convince – to challenge or stir up the congregation with the distance between the vision and the reality of our lives
  • Offer Christ – to present the good news that in Jesus the door is opened for those who would accept the invitation
  • Build up – to exhort and encourage the congregation to accept the offer of Christ or to stir up the grace they have already received to go on toward full holiness

I’m not at all certain that I have correctly described what these terms meant to Wesley. In reading his sermons, I do think I could stretch them to cover the various moves he makes in many of his sermons. In his advice to preachers, he suggests that they do these four things in various proportions in different sermons.

As I read over them, I am reminded that I tend to go the lightest on the second move, convince. I often find that I leave the exploration of the gap between the vision and the reality under developed or left to implication. Preachers such as Andy Stanley suggest we start at this very point. He writes of the need to open up questions and discontent in the congregation before you can offer them the good news. His style of preaching as laid out in his book Communicating for a Change might be sketched out as Convince, Offer Christ, Invite, Build up.

Of course, there is no one way to preach. But I do find it fruitful to ponder such things and try them out.