At the heart of Wesleyan preaching is the commitment to the Word. Wesleyans are devoted to Jesus, the logos, the Word made flesh who dwells among us still in the Holy Spirit. We believe in Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, truly God and truly man. We believe Christ died, rose and will come again. Wesleyans are people of the Word.

As people of the Word, we are also people of the words of Scripture, the Bible, through which we are witnesses to God. Wesleyans are, as John Wesley confessed, “people of one book.” We believe in the authority of scripture, sufficient to establish our faith and conduct through the Holy Spirit.

Wesleyan preaching through time and today is centered and founded by the Word in the words of the Bible. We remain committed to intentionally being people of one book. Before the task of preaching is called upon us by God, we are people bathed in the words of the Bible. The story of God’s redemptive movement from the garden to glory has become our own. The Wesleyan preacher prayerfully waits, reads, observes, studies, exegetes, prays, converses and so on, to put forth a sermon, the words that God has entrusted to the preacher.

To preach as a Wesleyan has less to do with manner or form. Wesleyans are committed to the preaching of the gospel; we are willing to allow the form of that preaching to be shaped by the context. For example, John Wesley first began preaching in Anglican Church pulpits and then with much criticized “enthusiasm” in the fields to the working class. Methodist theologian Albert Outler says that Wesley’s manner of preaching was with “plain words for plain people,” which aligns with Wesley’s context.

Wesley was mindful of the people, the ones beloved by God who were hearing the gospel afresh. Some Wesleyan preachers today are “three-point-sermon-only” folks, while others are storytellers. Some Wesleyan preachers are measured in their intonation and gestures, while others are energetic. For a Wesleyan preaching witness, the manner and form is less important than the commitment to our context and the people whom God so loves such that we preach in a way that others can hear the good news of God.

There is a sense today that many in our communities, country and world have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ or cannot hear it above the thrum of division. They have not heard the witness of God’s saving action on their behalf and the hope of God to make them new. In some respects, many people have heard “other gospels” from a variety of sources, many of which ask people to save themselves through their own efforts or means.

There is a deep need for faithful and thoughtful preaching.

Thoughtful preaching bears in mind the hearing environment. The type of speaking many of us hear on a day-to-day basis is more divisive, antagonistic, and dismissive than it is winsome. Moreover, many people are bearing the burden of physical health issues, anxiety, depression, financial stress, loneliness, fear for the future, and many other worries.

To thoughtfully preach for our present moment we might consider how our preaching can not only proclaim hope and holiness in content but also embody it. We might consider how our preaching can model the peace of Christ who loved his enemies in finding something of value in an opposing view.

A thoughtful sermon will flow out of a spiritually formed life, founded in relationship. Preachers are invited to be rooted and built up in Christ, engaged in personal spiritual disciplines that drench us with God’s grace. A thoughtful sermon also requires preachers to be deeply connected with others, particularly with those who we might regard as different from ourselves. This enables us to hear how God is at work and gives our sermons contextual empathy. It also can offer a vision into the glory of God’s coming kingdom where people from every corner of the earth will be worshipping God together.

Wesleyan preaching throughout history has been united in its foundation and purpose, yet diverse in its expression. This diverse expression is a strength as Wesleyan pastors live, work, and serve in many varied and unique contexts. As we faithfully seek to preach in season and out of season, God is calling us forward to thoughtfully preach so as to allow God to save, sanctify and send the church to the world that God so deeply loves.

Rev. Dr. Leanne Ketcham is currently an adjunct professor for Indiana Wesleyan University and writes stories that witness to God at work for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.