I recently started reading through Francis Asbury’s journal (see my previous post).
I’m still only on page 50 of Volume 1 (of 3), but one thing that strikes me is how much Asbury writes about preaching, and how much he talks about his preaching in experiential terms.
Here are a number of examples of how Asbury describes his preaching during his first few months in America …
“I preached at York to a large congregation … With some degree of freedom in my own mind.” (16)
“I preached to a large company and found liberty, and believe the power of God was among us.” (19)
“I preached to a large company in the evening, and felt much power. I know that God was with us indeed …” (20)
“I preached at D.’s , and had an attentive people to hear, and felt myself warm and zealous.” (21)
“I felt liberty and power.” (21)
“I preached at two in the afternoon at Mairnock with some power.” (22)
“The Lord gave me great liberty and power; and I humbly believe that some trembled under the word.” (27)
“Preached morning and evening with some life …” (32)
“At Greenwich I was weak in body, but had some liberty in preaching …” (32)
“Felt a great desire to live more for the glory of God; and preached at night with some life.” (34)
“After preaching in the evening with some life and energy, I went the next day to preach in the field and then returned and preached with freedom to many people in the court-house.” (35)
“Monday morning, I preached with life.” (36)
“I found a degree of life in my soul; and on the Lord’s Day had power, and life, and light, and love, in speaking …” (38)
“Preached this morning with great life in my soul …” (39)
“I preached with liberty … I preached also in the evening with some comfort.” (40)
“I had liberty and love in preaching at five …” (42)
“At friend D.’s I preached with fervency …” (44)
“I felt divine assistance in preaching both morning and evening.” (45)
“Preached with power in the morning, and spoke freely to a congregation in the evening.” (46)
Interestingly, I haven’t noticed a lot of reflection on the content of Asbury’s preaching in his journal, though he occasionally references his biblical text.
But I love how Asbury emphasizes the experiential nature of preaching. Asbury seems to gauge his effectiveness by his experience of God rather than the content of his message. The presence of God is the most important factor in preaching!
I’ve always tended to gauge the success of my preaching by whether or not I felt liberty, as well. This was especially true during the early days when I was trying to discern my calling.
The content matters, of course, but in preaching, God’s presence is essential!