What’s one thing I wish I knew when I started preaching the gospel?
I wish I knew how little it was about me and how much it is about Jesus. Or, I wish I knew that comparison would always steal my joy.
For years, my biggest obstacle to calling myself an ‘evangelist’ was that I didn’t feel as though my preaching could compare to Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, to the charismatic, eloquent, almost-exclusively male leaders I had seen draw so many to Christ. Even when I began to recognize the call for evangelism on my life, I found myself in a state of constant comparison. I’d hope I could memorize enough catchy phrases and clear analogies to present the gospel with the skill of these great leaders.
Comparison is, of course, the thief of joy. I distinctly remember standing backstage at Creation Fest UK in 2018 watching my friend Ben Jack preach the gospel with passion and clarity. He stepped offstage, and I said to him, ‘I pray that someday I can preach like you.’
He immediately responded, ‘I hope you preach like Sarah Yardley when you preach the gospel.’ His point wasn’t that I should make my own mark for my own sake, but that I have my own private, personal relationship with Christ and I am called to my own style as I share the good news of the God who loves us. Preaching the gospel isn’t about Ben Jack, Sarah Yardley, Billy Graham, or any other preacher – preaching the gospel is all about Jesus – and the invitation for others to know him.
So, how do we keep the focus on Jesus as we preach the gospel? I’ve found these three reminders helpful:
- Preach with clarity
Analogies are helpful, examples can be fruitful, but the gospel is the simple message of the life, death, and new life found in Jesus – the word of God. After every message I prepare I ask: has Jesus, the resurrected God, been made known in what I have prepared? If not, our preaching is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
- Preach with conviction
We who preach the gospel believe ‘it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16). We preach with expectation that the message of Jesus Christ is in itself transformative and alive. We preach with conviction, understanding that ‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) We preach with passion, because the word, alive in our hearts, is like a fire to our souls. We preach as those in love, with the God who loved us first.
- Preach to myself
Every time I share the gospel, whether on a stage or in a conversation, I ask that the Spirit will make the message alive to my own heart. I need to know that I too am a sinner saved by grace. I need to be reminded that the words of life are for my soul and my salvation. I am eternally reminded, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We are called, by the grace of God, to proclaim the impossibly good news of a God who has given us undeserved favour, adopted us as children, given his own life for our sin and our salvation. This isn’t just good news – it’s the best news I’ve ever heard. Let’s preach with clarity, with conviction, to ourselves, without comparison.
Sarah Yardley, Mission & Ministry Lead – Creationfest