I recently sang the famous hymn Tell me the old, old story written by the Clapham Sect poetess Arabella Katherine Hankey (1836-1911) and it struck me that what she says there ought to be in the mind of every faithful preacher as he preaches.

1. Stick to the main thing
Tell me the old, old story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love
We want it to be fresh and relevant but not new and not earthbound – just the good old gospel and how to get to heaven. Tell them about Jesus – that’s what they need to hear.

2. Keep it simple, stupid
Tell me the story simply,
as to a little child,
for I am weak and weary
and helpless and defiled.
Don’t try to be clever or expect too much. You’re dealing with weak and weary and wanderers who need help.

3. Easy does it
Tell me the story slowly,
that I may take it in,
that wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin.
Don’t be in a rush and don’t assume things. Patiently explain it all – the whole plan of redemption and how sinners are saved.

4. Let’s go through that again
Tell me the story often
for I forget so soon;
the early dew of morning
has passed away at noon.
Be subtle but don’t be afraid of repetition. You’d be surprised how quickly people forget things. And don’t be afraid of repetition. It’s amazing how quickly people forget things!

5. This is serious
Tell me the story softly,
with earnest tones and grave;
remember I’m the sinner
whom Jesus came to save.
Don’t be flippant or uncaring. There is seldom need to shout. Seek to be filled with compassion. Be earnest. Love them. Take it seriously.

6. What they really need
Tell me the story always,
if you would really be,
in any time of trouble,
a comforter to me.
Never forget that what they need more than anything else is not your pop psychology or the latest cliches, but the gospel. Whatever their particular trouble, the answer is found ultimately in the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

7. The ministry of warning
Tell me the old, old story
when you have cause to fear
that this world’s empty glory
is costing me too dear.
A warning note needs to be sounded for some. A gospel call implies a call to leave the world and its supposed charms. Don’t be afraid to be negative where necessary.

8. With an eye on the goal ahead
Yes, and when that world’s glory
is dawning on my soul,
tell me the old, old story:
‘Christ Jesus makes thee whole.’
Death is a fearful thing even for the Christian, and the people you are speaking to will all have to face it one day, some sooner than others. In death, as much as in life, what they really need to face the final enemy is the same gospel that they needed in life. Preach conscious of that fact.

– Gary Brady, Pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church, London

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