My cousin gave me True to Our Native Land, an African American New Testament Commentary as a Christmas present and I flipped through it and I saw names like Cleophus J. LaRue, Thomas Hoyt and Brad Braxton and since I had heard of these, among other names I was real interested in what my cousin gave me. Naturally, Dr. LaRue and Brad Braxton garnered my attention since they are both over homiletics at Princeton and Vanderbilt respectively and I read LaRue’s article “African American Preaching and the Bible” and it was then that I realised that I needed to begin forming my own theology of preaching.
My roommate, had always told me that homiletics was my passion because above ethics, and biblical lieterature and all other fields of theological study, I always found way to talk about the preached Word and the preaching moment. So, hopefully over the course of this blog, I will periodically have posts that deal with my evolving, or as certain Presbyterians might call, my reforming theology of preaching.
This particular one was spurred by a particular interaction that I had with one of my friends at ITC. He mentioned a particular theme that he was asked to prepare a sermon around and just in the matter of the text message conversation (as I was taking a break from studying in the Robert Woodruff Library) I just shot a metaphor back. He intimated to me that we as preachers must not sit in the confines of our own pastors’ studys, or libraries in my case, and think that because we’ve use a Greek word here or a Hebrew word there that we’ve prepared a sermon worthy of listening. Just because our sermon sounds good to us, as a preacher, does not mean that it in fact is a word for the congregation in which we will preach.
What my good friend illuminated for me is that we as preachers must understand that we preach a collective word, to a collective body of Christians. What this means is that while my church may be the foot part of the body of Christ that, in fact whatever adversely may affect the hand affects the body and ultimately the foot as well. Although this is foundational Paulinian doctrine found in I Corinthians 12, it stands to reason that as preachers we need not be afraid of talking to others for our own inspiration. God is not confined to the four walls of our study! Just because it sounded good to us, could really mean it sounded dry as the valley of dry bones.
Too many pastors wit no power and teach with no power. It appears to me, in my limited knowledge that is, that particularly in the Black Church, the pastor is asked to do everything, and often times sermons get neglected. I personally knew of one pastor who did not have a sermon prepared on Sunday morning, and randomly read Acts 2 and preached on the Holy Ghost. The sad thing is that he got more shouts and more amens from that sermon than the ones he prepared and wrestled with on previous Sundays.
The clip I have, hopefully won’t expire before some you get a chance to look at it, but to me it speaks about some of what should go into sermon preparation, and just how long does it take to prepare a sermon. Although this clip does not feature people in the African American tradition and some may say that this doesn’t affect the Black Church, then perhaps you didn’t understand the gist of this post; we must engage other ways of learning and understanding and inspiration because apparently, what we’ve been producing has given the world less than stellar results.
3 thoughts on “My Theology of Preaching, Pt. I”
I think as you progress your theology of praching is growing. SO rather than a “reforming theology of preaching” I would beckon to say it is a evolution or progression of a theology of preaching. Issac Rufas Clark, Katie Cannon’s professor of Preaching at ITC says as she recounts in her book “Teaching Preacing,” that “preaching is divine activity, whereby we proclaim the Word[s] of God on a contemporary issue and what our ultimate response is.”
I think as you continue to preach God’s words in this world, you will constantly change and shape and reshape your overall theological perspectives to fit and conform as best you can to wahat God is calling every human being to. In the words of Micah, “do justive, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Sermon prep is not the same for every individual with or withour seminary. Some do not take notes or preach from a manuscript. Others have great illustrations and anecdotes. But as long as they preach what God has given them to tell the people not for their own agendas, then preach on brother. Preach on sister.
Rev. Williams an old preacher that used to come to my church Calvary Baptist CHurch of Chicago, used to say, “You better have a sermon in your Bible, one in your pocket, and definately on in your heart, because you never know when you may be called on to preach the words of God.” Os that pastor who has Acts 2 as his sermon, I bet it is different each and every time, how else then, could we ever preach.
I would guess that Pastor who does the Acts 2 “pick and choose” is the same every time. Preparation is not devoid of the Holy Spirit. God was an incredible planner. He planned it all out first. Preachers should prepare to preach. Without preparation, the preacher will sound the same every week. He won’t pay attention to it, but the listeners will.
I think you are on to something by working through your Philosophy of Preaching. Start with Scripture, not culture. Bring culture to bear only after you have identified your doctrinal foundation.
I think one major question you must answer in the beginning is “what is the purpose of preaching?” I identified the purpose as “transformation” in the listeners’ lives. But what does that look like? And does preaching do it? Or is preaching a part of it, but other things reinforce preaching to bring about transformation?
Most us us who preach really if you look closely at the various sermons one preaches, is the same. What no one can take out of the preached word is the power. Power o transform, power to challenge, power to motivate, and power to empower others.
No matter how one prepares whether through study, meditation, research, talking to God or one’s self, you will never be devoid of your personal experiences that not only bears witness about the preacher but also bears witness about God.
The Acts 2 preacher I am sure, has transformed and changed lives, because the audience may change or it is something that someone needs. It is just like watching the Matrix for the umphteenth time, you always notice something new. Isn’t that the reason why we can preach the doctrinal sermons on grace, love, sanctification, justification, etc??????