This posting identifies four more characteristics of preaching in the Baptist tradition:
4) Preaching has social impact. This emphasis is a major part within the black Baptist tradition, but also emerges elsewhere (as seen in Rick Warren’s ministry). However, in general, white Baptist preaching has tended to stress evangelism rather than social action.[i]
5) Preaching is community forming. All the above characteristics belong within Baptist convictions about the local church – communities comprising those who have been baptized or who are on the way to baptism. Preaching has a pivotal role in creating this community. Indeed, “preaching and community are reciprocal realities.” [ii] Baptist churches will vary in how they practice the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:9). Some will exercise non-authoritarian congregational polity, while others have developed more hierarchical structures. But, at its best, Baptist preaching builds relationships as the body of Christ and, especially in contexts like the black church, may have huge impact on surrounding community. And recently, Baptist leaders have challenged congregations to express how “depth in worship comes more readily when we determine to be thoroughly Trinitarian in our approach to preaching.”[iii]
6) Preaching reveals spiritual qualities. Spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study remain important for Baptist preachers, and help explain an emphasis on ethos as a vital component to leadership. While a quality such as “warmth” sounds vague, it can often be applied to Baptist preachers because their role and relationships within community need devotional transparency.
7) Preaching involves pragmatics. While this word can be used negatively, Baptist preaching is always concerned about outcomes, of making church “work” better to Christ’s glory. Whether using the latest technical opportunities for evangelism, or seeking new forms of attracting people to worship services, Baptist preaching often operates on an entrepreneurial edge. Of course, great dangers lurk of accommodating to society’s consumerism and individualism, but intentional preaching that “makes a difference” often marks Baptist preaching.
To each of these statements there are many exceptions and, as hinted, there are many potential negatives. However, together they represent something of preaching in the Baptist tradition. I know others will have different views and perhaps they will share agreements and disagreements!