In these days leading up to surgery (on January 27th) I have been glad to be absorbed in teaching duties and also prepare for an unusual first. On Saturday I will speak at an African American preachers' conference to be held at Northern. Seminary classes enjoy great diversity with a sizeable African American proportion. Indeed, one of my current classes is 50% black with extraordinary stories which I learned as students shared in the introductory class. One of these students has been preaching for 18 years and pastor for the last 7 years. Another is only 23 years old but has been preaching for 11 years and is currently co-pastor of his church. Yet another has been preaching for 32 years and has been pastor of a historic Chicago church for the past 10 years.
When the last introduced himself I laughed and said I wondered why he was in this basic preaching class. Directly he answered: "Because I want to learn to preach better, Doc."
With humility (which makes for great teachability of course) he has greatly benefitted the whole class experience for all of us. But, imagine my surprise when he asked me to speak at a conference of pastors from his convention (of which he is President). He has organized it specially at the seminary in order to introduce pastors to our set-up and to me. Bluntly he told me to deliver the goods. "Teach them preaching 101!" he said.
What a unique opportunity for a white teacher to address a group of black preachers, steeped in their powerful rhetorical tradition, political edge, congregational interaction and celebrative outcomes. I know I need humility and care but how much I look forward to it. I'll let you know what happens.