My hopes to have some continuity in posting about 'preaching without notes' has been sabotaged by an extraordinarily busy last couple of weeks. Hopefully I will get back to it sometime!
But I must celebrate this past weekend which brought together two heavyweight preaching events that thrilled me to the core. On Saturday, June 3rd. Northern Seminary held its Commencement Ceremony with one of the liveliest group of graduates and supporters ever. The speaker was Dr. Lacey K. Curry, now in his eighties, and often referred to as the "Dean of Preaching". He started slow and low and crescendoed to a stunning conclusion as he presented the gospel challenge of the man born blind in John 9:1-12 that was so appropriately related to graduates entering ministry. He had us on our feet!
The next day he was there again, but this time in the congregation at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood, Chicago. A celebration evening launched Northern's new Doctor of Ministry Degree in Preaching and Congregational Leadership. I gave a few opening words, to be followed by Dr. Joel Gregory, and then - the main event - Dr. Ralph West. I had never heard Ralph West before. He had preached six times already that morning in his Texas church and flew up to Chicago to preach again. He started slow and low and crescendoed to a stunning conclusion that had the whole church on its feet. This time it was the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in Mark 5: 1-20. We heard it as never before.
I sat next to Joel Gregory and as the service came to a thunderous close he whispered to me: "There's nothing in the church like a black preacher!" I tell you, it was inspiring. Both these preachers had so thoroughly immersed in these biblical stories that they re-enacted them with gospel power. And yes, their choice of words, rhythmic delivery, brilliant illustrations, pointed applications, interaction with the congregations all represented the hallmarks of great African-American preaching. But, I tell you, to be there was to share in a divine event in which God met us, challenged us and re-affirmed us.
Today, Drs. Gregory and West begin teaching the first cohort in this new DMin program and I teach the second course in September. I cannot think of a better way to have begun and I pray that it will make a kingdom difference to a new generation of preachers.