Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Baptist Preaching (3)

In the ferment of early persecution some outstanding and courageous preachers emerged. But, more generally, it was the role of preaching in developing Baptist congregations that ensured its subsequent importance within the Baptist tradition. Because Baptists understand the church to be gathered believers under the word of God, preaching is essential for two reasons. First, individuals need to come to faith by hearing the gospel preached to them (Rom 10:14-15); second, church community is formed by believers responding to the preached word together. Take away preaching and a Baptist people cannot be gathered into church!

So, from the beginnings the pulpit was central, both literally in Baptist architecture, but also metaphorically in its prime place within gathered worship. Further, because Baptist churches are necessarily local - formed from the "bottom up" - gathered believers with different racial, social, political and economic characteristics represent great diversity in emphasis and style, and their preachers with them. Because the pulpit is central, much therefore depends on preachers' own qualities of learning and piety, (or their absence), that can have large influence on gathered communities - for better or worse!

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