Well, my vacation's over (and don't I know it from being back in the office this morning)! But I did manage to complete my major reading project and have been reflecting on the amazing journey through twenty centuries of Christian preaching. It is full of color and complexity from New Testament times through to the contemporary situation.
In his conclusion, O.C. Edwards first emphasizes the importance of preaching. "Most of the significant movements in the history of the church have involved preaching in their development and expansion" (P. 828). It is extraordinary that in just 16 years after the cruficixion "Christian preaching had moved from a backwater province of the empire to its very center, and was creating enough disturbance to come to the attention of the highest reaches of government." It is thrilling to see time and time again in the missionary expansion of the church preaching is the critical activity - practiced by some of the best Christian minds with high spiritual commitment. Thrilling is the word! Greco-Roman religion was displaced as the official cult of the Roman empire by great preaching. The unchurched world of the Middle Ages was reached by new orders of preaching monks. Reformation and Counter-reformation preaching fueled far-reaching renewal. Every time preaching is at the center.
However, this raises the difficult issue of the opposite condition. That whenever preaching has lost its fire and become dull predictability the church has languished. A couple of recent posts commented on the low opinions that many (in the church) have of preaching. Today's church needs to ask some searching questions about the importance of preaching in God's story for the present age!