Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A last Hurrah!

Denuded of my preaching library and with fewer outlets for research, I pondered whether I could offer any words of value to this volume. But then a thought struck me! In 2014 the US seminary where I was teaching was chosen by the Lily Foundation to contribute research to its national project titled: ‘Strengthening the Quality of Preaching.’ I seized the opportunity to design a response called ‘A New Kind of Preacher (NKP)’ which resulted in conferences, peer learning groups, two books and shared fieldwork influencing a few hundred pastors. However, owing to a change of seminary personnel, the books were never published and, sadly, the programme lost momentum with my work disappearing.  I wondered whether a compressed essay in this festschrift might give this lost work one last Hurrah!  

I admit my thinking was absurdly ambitious. Instead of concentrating on the task of preaching and the act of sermon making, I dared to question the role of sermon makers, probing theological questions about who preachers are in relationship to God, to their congregations, and to the surrounding culture. Not so much about what they preach as to how and why they preach. On the persons of preachers.

To encapsulate the project’s concept as well as its structure I proposed this definition. The Preacher thinks and feels deeply about God, has self-knowledge, and is called by God to pastor the congregation as a lead worshipper, proclaimer, collaborator, community builder and missionary.

 It begins theologically, with concern that preachers have a lively understanding of Trinitarian dynamics not only for seeing more of how God works in the world but experiencing how he is involved with them in the preaching act. Pivotal for integrating five roles, I use the term pastor to express the foundational relationship with a congregation.  The five roles define dimensions of the preacher’s ministry. Not all hold equal significance. Lead-worshipper, Proclaimer and Missionary are prime roles with Collaborator and Community Builder playing indispensable supplementary roles. Whenever any one of these roles is diminished so is preaching. 

A range of preaching genres is closely connected with these roles. Traditionally, sermon preparation concentrated mainly on words (focus) in order to retell a passage’s meaning with appropriate application.  However, more recently a revolution has occurred in biblical interpretation about how God encounters us in Scripture. He not only says words in messages but also does things (function) by those messages. Rhetorical studies of Scripture have shown how different genres move us to varying responses. Some are well known such as evangelistic, prophetic, pastoral and doctrinal.  To these I add: celebratory, liturgical (recognizing that ‘liturgy’ applies to any order of worship from highly formal to wildly informal), salvation history, and missional. Together, these eight complement each other in the five dimensions of the preacher’s ministry.

So, dear Stephen's festschrift gave me one last chance for this preaching vision to see the light of day before I ride off into the sunset.  Thank you for the opportunity Stephen!


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