The Essence of Preaching

So what makes preaching, preaching? We have a lot of different styles: narrative, inductive, deductive, affective, cognitive, expository, prophetic the list goes on.
But what makes them all “preaching”? I’d like to hear from you! If you regularly listen to a preacher, why do you do it? If you don’t, why not? If you are a preacher, what is the essential thing that must be present for something to be called preaching?  Is it a form of speech (the structure)? A manner (the voice & mannerisms) of speaking? A physical arrangement? The character or training of the person speaking? The character of the community? Is it the spiritual presence of the communicator?  The topic of the speaking?  This is pretty wide open.  Finally, is there any room for dialogue, or is preaching always one-way? Go ahead, share your view right here. Click on comments below!



Posted on March 4, 2011, in Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have that book…and it’s in the taller stack.

    I like the idea of having multiple voices for preaching. When I was in KC and a part of Christ Community Church, one of the best parts of this community was that the two co-pastors shared the preaching responsibilities. One preached with a more inductive style, was very passionate, and more bigger picture oriented. The other preached more pastorally, was much more aware of length-time of sermons, and wanted to give concrete application to help the people process the “take away.” It also was interesting to see/hear the differences between them because one was a man, the other a woman.

    I think it would be great (and more healthy) for a congregation to hear other voices over the course of a year rather than just the same preacher. Using a work out metaphor, by giving room for other preachers changes up the routine and keeps their processing “muscles” receive a “shock” to expand and grow.

    I think what Long describes can happen as the preacher/pastor becomes more and more familiar with the faith stories of the people, he/she will be able to generally (without calling people out) speak to their faith. In my opinion this can’t really happen without the pastoral piece. A guest preacher might talk in such a way that the congregation can hear echoes of their faith, but without knowing them, I don’t know how often that would happen. Yet, the work of the Spirit is all over the preaching event. And since this is a Christian event that is rooted and very much geared towards faith, the hearer should hear/discern their own within the words of the preacher. Hopefully the preacher is helping tease and evoke that faith. But, this ebbs into the listening process involved on the hearer’s part.

  2. Wow. Wide open for sure.

    I think that a form of communication that is deemed “preaching” must be narrowed to eliminate other forms of communication.
    Via Negativa
    A lecture is not preaching. A small group discussion is not preaching. A pep talk is not preaching. Motivational speaking is not preaching. Product/brand “evangelism” is not preaching (e.g., Steve Jobs at MacWorld). Conversation is not preaching. Talking theology is not preaching. Even doing “gospel talk” (talking about the gospel) is not necessarily preaching.

    Via Positiva
    Preaching involves, primarily, communicating content from the Bible, and secondarily, communicating themes/ideas from the Bible. This can be done through various avenues in the structure of delivery. Preaching can be delivered by a single speaker or could expressed through multiple voices (e.g. tag-team preaching).

    To bring the plane into the holding pattern to prepare for landing is to focus on its content, namely the sermon. Preaching the sermon, while containing content/ideas/themes/principles from the Bible, is a purposeful pointing that content to address issues involving the dislocations in human life and re-orienting it in light of the good news of God the Father in the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This good news has been historically termed the gospel. With this new orientation because of God’s activity (the gospel) there is a call/invitation/move to see/be/do differently in the place where that original dislocation resides.

    Preaching has typically been expressed through a single voice at a time. As mentioned earlier, tag team sermons take a more multi-voice approach at delivery. “Group think”, while a generative approach to exploring themes of the Bible, the gospel, and the kingdom of God, would be not fall under the auspices of preaching.

    Some have questioned the current arrangement of sermon delivery, exploring more involvement on the part of the audience to whom the preacher is addressing. To explore the gospel in community like this is an important part of owning it and putting it into practice. But again, this group think approach is not preaching. Whether or not the main/primary gathering needs to transition from the preaching event to “group think” highly depends upon the context of the congregation, its size, and if the community is open to this kind of dialogue. Typically, this format has been used in small group settings, where it is easier to discuss.

    This raises a thought for me that might some how combine the two in light of our Wesleyan tradition. While not an approach to be used on a weekly basis, a pastor could do something like this in the following example:

    Preach a sermon using the “Need, Answer, Response” method/structure. The pastor would “preach” the need and the answer. A short time of intermission could be given (perhaps through the passing of the peace/fellowship time) to transition from preaching to group think for the response. The pastor could have some formulated questions that are discussed in small groups in “table talk” or handled more generally for the congregation. As a way of driving home the response, an approach at conferences and workshops could be used: have each group formulate a response to share with the whole community. The pastor would serve as moderator or facilitator for this move for the “sermon.”

    • So this would be the sermon on the plane!! 😉 Good stuff, Michael. One question I’ve been driving at is whether having one primary voice builds or detracts from community?
      This question reminds me of Tom Long’s Book The Witness of Preaching. He says one important function of preaching is rising up out of the community to speak their faith back to them. In the best preaching, people should recognize echoes of themselves in the preachers words.
      I wonder how this applies here?

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