Theology of MY Preaching

Although I have been preaching consistently for the past year and a half, I have never gave a lot thought to my own understanding around the theology of preaching. During the period of the class, I have been challenged and formed into creating my understanding of my theology of preaching. This theology of preaching will attempt to explain my views on the essential characteristics of preaching, how preaching is related to other aspects of ministry, how God works in and through preaching, and finally how God prepares people for the task of preaching.

In speaking about the essential characteristics of preaching, I immediately want to ask, “What to me makes Christian preaching ‘Christian’ compared to other types of preaching?” The straightforward answer is that Christian preaching makes God the center of attention. With my background in Methodist traditions, I first look at Scripture to test my reason. Many of the Psalms speak to placing God as the center of their proclamations.[1] One of these is Psalm 89:1, “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.” (NRSV) Wilson also responds in a similar fashion when he says, “Too often, preachers are tempted to think that they are preaching a doctrine or a truth or a story or a text and forget the more basic truth: they are to preach God.”[2] Greiser and King point out in their first point under Methodological helps from systematic theology that one should “keep God in the center of the sermon rather than at the periphery.”[3] Reverend David Burch, a local United Methodist preacher to Harrisonburg, VA, stated similarly in that preaching is the attempt to answer the question, where is God in the life of the congregant?[4] With God being the central focus point, I also feel that a sermon must also instill hope in the hearers.[5] It may be helpful for me to define what I mean by hope. Hope is not simply sitting and waiting for something to happen, rather it is acting out or responding with the faith that you will grasp what you are reaching for. A sermon without a response is much like a comedian who doesn’t make people laugh. Reverend Stephen King, a pastor of 25 plus years said, “a sermon must inspire, teach, motivate, challenge and even at times may convict.”[6]

Preaching in my understanding is only one part of many parts of the church. Preaching interacts with these other parts much like how Paul describes the body in 1st Corinthians 12: 12-26. The event of preaching is not the sole purpose of the church, but rather plays its role in the church. However, preaching is not essential to the life of the church, but provides encouragement to the congregants to become involved in the other activities of the church.[7] It may also give instruction as to how the congregant can get involved in the other ministries and live our their faith more fully.[8]

As I begin to now to think and consider how is God working in the act of preaching, I immediately turn to the account of Exodus 4: 10-12, “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or dead, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” (NRSV) It is from this passage that I begin my own understanding of God’s action in the preaching event. In speaking with Rev. Burch, he pulls from his Methodist faith tradition in explaining God’s role in the preaching event. He says that God, through the sermon, is present in three forms of grace.[9] In Prevenient Grace, God uses the sermon to pull people towards God and their understanding of his Love.[10] In Justifying Grace, God can use the sermon to give faith to the non-believers who choose to accept the gift of salvation.[11] Finally, God uses the sermon in Sanctifying Grace, to challenge and grow the disciples as they come to a closer walk with God.[12] Mr. Wesley also spoke about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our lives “causes all holiness in us: enlightening our understandings…uniting our persons to Christ…leading us in our actions, purifying and sanctifying our souls and bodies to a full and eternal enjoyment of God.”[13] Rev. King states that it is in this Spirit that touches those who are hearing the sermon, that also gives courage and strength to a preacher to say what needs to be said.[14] I remember one of the first times I preached was to the delegation of representatives being sent from the Virginia Conference to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. In this delegation were around five district superintendents, along with other elders and dignitary members within the conference. As nervous as I was, the courage and strength was given to me to give a sermon from Ezekiel 37:1-14 and making the suggestion from stats that the United Methodist Church was much like the dry bones. I said ‘like’ because I did point out that we are not yet completely dead, but the Church is heading that way. I concluded though that in this story it was God’s spirit that renewed and strengthened the horde of bones and similarly it will take God’s Spirit to move the people called Methodists. After this sermon, it was laid on my heart that I was meant to be a preacher, and still God gives me the courage to give the ‘tough’ sermon.

This laying on my heart is a piece of the calling that had happened and continues to happen in my life. God does not just call everyone to preach as Paul also mentions in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each on individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (NRSV) I believe God begins to prepare preachers first by calling them into this service. Once they have been called there are a plethora of ways God may prepare the preacher. One of the more common means is through prayerfully encountering the Scripture.[15] Once someone has spent time with that text prayerfully, God will begin to build that sermon through people that they encounter throughout the week. As the pastor interacts with their congregation, God will reveal to the preacher what is relevant in their lives in relation to text.[16] The preacher then takes these things into consideration as he/she writes the sermon that has been inspired by God.

This paper only begins to skim the depth of the theology of preaching. But as I close I would like to take the overall advice and thoughts around the theology preaching of three preachers. First from Rev. Burch, “Preach from the gut, not the can. Always keep it fresh.”[17] Rev. King’s thought is that, “Preaching is one of the avenues by which God speaks to the world and every Sunday it comes through a multitude of voices.”[18] And finally, from the Apostle Paul to the Romans in the 10th chapter verses 14 and 15, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (NRSV).

Bibliography

Burch, David, interview by Joshua King. Reverend (October 21, 2009).

King, Stephen, interview by Joshua King. Reverend (October 21, 2009).

Wenger, Mark R. “Theological Preaching in An Age of Doctine Lite.” In Anabaptist Preaching, by Edited By David B. Greiser and Michael A. King, 121-134. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2003.

Wesley, John. “A Letter to a Roman Catholic.” In Responsible Grace, by Randy L. Maddox, 123. Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1994.

Wilson, Paul Scott. The Practice of Preaching Revised Edition. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007.


[1] Ps 40:5, Ps. 52:9, Ps 71:17, Ps 71:18, Ps 89:1

[2] Paul Scott Wilson, The Practice of Preaching Revised Edition (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007). 229.

[3] Mark R. Wenger, “Theological Preaching in An Age of Doctine Lite,” in Anabaptist Preaching, 121-134 (Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2003). 125.

[4] David Burch, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[5] Paul Scott Wilson, The Practice of Preaching Revised Edition (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007). 5.

[6] Stephen King, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[7] Stephen King, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[8] Ibid.

[9] David Burch, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] David Burch, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[13] John Wesley, “A Letter to a Roman Catholic,” in Responsible Grace, 123 (Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1994).

[14] Stephen King, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[15] David Burch, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[16] Stephen King, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[17] David Burch, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

[18] Stephen King, interview by Joshua King, , Reverend, (October 21, 2009).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s