I worked a secular job while going through seminary.  I was a dockworker loading trucks.  The crew around me was a ton of fun.  Sure some of them were rough and abrasive.  But most were hard working, straight shooting, get it done kinds of guys.  If it weren’t for the faith and vocabulary issues on the dock, I think they’d have been an upgrade to some of the deacons I’ve had the opportunity to work with since then.    

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I digress.  My nickname on the dock was “preacher”.  It wasn’t because of my behaviour—I didn’t preach at them.    But I was a seminarian training for ministry.  So, logically, I was “preacher” to them.  At the time I didn’t own the name.  It wasn’t something I wanted.  But over the years I have become more comfortable with the name.  In fact when I meet new people today in social contexts and am asked the inevitable question “what do you do for a living” I am now pretty quick to announce “I am a preacher”.  Usually people smile and then ask the follow up “of which persuasion”.  When I reply a “Baptist” preacher things start to get a little defensive and uncomfortable. 

 

 

Many who read this note are also “preachers”.  Whether regularly or occasionally you have the opportunity to stand in front of a group and “preach” for them.  Don’t get defensive about the name.  It’s a good one.  Like many words it can suffer from context.  If we are “preachy” and “opinionated” and “self righteous” and “socially maladroit” then who would want to know us as “preacher”?  But, if we infuse the word with gospel, and insight, and communicator, and wisdom—then I’ll gladly be a preacher.   Let me offer a few personal musings on preaching—

 

 

  1. Preachers preach good news.  The gospel (euangellion) is fundamentally good news.  When people hear you bring something to the table do they walk away commenting “that was good news”?  I am not talking about sugar coating, half truthing, glass half empty/half full approaches. I am talking about declaring the good news of God’s love in Christ to a world that is either hurting from its stupidities, hostile to God’s remedies, or haughty about God’s ways.  Preach the gospel.  Preach it to all—saints and sinners.  Everyone needs the euangellion.  

     

 

  1. Preachers preach.  That one sounds kind of stinky and sticky.  We don’t like to “preach”.  We like to tell stories.  Craft communications.  Set things up on the slant.  How about we tell it straight once in a while?  I have noticed  of late that audiences love to hear stories but still struggle with their lives.  Preaching is returning to didactic and direction.  Part of it is because the listening audience is so biblically and theologically illiterate that once again they need someone “telling them like it is”.  Tell it straight.  Preach. 

     

 

  1. Preachers model the stuff they preach.  This one is true.  It’s a weight but it’s true.  Don’t talk about it if you aren’t willing to model it.  I don’t think it sets an unduly heavy load on preachers.  It’s the harness we wear when we enter into preaching.  It doesn’t mean we are perfectionists in it.  Truth is most of us struggle with it.  But we wear it and explain to our listeners our desires, our struggles, and our efforts.  

     

 

  1. Preachers have no problem with the “so what” questions.  If people walk away wondering how this applies to their situations then you haven’t preached.  You’ve talked, you’ve described, you’ve explained, but you haven’t preached.  In a recent study of preachers it was determined that close to 80% of a preacher’s preparatory time was spent in determining the historical, contextual, theological framework of a passage or text and less than 20% was spent in figuring out the relevancy of the passage for 21st century listeners.  I’d suggest the number should be adjusted to 50/50.  

     

 

  1. Preaching is the dominant activity of the people of God (at least in our tradition).  The Roman Catholic tradition celebrates the mass as its central act.  Some evangelical groups would celebrate worship (doxa) as their defining centre.  Some would have a 3 fold centre of doxa, then preaching, then ministry (diakonia).  In Baptist tradition, we are proclaimers.  The people of God gather together to hear a proclamation of God’s word.  Historically, we always had a pulpit and it was central in the meeting area.  Even the communion table was in front of the pulpit.  It was the high point of the meeting room.  I know I get into trouble whenever I say this but Baptists have historically understood worship as prolegomena to the preaching (think about that, I didn’t say subservient, I didn’t even say “preparatory”.  I said “prolegomena”—think John 1:1-14 here).   We gather to sit under God’s word.  

     

 

So, preach it baby.  You preach it, and I’ll turn the pages. 

Advertisements