I do not believe that any serious thinking preacher will disagree with me when I make the claim that there is more than one approach to the preaching of the Gospel. In recent years there have been preaching conferences across the nation with the sole focus on biblical exposition. Certainly in the preparation of the sermonic discourse there should be exposition and exegesis. However, expository preaching isn’t the only genre in the preaching enterprise. There is the dialectical method; the didactic approach; narrative proclamation; doctrinal preaching; the deductive method (Aristotle) the inductive method (Fred Craddock); moves and structures (David Buttrick); four pages of the sermon (Paul Scott Wilson) – just to name a few. My aforementioned listing is by no means exhaustive. I am certain you can quickly add to this list.
It is our attempt in this the ninth year of this preaching conference to explore some of the methods we employ in the preaching enterprise. I invite you to seriously examine your approach to preaching preparation as well as being open to other possibilities. I remember when beginning my studies for the Doctor of Ministry degree at United Theological Seminary under the mentoring of Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor and his insistence that whatever method used in preaching the dialectic is apparent. It was his belief, and I concur, that every sermon must have a proposition – a guiding norm that must be exposed in one declarative sentence. The dialectical method simply seeks to make the tension in the text between the thesis and the antithesis. Every sermon seeks to answer a relevant question in the selected text as one moves towards resolving the tension that the text creates. Whether you agree with this or not I think that you will agree with me that every Gospel message is about the task of wrestling with an idea whose premise and answers are couched within the selected passage(s) of scripture. We must never forget that the preaching of the Gospel is not about personal opinion, but the begging of the question – “Is there a Word from the Lord?”
Our biblical foundation for this year’s conference is found in I Corinthians 3:1-9 in which the Apostle Paul steers the Corinthian mindset away from human personality to the Christ whose dictates we are called upon to declare. Listen to the converted tentmaker from Tarsus –
“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another,
“I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only
servants, through whom you came to believe – as the
Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed,
Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is
anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
(I Corinthians 3:4-7) NIV
Regardless of the genre we use in preaching there is only one objective – to glorify God and allow him to make the truth of the Gospel grow in the life of the scholar. It is not the attempt of this conference to suggest or ever imply that one method of preaching is superior to another. Any method is valid as long as the Gospel they preached authentically deals with the text(s).
Across the years we have heard and mentioned various forms and styles of preaching and there can be no denial that all have been effective in their own right. Let us listen attentively and glean from this year’s presenters as they unveil their particular perspective when it comes to the preparation and proclamation of the Gospel.
Dr. Charles E. Booth
A Suggested Reading List
Preaching – Fred Craddock: Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985.
The Web of Preaching – Richard Eslinger: Abingdon Press, 2002.
The Journey and Promise of African-American Preaching – Kenyatta Gilbert: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, 2011.
The Heart of Black Preaching – Cleophus J. LaRue: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.
The Four Pages of the Sermon: A Guide to Biblical Preaching – Paul Scott Wilson: Abingdon Press, 2018.