The Preacher's Forum: Exploring Dialogical Preaching
The Preacher’s ForumExploring Dialogical Preaching www.preachersforum.org
The ‘New Homiletic’ We are exploring a ‘values-based approach’ to dialogical preaching, many of whichcome from the landmark 1971 work of North American homiletician Fred B. Craddock.
Exploring Preaching Models“We are all aware that in countless courts of opinion the verdict on preaching has been rendered and the sentence passed.” (Fred B. Craddock, As One Without Authority 3).
In your opinion, what is the verdict being rendered on the subject of preaching today?
Who exactly are the ones making accusations against preaching?
• Theologians?• Academicians?• The general public?• ‘Classroom snipers’?• Those ‘going AWOL from the pulpit…’?
So why continue to preach?Not necessarily because preachers regard preaching as ‘an effective instrument of the church,’ but rather for the following two reasons:3. The combined force of professional momentum.4. Congregational demand. In both cases, the key word is: expectations.
Why has preaching today suffered? Welcome! … and for today’s sermon,… …I have really nothing to say
• Because it is part of a traditional and entrenched institution. In the average church, ‘the preaching is tolerated and the sermons are tolerable.’ Expectations tend to be low, and the fulfilment of that expectation is generally lower.
2. The power of words are decaying. Society is bombarded with words: Television, media, internet, etc. People are increasingly suspicious and cynical of the use—or misuse—of words offered by traditional authority figures. Word Power
3. The church suffers from ‘language lag.’ Churches are not laying aside old terms and jargon for fear of laying aside something vital to the Christian faith itself.
4. Preachers experiencing a loss of certainty in a fragmented world. In an individualistic, experience-centred postmodern world, preachers still using traditional orderly sermon forms risk being out of touch and out of date—and ultimately will not communicate.
5. A crippling fear of honesty. Does the fact that the preacher’s own faith is in process disqualify him or her from the pulpit? Preachers hesitate to let it be known when their own faith is crippled for fear of causing the entire congregation to limp.
6. The changed relationship between speaker and hearers. In this post- Christendom world of today, preachers can no longer presuppose the general recognition – of their authority as clergy, – of the institution of the church, – of the Bible or – of the sermon itself.
What are some proposed solutions to the ‘crisis in preaching’?
• Churches calling upon theological schools for more homiletics training! Preaching in a changed context requires new approaches. However: more of the same typically results in the solidification of old errors.
2. A demand for more Bible and more theology! However, this approach tends to weaken the already-weakened formula: Preaching is already too full of Bible and theology!
3. A revival of topical preaching! At first glance this seems an ideal solution: Preaching on ‘current issues’ banishes irrelevant expository sermons and apparently satisfies the demand for relevant sermons.
But there is a catch: despite the seeming relevance, nonetheless the mode of proclamation itself is still not relevant to the changed speaker-hearer dynamic.In other words, preachers are potentially guilty of ‘preaching relevant sermons in ways that are no longer relevant.’
•Intonation•Manner•Movement•Form of sermon•Monological•Downward
Monologic Preaching• In the modern Enlightenment world, communication was oriented around the printed word.• Sermons competed for attention by adhering to the qualities of the written word: – Logical development – Clear argument – Thorough and conclusive development
In other words: the sermon carried the entire communicative burden. What are the major implications of this?4. The listener can only accept or reject the conclusions already reached by the preacher.5. The preacher is free from the threat of dialogue.6. The audience is characterized as the passive recipients of the authoritative message.
Exploring Dialogical PreachingPreachers and congregations alike have no doubt experienced disappointment in previous attempts at ‘dialogical sermons.’What are some of the reactions?• Outright rejection of ‘new method’• Mild enthusiasm• ‘At least it’s something different’
Why the disappointment?Dialogical preachingis all too easy to posture.
What would truly embracing the ‘dialogical principle’ look like? This involves a radical reassessment of…• One’s role as a preacher• One’s view of the congregation as ‘the people of God’• The sermon: does it belong to the preacher or the church?• The role of the Spirit• One’s theology of the Word
Method & ContentHere we must be careful not to separate the method of preaching from the content of preaching. In other words: the what (content) of preaching cannot and should not be separated from the how (method) of preaching.
“Rather than being distilled for their content, the parable communicates as parable; it is the method that effects the experience. The method is the message. So it is with all preaching; how one preaches is to a large extent what one preaches.” (Craddock, As One Without Authority, 44).
Dialogical preaching involves utilizing dialogue on at least three levels:• Before the sermon• (Possibly) during the sermon• After the sermon
Conclusion Craddock indicates that if the preacher suffers from a loss of clerical prestige by promoting democratic and dialogical preaching…This is more than made up for by the gain in community. Does your communication create community?