Thursday, 23 February 2012

Baptist Future

Baptists in Great Britain are celebrating the movement's 400th anniversary this year.  They are also wondering and talking about the future.  Part of this is an online conversation about Baptist life "Beyond 400".  40 voices have been invited to contribute a discussion starter.  My warblings are now up on the Beyond 400 site.  Go read it here.  Or not.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

James K. A. Smith's Open Letter to Praise Bands

I like James K.A. Smith.  His, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to church is a lot better informed and a lot more clearly expressed than most books on Christianity and Postmodernism/ity.  (I guess at this point a thank you to Sean the Baptist for introducing me to Smith is in order.)  You can follow Smith's musings over at forsclavigera

Recently he's published an open letter to praise bands.  If you accept his premises about the nature of Christian worship, and I'm inclined to, then his conclusions are spot on.  And yet .. I can't help wondering if there isn't just a small sprinkling of the crusty old reactionary in his musings. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is dead.  You can't possibly have failed to notice.  However, you probably weren't aware that my friend was bemused and irritated by the blanket news coverage.  J pointed out that an earthquake in the Philipines killed forty-odd people last weekend but registered little more than the faintest of blips on the news radar.  "What is happening to our priorities?"

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Preaching As Event

Did a session with our ministerial students this week as part of a six session look at preaching.  People seemed to find my handout helpful so thought I'd stick up here.

Preaching As Event

The preacher, then, understands the sermon not as a bulletin board that posts information about God, world and church, but as an event.  (Roland J. Allen)

A musical score is not music; it becomes music when it is performed.  Likewise a sermon does not exist other than in the preaching.  Neither a manuscript nor an outline is a sermon; neither a transcript nor a recording is a sermon.  Preaching is performance, it is event.

Too many sermons are a report of an event that happened in the study earlier in the week rather than a live event, happening now, “Before your very ears.”

1. Take Yourself Seriously (But Not Too Seriously)

You lose eventfulness in preaching when you become impersonal.

NB the profoundly interpersonal nature of preaching: a personal God through the person of the preacher to persons in the congregation.

NB appropriate vulnerability.  The invulnerable is not only inhuman, it also quickly becomes uninteresting.

2. Take The Congregation Seriously

You lose the eventfulness of preaching when you fail to dialogue.

You are not talking about a subject, you are talking to (with) a congregation.

“… preaching that is ‘living-room rather than ‘classroom’, inviting dialogue rather than delivering dogma, conversing with ‘each one’ rather than addressing “you all” is the better way in this oral/aural/visual event called a sermon.” (Martyn D. Atkins)

What does it mean for the sermon to be dialogical?  In what ways can we encourage dialogue? 

3. Take Time Seriously

You lose eventfulness when you forget that sermons take place in time.

Sermons unfold as they happen, they are events in time.  Being predictable can rob the sermon of eventfulness.  Remember the value of narrative tension.

4. Take The Medium Seriously

You lose eventfulness when you forget that preaching is an oral/aural phenomenon.

“To a greater or lesser degree, preaching theories have generally recognised the historic revelation and the contemporary situation as essential to the sermon.  But the recognition of preaching as word-event, and particularly as an acoustic event, has been much slower in coming.”  (Clyde E. Fant)

5. Take The Outcome Seriously

You lose eventfulness when nothing is at stake.

This not an event for the sake of eventfulness.

There should always be a “so what”.  What do you want the sermon to do?

6. Take God Seriously

You lose eventfulness when God is not involved.

Preaching is eventful discourse, and that eventfulness is the doing of God.  There’s more to the preaching event than homiletical technology.

7. Take The Scriptures Seriously

You lose eventfulness when you are confined to the now.

We are to be contextually engaged but not contextually contained.  The scriptures become the means of hearing the voice of God from beyond our context.

“Preaching brings the Scriptures forward as a living voice in the congregation.  Biblical texts have a future as well as a past, and preaching seeks to fulfil that future by continuing the conversation of the text into the present.” (Fred B. Craddock)

An Important Qualification - Take The Sequence Seriously

The sermon is meant to be eventful but preaching is not a one off event.

The impact and value of a preaching ministry is cumulative.