“Don’t preach to me”! Which one of us have not heard that expression or perhaps said those words. What does this plea tell us about the image of preaching? Certainly it is not a positive image, and while it may be based on a stereotype image of preaching my fear is that stereotype is, all too often, lived out from pulpits every Sunday.
When I was in high school I won a regional speech contest by memorizing Jonathan Edwards’ fiery sermon, preached during the Great Awakening, entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“. I was so proud with myself for winning but now I am aghast at the destructiveness such a presentation has on the image of preaching.
What is that image? Preaching is seen and understood as someone in authority telling them others what they should or should not be doing related to a particular issue or agenda. Even worse, preaching is telling others what they are now doing or have done in the past is bad and wrong and not only do they need to stop, if they do not stop they are damned. No one, I repeat no one, likes to be preached at in this way.
The image of preaching needs an overhaul and those of us who preach need to assume responsibility for transforming the image. While we are all sinners in the hands of God, we are not in the hands of an angry God but a loving God. That is good news! That is preaching. If our sermons are not grounded in good news not only are they not good sermons it is not preaching; call it something else. Preaching is the proclamation of good news!
– Dave Frenchak
Each April, Dave Frenchak teaches a graduate level SCUPE class on the Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban Context. The class focuses on freeing up the prophetic imagination from within the preacher by releasing inhibitions in favor of creating space for the Holy Spirit, by celebrating the unique gifts of each individual, and by connecting with vital skills and perspectives that bring social context and biblical Word together in the preached moment.
In resent years the class has been co-taught by the Rev. Otis Moss III from Trinity UCC in Chicago.
You can hear an excerpt of Otis Moss III teaching on the opening weekend of the class: the Priest and the Prophet.