Monday, March 4, 2013

Preaching to the interpretative community

There have been two books out recently encouraging preachers to lift their game. The Anglican version came out several years ago and is titled Please, No more Boring Sermons. The Presbyterian version: Saving Eutychus is about to be released. Good advice is to be had from both and the bottom line of 'work hard at your preaching', is laudable. However I think both books miss a very important factor: the interpretative community.

One of the most interesting things about preaching that I've noticed recently is that "success" is often connected to the interpretative community, those hearing their preaching on some-sort of a regular basis. This means that measuring preaching will always be contaminated by the observer effect. To a certain extent we can identity when the art of rhetoric is employed well within a particular time and place. However the gift of the golden tongue is more like the rain, it falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

In a sense therefore, both books are wrong to present x or y method as "successful preaching". Because really at the end of the day, it's whatever the interpretative community says it is. It'd be better to master basic rhetoric and faithful exegesis and then be whatever preacher you most enjoyed then strive for some subjective (and often spiritualised) standard. It'd be then up the wisdom of church leaders to match preachers to congregations.