Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nostalgic vs Innovative Preaching

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When I began this blog sixteen months ago, I stated that one of the purposes was  "to share things I am reading, discussions from other preaching blogs, ideas that work (or don't work!) for me."

A part of the unstated presumption (maybe even unrealized presumption) was that I wanted to make my preaching more VITAL, more RELEVANT, more IMPACTFUL. 

I notice (and I want to be very careful how I say this), that most of the blogs on preaching stress that there is ONE way to preach and they (as I have pointed out here before) wrongly state that that one method goes back to biblical times and examples.  That is not to say that these bloggers produce bad sermons or that they are ill-intentioned.  It is just that there seems to be one voice speaking in the preaching blogosphere (small though that sphere may be).

I was reflecting on this because I am currently reading the new book by Zach Eswine.  Interestingly the forward is by Bryan Chappell, one who I would put in the category above.  (And I say that with HUGE respect for his teaching and preaching). 

In Eswine's book "Preaching to a Post-Everything World," Eswine points out two larger categories of sermons or preachers:

Nostalgic preachers tend to believe that the best homiletic practices have already happened. Preaching will flourish only if it returns to what it once was.

In contrast, inventive preachers feel that past models are outdated and ill-equipped to handle fresh cultural challenges. For them, preaching, if it is needed at all, will thrive only if it reinvents itself. These movements urge us to create something new.

One might think that Eswine would push for the second.  Partly he does, but he fairly points out that there are benefits and dangers to both approaches. 

He goes on to say:

Invention comes generally with two perspectives. On the one hand, some will always feel that preaching doesn’t seem to work at all. This stream of inventive preachers declares that preaching is broken and must be abandoned. On the other hand, some inventive preachers will not go that far. They appreciate a bit more of what has gone before. They don’t want to do away with old forms. Rather, they want to update old forms. The key is to find the form best suitable for translating truth for our cultural moment.

On their worst days, the inventive will tend to characterize the nostalgic as storyless, unimaginative, passionless, narrow, dry, dull, out-of-touch, and unbiblical. The nostalgic, on their worst days, return the favor. They describe all inventive preachers as romantic, frenzied, broad, entertainment driven, shallow, out-of-bounds, and unbiblical.

If you want to look at this chapter, it is excerpted in the current issue of Preaching journal.  You can find it here.  I expect to say more about it tomorrow and in the future.

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