bits from bob....

"Preaching To" and "Preaching With"

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Today I reflect upon some challenging thoughts concerning the task of preaching which I found in an article by Stan Reid. How often do you sit in the pew and think, "That is exactly what I would want to say if I were teaching, or if I were preaching!"? Martin Marty has suggested two aspects of preaching: preaching to the listeners, and preaching with the listeners.

Anytime someone says, "My sentiments precisely, " preaching with has occurred. In our visually-oriented culture, significantly dependent upon television and computer images, and tending to passivity and entertainment, the task of preaching has frequently followed suit. Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death) says that a good TV program seeks applause, not reflection. If preaching seeks applause, entertainment will soon follow. Unfortunately, such preaching will almost always be preaching to, serving to heighten the perception of worshipers as spectators.

We need reminders that the preaching event occurs best as preaching with, enhanced by active listening. We gain the most from preaching when we preach with the preacher. In fact, that is our responsibility.

An intriguing experience shared by almost every preacher may seem to defy explanation. How is it that some people are bored stiff by a certain sermon while others are helped and encouraged? How can such opposite responses come from the same event?

Upon further reflection, one may observe that those consistently blessed by preaching do not see the sermon as an end in itself, preaching to, but see it as a means to an end requiring the active involvement of the listener, preaching with. If the sermon is stimulus for reflection on the implications of cruciform living which ever reflects the cross, Reid concludes that the real intent of the preaching event has been accomplished.

Take heed how you hear, what you hear, that you hear!

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Last updated January 2, 2002.