Month: October 2008

The Role of a Preacher

I intended to post this a few months ago when I first saw the episode but with moving house I didn’t get around to it.  Recently I was challenged about the role of preaching within a service and it came instantly back to mind. 

Someone recently postulated that all preaching is ineffective and that all preaching should have a cease and desist order placed upon it as it privileges the few and doesn’t speak to the many.  I have to say that I agree that some preachers can be accused of this.  However, this isn’t my experience of the majority of preachers I know.

It was also said that not one preacher would ever look to professionals within other professions for advice on how to effectively disciple people.  Again this is a little unfair on the preachers I know.  Having been a teacher who has since become an ordinand, I used the opportunity to not only combine the theories behind the two within practical theology.  I actually based my dissertation upon the interaction between different teaching and learning styles and different church services and liturgical styles.  And this is what I love about the emerging church, in theory there is a time and place for everyone to engage with God.  As a kinaesthetic boy who is easily distracted there is a place for me. 

I find it a great sadness that unfortunately those within the emerging church often fall foul of the very thing to which they react.  To deny the place of preaching for some excludes those who learn aurally in exactly the same way that removing the smooth stone excludes those who need to touch.  This is where I find that the phrase ‘mixed economy’ is so vital within the Christian faith.  Unfortunately this inclusivity and the valuing of others who are following Jesus is embraced by so few.  Those who are spoken to by the ‘mystery of the liturgy’ deny the validity of the faith of those who are spoken to by the ‘preaching of the word’.  In turn they deny the validity of those who worship ‘when the music starts and the spirit falls’ or the ‘emergent discussion group’ that starts in the pub.  It is with huge irony that the emergent post-modernists then round upon all others and question their validity.  It is with this in mind that I am sadly reminded of the declaration at Greenbelt by a prominent figure within the emerging church that “the emerging church will kill of the institutional church – and that is no bad thing”.  Is the emerging church to become another ‘movement’ within Christianity that is destined to become as political as all that has preceded it or does it genuinely have something new to offer in its radical discipleship, radically inclusivity and radical valuing of all? 

And so I return to Lynette and her experience of a traditional preaching service (five hymn sandwich anyone).  I too stand here before you as a member of the congregation who stuck his hand up and questioned the preacher.  Not in a “trying to catch you out” way but when I knew the preacher well and wanted to have something clarified.  I probably also stand before you as an ineffective preacher.  I have asked questions from the pulpit on occasion and received little response.  Personally as an ex classroom teacher I would relish the opportunity for some interaction but what is a guy to do? 

Diversity.  Unity.

The Common Life

The more I walk, the more I realise that the Christian faith is about communion.  Not necessarily in the sense of bread and wine but rather in the sense of relationship.  What that means has been amplified for me by my current situation.  I realise that we are not just in communion with those we choose but rather those God chooses.  When we gather around the table we don’t do it as individuals but rather as the Body of Christ.  I commune with God whilst I commune with you… and you commune with God whilst you commune with me.

Now that doesn’t mean we always agree.  It doesn’t even mean we have to like each other.  What it does mean is that we have to love each other.  Not in a smoochy type manner.  Now in the manner of “I love…” meaning “I think X is a sinner and going to hell so therefore I love him/her…”  To love is not something that a condition can be placed upon.  To love is ‘as is’.

So here I am as a guy with an evangelical heritage asking questions about what it means to be catholic.  For the answer I have to agree with a wiser older man who comes from a much more catholic background than I who defined the term as this:

Catholic doesn’t mean being ‘high church’ it means something much more fundamental – I believe that Jesus is alive and working through the whole of the church and I need to be attentive to and listen to the whole of it! You can’t do this if you are sectarian!

Being sectarian doesn’t value those with whom we are in communion.  It elevates our own opinion to a station above others who are in communion with God.  This is not conducive to the common life as a corporate “Body of Christ”.

He also went on to say something about how this plays out in the common life as we relate to each other in community.  Something highly important.  Something fundamental to loving those in whom you are in communion!

Common life is putting a new loo roll on and pulling it ready for the next person.