How Preaching Works

I watched Pastor Adam Donner of Glenkirk Church preach a homily this weekend at a memorial service that was one of the best of its genre.  Adam had a conversational, over-the-back-fence kind of tone.  If he had notes in front of him, I couldn’t see them.  Occasionally he would pause, make eye contact with someone in the audience, and then tell a story about that person in particular and that person’s relationship with the man whose life we were honoring.  It was uniquely personal and comfortable for what can be so painful for a family.  On top of that, he really told me about Jesus.  And not just about Jesus, but about what it’s like to kind of be unsure about who Jesus is and then to come close to Jesus for the first time.  It was a uniquely strong moment in preaching, but seemingly so casual and comfortable.

So here’s the grand generalization about preaching.  In this post-60’s hippie apocalypse we know as postmodernity, that’s exactly what preaching should be.  Doug Pagitt has written a singularly awful book about preaching, announcing simply that preaching doesn’t work.  I would say it doesn’t work if you don’t know why you’re doing it.  But Adam knew it this weekend.  In a world where children are not taught a

basic respect for authority, or worse, much the opposite, preaching still functions extremely well.  But only if you talk in a normal voice instead of the voice your seminary professors used, talk to the people you’re looking at, by name, instead of people in your blogosphere, wear jeans instead of a suit, lose the pulpit, speak from your own failures rather than know-it-all-ness, and hurt with people who hurt.

Preaching hasn’t gone anywhere.  I’ve seen it recently.  It just isn’t what your parents listened to anymore.


2 thoughts on “How Preaching Works

  1. This is a question I have been wrestling with for months. I believe preaching works because I personally have been transformed by hearing the Word under preaching but am I seeing the radical transformation I desire in them. It is simple to say that preaching doesn’t work if we do not look for the right evidence. Do we desire passionate worship as a result of preaching or do we desire a consistent refining and closer relationship with Christ. As we live in a culture that can receive anything in a matter of moments, it would behoove us to think that God works like that. Granted He does, but we may not see that work evident in the persons life for some time. I Pastor students and would love nothing more than to physically see and spiritually be confirmed that my study and hermeneutical approach works but I cannot. I have to simply trust that God is faithful through His word.
    2 Timothy 3:16
    Be filled with love and led by The Spirit!

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