After a few days off, some more reflections on preaching. The last few books were from some more traditional/conservative Evangelicals, and the most recent book I read is by Doug Pagitt, one of the more prominent voices in the Emergent camp. Doug is a leader at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, author of a few books, etc.
Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith is a bit like a detour in this conversation. Or maybe a shortcut. It offers a quick and simple route for where a church may want to take their teaching in a communal, post-whatever, world. It is a shortcut in that it sidesteps most of the major conversations in homiletics – at least any explicit mention of/engagement with them. While this is not always a bad thing, it may leave some wondering where the theological/theoretical/homiletical foundation of Pagitt’s work is. While there are not a lot of citations indicating that Pagitt was working with more than his own experience, I was reminded of John McClure’s work in homiletics as I read and reflected on Pagitt’s book.
The basic thesis of Pagitt’s book is that most modern sermons are a form of speaching, a one-way forced speech directed at the audience. This caricature of the modern sermon is contrasted to Pagitt’s proposed progressional dialogue, which envisions the preacher as a conversation facilitator, welcoming and encouraging voices to contribute to a sermon representing and incorporating the communal voice. Preaching Re-Imagined essentially guides the reader through a “how to” of progressional dialogue with some discussion to the elements in a post-whatever culture that call for a more conversational, dialogical, and communal expression of the sermon event.
Here are some quotes from Pagitt:
The value of our practices – including preaching – ought to be judged by their effects on our communities and the ways in which they help us move toward life with God. (28)
The contemporary church makes two mistakes regarding the function and relationship of the Bible. One is to think of her as a stagnant telling of all the desires of God. The other is to think of her as something from which we extract truth, whether in the form of moral teaching or propositional statements. (44)
Preaching as progressional dialogue calls for a different reaction from those who hear a sermon. Where application asks, “do you see what I see?” or, “Do you know what I know?” implication asks, “What do we do now?” Application has a sense of me to it; implication has a sense of us. (99)
There is something positive about telling people they need not set aside their everyday lives to interact with the things of Go. The attitude of “Listen to me because this is the most important thing you will hear today” may create more centralized control, but it’s not good for the good news. (130-131)
Controlling the content of what is said about God certainly has its appeal. It allows us to mold communities of people who think certain ways and behave in certain ways. It creates a kind of dependence on the pastor as the only person who can chart the course of the community. It takes away the threat of instability that comes when people question the message. But the church isn’t the military. It isn’t meant to be a place where we train soldiers for battle and send them out with infallible marching orders. It’s meant to be the place where we encounter God together and figure out how to live in the kingdom life to which we are called. (143)
Tomorrow, I may or may not post a few thoughts on what I appreciated about Pagitt’s approach mixed with a little critical engagement.