Late last year I finally got around to reading a book I had wanted to read for a few years, Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World, by David J. Lose. Written originally as a dissertation, the book is highly technical and specialized. For those that have the patience though (I’ll admit mine wavered at times), Lose makes a compelling case for confession as the most appropriate mode for preaching in a postmodern world.
While much more could be said about the book, the reason I revisit it today is because a single sentence has stuck with me and nagged at me and disturbed me ever since I read it. In attempting to grapple with the very nature of preaching, Lose contends that “Preaching is neither a single word nor the final word; rather, it exists to prompt and nurture the larger conversation of the faithful” (107). This has stuck with me and nagged at me and disturbed me because I agree completely; this has to be the case for preaching to play a significant role in spiritual formation. Despite my strong agreement, I find it extremely difficult to translate this conclusion into reality.
At the same time, however, I can’t help but think translating this conclusion into reality is dependent upon more than just the manner in which the preacher preaches. Sometimes part of the reason preaching often fails to ‘prompt and nurture the larger conversation’ is because the church either doesn’t have an awareness of or think in terms of a larger conversation. Even if the church does see itself as engaged in a larger conversation, it often doesn’t treat the preaching event as significantly related to that larger conversation. So I also wrestle with the question, “How does the preacher help the congregation engage the preaching event in such a way that it can ‘prompt and nurture the larger conversation’?”