Preaching Connection: Preaching

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Reading for Preaching

The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean

The author visits Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley’s birthplace, and the museum there.  Its executive director, Dick Guyton, illuminates Elvis’s stage presence: His “theory is that Elvis’s church experience, oddly enough, inspired his semi-obscene stage style, those signature bumps and grinds.  ‘The preacher in the church he attended as a boy—that preacher played the guitar, he...
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“Joke” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

“Many ministers include in their sermons a joke or two that may or may not be relevant to what the sermons are about but in any case are supposed to warm up the congregation and demonstrate that the preacher is just folks like everybody else. There are two dangers in this.  One is that if...
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The Grapes of Wrath

Suppose the preacher’s text du jour is one from Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel about how God’s judgment can leave the land desolate, or a house desolate, or the people desolate.   Wind has swept the land of its crops, the farm animals have been sold or wandered off, the cities have turned into ghost towns,...
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A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Annie Proulx describes Maclean’s art by quoting a talk Maclean once gave on “Teaching and Story Telling.”  Maclean had been in the woods as a young man and had slept in bunkhouses where men told stories at night.  He learned “things fundamental to the art: I saw early that oral stories have to be short....
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Creative Writing: For People Who Can’t Not Write

“A good writer is a graceful guest in the reader’s brain.”  Cites Hemingway: “Easy writing makes hard reading.”  The writer hasn’t worked at it.  And the reverse is true too: hard writing (i.e., the kind of writing the author has suffered over) makes easy reading.
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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound.  You may be able to do without them if you have genius, but most of us have only talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and...
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Creative Writing: For People Who Can’t Not Write

“Many readers claim to be bored, but no writers claim to be boring. W. Somerset Maugham said, ‘I never met an author who admitted that people did not buy his book because it was dull.’ Most writers admit about anything before they admit they are boring.”
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Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

Craddock spent his preaching and teaching life encouraging preachers to get very specific in their references and descriptions [he wouldn’t say “references and descriptions;” he’d say “get very specific in what they talk about”]. “We don’t want to get lost in all those long words that end in ‘-ity,’ ‘-ship,’ and ‘-ness’: responsibility, stewardship, righteousness,...
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Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

Craddock used to tell lots of stories and was good at it. Here he gives a little advice. Use as few words as possible, and especially as few adjectives. Let characters’ words and actions tell the audience who they are, not your piling up of explanatory adjectives. Don’t do that. Let the listeners do a...
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Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

“The Bible takes listening very seriously. The Bible’s term for “listening” is translated most often as “obey” [as if listening leads seamlessly to obedience, or maybe even constitutes the first stage of it]. The Bible doesn’t know the difference between “listen” and “obey.” Listening is fundamental, but it is so hard to do. We have...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

p. 315, from John Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (1889 ed.) Broadus points out that the Gk. word homilia (from which we get “homily”) means “conversation, mutual talk” and that the 9th century writer Photius remarks how like conversations Chrysostom’s homilies were. He seemed to have his listeners right in...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

p. 313, from John Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (1889 ed.): “Rhetoric has to do with the use we make of material, the choice, adaptation, arrangement, expression. But after all the material itself is more important . . . The things which ought most to be thought of by the...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

from John Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (1889 edition): Broadus speaks of the young preacher’s penchant for imitating older, more experienced preachers, and of the resident perils. All are aware that there is a both a conscious and an unconscious imitation. That which is unconscious is, of course, not so...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

Augustine knows that various purposes of rhetoric—e.g. to instruct or to inspire—require different forms of rhetoric. “If the listeners need to be instructed, this calls for the narrative style, provided, at least, that they need to be informed about the subject to be dealt with, while for the clearing up of debts and the establishment...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

Augustine highlights the need for those who would be eloquent in the service of truth to listen to those who are already eloquent: “The fact is that, given a bright and eager disposition, eloquence will come more readily to those who read and listen to eloquent speakers than to those who pore over the rules...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

This is Augustine in On Christian Doctrine, distinguishing “those,” i.e., the pagan sophists, from “these,” i.e., Christians who use rhetoric in the service of the gospel: “Rhetoric, after all, being the art of persuading people to accept something, whether it is true or false, would anyone dare to maintain that truth should stand there without...
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The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

Lischer introduces a section from Book 4 of Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine: Augustine knew that sophists used rhetoric for nefarious ends—chiefly to persuade people of falsehood. But this in no way suggested to Augustine that the church should therefore abandon rhetoric. The church finally lays claim to truth and beauty wherever they may be found....
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“Preaching to Unbelievers”

We live in an unchurched culture, so that preaching to unbelievers is cross-cultural ministry. We don’t mind preaching to the raven-haired Presbyterian women, aged forty-five, who look good in their sweaters and wool blazers. But who will talk to the SOB’s? Remove every barrier except the scandal of the cross. Preaching is crucial in addressing...
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Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Buechner’s recipe for wording the Sunday sermon: Let [the preacher] use words, but in addition to using them to explain, expound, exhort, let him use them to evoke, to set us dreaming as well as thinking, to use words as at their most prophetic and truthful. The prophets used them to stir in us memories...
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“Beyond Self-Help Chatter”

“I took a vacation last summer, and of course I visited a church. It was a mainline church, which meant (among other things) that the Scripture readings for each Sunday were prescribed. In the best of circumstances, set readings motivate preachers to dig into a Bible passage not of their own choosing and to listen...
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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Lamott offers a short story plot formula that will probably work for narrative types of sermons. It’s the ABDCE formula from Alice Adams. Action: A revealing happening good enough to hook us. Background: Who are these people? How did they get that way and how did they come to act as they do? What was...
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“Echoes of the Gospel-event in Literature and Elsewhere”

Reflects how many gospel themes are also in fairy tales you read to children: good/evil struggle is the transcendent one; but there are also others. Ordinary people are assigned extraordinary tasks for which they get supernatural aid; a prince marries a princess who is then elevated by the process (Christ and the Church); the refrain,...
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The Four Pages of the Sermon

“Sermons need to major in God and in grace. Social justice liberals and evangelicals alike tend to give us shoulds, musts, and have-tos. We don’t get enough Easter, Pentecost, Ascension. We get Emerson under other names. We get self-reliance preached to us, and it can’t save us. Preachers avoid grace because it ‘lets people off...
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Why Preach? Why Listen?

A Yale Divinity school student of the late 60s was all charged up about Karl Barth. He pestered people in seminars, and became annoyed at the mild interest of some of the other students and the profs. He preached 40 minutes of Barth from local pulpits, arranged all his papers so that they would conclude...
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“Preaching to Believers”

(Here’s one listener’s summary of what Ortberg said) When a person is called, gifted, etc., and preaches, something happens! Main reaction the preacher has at some point; I must be crazy! Who am I? We get sick of our own sermons. We’ll be criticized. We fail. Then we have to greet people. People thank us...
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And the Sea Will Tell

An attorney’s summation for the jury is the most important part of his case presentation, says Bugliosi. And he discusses exactly the same questions of delivery (extemporaneous? outline? written out?) that preachers discuss. Same conclusion as the veteran Fosdick: “’In my opinion, a summation must be either written out or set down in a comprehensive...
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Roger’s Version

(Roger Lambert, a middle-aged divinity professor is speaking) ”I was much admired, actually, in my pulpit days. Raise the doubts, then do the reassurances. People have no idea what they’re hearing. They just want a certain kind of verbal music. The major, the minor, and back to the major, then Bless you and Keep you,...
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Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

Fosdick wrote out his sermons in the early years, memorizing them and then bringing almost nothing with him into the pulpit. Then for a while he worked from an outline. Eventually he began to take a full manuscript with him again. He explains this last choice: “I have found that one can have the full...
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Between Two Worlds: the Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century

The world’s great literature addresses a lot of the same questions as Scripture does: “What is the purpose of our existence? Where did I come from and where am I going to? Why this thirst for transcendence? What is true freedom? Why does our reach exceed our grasp? Is it really possible to master oneself...
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“Colleagues in Worship”

“At a very large funeral for a very rich man, the rector was late, and the poor curate, thinking to help things along, began the service with the burial sentences, ‘I am the resurrection and the life . . . .’ when in rushed the harried rector, who jumped to the head of the procession...
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Rabbit Run

Eccles [a young episcopal minister ] ruminating about another, and quite liberal, minister: “With his white collar he forges God’s name on every word he speaks. He steals belief from the children he is supposed to be teaching. He murders faith in the minds of any who really listen to his babble. He commits fraud...
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The Winter of Our Discontent

Mrs. Baker speaks: “Hasn’t it been a glorious day? Did you enjoy the service? For a clergyman, I think he’s such an interesting man.”
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William Sloan Coffin, Jr.: A Holy Impatience

Goldstein has written a clear and readable account of this remarkable figure–athlete, bon vivant, pianist, preacher, raconteur, CIA agent—who was one of the most important colleagues of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights struggle, and maybe the most important white colleague. Many believe that Coffin was influenced more by the social philosophy/theology of...
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“The Pulpit King: The Passion and Eloquence of Gardner Taylor, a Legend among Preachers”

p. 25 Gardner Taylor is characterized by Edward Gilbreath as being like the great Charles Spurgeon, who once said that a preacher has to be willing to put not just hard work, but “heart work” into preaching. “He must feel as if he could preach his very life away before the sermon is done.” P....
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Darker Than Amber

Travis McGee, the main character in the story, has a friend named Meyer, who is a champ at listening: Meyer is a listener: “He actually listens and actually cares, and can make you feel as if his day would have been worthless, an absolute nothing, had he not the miraculous good fortune of meeting you....
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