Back to the Books

Having got my research application sent off for ethical approval, it was good today to be able to turn once more from form filling to reading and thinking. Started to read through The Mission of Preaching: Equipping the Community for Faithful Witness by Patrick Johnson. Very promising start, looking forward to working through the rest of it.

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Whole Life Preaching

The DMin thesis I’m working on, arose out of the impact London Institute for Contemporary Christianity’s (LICC) Life on the Frontline had on me and our church. At the course’s heart is a very simple thesis, how can we resource the church to fulfill its every day mission serving God where each person spends most of their time, which for many who be at work. What does it mean to be a teacher for God, a rubbish collector for God, a parent, accountant, volunteer or friend? As they neatly put it, don’t ask what new members of the congregation can do for the church, but what the church can do to resource them.

On the back of that, I started looking around for homiletical approaches that specifically seek to support that view of frontline mission. I quickly discovered Anna Carter Florence’s Testimony Preaching, which claims to equip congregations to share their experiences of God in their daily lives by the preacher modelling this through sharing their experiences of God in the text and life. My research question is simple, does it work?

In light of this, I was delighted to be at the launch of LICC’s new resource, a suite of videos and handouts entitled Whole Life Preaching. I’ve not had time to work through all of them yet, but the taste I have had suggests they will be really useful for me as a preacher, and hopefully for my research too! Based on previous experience with their materials, I recommend then to you.

Going Analogue

I was brought up on vinyl. As a teenager there was nothing better than flicking through shelves of new or second hand records. Cassettes were of no interest to me, they sounded dull and had a habit of getting chewed up, besides, the artwork was so small it was almost pointless.

Then came the CD. I was a late adopter. In fact it was not until I got married that I made the switch, my wife had a CD-player and it seemed daft not to. Besides, soon after I did much of my work on the computer, and soon these were able to play CDs as well; strangely they never did make the leap to playing LPs!

Before long, vinyl was declared dead.

This was premature. Checking out HMV in Oxford Street the other day it had shelves of good old fashioned vinyl LPs. It was wonderful! They might crackle and get scratched, but they have soul. I might have to start buying them again, not just using my old collection. Perhaps a new stylus is in order too.

Funnily enough, I’ve found my sermon preparation method has changed too. Having been digital for so long, writing them on the PC and then preaching from a tablet, I’ve found myself going back to pen and paper, scrawling notes and ideas everywhere. I’m finding that this is a much more creative and organic process that is both liberating and perhaps also has more soul too. There’s something about the freedom to express ideas all over the page as they come to you, and something about the physical link between the heart/brain – hand – pen and paper that is more intimate than fingers on a keyboard.

There are of course drawbacks. My writing can boarder on the illegible, and storing old notes is not so viable (especially those literally written on the back of an envelope)! But at this moment in time, this going analogue seems to be suiting me, scratches and all. Hopefully, like with vinyl, my sermons now have a little more soul!

Review: Sharing the Word

Sharing the Word
Sharing the Word by Lucy Atkinson Rose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Currently in the process of writing a review of this for my DMin course, and so won’t write a full review just now, but I found this a thought-provoking read that got me thinking about the nature of my relationship with the wider community as a preacher and what preaching is actually there for – why do we preach? I think I have great sympathy for what Rose is trying to achieve here, and will certainly try out some of the ideas in practise.

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Book Review: Preaching as Testimony

Preaching as Testimony
Preaching as Testimony by Anna Carter Florence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picked up this book for my DMin research (Doctorate in Ministry) as I’m looking at doing a project based on encouraging people to share their stories about their experiences of God in their daily lives, ‘testimony’ if you like. The title seemed to support that. At some point I shall be writing a proper review of this, but for now suffice to say I found this a challenging and encouraging book both for myself as a preacher and for my thesis. In some ways it feels like three distinct books, a theological overview, a biographical survey of three female examples of testimony preachers, and then a section on ‘how to’. This is a deliberate move by the writer to echo the journey she went on in her thinking. Is that helpful? Hard to say. There were certainly sections I think I could have done without, and some spoke to more more than others, that said, the journey helped to earth the book and to make me ponder on how it reflects my own journey.
So what’s it about? It’s her presentation on an approach to preaching based not on explaining the text or proving the text, but living in the text and sharing what you encounter there – a confessional approach. This is what I encountered in the text and this is what that means for me in my life. This is a liberating approach, you don’t need to be a theological or Biblical expert to engage in it, and a challenging approach, if your encounter with God is shallow or absent, that will show up in your preaching, and if you avoid saying the hard things in that encounter, taking a risk in what you say, then you will be preaching a lie.
The practical notes at the end are fun, and I shall certainly be trying some of them.
One note that particularly hit me was her insistence on this not being primarily for preachers, but an encouragement for all people to ‘preach’ their experiences of God in the text and in their lives, but a recognition that for many this is a big step, therefore as preachers we have a duty to practise this in our preaching to help our congregations make that step.
More to follow when I’ve had time to deliberate further in the course of my studies, but I think this book has been a great place to start.

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