Engaging Preaching (Fred Craddock) – Part I

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As a side note – it has been a very long time since I posted to the category of Sermon Notes; however, as I am preaching next week, I guess I will. This week, I want to focus on a few things. First, is this book. 

I wanted to take a class on preaching for two reasons. First, I figured I could take it here – face to face. Second, I figured it would help me later in life if I hit the lecture circuit. And also didn’t think I would have to preach. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did. Yes, I took a class on preaching with the hopes that I would not have to preach. This is not the strangest expectation I’ve had, but it comes pretty close.

Fred B. Craddock is a name widely known amongst preachers; his story-telling technique has inspired countless ministers to embrace what the basic nature of the person – the narrative. His book is no less than that – a story about preaching from a preacher who tells stories. As my instructor pointed out, there not one footnote. Perhaps that is the way it should be. A book on preaching that keeps it plain and simple, but holds a great depth behind the words. No sourcing of evidence or outside authority is needed — Craddock is not arguing one way or the other, but speaking directly to the reader. If the reader is convinced, that conviction then becomes the argument Craddock never really had to make.

I must say, that reading this book, while a fresh air no doubt, was still somewhat odd. The ministry I am used too, preaching-wise, was one of spontaneity. As a lay minister, we never knew when we were going to be called upon to preach; therefore, we had to be “instant in season and out of season.” I would, between services on Sunday prepare a sermon outline. I had notes, verses, and some general idea of what I was going to say – rather, what direction I was going to go in. Everything else was left up to the Holy Ghost – not spirit, you dullard heretic papists, but Ghost. I remember one line in one of my sermons, proclaiming that I was blood bought and Holy Ghost taught. Amen. That actually got a lot of shouts and amens and a few others things. Look, I’m not saying I am not good right out of the gate. I am. I can pretty well deliver something, and do it well. They called me the red-headed Cajun preaching machine.  But this, well, this is going to be different. This will be a somewhat – an allwhat if I can help it – prepared sermon. There is a reason, I figure, why Wesley, Calvin, Luther, and Barth are all remembered for their sermons and their theology. Because we can read it today. There are plenty of books of sermons by the great preachers of the past; not one of them went unprepared. And you know what? These prepared sermons still speak to us today. We still find inspiration in them in our daily walk. So, once I have convinced myself that a prepare sermon was in fact not heresy, I was able to write mine.

Several things struck me as pertinent about sermon preparation while reading this book. First, Craddock has devoted three sections to preparing the sermon. I’m not saying that this mimics the Trinity, but as one who looks for hidden structures in literary works, I can see Craddock’s insistence that the preaching life of a minister follow the Trinitarian model. Part I deals with an overview, the context, and basic theology of preaching. The second part deals with the message, the word of the preacher. (By the way, here he is very Barthian in his approach to Scripture and the Preacher.) This second part is about the ways which the preacher abides in the (W)ord, along with interpretation of the text, or the delivery of the (W)ord. Party three deals with the application of the sermon. It is shaped, stored, storied, formed, and finally delivered into application. So, very much a Trinitarian structure to preaching, or perhaps, at least to the book.

Later, I’ll examine the book in detail. 

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