CKB on The Call to Preach

CKB on The Call to Preach March 4, 2024

A lecture given in Hexham in 1985.  In general these lectures seem to almost all come from the period shortly after Kingsley retired from his University post at the University of Durham in the Theology Department in 1982.

Explaining the call to preach has turned out to be more difficult than I thought. To illustrate the difficulty, two proposition: 1) Faculties– do not preach unless you have to;  2) at Cambridge, what you must ask is whether you have a call NOT to preach.  This assumes we are Christians and a few other things also.  Let us see where the problem lies.

I see no problem in the Damascus Road kind of experience . Recall it from Acts 9,22,26.  And it can still happen.  There is no problem here, but there is K. Stendahl’s question– is this a conversion or a call?  In fact the question is wrongly put.  All conversions are calls.  And this puts us a step further. All conversions are in a sense a call to preach, that is to bear witness.  The non-witnessing Christian is a self-contradiction.  See Rom. 10.  On this we shall all agree, and also that witnessing can take many forms.   This is the presupposition of it all.  But you do not want me to confine myself to this– ‘coming to the Methodist preaching plan’, taking services, preaching sermons.

Here we have to turn aside to ask what preaching actually is.  It is related to, but not identical with: 1) the common Christian obligation to witness; 2) the making of public speeches, lectures. We should approach the truth by saying it is a) interpersonal, but b) we need to go further.  How is witness expressed with speech.   Again a question arises– what are we witnessing to?   An immediate answer is– a conviction of mine, something that has happened to me.  This suggests a third thing preaching is related to but is not— projection of the self.  Cf. the use of reader’s services.  Good but not preaching. (see Wesley’s sermons).

More important we witness to the objective and universal fact that God has redeemed the world by sending his Son. This is apprehended subjectively and individually.  What God did is confirmed in Scripture, and therefore preaching is based in Scripture.  Thus preaching presents the substantial empirical content of the Christian faith, explains it, applies it, makes it acceptable.  This is done in different contexts, hence evangelistic preaching and instructive preaching.

With this we come to the question of call.  We began from a traditional Methodist formula. Gifts–natural endowment physical and mental. But nearly everything you can say needs to be hedged with qualifications.   Voice– but think of Maltby!   Accent.  Intelligence– the Bible is in Hebrew and Greek!  But how many fine preachers have neither, but they do have exceptional study and understanding of Scripture.  Clarity of thought is important.   Grace— supernatural endowment.  The basic thing is that the preacher’s life must not contradict the message, not too flagrantly anyway. No one is as good as the message.  There is also the Spirit of convincing speech, which is more than clarity, logic, and sincerity.

Fruit– Non-Methodists sometimes say this is unfair. There is a chicken and egg element.  But our traditional (forgotten?) ways make it possible–class, open air, exhorting, nite. Do we in these days take fruit seriously enough?  These are external checks.  This is right for me; I have something to say—

If the conviction is genuine, the response will be apparent.  Getting ready to preach involves hard work (Scripture, theology, ethics). it involves faithfulness, acceptance of opportunities, little and large.  It involves the use of helps, e.g. preacher’s groups, books etc.

This leads to further questions– In times of dearth or decline can we encourage call?  by 1) Prayer, 2) demonstrating this is a high calling  and therefore there is no place for laziness, inadequate preparation, carelessness, failure to talk about reality will put young people off. 3) providing opportunities for beginners, for example in bands.

How is a sense of call maintained?  1) continuing to pray, think, read, fellowship with others; 2) learning the techniques; 3) avoiding mere habit.




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