I think I mentioned that I’ve been reading David Fitch’s The Great Giveaway. I took the book to the gym today to read on the bike, and today’s chapter was on preaching. I think I expected to disagree with this chapter from some provocative comments I’d scanned.
I’m in this D.Min. in preaching, and I have a lot invested in the topic. I don’t want anyone taking that away, even if they’re right.
I jest, sort of. I’d be heartbroken to discover that I’ve wasted all this time and money in something that he successfully dismantles.
As i read the chapter, I found myself marking the pages like crazy. By the end of the chapter, I realized that he is largely right. I also realized that he was covering my thesis topic (theocentric preaching, or how we fit into God’s story in preaching rather than trying to make God fit into our stories and needs) exceptionally well.
Fitch argues, “The community of Christ is…necessarily the place out of which interpretations under the Spirit are worked out.” When a pastor prepares apart from the community of Christ, that pastor is prone to “read their own agenda into the text unaware that they even have an agenda, or worse, believing their agenda is directly from God.” Congregations receive the sermon, assuming that each individual is able to take the application home and apply it.
The expository sermon becomes the wellspring of yet another works-righteousness theology that depends upon the listener taking home the Sunday application and doing it. Expository preaching therefore alters the hearing of the Word from being a gift we respond to and obey to being another lecture from which we seek some “take-home points.” or a motivational speech from which we seek some inspiration. It “gives away” Scripture’s transforming power to be replaced as another form of self-help.
There is an alternative:
Let us then see the first task of preaching as description. Let us move from the first goal of preaching as the production of a set of application points to the goal of unfurling a reality we could not see apart from being engulfed in the story of God from creation to redemption…
With narrative preaching…the preacher’s first job will not be to hand out more “to-do” lists. Rather, it is to unfurl the reality of who God is past, present, and future so that all men and women who would submit to live in that world would then be able to understand themselves, who they are, where they are going, and what they are to do in terms of Jesus Christ and his story.
Fitch goes on to describe what this might look like.
I finished the chapter today, but I’m not ready to move on. I’ve picked out a few books from the endnotes that I plan to read. That’s the beauty of a good book: it networks you with other great books. Fitch has given me some thoughts I’m going to explore as I begin to work on my thesis.
More still to come from The Great Giveaway.