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Adventist Preaching

By Alexander Carpenter
Criticizing the sermon, like sitting around the table and eating Sabbath lunch, is an essential aspect of our faith community life. But what do pastors think? How self-aware should we all be of the strengths and weaknesses, the past and future of the sermon. In a quixotic effort to turn critique to deconstruction,  I invited two pastors over at the Just Pastors blog to reflect on their craft and role as Adventist preachers._________________
A pastor since 1984, Marty Thurber is the senior pastor of the Fargo and Valley City Adventist Churches in North Dakota.
Preaching<>And so it begins

I came across this recent (1933) article in Time
on the future of preaching.  The author, Navy Chaplain and pastor, Dr.
Clausen suggested that television would elevate a group of preachers,
about “half a dozen” of them, and they would “serve the whole world.”
The rest of us paid preachers would “become executives, helping their
parishioners to understand and live by the televised messages.”
I wonder if Dr. Clausen had the gift of prophecy.  Not a week goes
by without someone asking me about Joel Osteen or Rick Warren, Robert
Schuller, Doug Batchelor or some other well known Cave Man.  (I hope I
don’t offend any cavemen with that remark). I’m aware that each week,
my listeners are quietly comparing me to something they have heard or
seen among these elevated super speakers.  That’s cool.  That’s the
world we’re in.  Preach Up.
Clausen was right, half right anyhow.  Things have changed.
And we’re crazy if we think they won’t continue to change.  Yet,
preachers are still here, for better or for worse, and people still
fill pews, for better or for worse.  Sometimes the whole thing amazes
me, people coming to hear me speak about a God they can’t see and using
a Book that’s still full of mystery.  What do they seek anyhow?
People need Good News, God News.  Don’t they?  The Bible has the
best news in the universe.  God doesn’t like prodigals, He loves them.
He never stops thinking about me.  I may forget Him, He can’t get me,
little old me, out of His head.  That’s addictingly powerful.  That’s
Happy Hour, Fine Wine at it’s best.
Thank God for preachers who are willing to lay their lives on the
line for that Word.  I have no doubt that there is a bright future for
that kind of preaching.
Only preachers who love those they preach to will fulfill God’s
calling.  Anything less than love is abuse.  It is terribly easy to
waste time and abuse the preacher/listener relationship.  It is
terribly important that preachers get it right, not that they become
great speakers or entertaining, but that they tell the Story, past,
present and future with great clarity and consistency.  A preacher
stood on a hillside in Galilee a while back.  When He was done
speaking, they all marveled at what He said.  He loved them, they knew
it, He told them fantastic truths, they kept coming back.  That kind of
preaching isn’t going away.
Allow me to close this post(sermon) with a quote from Calvin Millers book Preaching.
The best preachers are heard before they preach, not
during their sermon nor because of it.  Did St. Francis really say,
“Preach the Gospel.  If necessary use words”?  Who can say?  Cliches,
when they live long enough, become adages.  Still, as old saws go this
is a good one.  Far more important than what is said is who said it.
“Fire!” spoken even by a blackguard and charlatan will clear a
theater.  It is the shortest of speeches that may be uttered by a
villain and liar and still be heeded by those who, given a choice would
prefer to be saved by a person of good character.  But generally
speaking, preachers who preach the word will only be heeded if their
manner of life convinces their hearers that they believe there really
is a fire, and that they hold the extinguisher.

Does preaching have a future?  Yes.  What does the future of
preaching look like?  I’m not sure.  It will involve listeners,
participants, preachers, thinking, love, God and His Word, it will be
Cross/Christ centered and driven by the Spirit.  It will fill us with
hope as we journey from Creation to Calvary to His Coming again.  It’s
counsel will call us to obedience and joy in that calling.  The bells
ring at church not for us to go and join a discussion club about the
Bible, but to be transformed by the very Word of God as the sermon
rings in new life._________________

Pastor David Hamstra ministers at the Grande Prairie and Fairview Adventist
Churches in Alberta, Canada. Although he is an American, he enjoys the
benefits universal health care and the rising (.94USD) Canadian dollar.
Adventist Preaching
There’s at least two reasons why I don’t feel qualified to comment
on the future of Adventist preaching. For one, I don’t like listening
to sermons that much; I’d rather listen to a lecture from the ATS Podcast than watch an Adventist Preaching DVD. And for another, I’ve only been an Adventist preacher for three years and haven’t even got my M.Div. yet.
But I suppose it’s the last point that qualifies me to hold forth on
the future of Adventist preaching, because, whether I like it or not, I
am the future of Adventist preaching. Actually, I’m a part of the
future of Adventist preaching, along with my peers, the other young
pastors and elders preaching in Adventist congregations. So what I’d
like to do is make a few observations (and generalizations) about the
future of Adventist preaching in North America based on what I see
myself and other pre-seminary, preachers doing in the “sacred desk.”
First, I believe the future of Adventist preaching will be Biblical.
Personally, I feel that I have no authority to say anything from the
pulpit, because no one really cares what a wet-behind-the-ears preacher
thinks about a particular topic. So what I do is help people hear what
the Bible says about a particular topic and what that means in their
life today.
I’ve noticed that I and other young preachers tend to spend more
time in our sermons explaining the cultural/historical context of
scripture and using that understanding to make an application to today.
We like to explore the full implications of passages rather than
stringing together texts to support pre-determined conclusions. Our
illustrations tend to be used to explain contextual ideas rather than
the sometimes apocryphal, tear-jerker stories our elders use to explain
theological concepts.
Perhaps this is due to our proximity to theological education and
our obsession with exegesis will fade away with time. This is true to a
degree; exegetical training and Haddon Robinson’s landmark text, Biblical Preaching,
are major influences on how I deliver sermons. But I hope that the
cynics are wrong and I never substitute the Word of God for philosophy,
psychology, or sentimentality.
Second, I believe the future of the Adventist sermon will involve
dialogue. Monologue has always seemed sort of un-Adventist to me, given
our Bible as creed, anti-magisterial heritage. I think Adventists are
at their best theologically in Sabbath School class and can’t but hope
that a bit of that democratic attitude to truth will rub off on the
Adventist sermon.
Currently I see young Adventist preachers using notes (or nothing
but a Bible) as opposed to manuscripts so they have flexibility to
engage the audience with simple questions, to which they expect a
verbal answer, and in rhetorical dialogue. Some, including myself, have
gone farther and experimented with extended questions and dialogues
during and after the monologue.
Finally, I believe the future of the Adventist sermon will be
confessional. The older generation of preachers relies on extraordinary
tales to drive the appeal home; the new generation uses
self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is risky and has it’s own dangerous
pitfalls, but the result, if done properly, is an understanding that
the preacher is not pushing something that he hasn’t tried him or
I grew up in a world where I had to endure an intense amount of
marketing aimed at my demographic, and I don’t want to see myself as
another pitchman, because a pitchman is phony. I can only be “real” in
the “sacred desk” if I’m willing to be as honest about my faults as the
Bible is about the faults of Abraham, David, Peter. Some church members
don’t want to know that their pastor has struggles, but the majority
are glad to know that the Word of God is living and active and able to
I hope the future of Adventist preaching I’ve envisioned is bright
to you. In some ways this vision is descriptive, but it’s also strongly
shaped by the kind of Adventist preaching I would like to deliver and
hear. So you may read this as both observation and manifesto.
In closing, I’d like to thank the gracious people in my churches who
found a blessing in more sub-par sermons than I’d like to admit so that
I could develop into the preacher I am today.
In your comments below, feel free to share what you think is essential
to the Sabbath homily, link to a favorite sermon (with the ease of
online publishing, sermon sharing is moving from books to tapes and now
to iPods), or offer your own prognostication for the future of the
sermon. Do we need it at all? And why don’t we have more traditional

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