Monday, November 10, 2008

Zephyrs Wanted

By Jeff Arthurs
Professor of Preaching & Communication and Dean of the Chapel

I teach preaching, and sometimes I get tired of my own teaching. I get tired of the constant emphasis in my classes on rhetorical skill. Somehow that emphasis seems to crowd out deeper, loftier, or more pressing issues like theology and spirituality. Don’t get me wrong, all of us could use a heapin’ helpin’ of rhetorical training (boring sermons are so . . . boring, and confusing sermons are so . . . boring), but I often like to breathe the fresh air of pastoral theology. Like this:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account (Hebrews 13:17a, NASB).

Preachers are soul-watchers. Is that how you think of preaching—as keeping watch over souls? When we preach, we should “look at” souls (as when we watch the sunset), “tend” souls (as when we watch the fire), and “guard” souls (as when we stand on watch through the night). That last nuance is closest to Hebrews 13:17 because it says we are to “keep watch,” attentively guarding our dear congregation. In the context of the book of Hebrews the idea is that pastors are responsible to help believers keep believing. Our preaching should help them not slip back and turn from the Faith. Pastoring is serious business! Notice also that the verse says we will have to give an account of how well we did this. Real serious business!

That’s clean air for my lungs. Do you have any ideas for how I can incorporate more clean air in my teaching? Remember that I have only ten 3 hour sessions (and that those sessions are really 2.5 hours); remember that homiletics is a performance class (student sermons take up half of the ten sessions); remember that students really do need help with rhetoric (boring sermons are so boring); and remember that my training is in rhetoric (I think God has positioned me in the Church to be of service in that area). But I still need a breath of fresh air. I think my students do too. Please post your zephyrs to this blog.

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