Preaching And Mission: A Response to Dr. Jennifer Lord

This week I participated in PC (USA) Moderator Neal Presa’s third Colloquium on Ecclesiology. It was held at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and I was invited to respond to a paper given by Dr. Jennifer Lord called, “Preaching To Upbuild And Equip Liturgical-Missional Congregations” (read it here).

It’s a complex paper which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll be thinking about it for awhile. Here’s just one intriguing assertion from it, followed by a small piece of my response.

Preaching to the church is different than preaching to an aggregate of individuals. When preachers do the work to prepare the sermon they keep the identity of church at the forefront of their preparations rather than individual persons or even the “bottom line” of shared humanity. This means to be mindful that our gathering as church is really the thing, and preaching serves (among other things) to remind us who we are and whose we are and to calls us again to faith. This requires that preachers think with baptismal sensibilities: we preach to the local manifestation of the body of Christ and also, perhaps, to those not yet incorporated into the body through the sign and seal of baptism

My response:

I’m wondering about the public function of preaching and worship here. Preachers are frequently enough faced with occasions where our sermons need to say something to the world beyond the church, to the culture or to the community. How do we do that missionally? If we can’t assume a shared immersion in a common sacred story in those instances–and we can’t–then how do we understand what we’re doing.

My full response is here.

I found Dr. Lord to be a very gracious conversation partner, and I was honored to interact with her.

What do you think? Is the church the primary audience of preaching?

3 thoughts on “Preaching And Mission: A Response to Dr. Jennifer Lord

  1. Your full response is password protected on the Google drive, but please don’t give me the password because I struggled enough with Dr. Lord’s paper. O Lord! It was very Presbyterian, orderly, kind and filled with finely qualified thoughts but I could not connect to it’s wisdom and did not make it to the end. It made me chuckle. My knee-jerk response to this is that well, there is an audience for everything. My second thought was validation that I don’t belong in the assembly! Preach to the assembly what it needs to hear, in it’s language of shared immersions and sacred intentions, and preach to the congregation, the world, the community what it needs to hear–but in language that is understood. A method of connecting to sacred stories by matching story-tellers to every pair of ears in the audience is a part of the preaching challenge.

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