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Preaching and Preachers

posted by xscot mcknight

Who are your favorite preachers? When I was in college, I loved to hear a Baptist preacher from Lansing, MI, named Howard Sugden. In seminary the red-letter days in chapel for me were when John Stott showed up at TEDS to preach.
We attend Willow Creek and we regularly are treated to well-known preachers and speakers, and I’ll avoid talking about which ones I like the most, but I will say that our whole family misses John Ortberg.
But, preaching fascinates because most of my life has been punctuated by both preaching and by listening to preaching. Over time one arrives at conclusions at what makes good preaching and what makes bad preaching. (BTW, I don’t consider myself a preacher; I’m a teacher with preaching tossed in.)
All of this to say that, due to the support of the Revd Kurt Iver Johanson, some sermons of James S. Stewart are now available: Walking with God is the title of this book.
Stewart is a prince — an articulate NT scholar, he was a professor who found a way to preach nearly every Sunday in Scotland.
His sermons, and I read through a bundle of them, are articulate, practicable, wise, and an excellent model for those of us who need a model of a classical form of preaching. Never informal; always sound of judgment and serious in focus.
I recommend that casual, young preachers buy this volume, read it, and learn from this wonderful preacher. What most of us need is not so much a new book about preaching, but some great examples of preaching. This is one such book.



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Ted Gossard

posted October 26, 2006 at 4:07 am


It is interesting to me that this is not a day in which there is much thought given to good preaching. And I’m really in that club as well, though I did not used to be.
All being ours, I really try to appreciate the gifting in each preacher. Each is unique from God, and the key is that there is the Spirit using that gift in flowing out from their heart to the hearers’ hearts. Though I have often noted how God seems to use what seems so ordinary in an extraordinary way, in answer, I’m sure, to prayers.
Interesting post, Scot. (well, they all are, but I have been, especially in the past, very interested in preachers and preaching).



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BeckyR

posted October 26, 2006 at 5:34 am


so i can read responses as email.



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John Frye

posted October 26, 2006 at 7:12 am


Scot,
I think Ted is right…it is almost *politically incorrect* to speak about favorite preachers and preaching in this emergent generation. Yet, I think some of the most intriguing communicators I’ve heard are Haddon Robinson, Stuart Briscoe, John Ortberg and for sheer passion, Bill Hybels. But these pale in comparison to African American preachers who with repetition and cadence captivate their listeners. I’m trying to remember a Black preacher from CA who spoke at MBI on “When God Was At His Best.” Unbelievable preaching.



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John Frye

posted October 26, 2006 at 7:34 am


I remember…it was Dr. E.V. Hill who spoke at Moody Bible Institute–at a pastors conference.



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Scott Lyons

posted October 26, 2006 at 8:00 am


While I didn’t attend South, I did have the opportunity to hear Pastor Sugden a few times while growing up in Lansing. I haven’t heard that name in a long time – a great preacher.



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Cleveland Dawsey

posted October 26, 2006 at 8:01 am


I’m enjoying listening to some classic preachers of yesteryear, such as Martin LLoyd-Jones, on mp3. Also like to go to All soul’s Church Web site and listen to sermons there.



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Brian

posted October 26, 2006 at 8:15 am


I went to Michigan State and listened to Howard Sugden for 4 years. I also remember the many times when he announced that he would be traveling to speak at GR Baptist.
I’m a fan of the little guys, the Pastor Carls and Jerrys who speak to small aging rural congregations week in week out over the long haul. The ones who can do that well are a real treat.



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Bill Baltrus

posted October 26, 2006 at 8:23 am


From cyberspace I recommend the following group that I listen to weekly. It is a very odd mix and may help some others in discovering various ways that the bilbe is taught and interpreted.
1. Rob Bell- Very obvious choice: http://www.mhbcmi.org/listen/index.php
2. Cedar Ridge particularly Matthew Dyer
http://www.crcc.org/converse/talks.htm
3. Encounter at my home church particularly if Dave Detwiler is preaching.
http://www.encounteronline.org/recentmessages.htm
4. Chris Swanson at Calvary Chapel Chester
http://www.cc-chestersprings.com/rteaching.asp
5.



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preacherman

posted October 26, 2006 at 8:31 am


I enjoy listening to Mike Cope, Jeff Walling, Wade Hodges, Rick Atchley, Lynn Anderson, and Tim Woodroof.



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John Frye

posted October 26, 2006 at 9:19 am


Scot and blogger friends,
I once did a study of all the verbs of communication in the Book of Acts and, yes, “preaching” is there. Yet, there are so many other types of communication of the “good news of the kingdom of God” including refuting, explaining, proving, debating, etc. Why has “preaching” as oratory been elevated to the ONE form of communication that we affirm and venerate? I am truly interested in your responses.



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:mic

posted October 26, 2006 at 9:27 am


Let me say that as a *preacher* there is nothing worse than delivering a sermon to another pastor/preacher. I tried to figure this out but realized that I’m the same way when listening to someone else’s sermon – it’s like two magicians trying to impress each other.
SIDEBAR: Hmmmmm, maybe ‘The Prestige’ will be a metaphor for sermons. . .
Anyway, this means that there are very few preachers that captivate me. Being in the field of NT biblical studies I enjoy listening to N.T. Wright preach. Otherwise my favorite preacher is Arlyn Tozlmann in Wheat Ridge, Colorado whom I’m certain is an underdog for ‘favorite’ here. . .



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becklesnwu

posted October 26, 2006 at 10:03 am


I love listening to a good sermon that opens up the Word for me in a way that I didn’t understand before – it really makes me value preachers who took the time to learn the depths of the culture and the context that the Bible was written in, which I know so little about.
Rob Bell is one of my newer favs. I remember the one or two John Ortberg sermons I’ve heard as being particularly facsinating and revelatory for me (who do you know that can open up Leviticus and make it relevant to you?!), and Jill Briscoe is a woman who teaches with such unassuming humility and authority about the character of God that it always floors me. Mike Pilavachi (leader of Soul Survivor which was Matt Redman’s first church) is one of the most captivating preachers I have ever heard, and especially so because he can hold the attention of 10,000 teenagers for 2 hours and hundreds of them regularly walk away making a decision to follow Jesus. But truthfully (and I am very biased), my dad (Steve Nicholson – Evanston Vineyard) is my favorite preacher – I don’t know anybody else who can open up scripture in a way that brings a new level of understanding, but at the same time condenses it into a concept that I can chew on all week and not feel overwhelmed.



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samlcarr

posted October 26, 2006 at 10:08 am


Hands down it’s John Stott for me. The humility, his very thorough research, down to earth communication, word perfect delivery, and the man himself almost disappears from the lectern leaving one encountering the word.



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David

posted October 26, 2006 at 10:11 am


Why has “preaching” as oratory been elevated to the ONE form of communication that we affirm and venerate? #10
This past weekend the worship pastor at our church talked about how there was an opportunity to help out with a woman who had been in a car accident. He was trying to get handle around what goes on on Sundays and what goes on during the rest of the week. There is a need to reach out and actually do stuff. “This stuff we do here on Sundays…….the sermons….. the muscic…….its just entertainment.” This generation likes entertainment because we dont have to get out of our life. We can just take it in like a good movie, an athletic competition or a high school play. It was a profound moment when the reality of our life and what it should be about crystalized. Pastors preach but the common folk are the ones that are supposed to do the refuting, explaining, proving, debating.



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Bryan L

posted October 26, 2006 at 11:14 am


For me there’s only a few preachers that I really like.
My favorite so far would probably be Rikk Watts who teaches NT at Regent College and preaches at a young adult service called The Rock Garden, every other Sunday night. You can find some of the sermons here. http://www.the-rockgarden.com/?Audio
I recommend his series on Mark and 2000 years of Christianity.
One of the things I find about preachers is that they don’t balance the academic and the practical very well. Either they sound too much like a lecture, but not as interesting as a college lecture since they can’t go too deep (and thus are boring). Or they’re really entertaining but it comes off as shallow and not very deep (or they twist scripture or use it out of context).
Rikk Watts is one of the few that I’ve found that can balance the 2 (academic and practical) and make deep Biblical studies relevant and interesting for the average person in day to day life.
Also although I’ve only heard 2 “lectures” by Scot McKnight, I also found him able to do the same (balance the 2 well). I would like to hear more (maybe you should begin posting some audio for us to digest!)
2. I also like John Ortberg, Tony Campolo and Fred Craddock.
3. Oh yeah I almost forgot Greg Boyd. He’s also a really good preacher and kind of reminds me of a Youth Pastor from time to time when I listen to him.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.
Blessings,
Bryan



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Erika Haub

posted October 26, 2006 at 11:30 am


Preachers who inspire me:
1. Brenda Salter McNeill
2. Will Willimon
3. John Goldingay
4. Darryl Johnson
5. Henry Greenidge
6. Bill Pannell



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John Frye

posted October 26, 2006 at 11:32 am


David (comment #14),
“Pastors preach but the common folk are the ones that are supposed to do the refuting, explaining, proving, debating.” The subject of the verbs for communicating in Acts is primarily Paul the Apostle; not exactly “common folk.”



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Barb

posted October 26, 2006 at 11:47 am


Glad to know there are some Spartans here! I too remember Sugden. Scot, have you heard Peter Gomes preach (he’s from Harvard)? I heard him at Chautauqua this summer… very winsome preacher.



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Pete Williamson

posted October 26, 2006 at 1:05 pm


Bryan L (#15)…I was happy to see your recommendation of Rikk. he was my advisor at Regent and I have the utmost respect and admiration for his heart and passion. as much as I have benefited from his instruction in NT (both New Testament and Wright), there is seldom a time in my preaching or teaching where I’m not reminded of his heart for God and humility before others. thanks for the link, too.



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BK

posted October 26, 2006 at 1:06 pm


Favorite Preachers (in no particular order):
1. Soong-Chan Rah
2. David Gibbons (http://www.newsong.net/)
3. Ken Fong (www.ebcla.org)
4. Tim Keller
5. Dean Trulear (http://www.cpjustice.org/stories/storyReader$1163)



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Jim Martin

posted October 26, 2006 at 1:18 pm


Scot,
Preachers who have inspired me include:
1. Fred Craddock
2. John Ortberg
3. William Willimon
4. Haddon Robinson
This list has changed over the years. There are many others who have inspired and encouraged me as well. This would be a sample.



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kat

posted October 26, 2006 at 2:11 pm


Gardner Taylor (often called the Dean of Black Preachers)
Fleming Rutledge (her sermons put meter and feet to the good news like few i have heard)
Erwin McManus
Rob Bell
Greg Boyd (my personal fave, although i am not an open theist)



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Brian

posted October 26, 2006 at 2:23 pm


John Frye,
Your question (#10) is an important one to me. If it were up to me I would get rid of the pulpit as the center of congregational life. I just don’t see that being a dominant NT paradigm. Unfortunately, I have not found enough like minded believers nearby to do anything differently. I have found myself with a choice: be indignant about it, or appreciate my brothers in the pulpit who are trying their best in what they are doing. That is what allows me to make comments like I did in #7.
Your “why” question is complex. The entertainment issue that David raised (#14) is surely there. We like having super-apostles. But my hunch is that there is also a deeper issue of conscience. The ideas about church that we absorb become deeply rooted in our consciences, and that is just as true of the defective ideas as the correct ones.
That doesn’t really explain why things are as they are, but it says something about why they tend to remain as they are. Over the years I have spoken with numerous people who agree with my perspectives, but when it comes to changing the pattern they just can’t bring themselves to do it. They just don’t feel like they have been to church unless they have heard a sermon. Its status is almost sacramental (and in some traditions the “almost” should be omitted).



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Mike

posted October 26, 2006 at 3:41 pm


Scot,
I came to faith just before transferring to Berkeley, and started going where many other students were going: First Presbyterian of Berkeley, and the pastor at the time was Earl Palmer: what a preacher!
As I mentioned above, I had just come to faith, and it hadn’t occured to me that Palmer had some kind of special gift, skills, and experience. Indeed, I assumed that kind of preaching was happening everywhere!
So, when I sauntered into a Presbyterian church in LA a few years after graduation, I left utterly stunned by the thin message of the preacher! So, the Lord woke me up to what I now know is more of the main, and how gifted Palmer is. I still catch some of his sermons from the University Presbyterian Church (Seattle) website.



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RJS

posted October 26, 2006 at 4:02 pm


Mike,
I too went to First Presbyterian when I was a graduate student at Berkeley – while Palmer was the pastor. I agree with your opinion of his preaching and his message. He is a gifted preacher.



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John Frye

posted October 26, 2006 at 5:21 pm


Brian,
I enjoy great preachers and preaching, too. I am not trying to grind an axe. Yet, I am wrestling with the central act of “doing church” in the minds of most USAmericans rotates around a singular voice (usually a man’s) and a singular act–the sermon. I know that there are shades of Reformation influence with the need for the Scriptures to be explained to the common people, etc. I appreciate your openness to the question and your comments about it.



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Brian

posted October 26, 2006 at 5:41 pm


John,
I share your mixed thoughts as well. Now and then I stand in a pulpit myself, but I wonder how much good I am really doing, so I don’t do it very often.
Jesus taught in a wide variety of settings. Somehow we have lost that, and this narrowing of the teaching/preaching dynamic is a problem for having transformational churches.



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Patrick Hare

posted October 26, 2006 at 7:11 pm


Check out Gardner Taylor if you haven’t come across him before.



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Abraham

posted October 26, 2006 at 9:13 pm


Speaking of African-American preachers, Robert Smith of Beeson Divinity School is quite an expositor and has been featured on “Preaching Today” several times. Here is his sermon from Psalm 23 “precious moments” http://bdsmedia.com/audio/index.htm



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David

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:27 am


The flavoring of John’s question #10, my response #14 and Brian’s comments #23 relate to the issue of the way of doing church and it is a tangential reference to preaching. Although John’s initial comments created a reaction of sorts and even if the object of those verbs was Paul the reality is does preaching in the conventional manner the most effective way of spreading the Kingdom?



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Thomas E. Ward, Jr.

posted October 27, 2006 at 3:01 pm


I hope this doesn’t sound like a “man-crush,” but I really enjoy Tim Keller’s preaching (Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan). Now that I’m thinking about it, Gordon Cosby (Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.) rivals Keller in my “favorite preacher” category. They’re two of the best at communicating the essence of the gospel, though in two distinctly different ways.



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Thomas E. Ward, Jr.

posted October 27, 2006 at 3:17 pm


One of the best collections of recorded sermons I’ve ever heard is A Knock at Midnight, featuring the preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my favorite sermons from this series is Paul’s Letter to American Christians.



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Sam Andress

posted October 28, 2006 at 2:11 pm


Rob Bell hands down. He is the best interpreter and communicator of the new move of God in the church in America. Counter-cultural, revolutionary and un-ashamedly subversive.
http://www.mhbcmi.org
Greg Boyd is also phenominial
Both of these guys take on the tough issues and call into question dominant assumptions of our culture.



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