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Preaching Re-ImaginedThe Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith
By Doug Pagitt
ZondervanCopyright © 2005 Doug Pagitt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneANOTHER PREACHING BOOK?
I am sitting inside the Open Book writing center in Minneapolis on a summer day in 2004. My head is full of wonderings. I wonder who you are. I wonder what kinds of people will read a book about preaching in the emerging church. I wonder if I have anything to say on the topic. I wonder if I have written a single line of any value. I not only wonder, but I also worry. I worry about the opinions of people who don't think a pastor and author of a book about preaching should worry about things. I worry about people reading my sometimes-uncertain thoughts on preaching. I worry about coming across as someone who thinks of himself as an expert-someone who knows more than you and will tell you how to preach. So please, as you read, keep your worried, wondering author in mind.
I am a pastor who seeks to live in a community of people who are living out the hopes and aspirations of God in the world. Like many of you I play a particular role in my community. As the pastor I'm often referred to as "the preacher." And frankly, this is a role I no longer relish. There was a time when I did. There was a time when I felt my ability to deliver sermons was a high calling that I sought to refine but didn't need to redefine.
Those days are gone. Now I find myself regularly redefining my role and the role of preaching. I find myself wanting to live life with the people of my community where I can preach-along with the other preachers of our community-but not allow that to become an act of speech making. Instead I want it to be a living interaction of the story of God and the story of our community being connected by our truth telling, our vulnerability, and our open minds, ears, and eyes-all brought together by the active work of the Spirit of God as we "Let the message of Christ dwell among (us) richly as (we) teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in (our) hearts" (Colossians 3:16).
If I had my way, this book would be a conversation about these desires. Instead of your reading something I wrote, we would talk over a meal or in my family room or at your house. We would hear from one another and build on what each other says. While a book cannot be a full conversation, my hope is that I will at least add to the conversation you may well be already having on preaching.
Please don't let the title of the book, Preaching Re-Imagined, throw you. I'm not prescribing a method for all churches of the future. In fact, I'm quite sure there is no one method. However, I am suggesting some deep considerations about the function and role of preaching within our communities of faith that will lead to particular practices-but these are not one-size-fits-all prescriptions. And in no way do I mean to suggest that I speak for all who choose to engage in preaching in the emerging world.
Throughout the book I suggest "progressional dialogue" (a phrase I made up) as a preferable alternative to "speaching" (another new word meaning "the style of preaching that's hardly distinguishable from a one-way speech"). In the spirit of dialogue I have designed this book to be as conversational and progressional as possible.
HOW TO READ THIS BOOK
The book isn't structured like a typical chapter book. It all begins in the next chapter where I lay out my basic premise and provide reference links to the 40 sub-sections that make up the last four sections of the book. Each subsection is designed to provide a more comprehensive discussion about a point I made in the opening chapter.
Section 2 is also loaded with statements that may cause you to say, "Hang on a minute," or, "You can't just say that without supporting it in some way." That's the intent. Much like a conversation where the participants push one another to say more on the topics in which they have an interest, the next chapter is meant to get the conversation started. That being the case, I have included reference numbers within the text of section 2. These are not footnotes but rather clues as to where you can find more conversation about a particular point in later sections.
From there you can either continue reading the rest of the book from start to finish, or you can jump between the points that interest you the most. For example, you might not be interested in the story of how I became a preacher but would prefer to go right to my suggestions on rethinking the role of the pastor. If so, you can skip point number five and go right to point 23.
I admit that part of my desire to structure the book in this way is to justify my own reading habits. I do this with books all the time-just skip around and read the parts that interest me in the order that seems most interesting to me. Sometimes I don't even read all of it. But I feel like I'm cheating or missing out on something by not following the prescribed order.
In this book, however, not only are you not cheating, but you're also encouraged to skip around as well. You won't miss out on something by doing so. In fact, I hope you'll gain something by taking the conversation wherever you want it to go. I've created a Weblog for those who wish to explore the ideas in this book with other readers. If you'd like to join that conversation, head to PreachingReimagined. com.
The book is also designed with more open space than usual. This is to encourage you to write your thoughts, to talk back, to not just sit there and take it. Put your ideas on the paper right next to mine; they belong there. In fact, they're needed. As part of the process of writing this book, I read a number of books about preaching. Over and over I found myself scribbling notes in the small margins-things like, "Yes, totally!" or, "No, no, no." But I felt like a vandal writing where my words weren't wanted, as if I was somehow defaming the book. On the contrary this book should not be left in its impersonal, published form. If it is, then it hasn't done its job of engaging you in the conversation.
So I invite you to continue reading this book with your dialogue hat on, a pen in hand, and an attitude of progressional conversation ready to go.
ONE MORE THING
I would like to make an essential clarification before we begin this "conversation." I will be writing with a basic assumption about the place of the church. It is my belief that as important as preaching is to the church, the goal of the church is not to be a "preaching center." Nor is the ultimate goal of the Christian faith the creation and health of churches. Rather , the goal of Christians, and of all of humanity, ought to be to join in the activity of God wherever we find it. That may lead to preaching, but preaching and church life are not the only way in which God is active in the world.
Our call is to live as what I like to refer to as "Kingdom-of-God Horticulturalists." In the same way a horticulturalist understands plant life, makes suggestions about what will thrive in a given environment, and knows how to nurture various forms of plant life, we are to recognize, encourage, and join God's always-growing work in the world.
The church is best understood not as the exclusive proprietor of all the things of God, but rather as the home base for those committed to living in rhythm with God. It is a means by which we extend God's hopes, dreams and agenda in the world, not an end goal in itself. Nor is preaching an end in itself but one of the many ways we as Christians ought to seek to tend to the things of God.
I am part of an organization-really more of a collection of friendships-called Emergent which has helped me understand and put it this thinking into practice in my life and our church. If you are intrigued by the ideas you find here, EmergentVillage.com serves as a gateway into these relationships. I encourage you consider joining us in the life of God wherever we find it.
Excerpted from Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt Copyright © 2005 by Doug Pagitt.
Excerpted by permission.
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