A Paradigm for Preaching -- By: Timothy S. Warren

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:592 (Oct 1991)
Article: A Paradigm for Preaching
Author: Timothy S. Warren

A Paradigm for Preaching

Timothy S. Warren

Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

The Preaching Challenge

The challenge of Christian ministry is to proclaim changeless eternal truth while applying it to ever-changing temporal situations. This demand is especially acute in the realm of homiletics. The biblical preacher must recognize and represent the timeless truth of God’s Word and then relate that truth to his audience.

That the world is changing stimulates the writers of Megatrends 2000, for example, to describe the “large social, economic, political, and technological changes” that “influence us…between seven and ten years, or longer.”1 Sociology of religion, more specifically, has identified a shift in religious attitudes and behavior in recent decades. Changing postures toward law and formal education, transitioning from an agricultural to an industrial to an informational economy and work ethic, and media permeation have left North Americans feeling disconnected from God, themselves, and others.2 Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to understand and respond, preachers have failed the challenge, capitulating to culture and offering mere fragments of meaning, personhood, and fraternity.

Rather than saying to culture, “This is what religion is,” [the churches] have been much more inclined to say to culture, “What do you want religion to be?” Rather than presenting religion as a system of meaning that insists on informing all of one’s life, the [churches] have broken it down and offered it as a wide variety of belief, practice, program, and service items.3

Many are preaching to independent, insignificant, and isolated listeners4 in search of transcendence, significance, and community.5

Here then are the three major quests in which many people are engaged today. Though they probably would not articulate them in this way, it may be said that looking for transcendence, they are trying to find God; looking for significance, they are trying to find themselves; looking for community, they are trying to find their neighbor. For this is humankind’s universal search—for God, for one’s neighbor, and for oneself.6

At each point of disconnection, society has lost contact with authority and relevancy. Contemporary legal theory, no longer based on univer...

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