Reflections On Prophetic Preaching -- By: Mahan Siler

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 06:2 (Spring 1989)
Article: Reflections On Prophetic Preaching
Author: Mahan Siler

Reflections On Prophetic Preaching

Mahan Siler

Pastor, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
Raleigh, North Carolina

In 1983 I returned to the pastorate. For ten years I had been a specialist in pastoral care and counseling. Yet, I was coming to offer leadership as minister of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, a congregation with a tradition of prophetic preaching. I obviously brought to this expectation of prophetic preaching certain assumptions. It is the change of these assumptions about prophetic preaching that I offer in these reflections. I am hoping that by staying close to my recent transition in ministry, I can write from personal experience in a way that stimulates you who seek to integrate in your ministry the pastoral and the prophetic.


Let us start at that point: the integration of the pastoral and prophetic. Formerly, the two were separate. To be pastor, to be prophetic, sent the minister in different directions. So it seemed to me.

I am finding upon my return to congregational ministry that it is more the pastoral side of ministry which compels some confrontative declaration and action. Pastoral sensitivities, at times, demand public, prophetic utterances.

An example: I received this unsigned letter from a homosexual in the congregation I serve:

Dear Pastor:

Some of us, for whom the church has chosen the pretense of exile, are writing to hear whether we are really the children of God or merely the skeletons in the family closet? Are we, too, made in the divine image or are we some grotesque cosmic error? The crucial issue is not what we do or refrain from doing. That is a different matter. The issue is what we are...

From further pastoral conversations with that person and other homosexuals, I have become convinced that their basic sexual orientation, like heterosexuals, is more given than chosen. These pain-filled stories have become for me the cries of an oppressed people, outwardly condemned if they “come out of the closet,” inwardly condemned if they do not.

My point is not to debate the appropriateness of this particular concern. The outcry of injustice could, as well, have come from a woman

ordained to serve with no congregation to serve or the self-defeating whimper of an abused child in a grown up body or the soft-spoken despair of an aimless, homeless person. The cries for pastoral care and prophetic advocacy are plentiful.

Pastoral experience is one source, perhaps our major source, of prophetic preaching. It fuels the Jeremiah’s “fire in the belly.” It is often the push from within a ...

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