Preaching As Three-sided Conversation -- By: Raymond Bailey

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 10:1 (Fall 1992)
Article: Preaching As Three-sided Conversation
Author: Raymond Bailey


Preaching As Three-sided Conversation

Raymond Bailey

Professor of Preaching and
Director of the National Center for Christian Preaching
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

I once heard Carlyle Mamey remark that for him a sermon was one leg of an ongoing conversation. The image was a meaningful one for me. The pastor-theologian should have a self-concept of being a participant in a conversation that traverses the ages and transcends the natural order. There is a sense in which any closure in a sermon should be temporary, a pause waiting for response from above and below. The Bible is after all a record of communication between God and humankind as experienced on the world stage. Prophet and priest have acted as intermediary between God and people. The prophet declared this is what God has spoken to you through me and look how you have responded to God’s message. The priest intercedes on behalf of the people and interprets God’s will for them. The model of conversation can bring to the process of preparation for preaching and to the preaching event a vitality that is often missing. God is not finished and we wait “with eager longing for the revealing” (Rom. 8:19).

Too often preaching is the mere delivery of a historical report on events long ago and far away. Most often the sermon is conceived as a monologue or a soliloquy
with the congregation an uninvolved audience. A conversational model infers living presence and dynamic interaction. God has not stopped speaking and each revelation generates longing for more.

My understanding of effective preaching as three-sided conversation is shaped
by my personal understanding of the revelation and experience of God, the work of
post-modern hermeneuts such as Gadamer and Tracy and my observation of the
nature of human communication. I propose in this paper to explore briefly, with the
limitations of space, these stages and my conclusions.

God is Alive and Well

How one interprets scripture and understands the vocation of proclamation is shaped by one’s understanding of how, when and to whom God has spoken or is speaking. Indeed, an important apriori is whether God has spoken or is speaking. What one believes about the nature of God and how God reveals God’s self will determine how one approaches Scripture, its exposition and proclamation. Christian understanding about how God may be experienced is deeply rooted in the doctrine of the Trinity.

God is the sovereign Lord of the universe who created the world and all that is

in it. God did not aband...

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