More than 300 participants enjoyed a time of inspiration and new insights during the fourth annual National Conference on Preaching, February 18-20 at the First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. The National Conference for Ministry Wives took place simultaneously with the preaching conference.
Participants came from eighteen denominations, thirty-four states, and three foreign countries (Great Britain, Canada, and Guam). Reviews were positive, with many expressing eagerness for the 1993 conference, which will be held May 4-6 at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Among the most popular elements of the National Conference on Preaching each year are the hour-long workshops, which provide opportunity for dialogue and questions along with instruction. This year there were three workshop periods, with three to four different workshops going on during each session. Here are some highlights of this year’s workshops:
Calvin Miller
“The Sermon as Story”
“We all have a fondness for story. We are story-tellers, story-hearers, story writers. We may disagree on ancient precepts, but stories we will hear …
“Stories are oral events, and their building blocks are words. Fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time’ because the bearer of the story is trying to say, ‘Fix your story in some land and some time and let those definite frameworks fix the story in significance’.”
Paul Borden
“Preaching Old Testament Narratives”
“The exegetical idea of each story is unique to that story. It does not fit other stories. When I get done studying a story, if I can take that idea that I think summarizes that story and lay it on another passage, then one of my ideas for one of those passages is wrong.”
Barbara Brown Taylor
“Preaching and the Faithful Imagination”
“There’s a whole science called neuro-lingual programming. It’s going to be very important for preachers, if it’s not already. One thing that reminds us is that congregations are made up of people who take in and experience meaning in three different ways. Visual is what most of us pay attention to; 70 percent of our congregations and us are visual. We make images, literally; we draw a picture. But they’re often mute pictures, with no smell or taste or touch to them. That leaves out 30 percent of the congregation…. Sensory language is how you reach past just the brain and into the experience and get people working all these other things.”
Haddon Robinson
“Preaching as Listeners Hear It”
“Whenever any values are communicated on television, it is done by means of story. We have become a post-literate culture … an oral-video culture …
“In an oral-video age, deductive preaching doesn’t work as well. Inductive preaching tends to communicate better. Instead of stating your point at the beginning, you move up to your point.
“Preaching today tends to be shorter. People seem not to have the attention span to listen for forty minutes. Some studies that were done at LSU indicate that folks may hang in there with you if you have a lot of stories, but if you have an abstract message, they’re gone.”
Raymond Bailey
“Preaching as a Three-Sided Conversation”
“Probably the most important — and the preaching that is going to have the greatest impact – is preaching that is done in a pastoral context, where you have the opportunity to know people and they know you, and you can preach on topics of genuine interest and need on their part …
“In my own tradition, preachers try to do too much in one sermon. They fail to recognize the need to campaign, as it were, and to build over time. That also allows you to sneak up a little bit on people — you lay the groundwork, move up a little, and get to the point you want to make.”
William Hogan
“Expository Preaching That Meets Needs”
“When you think about it, the only alternative to exposition is imposition — imposing our own ideas on the text. The Bible, after all, is not a piece of Play-Dough that can be pushed and shoved and shaped into any shape our own whim and fancy takes. It is the revelation of God that ought to shape our ideas and our expression of those truths.”
Don M. Aycock
“Getting Your Sermons Published”
“If you want to be a writer, you’re going to get rejected. You’re going to get all kinds of letters from editors — everything from ‘Drop Dead’ to ‘Your material does not meet our needs (and we’re in trouble if it ever does).”
Kirbyjon Calwell
“Preaching a Whole Christ in a Divided 21st Century”
“We are in a society where most people are unchurched, ignorant of the gospel, alienated — basically a bruised, battered, and broken people…. It seems that most mainline Protestant churches are still operating their churches, delivering their ministries, and preaching the gospel as if we were still in the era of Christendom.”
William Turner
“Burnout in Preaching”
“If burnout is defined as the disease of the overcommitted, then one of the culprits has to be expectations — both ours and the congregations. And I can’t think of a single area in the pastor’s life where the expectation is heavier or more chronic than the work of the pulpit … the task of preaching clear, moving, and memorable sermons forty to fifty weeks every year. The stress is there and it’s real.”
William Willimon
“Preaching to the Baptized”
“The Bible doesn’t simply want to speak to the modern world. Rather, the Bible wants to create a world that would not have been there without the speaking of the Bible. This is one of the reasons why the current interest in inductive preaching is deeply problematic, for inductive preaching tends to assume that we come to Christian speech already equipped to hear Christian speech. Therefore, my job as the preacher is simply to awaken in you those basic, inborn, innate religious impulses that you arrive on the scene with.
“But maybe my job as a preacher is to give you religious impulses you’ve never had before you’d heard the gospel. Language doesn’t just evoke human experience; language also makes human experience. The gospel doesn’t only want to speak to the world; it wants to convert the world.”

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