I’ve always heard that time flies when you’re having fun. If so, I must be having quite a time!
It is hard to believe that with this issue we begin the fifth year of publication for Preaching. As you read this 25th issue, it is remarkable to think back over the events that have shaped our lives since the first copy — July-August 1985 — came off the press.
We’ve seen the continuing development of television and other media as vehicles for communicating the gospel — and other messages. We’ve looked on as a series of “televangelist” scandals provided fuel for stand-up comics and reminded each of us how easy it is to destroy one’s credibility as a messenger of Christ.
In many of our denominations, recent years have seen politics assume a higher visibility than preaching — and politics, in contrast, has seen preachers move into the spotlight.
Those who have been reading Preaching over the past four years have considered narrative preaching, story sermons, and even a few “three points and a poem” messages. We’ve thought about new ways to tell an old story, and at times realized that some of the old ways aren’t so bad, either.
Yet if there’s anything more interesting than reevaluating one’s past, it is projecting into the future. The next few years promise to bring some of the greatest challenges — and opportunities — the church has ever faced.
One significant factor we will all face is the rise of individualization in religious life. As Americans become more isolated from and suspicious of one another, that theme will increasingly be felt in our religious life. Just as a worker can use a home computer, communicate through a fax machine, and never leave the security of his own bedroom, so we can take a self-prescribed dose of religion via the television set — anything we choose, from Jimmy Swaggart to Mother Angelica — and never darken the doors of a local congregation. How will we respond to such a challenge?
Somewhat related to rising individualization is the increasing dichotomy between faith and practice. As recent surveys have indicated, more and more evangelicals profess faith in Christ, yet see little relationship between that profession and the way in which they live.
In a recent issue of Reformed journal, Wayne Joosse points to the example of baseball star Steve Garvey, who has recently been cited by two different women as the father of their children. Garvey does not deny either claim; rather, he says, “If the children are mine, I’ll live up to my moral obligations, which I feel strongly about because I am a Christian.”
As Joosse comments, “Today, everybody and his brother (and lover and agent) claim to be Christians. When I was a kid, God may not have gotten the recognition He merits, but today He gets more publicity than He deserves.”1
How are we, as messengers of God’s Word, to help people understand the relationship of faith and practice in an increasingly secular society — and church?
Still another factor with which we will contend in the next few years is the growth of non-Christian religions on the American scene. It will not be long before Islam moves past Judaism in the number of American believers. By early in the 21st century, nearly one in five Americans claiming any religious faith will be worshipping in Buddhist temples — many located on suburban streets between the Baptist and Methodist churches.
As we seek to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, how will we respond to this new challenge?
Yet in the midst of what seem to be obstacles to Christian evangelism and discipleship, we may well be entering one of the greatest eras of religious interest in American history. The next fifty years, according to commentator Bill Moyers, are destined to see a “renaissance of religion” on the American scene. Moyers believes future historians will look back on the 1990’s and the early 2000’s and identify religion as the major story of American culture in this period.
What will we do as Christian preachers to respond to the incredible opportunities of the next two decades?
The last few years — which have been marked by a renewed interest in the pulpit among both evangelical and mainline churches — have offered an exceptional time in which to birth (and lead through its infancy) a professional journal for preachers. In the face of emerging challenges and remarkable potential, it will be an even more exciting time to produce a tool for preachers, and we are looking forward to it.
I hope you are, too.
1. Wayne Joosse, “With friends like this.” Reformed Journal, April 1989.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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