Good preaching not only requires its practitioners to become skilled biblical exegetes. It also requires them to become adept in “exegeting” local congregations and their contexts, so that they can proclaim the gospel in relevant and transformative ways for particular communities of faith.
Unfortunately, however, homiletical texts and courses have not always attended as carefully or thoughtfully to the exegesis of contexts as they have to the exegesis of texts. While preachers have been provided with detailed methods for biblical interpretation, congregational interpretation has frequently been left to the intuition and hunches of the local pastor.
This book seeks to correct that imbalance. Operating on the assumption that there are a number of pastors and chaplains who, like cross-cultural missionaries, are actually proclaiming the gospel “across subcultures” (that is, preaching to people whose worldview and values are different from their own), this book addresses two questions:
First, How can preachers become better exegetes of local congregations and their subcultures?
And second, What difference does such knowledge make for local preaching—both in its theology and in its art (language, illustrations, and form)?
My own interest in these questions first arose while I was serving as pastor of four small “town and country” churches in central Virginia. Finding myself in the throes of culture shock, I struggled with how to proclaim the gospel in a more meaningful and relevant way to congregations whose assumptions not only differed from my own, but also differed from one another. Although I sometimes sensed that my sermons were “missing” my people, I did not always know how to preach in a way that was more fitting and appropriate for them.