Preaching as Local Theology
Douglas John Hall tells of an airplane trip he took on which a seatmate asked him to describe his work as a theologian. After Hall attempted to answer the query in a responsible way, the passenger earnestly responded, “It must be wonderful to think about everything, all the time!”1
At the heart of both the joy and the challenge of Christian preaching is the reality that it requires of the pastor as local theologian both a willingness and an ability to “think about everything, all the time.” Christian preaching is an integrative and constructive endeavor, requiring creativity, imagination, and tough, disciplined thinking by those who undertake it on a weekly basis. The pastor who sits in the study, mulling over the upcoming sermon for Sunday, ponders many things at once: the joys and sorrows of individual parishioners, tensions and celebrations in congregational life as a whole, concerns related to the larger church and world, and the pastor’s own personal struggles. It is within the crucible of these many contextual concerns that the preacher must think theologically, bringing biblical text and contemporary context together toward proclamation that is “fitting” for a particular place and time.
In this book we have focused upon one significant context that the preacher as local theologian must consider—namely, the congregation and its subcultures with its distinctive worldview, values, and ethos—and have encouraged a process for sermon preparation that takes congregational “contextuality” as seriously as it does biblical “textuality.” In chapter 3 we considered ways in which the pastor as “ethnographer” can exegete a local congregation by attending closely to the signs and symbols of its corporate life. Certainly a first step in aiming toward greater contextuality in preaching is for pas-