Monday, January 23, 2006

The Preaching Art

The painter had stepped away for a few moments, leaving the work to sit in the air. Her representation of reality was exposed to anyone who happened to walk by with a camera. The expression of her artist's eye, the most personal of gifts given by her Creator, a manifestation of the intimate inner-workings of her creative impulse: laid bare for the casualest observer's intrusion. I felt a bit like an interloper, an invading force, a violator of a private space.
But I also felt a great sense of wonder at the vulnerability of the painter away from her easel. Was she not frightened that her creation would be vandalized, or perhaps knocked over by a sudden strong gust of wind? What a risk she took! What trust; what strength of character! She had put her idea out there in the middle of the sidewalk and then stepped away, allowing anyone at all to make anything they wanted out of it.
Kind of like a preacher, isn't it? A preacher pours out the innermost depth of her soul into every phrase of her sermon. A preacher studies, looks, prays, listens, studies some more, then lays bare her representation of reality for the congregation who has come to worship. Bold colors, subtle brush strokes, the interplay of light and shadow, all are painted onto the sermon's canvas with the skill and passion of a creative mind and an artist's eye. The most personal gift given by the preacher's Creator, exposed to the casualest of observers.
Then she steps away. Tired and sweating, she leaves the sermon there in the middle of the sidewalk, where malicious vandal or errant gust of wind may find it. What a risk she took! What trust! The preacher cannot guard with jealousy every jot and tittle of sermonic pronouncement. She must step away, and allow the words to sit in the air.
Maybe someone will come by with a camera.
Then again, maybe not.
Then the painting is gone, and the preacher gets started on the next.


Kansas Bob said...

Nice post Andy. I agree that preaching is artlike ... effectively done it moves the soul in ways that the brain cannot understand.

Kim said...

Thank you, Andy, for the metaphor...simile (I have fourth grade homework on the brain). I'm not a preacher; I'm a member of the congregation. Yours is a good reminder. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So we have to produce a Rembandt masterpiece in 20 minutes each week! Whew! Maybe we lay out the possibilities and the painting is finished, or formed, by the lives of the faithful. Jim

Adam Caldwell said...

I've been thinking about preaching for a while. I don't know that it is the healthiest form of communication for our congregations. Perhaps if we provide a forum for reflection and response, then it would be ok. There is just something about having the "power of the pulpit" that is a little disturbing. One individual stands up front and presents their view and we are all supposed to nod our heads and accept it.

Admittedly, I like preaching, I even like listening to preaching, but the question becomes what is healthiest for us as pastors and congregations. If we really are allowing our lives to be shaped by our communities then maybe we should have an alternative.

In no way am I saying that we should get rid of preaching, we should, however, (to use a phrase coined by Doug Padgett) remove speaching from the pulpit.

dabeckztr said...

great post andy! its very inspiring to me as a soon to be preacher! (I got my first meeting with the Dallas-South DCOM!)
I think often times we find preachers that don't want their words to get critisized or 'gusted away with a strong wind' so it turns into what Adam Codwell commented about speaching from the pulpit, and Adam Codwell I agree with what you say, speaching from the pulpit not a good idea.
Letting the Holy Spirit move, that is art, not just any art, Godly Art. and I pray that all of us will someday embrace our own Gifts to not only create "godly art", but empower others to create "godly art" in Jesus Name

John B said...

Having preached for 20 years, I am still overwhelmed and humbled that people have a desire to listen to what I have to say. It is the most awesome responsibility in all the world to represent God before his flock. Sometimes I fail miserably. Other times, I really connect with people. Either way, I hold on to the promise, that God's word will not return to him void, and that in the end my words are a clanging bell if not interpreted to an individual's heart by the Holy Spirit.

Andy B. said...

Metaphors on the move: "setting the stage" for congregational forum, reflection, and response, (i.e. Adam's comment) or "laying out the possibilities" so that the congregation can finish the painting (i.e. Jim's comment) - these descriptions of preaching are not inconsistent with mine in the post. Preaching is an artistic process, and involves an enormous risk for the preacher. And when done well, it is most certainly not "speeching" but rather a lively, ongoing conversation.
Homiletically yours,
Andy B.

Adam Caldwell said...


No, I didn't think that I was in contention with your post. Just some thoughts I had on my mind. Sorry if it sounded that way. I know that you often give up your own pulpit to hear others perspectives. I think that is great!

Unfortunately, it has been my ecperience that the congregation doesn't want to "work out their own salvation," but rather they just blindly accept what their pastor lays in front of them. Shoot, I have been one of those members.

I think as pastors we must somewhat lovingly force our congregations to shape us as well. It's hard to let go and let people say what they want to say. It's also somewhat dangerous, but I think it's healthy.

Of course this doesn't all have to be done from the pulpit. There are other forums for people to respond.