|About the Book|
I recently re-read Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art. This was one of my favorite books in seminary and now that Im in my first full-time preaching ministry, I wanted to see how it held up in the actual practice of full-time ministry. What I found is how much this book has already influenced and continues to influence my thinking and approach to preaching.Tisdale insists that preachers must become as adept at exegeting local congregations as they are at exegeting biblical texts. In order to proclaim the gospel in a way that is seriously imaginable for a particular group of people, the preacher must learn to carefully attend to the particularities of the culture in which she or he finds herself or himself. Tisdale, borrowing from the field of cultural anthropology, offers several strategies to assist local pastors with this work of congregational exegesis. In her estimation, it is this three way intersection - the careful analysis of a congregations culture, the thoughtful study and reflection on biblical texts, and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit - that provides the conditions to birth a truly contextual preaching ministry. That is, sermons in which the gospel is proclaimed in such a way that it is heard in the native language of the hearers. This kind of preaching has the best possibility of joining Gods creative work in transforming local congregations to provide a viable Christian witness in the midst of the local context in which they find themselves.Sadly, given the current trend of multi-site church campuses, on-line churches, and Teaching Pastors whose reach is expected to be near universal, Tisdales thesis may be getting buried beneath the dust of the steady progression of time and changing circumstances. There is much to be excited about concerning innovative churches that are finding creative ways to respond to globalization and who are embracing technology as an avenue to expand the reach of the gospel. However, what stands to be lost are pastors and churches who are dedicated to finding local expressions of faith and practice that pay attention to the beautiful and various manifestations of local culture around the world. Instead of a response to globalization that celebrates and highlights the wonderful diversity of Gods creative expression found in cultures, these efforts run the risk of flattening out the language and practice of faith so that all local expressions of faith become subsumed by the majority culture.Another creative response to the challenges and opportunities arising from globalization is for churches and pastors to ask - not how do we make our reach universal? - but how do we make it very, very local? How do we respond to the particular gifts and particular challenges of a particular set of people called to serve a very particular community? In this way, churches might be equipped with language, practices, and theology that already places them in conversation and contact with their neighbors. Paul may have been called to be all things to all people, but the local pastors and elders who preached, taught, loved, and served the local congregations he established were no less a part of Gods ministry to the world. If your ministry, like mine, is less akin to a globe trotting missionary or visionary multi-site church planter and more akin to one of these local pastors, I highly recommend this book.