William Willimon is a hero of mine.  He says this  the first chapter of his book The Intrusive Word,

“When I emerged from seminary and began to preach, I thought that about the worst fate that could befall me as a preacher was not to be heard.  It was my task, through the homiletical, rhetorical arts, to bridge the gap, the great communicative gap between speaker and listener.  I now know that I had been taught to misconstrue the gap.  The gap, the evangelical distance that ought to concern the preacher, is not one of time, the time between Jesus and us, nor is it one of communication, the space between speaker and listener.  The gap that is the main concern of the evangelical preacher is the space between us and the Gospel.  Theology, rather than style, rhetoric, or method, is our concern.”                   –The Intrusive Word, 15.

Willimon is right on.  Sadly the way things are going in our own seminaries are ones that tend to lean toward the mastery of Rhetorical skills and structures rather than actually attempting to close the gap between the hearers and the Gospel.  I think we might even say that the Gospel is nigh being heard if the gap is misconstrued.  If our fear is not being heard our theology is bad.  If our concern is rhetorical arts then we fall in line with George Barna and his assessment of Jesus rather than Jesus who teaches in parables and is crucified on a Cross.  What sort of great rhetorical communicative skills are those?

Sadly this attitude toward preaching, this misconstrual of the gap falls on both sides of the party line.  Both on the “contemporary” and “confessionalistic” side of things the gap is misconstrued.

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