The Witness of Preaching

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The Witness of Preaching
by Thomas G. Long, Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
Find this book at here.

Perhaps you are wondering whether or not this book is relevant for you. Are you a pastor? Then yes. Are you not a pastor? Then also yes! Out of all the preaching books I have read so far, this is by far the one that provided the most intriguing image of what preaching is all about.

Thomas Long bases his book on the idea that preachers should be viewed as witnesses. In a court situation, witnesses share their own experience of a situation. They are engaged in sharing what they discovered, heard, saw, learned, etc. Long proposes that the office of preacher should function in similar ways. Preachers should be called by their congregation to dig into Scripture and investigate. Their duty is to bring back to the congregation what they learned, read, studied, and experienced. 

This image of preaching stands in contrast to those that see preachers as proclaimers of the Word of God. It reminds preachers to be humble and share honestly what they discovered without the pressure of having to be the preverbal “voice of God”.

Long’s understanding of what preaching is all about also opens the door for others, not only pastors, to step into that role. All of us have equal access of God and to His Word. Even though we do not all have the same education, God speaks to us in different and unique ways. We should welcome and encourage others in our faith communities with these gifts to study Scripture on behalf of us and witness to us what they discovered.

Long goes into quite a bit of detail about the mechanics of preaching and preparation. He writes about how to choose texts, study, and prepare for giving sermons. He also writes about the form, focus, and function of a sermon. He provides not only a good understanding of preaching but solid principles and practices involved in preaching well.

Notable Quotes:

“Whether we realize it or not, most of us who preach act out in our won ways this business of coming to the pulpit from the pew, from the midst of the congregation’s life.” (p.3)

“The preacher comes from God’s people and thus is not outside the people or above them.” (p.7)

“Effective preachers are gifted people, but the gifts needed for good and faithful preaching are different from those of the electrifying speaker or the charismatic entertainer. Faithful preaching requires such gifts as sensitivity to human need, a discerning eye for the connections between faith and life, an ear attuned to hearing the voice of Scripture, compassion, a growing personal faith, and the courage to tell the truth.” (p.14)

“When the preacher prepares a sermon by wrestling with a biblical text, the preacher is not merely gathering information about the text. The preacher is listening for a voice, looking for a presence, hoping for the claim of God to be encountered through the text. Until this happens, there is nothing for the preacher to say.” (p.47)

“If we are faithfully exercising our ministry of preaching, if we are honestly bearing witness to the gospel, for and with people whom we love, over time it will show.” (p.232)