Term Paper: Black Preaching

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Black Preaching

In the Black tradition, a sermon is not just an address, but an experience felt by the entire congregation. As one looks at the dynamics of a well-thought out and well-delivered sermon, one might approach it from the aspect of the Scripture, the sermon, the preacher and the listener (Day 2). As far as Scripture is concerned, Black preaching uses it as its core. Nothing can be done without it - no preaching, no listening, no salvation and no church. God is always there, but Scripture is His word to the preacher and through it, the Holy Spirit is delivered to the people who listen to the sermon, as long as it is based on the Scripture. As far as the sermon is concerned, this is the subject of this research and reflection. Much will follow on this subject.

As far as the Preacher is concerned, though he or she be uneducated or educated, Black or White, Presbyterian or Anglican, if he or she uses the Scripture and his or her goal is to be the medium through which God can feed the people, then, no matter what techniques he or she uses, he or she will accomplish His purpose. In contemporary practice, as the preacher and the sermon get more heated, and as the sermon being delivered reaches a climax, the preacher is using a great deal of body language, walking back and forth, perhaps jumping, perhaps leaning over, perhaps singing, perhaps praying, perhaps shouting.

Stories, dance and song have a large part in the African-American worship service. This springs from ancient traditions. The people in the congregation participate with dancing, shouting and like responses. As far as the listener is concerned, listening is not enough. hearing and then acting is the goal. If a person can listen to a great preacher and not be moved, he or she must be deaf, for a preacher who truly is the medium through which God speaks, moves His people to act. The listener to Black preaching participates in the sermon, not only through praying, speaking, singing or shouting, but through absorbing the Word and going forth and acting on it.

The Black preacher uses several components in order to effect his or her goals of feeding God's people. Another aspect of the communication which brings these images and ideas close to home in Black preaching comes from audience participation in what is called the "call-and-response" phenomenon. Using a traditional African learning process, the preacher calls out and the audience repeats the phrase. Teachers today have learned that students retain information longer and the experience is stronger, when what is learned is actually practiced. So call-and-response, a method of learning derived from ancient African teaching methods, is an intoxicating and intense way to be involved, to receive information and remember it. The use of action, as a part of and along with, verbal explanations enforces learning (Mitchell 1970, 40).

The homiletic which has developed here in the United States among Black preachers uses both Black and White cultures, but the way the cultures are applied depends upon the pulpit, whether White or Black (Day 198). Nevertheless, the shared body of theories and principles work together to create the following components:

Faith is the result of experience, not intellectual reasoning. In order to understand this concept, we have only to look to how Jesus acted and taught. When Jesus healed the demoniac on the shores of Galilee and the man begged Jesus to let him go with him and become one of his disciples, Jesus refused him. Instead, Jesus told the man to go and preach to others about what had happened to him. This story from Mark 5:1-20 shows the student of homiletics a good example of a preacher who has experiences which have brought him to faith. The demoniac knew where and how he had received his faith, as he had experienced Jesus' casting out of the devils that had dwelled in him. So must the preacher recall how and why the call had come to him, how his or her faith had begun and why he or she is so filled with the Spirit. Only through experiencing the gift of the Spirit.

Why did Jesus not allow the demoniac to stay with him and become a disciple? he would have made a good disciple, who would not have wavered in his faith as Peter did, nor betrayed him as Judas did. The contemporary preacher may relate to the demoniac in mourning that they also are not allowed to accompany the actual person of Jesus and share his actual meals and hear him speaking, but they are also like the demoniac in that they may rejoice as they recall their experience with his salvation. They are like the demoniac in that they must be driven by the same joy at their salvation and desire to relate it to those who need to hear.

The demoniac was shackled with chains in order to keep from hurting himself in his madness. Beset with demons by the dozens, he was imprisoned in both mind and body. When he was freed of those restrictions and vexations, free of desires to hurt himself and others, childish reactions to the demands of life and being protected by iron and steel, the demoniac is now restored to sanity and rational thought. His life has been righted and his body has been freed. It is his responsibility to now deliver the means of his salvation to those back at home and in his own neighborhood. He was commissioned by Jesus, just as Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out to others who need to know how they, too, may be freed.

There are many sayings concerning faith throughout the Scripture and from great preachers about the work of faith in delivering their sermons. Saint Augustine said "Faith is believing what you do not see; the reward of faith is to see what you believe." When faith carries the preacher before the crowd and a great sermon is delivered, it is not because the preacher has done it, it is because the preacher had faith that God would speak through him or her.

When great faith is carried into the pulpit or into battle, only God's will can result, whatever it may be. In the pulpit, the deliverer has more chance of surviving than a soldier, but that does not mean that what God wills is the same as the will of the preacher. The fruits of a great sermon may not be desired or even known to the preacher, but God's fruit will be yielded, nonetheless.

The conviction of his or her faith which the preacher brings to the sermon determines the mission of the church as well as his or her preaching, as the Holy Spirit moves among the people.

The Holy Spirit delivers the gift of faith. Faith is not something one can work toward or earn - it is the gift of God. Before one is able to preach to others about one's faith one must be able to understand not only the origin of one's faith, but the shape into which the faith spoken of in the sermon falls. In other words, the preacher must pray and listen for the gift of the spirit to deliver to God's people that day. The Black preacher has a dynamic, working faith which shines through in his or her words and actions. Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States once said that to him, faith was not a noun, but a verb. Unless faith is received from the Spirit and delivered to the people through the sermon, it does no good. This is evident in the delivery of any sermon. If the preacher does not have faith, the sermon is empty and the people go away with empty hearts.

Most churches and denominations have a statement which describes the work of the Holy Spirit, saying that it remains with the people and works actively in the world. It goes on to describe how the Holy Spirit was delivered to the people at Pentecost and lives still among the people of the church. The final part of the statement is usually that through the Holy Spirit Christ continues to live among us, that through the Spirit the kingdom of God is manifested and that through it the gospel is proclaimed.

As God's living representative in the world, the Holy Spirit is brought to God's people through preaching, as well as through other manifestations. This puts a huge responsibility upon the preacher who comes to the pulpit full of him- (or her-) self. Before approaching the pulpit, the preacher must empty him- (or her-) self and be filled with the Holy Spirit, or the gift of faith will not be delivered to the people. How else can the people know what God wants to say to them, unless the preacher becomes a vessel of the Holy… [END OF PREVIEW]

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