Book Report: Witness of Preaching

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Witness of Preaching by Thomas G. Long Note: the book is based on the idea that ministers and preachers are called from within the church instead of being sent to it from the outside world. Based on this, the entire books provides insights to not just pastors but also seminary students on how they can prepare their speeches to influence their gathering on the omnipresence of God and all his glory for not just the community but also the world. The book is written in a simple and easy language structure so as to appeal to all the pastors and students inclined to learn the ways that they can preach more effectively.

The 'Witness of Preaching' is an important book in the domain of insightful religious interpretation and has been published in two editions, the first releasing in 1989 followed by a more thorough revision in 1995. The second edition of the classic text of 'witness of preaching' is far more thorough, inspiring and assisting in the realm of religious discussion then the first edition released more than half a decade ago. The most obvious improvement in the second edition was the language structure used as it was far more open towards all classes of pastors and seminary students. Long focused specifically on certain chapters like the one on biblical exegesis, giving it more depth and dynamics. He has added quite a few examples of various documented versions of popular texts as well as numerous illustrations and models of sermon formats and deductions. Homiletics is an area that Long continues to explore and intertwine throughout the book, he updates the works and viewpoints of the important scholars mentioned in the first edition in the revision released in 1995 as well as the incorporates the role of new technology like the use of videos and PowerPoint in the delivery of sermons and speeches.

The common theme between both editions was Long's use of the theological perceptions of the role of witnesses documented in the Gospel. He uses these perceptions to design and lead every angle in the structure of all the sermons whether it be something intricate like the interpretation of the biblical text or something dynamic like the mannerisms and transference of the sermon. The text below is an excerpt taken from the first edition of the book that exemplifies how the book can provide insight and guidance to any and all pastors -- the experts as well as the novices:

"...whenever we include a 'slice of life' in a sermon, we are making implicit theological claims whether we know it or not. By the kinds of experiences and images we choose to employ in sermons, we are forming, implicitly or explicitly, specific connections between the nature of contemporary life and the character of the gospel. A sentimental sermon story, for example, implies that the gospel itself is sentimental. A sermon full of experiences evolving only clergy telegraphs the message that real faith is reserved for the ordained. Or suppose that a preacher decides to relate in a sermon several stories of people who learned to trust God in the midst of difficult and painful circumstances. If this preacher is honest about these experiences, the accounts will include some of the ambiguity and unresolved questions surely present whenever people struggle from suffering toward faith. A truthful relating of the experiences, in other words, carries with it the theological claim that the "yes" of the gospel does not instantly make the "no" of human doubt and struggle disappear. if, on the other hand, the preacher files the rough edges off these experiences and transforms them into stories with simple, happy and purely victorious endings, an unrealistic triumphant picture of the gospel is conveyed, with little room for unfinished suffering and continuing struggle."

Witness of Preaching: Summary

The 'witness of preaching' presents homiletics in a whole new sphere and Long explains that the aspect of homiletics is no longer a mere philosophy of 'applied theology', in fact it is an integral and hugely influential discipline now in the theological spheres. Homiletics has for the longest time been used primarily as the most efficient tool to communicate the theological interpretations and deductions of a biblical text. However, in comparing to the approach taken by St. Paul, Long's approach shows that the concept of homiletics is built around the shortcomings and flaws of the churches that consequently contributes to the foundation of the sermons and preaching styles.

Furthermore, Long in the book emphasizes on how the pastor or the preacher is someone who comes from the community and speaks from within them as opposed to stand above and deliver to them. This allows the sermon to really pierce its message through as it allows the preachers to design and modify their preaching styles in accordance to the needs and structure of the community and the church that they serve. This he makes clear in all his exegetical methods applied in the book.

In summary, if one was to analyze this book the following aspects would become clear:

The preacher can clearly comprehend the purpose of the sermon

The process becomes more lucid

The purpose of the church in the community becomes clear

The status of the preacher becomes more humane and from within the community as opposed to above it

The structure and nature of the church is also highlighted within the structure of the sermons

The relation between the existence of God, the community and the preacher are established using theological aspects

The aspects missing from the book that, if added, could have brought a whole new dimension to the text include the following:

There is no explicit ecclesiology used to support and back the processes and purposes of the sermons highlighted in the book

The one thing strongly lacking in the book was the backup up of all the principles and theories presented with their practical applications

Witness of Preaching: Report

The primary aspect of Long's 'The Witness of Preaching' is his fresh and accessible approach towards the management of homiletics. The fact of the matter is that Long is a very well-versed individual when it comes to the most intricate and extensive literature available on homiletics and refers to popular and renowned preachers like Fred Craddock and David Buttrick in his book to support his ideas and viewpoints on the subject and its role in the church. The fresh approach adopted by Long becomes apparent in the very first chapter of the book where he treats the phenomenon of homiletics as a theology as opposed to merely a tool for communication in sermons. As has been previously mentioned, Long has used the phenomenon of homiletics as an entire discipline and not just one aspect of a discipline. Homiletics has previously been only used restrictively to the rhetoric and mere communication tactics. On the other hand, Long further draws inspiration from the text of the Old Testament and the New Testament and explains that the preachers are the ones who "bear witness" to the practical applications and implications of the theological and theoretical sermons that they give. In my opinion, it is this first chapter that perhaps is worth the price asked for the book. In fact if the chapter was published as a pamphlet, it would stand incredibly well on its own in the literary world as an insightful and extremely helpful excerpt of the world of ordained ministry.

It is the background set in the first chapter, of the preachers bearing witness that sets the stage and the tempo for the following chapters. The book focuses on the flexibility needed in the sermons and methods of preaching as opposed to following the conventions and traditional principles and regulations. Long support innovative and flexible decisions made by the preacher based upon the situation as well as community he is preaching to. For this purpose, Long focuses on providing practical examples of the structural formats of sermons, as well as the most effective and motivation introductions and conclusions without being too sophisticated or simple either. My only criticism is that there should have perhaps been a few more examples given to strengthen and clarify the point further.

One other concern when reading the book for me was the concept of hermeneutics and how it was dealt with in the book. Of course, interpreting the text and context of bible fully is a very difficult thing to do by anyone's standards. Furthermore, when one is striving to provide efficient advice or suggestions on how to best interpret the biblical text is even more difficult. Hence, when Long attempted to actually give advice, in my opinion, he should have tried to do so to his fullest capability. But reading the book does leave me wanting a lot more in that department. In one of the earlier chapters, he writes that the phenomenon of biblical preaching 'does not mean merely talking about the Bible, using the Bible to bolster doctrinal arguments, or applying biblical 'principles'… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Witness of Preaching.  (2011, January 22).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/witness-preaching/133692

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"Witness of Preaching."  Essaytown.com.  January 22, 2011.  Accessed July 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/witness-preaching/133692.