Theology of Preaching (2)
This is an abstract from a “Theology of Preaching” paper.
To a Particular Group of the People of God
Scripture is the word of God spoken in a context, and preaching is witnessing to the word of God in a context. In the Bible, God spoke to people in ways particular to their lives, situations, history, and culture, and in the same way, God continues to speak into our particular lives, context, history, and culture today. The claims the text makes on the people of God are the same then and now, but the context changes. This means that preaching must take seriously both the original context of the text as well as the context the text will be preached in, for God speaks to someone, not by making speaking distant claims and static doctrine towards the universe, but by speaking to particular people in a particular context. Preaching to a particular group of the people of God takes seriously that God speaks to a people in a context, and we must do the same.
We also preach to a particular group of the people of God because we are part of a particular group of the people of God. To again use Long’s witness image, “The witness is also not a neutral observer… the preacher as witness is one who stands in and with a particular community of faith.” The preacher speaks to their particular community because the preacher cannot help but hear God’s word from within that community. A preacher cannot get to neutral ground to hear the word of God for everyone equally. As the preacher stands with a particular people, they hear what God is saying through the filter of all the things that make a unique community. And although they can listen for a people other than their own community, the act of preaching is, at its best, listening to what God has to say to a specific community of faith with its specific struggles and specific mission in a specific location and then testifying to what has been heard. This definitely calls into question practices like video venues and church online where there is no particular known people of God.
We also preach in context because, when calling a people to adopt the story of God as their own, we must understand the story they are already living in. In moving from one story to another, people are beginning in many different places, and preaching must recognize the place where people begin as well as know which direction to point them towards the story of God. The preacher must know the story people are living in, with all its struggles, dispositions, practices, and truths, in order to be able to know how to call them into God’s story.
 Long, 50.
 Long, 50.