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Practical Preaching, and Why I Avoid It

One of the nicest compliments I ever received from a student came shortly after my turn as the chapel preacher. This student, an African American, said something to the effect that apart from Fred Craddock, I was the only white preacher he thought he could learn something from. I don’t know if that says more about my preaching or my student’s lack of exposure to white guys (and gals) who know how to preach! (Actually, I do; but let’s not go there, OK?) At any rate, I’ll take being favorably compared to Fred Craddock any day of the week 🙂

One of the benefits of growing up in an African American church seems to have been that I’m almost completely innoculated against preaching “three points and a poem.” Preaching is supposed to tell a story, and it’s supposed to engage the listeners with more than practical points (five ways to overcome anxiety, four spiritual laws, seven steps to this, that, or the other).

Anyway, maybe that’s why I appreciated this post by Lee Eclov on The Danger of Practical Preaching. I especially appreciated this word picture:

Picture a wilderness. A pioneer carves out a path, chopping away brush, felling trees, marking the way to a new outpost. As years pass, that path is traveled a thousand times till it becomes a wide, paved road. From it, other trails branch off, leading to other new outposts. Trails intersect, becoming crossroads. More outposts become towns. More trails become roads. More links are made till what was once wilderness is civilized.

Preaching is the work of spiritually civilizing the minds of Christian disciples. Preaching ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù especially expository preaching ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù cuts truth trails in the minds of our listeners. Our task is not only to display God’s “point,” but to instill God’s logic?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùhow he gets to that point.

You can’t do that in a single sermon?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùor even a single series. It takes a week-in, week-out commitment from both the preacher and the listeners. But the end results are worth it.


  1. SingingOwl says:

    I confess, I find it very difficult to forget what I was taught. Three points–etc. etc. and ABOVE ALL, have a specific purpose in mind, a desired response.

    SUggestions welcome. Telling a story, yes, but…then what?
    (That sounds goofy. I know.)


  2. D. P. says:

    Nothing wrong with having a specific purpose in mind! But the specific purpose doesn’t always have to be a “practical” application. It could also be to educate about a particular aspect of Christian worldview (e.g., the centrality of Christ) or to inspire or encourage.

    This might be the makings for a blog post later on, once we get our moms out of the hospital and I can give it some thought. In the meantime, take a look at Eclov’s Part 2, just posted.


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