A new look for The Preacher
The April edition of The Preacher is the first with our new design.
The College’s new partnership with the publishers Hymns Ancient & Modern provides a host of possibilities for the enhancement of our work. As publishers of a huge range of periodicals and books, Hymns A&M have immense expertise on which we can now draw. Our new design is but the first step in what we anticipate will be a range of developments to make your journal even more useful to preachers. If you have a suggestion for a new feature, do let me know.
Saint Augustine urged preachers to vary the style in which they spoke. He suggested that the force of our words should alternate like the waves of the sea. The preacher has to judge what style will speak most effectively to particular listeners, and what style is best suited to the topic. Such judgements are at the very heart of eloquence, according to Augustine.
Matching style to purpose and audience is therefore a necessary preaching skill. Nevertheless the contemporary insistence on each preacher finding his/her voice also remains true. To be heard we need to speak authentically as ourselves. Each of us has ways of expression and ways of putting things that are subtly our own. These inevitably colour what we say and the ways in which we say it.
The danger is if we then assume that our personal voice must be what determines our preaching style. Surely this mistake is one of the reasons preaching is often popularly dismissed as tedious – ‘I knew what he was going to say before he said it,’ or ‘She always gives us three points and a poem.’ The preachers so characterised may be using a voice that absolutely rooted in their own personalities but that’s not the eloquence Augustine was pointing us towards.
Varying our style doesn’t mean being inauthentic, but rather asking ourselves how we can match what we say and how we say it to both our listeners and our topic in such a way that lives are touched, faith stirred and minds informed. The great American Hebrew Bible scholar (and preacher) Walter Brueggemann said somewhere ‘The event of preaching is an event in transformed imagination.’ Transformed imaginations in our hearers require of us changed and changing imaginative styles in how we preach.
I hope the style changes in this journal serve the same purpose.