What Is The State Of The American Pulpit?

Excerpt From: John Wright's book, "Telling God's Story."

Preaching has largely ceased to incorporate individuals into the concerns created by the Christian Scriptures.  Instead, preaching has become the application of an individualistic, therapeutic biblical language to contemporary concerns or disembodied calls to social justice.

The church in North America has become adept at translating the Scriptures into the narratives that already shape the lives of believers and nonbeliever alike.  By providing a private, therapeutic, individualistic biblical discourse, such preaching maintain the presence of the church as a voluntary grouping of individuals living in a society that looks to the church for personal fulfillment rather than public guidance....

The biblical text becomes translated into a therapeutic experience within the life of the individual.  Yet it seems that such an approach misses the crucial question, a question necessary to maintain the faithful witness of the church across time.  The question is not, How can we make the Scriptures relevant to individuals in need of therapy? but, How do we translate human lives into the biblical narrative to live as part of the body of Christ in the world? 

In today's cultural environment, preaching is used to calm conflict, not produce it.  Yet when we accept God's call to become preachers of the gospel, we accept as well God's call to speak truthfully even if conflict results, even if at times it causes conflict with the world, especially as it has already possessed us.  Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, 
"The enemy, who is often enough ourselves, does not like to be reminded that the narratives that constitute our lives are false.  Moreover, you had better be ready for a fierce encounter-offensive as well as be prepared to take some causalities.  God has not promised us safety, but rather participation in an adventure called the Kingdom."
Embracing the tragic hermeneutic of preaching brings the possibility of conflict.  Yet conflict is necessary for conversion, the world's, the congregation's--and the preacher's. The tragic hermeneutical moment in preaching provides the opportunity for a genuine shift in the horizon of the congregation--a shift of allegiances from those of the society at large to those of the church in submission to Christ.  The tragic moment unseals the congregation so that they might find their lives in the biblical narrative, rather than absorbing the biblical narrative into theirs.  The consistent in-breaking of the Word in proclamation can re-form a congregation into an alternative community, Christianly distinct from the world around them, a particular people whose witness lies in the Scriptural horizon of their communal life.   As the biblical narrative forms a distinct, embodied culture, the congregation then may provide resources that the world otherwise would never have opportunity to see.  As such, preaching to an epistemological crisis can be used by the Spirit to form the church into 'a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

(Pages 19, 44-45)