From Preaching to Teaching

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Speaking to a student after class at the UNCA Reuter Center

I continue to enjoy receiving invitations to speak in congregations, schools and group settings.  In years past, I would be asked to “preach,” understood as “delivering a message” or giving a sermon to “proclaim the Word.”  There was an expectation, in some churches, that the proclamation should be “prophetic.”  It’s the highest of complements in more liberal, progressive churches, to be told “your sermon was prophetic!”  This usually meant there was a sense of challenge and urgency to my words that made people sit up and listen.  It felt good to hear that, but honestly it was a liberating feeling when I didn’t have to do that any longer.  There’s a lot of pressure on prophets!

Now I give “talks,” “lectures” and “presentations.”  Rather than “proclaiming good news” from ancient scriptures or seeking to speak prophetically, my style and intent is to tell stories or relate thoughts and ideas to stimulate deeper reflection and reasonable action.  In other words, to teach.  A professor “professes,” but that’s quite different than proclaiming and preaching.

Teaching is not about passing along a “divine word.”  It’s about drawing students into the investigation and interrogation of ideas.  An exciting endeavor!

I’ve always been a teacher in some form and setting (the first serious class I taught was just out of college).  Now, to be actively and intentionally an educator is a great joy and privilege.  The whole wide world of ideas is open, ever opening.

Here’s to honoring the teachers.  And a bow to those who once were preachers.

Current and past classes and presentations

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