Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art Book Review & Notes

Posted: November 27, 2011 by Todd in Books, Culture
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I just finished reading Leonora Tubbs Tisdale’s Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art since my wife had recently purchased it, I figured I’d give it a read.  I wasn’t terribly impressed.  I didn’t really disagree with much that Tubbs Tisdale said, but that’s mostly because she didn’t say much.  Perhaps, I’m being a bit harsh here, but it seemed like she took an entire book to say, it is important not only to exegete the text, but also the congregation.  [more…] Of course, it was a little more nuanced and in-depth than that, but not much.  I found myself feeling like I’d wish she’d stop telling me WHY it is important to exegete the congregation and start telling me HOW.  The first three chapters, it seemed to me, were exclusively focused on being told why congregational context matters.  The last two chapters, did get more into the how question, but the solutions seemed self-evident enough and I just never really felt like the book gave enough to justify the time spent reading it.


Nevertheless, it was a good reminder that preachers should keep their audience in mind during all phases of sermon preparation.  I did make a few changes to a process I use in sermon preparation based on my reading.

Below are the highlights I made from the book:

It was social factors, Niebuhr argued, rather than religious factors, that contributed most to religious denominationalism in American society. (237)

Many congregations-while loosely held together by a common “idiom”-are also internally divided along other subcultural lines. (281)

I borrow the term “local theology” from missiologist Robert Schreiter.  (540)

“The real promise of Congregational Studies in the context of the American church is that it may become a means of indigenizing our theological heritage in the first world in the way that base communities are doing in the third world.” (556)

“To save sinners, God seizes them by the imagination….”” (655)

“On the one hand, without [Barth’s theology] present-day preaching would not he so pure, so biblical, and so concerned with central issues, but on the other hand, it would also not be so alarmingly correct, boringly precise, and remote from the world.”‘(1282)

“I am convinced that a lot of pastors use the lectionary as a cop-out to avoid preaching on issues that need to be addressed in congregational life. They hide behind the lectionary in order to avoid preaching on some of the tough issues facing local congregations, the nation, and the world.” (1297)

He discovered that almost none of the pastors in these churches mentioned the war in their sermons that morning. When asked for an explanation, the usual response given was, “We follow the lectionary.” (1301)

Theologies for preaching can also become deeper and more fitting when the preacher asks, “What meaning(s) might this same text have in a very different context?” (1365)

“The image stamped on the coin is the image of Caesar. But the image stamped on you from creation is the image of God. Therefore you dare not give Caesar your ultimate allegiance, for that belongs only to your Creator-God.” (1513)

At its best, Christian preaching is not only an act of theological construction; it is also a work of art. (1574)


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