A World Homiletic

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Evangelical Homiletics
Society was held at Moody Bible Institute 13-15 October 2023.
The annual scholars gathering featured the theme, “A World
Homiletic.” In planning for the event, the Evangelical Homiletics
Society governing board wanted to reflect the worldwide
influences of the field of homiletics as the society embarks on the
next phase of growth. The intention was to look beyond North
America to a global perspective on homiletics. Hence, invitations
were issued to two homiletics scholars from two different parts
of the world, Ezekiel A. Ajibade from Nigeria, Africa, and Sam
Chan from Sydney, Australia. These scholars provided plenary
session presentations and served on a panel to engage questions
from those in attendance. This issue of the journal includes both
Dr. Ajibade’s and Dr. Chan’s thoughtful and challenging
addresses.

Guest Editorial The Comedy, Tragedy, and Ambiguity of Preaching

Included in the purpose statement of our Evangelical Homiletics Society is a line saying we intend “to provide a forum for the identification, study, research, and modeling of biblical preaching.” It is that word “research” that opens up the possibility for all sorts of discussions pertaining to our craft. There is no field of study from which the observant preacher cannot draw some insight that will inform how he or she understands the Bible and the homiletical task. The reason for this has to do with the very nature of God’s revelation. Our God reveals Himself and the truth He embodies in ways both general and special. To find truth anywhere is to discover some aspect of Him. He is the author and sustainer of all life. Life testifies to Him. As biblical preachers, we are called to expound that testimony. Eighteenth-century English writer, art historian, and politician Horace Walpole famously observed, “Life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.” The Bible looks squarely at life and gives us elements of both and more. The Book itself is a grand comedy. Everything works out right in the end. But it is a comedy interlaced with tragedy. So much goes so desperately wrong before the end comes. It also includes degrees of ambiguity, leaving us to wonder. Preachers who see only comedy in Scripture are apt to deliver sermons that never seem to get at the real pain their hearers experience. They generalize it, though all pain is particular to its sufferer. They gloss it over, dismissing their hearers’ existential distress with talk of their “real” problem that only Jesus can solve. Their thinking is sound enough, but it lacks feeling. Preachers with a keen eye for biblical tragedy are more likely to deliver sermons that are therapeutic or prophetic by nature, depending on their particular personalities and spiritual gifting. They either probe hearers’ pain with great empathy and dispense practical counsel for dealing with it or expose the sin they perceive to lie behind that pain and denounce it with holy zeal. Their feelings are acute, but they can muddle their thinking. Preachers especially attuned to the Bible’s ambiguities deliver more than their fair share of sermons that leave hearers to wonder, looking for meaning and purpose. They walk away pondering, “What did the preacher mean by that? Why do I feel so confused? What am I supposed to do next?” Just as the Bible is a comedy, wrapping a tragedy, and haunted by ambiguity, preaching that is true to Scripture and to life as we know it should be comedic, tragic, or ambiguous depending on a sermon’s text. But how?

Engaging a World Homiletic

The theme of this conference to which I will address is,
“Engaging a World Homiletic.” The world is a big place. With a
population of 7.9 billion in seven continents and consisting of
nothing less than 3800 cultures, the world is enigmatic and a big
assignment to comprehend.1
Yet, God loves this world and the
people in it. We are commissioned to go into the world, preach
the gospel and make disciples of its component nations. Paul’s
words in Acts 17:24-28 is very profound: “The God who made
the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not
served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he
himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From
one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the
whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history
and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they
would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and
move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said,
‘We are his offspring.’”2
From the passage above, there is an indication that God
was deliberate in situating every human being where they are
and for a purpose: seek, reach him, and find him. The task of
preaching and of a preacher stand between these divine designs.
Paul later asks in Romans 10:14-15: “How, then, can they call on
the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in
the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear
without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone
preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are
the feet of those who bring good news!” The preacher, therefore,
becomes the connector between men and women in their divine
location and the vision of God to see them seek him, reach out for
him and find him.
A “world homiletic” presupposes that God has placed
humans in their different locations in the world and within their
cultural and other contexts. He has also raised preachers (and
continues to call in places where they do not have one) who
would preach to them and ultimately lead them to salvation in
the holistic sense.
To prosecute this task, I will discuss the basic assumptions
in homiletics and Christian preaching. I will examine preaching
from an African context and perspective since that is my root. I
will situate African preaching in a global context and offer a few
considerations to put in place if one is to engage a world
homiletic. The idea of “engaging” as we are attempting to do is
“to give attention to something” and possibly “participate” in it.3
It is to seek to understand it, to know how to handle and probably
involve in it.

How to Split a Bill: Is there a Transcultural Homiletic for all Peoples, all Places, all Times?

In the Asian culture, when you eat out with your friends, you
never split the bill. One person offers to pay for everyone else.
This sounds great. But you’re also supposed to fight that person
for the bill. In the Anglo culture, in contrast, you always split the
bill. But if one person offers to pay for everyone, you happily let
that person pay. You’re not going to fight them.
I am Asian-Australian. I can choose when to be Asian. I
can also choose when to be Anglo. So, when an Asian friend
offers to pay for the whole bill, that’s when I choose to be Anglo.
I gladly let them pay.
Culture is everywhere. It affects how we split a bill. It also
affects how we preach—for both the preacher and the audience.
The aim of my article is to explore how culture affects our
homiletics. Is there a transcultural homiletic—one that
transcends all cultures. Or will it be necessarily enculturated—
with cultural distinctives?

Homiletic of Belonging

Transformation is a major goal of evangelical preaching, but how
might people with intellectual disabilities be spiritually
transformed through evangelical preaching? One might look to
models of disability for answers, but medical models and social
models of disability can be problematic for people with ID. Gaps
in disability models bring into focus a need that homiletics might
address: Belonging. The concept of belonging figures prominently
among disability and practical theologians like John Swinton,
Brian Brock, and Hans Reinders and in the empirical research of
Erik Carter. Interacting with their work, the concept of belonging
will be explored as a homiletical model that may contribute to
the transformation of listeners with intellectual disabilities. The
homiletical goal of transformation among people with
intellectual disabilities might be served by a homiletical model of
belonging in which 1.) through the preaching of
counternarratives, preachers contribute to the transformation of
non-disabled parishioners by pointing them to the value of
friendship with the intellectually disabled and to the inherent
worth of people with ID from creation and in the body of Christ.
2.) by preachers knowing these listeners as friends.

What’s Our Big Idea? Analyzing the Academic Literary Corpus of the Evangelical Homiletics Society

Over its 25-year history, the scholars of the Evangelical
Homiletics Society (EHS) have presented more than 250 papers
at its annual conferences and published more than 200 academic
articles in its journal. As a whole, what has EHS been writing
about, and what has it said? A clear understanding of its past can
enable any organization to move responsibly into its future.
Using Latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) from the field of data
science, this paper scrutinizes the entire EHS corpus, describes 17
distinct topics within that corpus, and offers informed
suggestions for the society’s future inquiry.

Sermon: The Cure for Conceit

Have you ever noticed that there’s often a big difference between what we want our reputation to be and what our reputation actually is? It’s true of us as individuals, and it’s also true of the Church. In the first few centuries of the Church’s history, Christians were called atheists. Cannibals. An incestuous cult of “brothers and sisters.” But in the second century, the great Christian apologist Tertullian said that he thought if a pagan were to bump into a group of Christians on the street, he would exclaim, “See how those Christians love one another and how they are ready to die for each other!” You see, there’s a big difference between what Tertullian hoped the Church’s reputation would be and what the Church’s reputation often was to an outside perspective. If you were to approach a stranger on the street today and ask him to describe the Church, what do you think he would say? Do you think he would applaud us for our love for one another and our allegiance to the Gospel? Probably not. What you would probably hear is something like this: the Church is full of hypocrites. Christians do not care about the poor or the sick or the oppressed, only power. All they do is fight amongst themselves about things that don’t matter!

Reflections on the Future of the Evangelical Homiletics Society

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., former president of Gordon-Conwell
Theological Seminary used to quip, “I’m not a prophet, nor the
son of a prophet, but I work for a non-profit organization.” I
stand before you today not as a prophet, but more as a prompter,
someone who’s at the side or even out of sight reminding people
of things they already know.
Twenty-five years ago, the first Evangelical Homiletics
Society was held on the Hamilton, Massachusetts campus of
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We were a smaller
group then, maybe about twenty-five persons—men and women
looking to set a new direction for evangelical homiletics.
Ten months before that first founding meeting of our
society, Keith Willhite and I bumped into each other at an
Academy of Homiletics meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We
proceeded to map out a plan for an organization that more
appropriately met our needs theologically—and would open the
door not only to professors of preaching in seminaries but also
those who taught homiletics in Bible Colleges, as well as pastors
who taught preaching adjunctively. We shared this vision with a
The Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 107
few others who were with us at the meeting, including Timothy
Warren, Endel Lee, Grant Lovejoy, and others.
Keith Willhite (1958-2003) and I divided up the work and
contacted professors of preaching in evangelical seminaries and
Bible Colleges, setting our sights on gathering in October of 1997
at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Desiring wise
guidance, we enlisted the distinguished evangelical leader, Dr.
Vernon Grounds (1914-2010), at that time Chancellor at Denver
Seminary as one of the plenary speakers for that inaugural
meeting. He set the tone for the gathering speaking on “Some
Reflections on Pulpit Rhetoric.”1
My intention for these few moments is not to bore you
with the lore of the long ago and far away beginnings of our
society. Instead, as a prompter, I want to remind us of what and
who we are as a society as we look to the future.
Let me remind ourselves of who we are:
The Evangelical Homiletics Society is an academic society
formed for the exchange of ideas related to the instruction
of biblical preaching. The purpose of the Society is to
advance the cause of biblical preaching through the
promotion of a biblical-theological approach to preaching;
to increase competence for teachers of preaching; to
integrate the fields of communication, biblical studies, and
theology; to make scholarly contributions to the field of
homiletics.2
This statement was carefully crafted in 1997 by those who
attended the first meeting—and it is the guide-star for our future
as well. This purpose statement will shape my promptings to all
of us as we consider the life and work of our society in the coming
years. As we look back on twenty-five years, we look forward to
God’s intended future for us, and I am here to remind us of who
we are as we set our sights on the future.

Sermon: The Sides of Preaching

Have you ever worn anything inside out? Sometimes we’ll put
on a sweatshirt inside out because we like it that way, or it has
paint or spots on the outside, so we wear it inside out. At other
times, we wear articles of clothing inside out unintentionally.
That happened to my sister, Jeanine. She got herself
dressed for a day of grocery shopping and general errand
running. She didn’t realize until she got home later that day and
looked at herself in the mirror that her blouse was inside out.
Over the course of the day she ran into her former mailman,
Scott, at the grocery store. She saw some neighbors and other
friends—all the while wearing a blouse that was turned inside
out. “Everybody could see the raw edges of the blouse because it
was turned inside out,” she detailed. “I didn’t know when I
dressed myself in the morning that in the afternoon, I’d find that
I had made my rounds with a blouse that was inside out.”
Inside out and outside in—that’s how we live our lives,
and that’s how we live our lives as preachers, isn’t it? People—
even our listeners—can see who we are on the outside and who we are on the inside. They can see the raw edges of our lives or
the smooth seams of God’s grace in how we live and who we are.
This was Paul’s message of encouragement to Timothy as
he was eager to navigate life as he served as preacher at the
church in Ephesus. Paul reminds Timothy that church at Ephesus
wasn’t an easy church to pastor. There were heresies and
resistances that Timothy would have to engage with wisdom and
grace. Paul was reminding Timothy that as their preacher, the
church was exposed to his inside and outside self.
We may not realize it for ourselves, but we have—our
preaching has—an outside and an inside feature to it. We see this
displayed in the text this morning. Please turn to 1 Timothy 4:11-
16, that’s 1 Timothy 4:11-16. As I read the text, try to find with me
the outside and inside dimensions of preaching. That’s 1 Timothy
4:11-16:
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look
down on you because you are young, but set an
example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in
faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the
public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through
prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life
and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do,
you will save both yourself and your hearers.
What does this text tell us about the sides of preaching? It tells us
that preaching is outside in.

Book Reviews (23-1)

Called to Preach: Fulfilling the High Calling of Expository Preaching, Steven J. Lawson (Reviewer: Nicholas B. Marnejon)
Preaching the Manifold Grace of God: Theologies of Preaching in Historical Theological Families, Volume 1, Ronald J. Allen, editor (Reviewer: Jared E. Alcántara)
Oil Enough to Make the Journey: Sermons on the Christian Walk, Jack R. Lundbom (Reviewer: Mark Drinnenberg)
Preaching by Heart: How a Classical Practice Helps Contemporary Pastors to Preach without Notes, Ryan P. Tinetti (Reviewer: Rock LaGioia)
Shouting Above the Noisy Crowd: Biblical Wisdom and the Urgency of Preaching, edited by Charles L. Aaron Jr. and Jamie Clark-Soles (Reviewer: Charlie Ray III)
Preaching the Gospel: Collected Sermons on Discipleship, Mission, Peace, Justice, and the Sacraments, Ronald J. Sider (Reviewer: James Rodgers)
A Biblical Study Guide for Equal Pulpits, Young Lee Hertig (Reviewer: Caroline Smith)
Embodied Hope: A Homiletical Theological Reflection, Veronice Miles (Reviewer: William Andrew “Ted” Williams)
Old Made New, Greg Lanier (Reviewer: Ryan Boys)
The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters for Ministry, Austin Carty (Reviewer: Brian Carmichael Sr.)
Chasing After Wind: A Pastor’s Life, Douglas J. Brouwer (Reviewer: Kevin Koslowsky)
The Peoples’ Sermon: Preaching as a Ministry of the Whole Congregation, Shauna K. Hannan (Reviewer: Gary R. McLellan Jr.)
Real People, Real Faith: Preaching Biblical Characters, Cindy Halvorson (Reviewer: Rob O’Lynn)
Preaching the Truth as it is in Jesus: A Reader on Andrew Fuller, David E. Prince (Reviewer: Tony A. Rogers)
Expository Preaching in Africa: Engaging Orality for Effective Proclamation, Ezekiel A. Ajibade (Reviewer: Jesse L. Nelson)
When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, Chuck DeGroat (Reviewer: Scott M. Gibson)
James: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching, Herbert W. Bateman IV and William C. Varner (Reviewer: Brad Baxter)
John Through Old Testament Eyes: A Background and Application Commentary, Karen H. Jobes (Reviewer: Matthew Love)
Preaching Life-Changing Sermons: Six Steps to Developing and Delivering Biblical Messages, Jesse L. Nelson (Reviewer: Jason Poznich)
Colossians and Philemon: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching, Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs (Reviewer: Christian Schmitt)
A Contemporary Handbook for Weddings and Funerals and Other Occasions: Revised and Updated, edited by Aubrey Malphurs, Keith Wilhite, and Dennis Hillman (Reviewer: Gary L. Shultz Jr.)
The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities, Kate Bowler (Reviewer: Scott M. Gibson)
Preaching for Culture Change: How the Communication Techniques of Preachers, Rabbis, Companies, and Linguists Can Transform the Culture of Your Church, Jason Esposito (Reviewer: Jeffrey Arthurs)
The Women’s Lectionary: Preaching the Women of the Bible throughout the Year, Ashley M. Wilcox (Reviewer: Arica Heald Demme)
How to Preach the Prophets for All Their Worth, Andrew G. M. Hamilton (Reviewer: Gregory K. Hollifield)
Pandemic Preaching: The Pulpit in a Year Like No Other, David H. Garcia (Reviewer: Kevin Maples)
Disastrous Preaching: Preaching in the Aftermath of a Natural Environmental Disaster, Jeff Stanfill (Reviewer: Christian Schmitt)
From Ancient Text to Valid Application: A Practical Exploration of Pericopal Theology in Preaching, Josiah D. Boyd (Reviewer: Russell St. John)
Circles in the Stream: Index, Identification, and Intertext: Reading and Preaching the Story of Judah in Genesis 37-50, Paul E. Koptak (Reviewer: Stephen Stallard)
Jude: An Oral and Performance Commentary, David Seal (Reviewer: Harry Strauss)