What is the New Homiletic?

I recently came across a useful summary from David J. Schlafer in The Future of Preaching (2010, ed. Geoffrey Stevenson):

Not restricted to (or rightly understood as) simply ‘storytelling’, the New Homiletic was (and is) an attempt to interpret texts of Scripture, and shape the form of sermons, not as didactic expositions (interspersed with inspiring illustrations and exhortations) but rather as ‘narratives’ of spiritual exploration, adventure and discovery. In a word (said the New Homiletic), rather than issuing informational reports about (and entreaties toward) transformation, sermons should shape and foster experiences of transformation akin to those witnesses to in the pages of Scripture (p. 209).

Pioneers in the New Homiletic movement include: Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Thomas Long and Eugene Lowry.


My millennial generation has never known a world uninfluenced by the New Homiletic movement. Even in more fundamentalist or evangelical Protestant churches (where the expository and didactic sermon is frequently used), the idea of transformation  is one that permeates nearly every Christian preacher’s ideal of the purpose of a sermon. This is certainly a good thing.

However, I also had the experience of gravitating towards preaching of the expository, didactic, and deductive styles as a young adult because I desired a strong foundation–in short, I did need some information to enable transformation. Because I did not have great familiarity with the characters and narratives of the Bible, I seemed to (for many years) miss the point in the preaching I heard in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

As more and more people our culture are “unchurched” or self-identify as religiously unaffiliated, there may indeed be a greater and greater need for information and direct invitation to accompany (or possibly precede  the experience of transformation fostered through the New Homiletic movement.


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