Stephen Wright’s Contemporary Functions of Preaching


In Alive to the Word: A Practical Theology of Preaching for the Whole Church (SCM Press, 2010), Stephen Wright identifies functions preaching serves, addresses, and engages with in our contemporary setting:

1. Shared worship

  • “preaching is both effected by worship and enables worship” (p. 17)

2. Contemporary culture

  • “if preaching imitates too closely either the communication style of a previous generation or that of today, its transformative potential will be reduced. The question is not wehter our preaching ‘looks’ or ‘sounds’ strange in a culture accustomed to many other media, but whter that stragenes is a vehicle of transformation or a mere eccentric relic” (p. 21)
  • Potential roles of preaching: “voice of reconciliation withint he mistrustful and often polarized arena of public discourse,” “moment of refreshing and personal simplicity after the frenetic virtual world of internet exchange in which ‘friends’ may be ‘online,’ yet are not ‘there,'” “preaching can also function as a necessary and reassuring voice of wisdom in an ether awash with ‘knowledge’ which few know how to judge” (p. 22)

3. Theology

  • preaching is concerned with the way a congregation’s theological mind is shaped (p. 28)
  • “Churches today are no longer so purely ‘local’. Many Chrsitians are regular attenders at conferences and festivals, regular readers of online Christian material or printed notes, regular receivers of Christian magazines, regular listeners to Christian radio stations, and so on. What is said and done in these various forums may be far more penetrating of people’s perspectives than the preacher’s words. It may hold far greater sway over how, in practice, congegations interpret the Bible and construct a theology that appears to be both faithful and applicable” (p. 29)

4. Pastoral care

  • “To identify the preaching encounter as a ‘pastoral’ one does not imply anything about the hearers with respect to their prior commitment, allegiance or church membership; it encompasses ‘evangelistic’ preaching as much as ‘teaching’. Whatever kind of spiritual life our hearers have or do not have, we are their pastors inasmuch as we co-operate, or not, with the desire of Father, Son and Spirit to bring fullness of life to all” (p. 30)



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