Hall of Silence

A quiet place to reflect on God, His Word, and His Church

Category: Preaching

Are Preaching Schools Valuable?

Note:  this blog post is based entirely on personal anecdote.  It is possible that your personal experience with the subject will differ from mine.  Because I cannot find any studies that even address the matter, let alone does so in a reasonable matter, this subject will naturally be confined solely to personal anecdote and theory.

One thing that I’ve noticed about men who have graduated from preaching schools is that they a) are not particularly good at preaching (though many are good at public speaking), b) are not adept at thinking theologically (but are good at thinking doctrinally), and c) are not good at using logic (but many are rhetorically gifted).  This seems highly problematic to me, for the general result of preaching schools is that they teach young men what to think and how to speak instead how to think and how to preach.  This has led to what amounts to an assembly-line approach to preachers and preaching, wherein it is assumed that by taking the right inputs—evangelistically-minded, easily-molded young men—and sending them to the right throughputs—in this case, preacher schools—will result in the right outputs—dogmatic, rigid men who will rail against denominationalism.

The question that remains unasked is this:  is the church well-served by these type of men?  By extension, is the church well-served by preacher schools?

What good are men who can memorize doctrinal talking points and spew them out when door-knocking if they have no understanding of God and his nature?  Keep in mind that Christians are expected to be imitators of God, which requires an actual knowledge of God, and not simply a familiarity with Biblical doctrine.  What is God like?  What is his character?  These are theological questions, not doctrinal questions, and graduates of preaching schools are generally ill-equipped to answer them.

And what good are men if they can only speak, not preach? There is a difference between the two, after all.  The former refers simply to the ability to convey an idea clearly; the latter refers to the pricking of men’s hearts.  Many graduates can articulate Biblical concepts in clear, easily understood ways, but they do not change anyone’s hearts and therefore do not change anyone’s lives.  Their preaching is formulaic, generally consisting of a clear introduction, three points with three sub-points, and a concise conclusion that summarizes the lesson.  The problem with this is that the church needs preachers, not college professors.

Finally, what good are men who cannot think logically?  Many graduates seem unfamiliar with formal logic (i.e. the syllogistic form), and few are familiar with any of the various informal fallacies (e.g. the “fourth term” fallacy, ad hoc fallacy, and ad hominem fallacy).  They do not, and apparently cannot, think rigorously.  They can’t recognize term conflation, leading them to offer invalid arguments as proof for their predetermined doctrine.  When confronted with their illogicality, they bray loudly, hoping that volume will trump reason.  And when they finally ignore their opponent into leaving, they brag about how well they have stood for truth.

As should be clear, the church is not well-served by these types of men.  The church needs men who can preach, who can think about God, and who can think logically.  And these men do not come from schools of preaching.

Go Into All The World and Preach Against Denominationalism

To hear most preachers tell it, you would think that the entirety of the gospel is a screed against denominationalism.  While denominationalism is most certainly condemned in scripture, the scriptures, and the one who breathed them, are concerned with many more things.

One of the many problems facing the Church in this day and age is that preachers have an anti-denominationalist mindset.  This mindset pervades their thinking, and is quite wrong.  They are called to preach the gospel, not anti-denominationalism.

The distinction is crucial.  The gospel and anti-denominationalism are two different sets (though they overlap to a limited extent, creating a sort of Venn subset).  Preaching anti-denominationalism is a disservice because it shortchanges the gospel and is overly negative.  While God is negative at times, he is not always so.  He balances the negative with the positive.  We must do the same.

Also, anti-denominationalism, taken strictly, is also anti-truth. By this I simply mean that opposing every denominational practice will eventually lead to the condemnation of every correct practice.  Most denominations, for example, have correctly identified the first day of the week as the day of worship.  Some have correctly noted that mechanical instruments are forbidden from worship.  Others have noted that baptism is immersion, and is necessary for salvation.  In fact, all denominations have some element of the truth within their teaching.  As such, condemning denominational practices wholesale necessarily includes condemning the truths that denominations have latched onto as well.

The better practice is to simply preach the word, and let the chips fall where they may.  We needn’t target denominations, but those teachings which are clearly in contradiction to God’s word.  We should seek common ground with denominationalists and build from there.  There is no point in making a wholesale condemnation of something when it is not warranted.

Quite simply, the best thing to do is preach God’s word.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We need to preach the word and stop defining our doctrine by what denominationalists teach.  If they get something right, so be it; if they get something wrong, so be it.  What matters is not what they teach but what God says.  Therefore, let us preach God’s word and not anti-denominationalism.