Today’s pastor is faced with many demands as he seeks to carry out the responsibilities of his office. If you examine most literature written for the pastor you’ll find he is expected to be a manager, leader, coach, teacher and inspirational speaker. Amidst these demands, the focus on his primary task is often ignored, namely, that of being a preacher. Faithful proclamation of the Word of God for the congregation should rise as the essential task and is at the core of what it means to be a pastor.
Unfortunately, it is this very function of the pastoral office that is often neglected in any sort of continuing education. After leaving a seminary a parish pastor will rarely engage in a new study to challenge and broaden their skills as a preacher. While they might readily read leadership manuals and conflict resolution strategies they won’t engage in meaningful dialogue regarding their own performance of the Word as a preacher.
Because of this lack of reflection and dialogue, faithful proclamation of the Word is often substituted over time for doing systematic theology from the pulpit or giving interesting history lessons in order to keep hearers engaged. Most conversations regarding preaching focus on clever images or metaphors to try and make something memorable. Though these are useful tools for good sermons, what is lost is first order proclamation that kills the sinner and brings forth new life. Clearly distinguished and articulated law and Gospel that does to the hearer today what the text did originally is all but given up. The Craft of Preaching will exist to refocus the conversation on this most important task of the pastoral ministry.