This Tuesday, May 6 at 1:30 I will go before my dissertation committee of three (mentor, second reader, and doctor of ministry rep) to propose my dissertation project. They will either accept my proposal with some modification or totally reject my proposal. I am, of course, hoping it will be the former and not the latter since I have already written 90 pages for this proposal.
My dissertation topic is on preaching as a spiritual discipline. It is so easy for preaching to become a technical rhetorical task somewhat divorced from spiritual intimacy with the God who guides the preaching process. Preaching today has too often subtly drifted into a matter of mere rhetorical cleverness, entertainment or relevance. While communication technique is most certainly important, the main question that must drive the homiletic process is: what is God saying through a particular text of Scripture? The goal of preaching, then, is not neccessarily to find something clever or relevant to say, but to listen for God's voice through a Scripture text and then to communicate it in "grace and truth." While this may sound somewhat like a "given" or a "no-brainer," contemporary literature on and practice of preaching reveals the need to reinstate spirituality (one's relationship with Christ) as the lead in the homiletic dance with rhetorical technique. This is necessary since spirituality redeems and baptizes rhetorical technique.
So, I will be developing a new model for the development and delivery of sermons that invites Christian spiritual disciplines to guide the entire process. Over the next year, I will test this model by inviting ten pastors in the Penn-Jersey District of the Wesleyan Church to incorporate this spiritual homiletic in their preaching for six months. My hope is that when preaching is more intimately intertwined with the God who calls us to preach, pastors will have increased ethos and joy through preaching.
Please pray that I would be able to communicate the rationale for and benefits of this dissertation proposal without getting too tongue-tied or sweaty in the palms! I am convinced that this project will have a profoundly positive impact upon those of us who preach the gospel. Please pray that my dissertation committee would be equally convinced.