I met yesterday with my dissertation committee, Drs. Mike Pasquarello, Joe Dongell, and Milton Lowe, to defend my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation entitled: A Journey in Preaching as a Spiritual Discipline. The committee was very complimentary of my work and approved my dissertation with only minor editorial changes. So, I will graduate on May 22, 2010 with a Doctoral Degree! Who would have thought that a high school drop-out from South Philly would end up with a doctorate? Not me. But that's just how the grace of God works- in ways that surprise, delight, and, often, overwhelm us.
The purpose of my dissertation project was to create a model for the development and delivery of sermons that would facilitate greater connection and intimacy between the preacher and the Christ whom the preacher proclaims. I contend that too many preachers are either on the verge of burnout or boredom because we have become more enamored with the craft of preaching than the Christ we preach. Homiletics has been hijacked by an over-emphasis on rhetorical technique, so that preachers tend to be more concerned with method, skills, personality, and eloquence than with the power of the Holy Spirit through their person and through their preaching. Exegetical, hermeneutical, and homiletical skills are necessary and important. I believe so strongly in these skills that I teach them to pastors in my denomination. However, if these skills are not submitted to and redeemed by the power of God then preaching will fall far short of its potential to transform lives.
I created a model for developing and delivering sermons that incorporated spiritual disiplines throughout the homiletic process. This was intended to facilitate a preaching practice that felt more like a journey into Christ than a task to be completed apart from Christ. My assumption was that preaching as a spiritual discipline, and not merely as a rhetorical task, would increase preaching joy and Christian ethos (love for God and love for people) in the 12 participating pastors. The findings of my study did, in fact, reveal an increase for participants in these areas.
My dissertation will eventually be available online. I'll keep you posted by letting you know when it's available. If you are interested in seeing it sooner, please email me and I'll send it to you electronically.
Thanks again for your prayers and celebration with me!