Friday, March 27, 2009

Preaching training should include watching The West Wing

Josh Harris highlights an article on the value of the teleprompter: "When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined."

I'm all for speaking without a script, but often we think it means less preparation instead of more to be able to do that. I'm all for a preacher using an outline (so long as it's one that actually makes sense) but if that's not derived from careful consideration of language, of arguments, of memorable ways of saying things then much preaching is only going to be shallow reality.

If Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn and Will Bailey watch every word that should be in President Bartlet's mouth, how much more should the preacher who opens his mouth to publicly portray Christ as crucified make every word count. You could start almost anywhere but season 4's double episode on the Inauguration is as good a place as any. That's not to say the preacher's character and accurate exegesis don't matter - they're non-negotiables. But adding genuine crafting of language wouldn't be a bad move, one finds it Biblically advocated in Ecclesiastes 12  and illustrated in the preceeding chapters, and we find it in the stunning language, argument and structure of Stephen's martyr-worthy sermon, Peter's Christ-exalting Pentecostal-preaching and in the parables and teachings of Jesus. I ♥ good words and good words take time.