As we continue our discussion of the book Preaching With Power by R. Clifford Jones we get to Pastor Henry Wright. Henry Wright is the Senior Pastor of Community Praise SDA Church in Alexandria Virginia. He rose to prominence when he was a professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at Oakwood College. Over his career he has also been a Conference president and Union Secretary. He is well known and considered by many to be a great preacher of the Gospel.
Understanding of Preaching
Elder Wright sees preaching as “God’s Word manifested in human personality.” He states that this is why he resists the idea of copying anyone else. I think this is an important point. There is a reason why God has called you as an individual preacher to preach the gospel. Our individuality manifests itself in our selection of texts, the questions we ask the text, and even what we do and do not emphasize. Wright continues this idea by stating that the sermon is “God’s word sifted through human experience.”
Wright’s understanding of preaching includes an agony of preaching that that manifests itself in 3 ways. First, the preacher recognizes that he or she is a part of the problem that the preacher is addressing in the sermon. Second, the preacher recognizes that often there are some who know more about the Bible than he or she does. Finally, we realize that the Gospel is always beyond our ability to describe or define it.
Method of Sermon Preparation
Pastor Wright has a very extensive 8 step method of sermon preparation. Before he describes it he states that he makes certain assumptions of the preacher. The first assumption is that the preacher is constantly reading the Bible, theological works, professional material, as well as magazines of current events. The second assumption is that the preacher is living a life of prayer.
Step 1 is to select the passage and read it in as many different translations as possible. During this reading Wright jots down any thoughts that come to his mind. He says that it can take him 2 hours to do this step.
Step 2 is to look up key words making use of his Greek and Hebrew reading ability. He asks questions like who is writing, what is the situation of the writing, to whom was it written? During this step he consults several commentaries and Bible Dictionaries.
Step 3 is to find a theme statement for the sermon. During this phase he asks the question what am I trying to accomplish? He notes that a passage of scripture can point to many differnt possibilities so during this step he decides on the one that he will preach in this sermon.
Step 4 is to find illustrative material that is applicable to the people that he is preaching to. His favorite source of illustrations is the Reader’s Digest.
Step 5 is to write out the sermon. Wright says that he is a manuscript preacher and thus writes it out word by word. While he has a good memory and therefore is not tightly bound to the manuscript, 9 times out of 10 he takes it into the pulpit with him.
Step 6 is to think about how he will end the sermon. He emphasizes that you don’t raise new things in the conclusion. This reminds me of one thing my intro to homiletics professor said “Start Strong, End Strong, and make the middle as short as possible.”
Step 7 is to evaluate the sermon based on his evaluation method. This method includes asking himself questions like does the sermon flow correctly? Is there unity of thought? Does it have purpose?
Step 8 is to rehearse by reading the sermon out loud.
Understanding of Black Preaching
Wright is both a believer in and not a believer in Black preaching. He states that we should remember that black preacher’s learned to preach from white preachers. He notes that the white preachers that Black preachers learned from were not the lecturn lecture-like preachers that we think of today, but the preachers of the plains like Jonathan Edwards. This thought is also echoed by Henry Mitchell in Black preaching that even states that there is a white counterpart to whooping.
After having said that he defines black preaching as a style of preaching that was story-telling, incisive, highly descriptive. He notes that such a style was important for the slaves who could not read the Bible for themselves.
Understanding of Adventist Preaching
In this place he does not directly address Adventist preaching but he does note that our preaching has become more hands on in the last few years versus the years when he was younger. Today you are more likely to hear sermons that tell you how to get along with people or succeed than sermons about doctrinal content. While he believes there is a place for such sermons, he notes that we cannot forget the doctrines or teachings in our sermons.