Preaching with Power – Walter Pearson

Preaching With Power
Walter Pearson followed C. D. Brooks as the speaker/director of Breath of Life ministries. Elder Pearson has been a pastor and an administrator in the Adventist church including a stint as associate secretary of the Ellen White Estate.

Understanding of Preaching

Elder Pearson referred to the call to preach as a call to “positively invluence people.” This statement demonstrates Elder Pearson’s belief in the power of preaching. Preaching, according to Pastor Pearson’s culture and philosphy, is the center of ministry. This refers to the fact that in the Black church often-times the whole of ones ministry is evaluated by the quality of ones pulpit work. Pastor Pearson believes that Jesus speaks through the preaching event to humanity. Pastor Pearson states, “I believe that the revelation of divine power through the spoken Word is the recurring miracle which energizes and sustains the church.” And to answer the question of his understanding of preaching in summary form, he states that “A sermon is God communicating a divine message to humanity, through humanity, by a process which He alone makes effective.”

Method of Sermon Preparation

Pastor Pearson decides what to preach from the needs of the people, events, books, and situations. He notes that God ultimately gives the sermon, but God uses many of these avenues to get the message to us as preachers.

Elder Pearson has a personal study regiment that is not necessarily for sermon creation, but it does inform his sermon creation process. Like Barry Black, Pearson notes the importance of personal devotion which sometimes informs his preaching.

Pearson reads the Bible for sermon preparation by actively listening and letting the Word speak. When he does not understand the passage, he consults resources. Interestingly enough he pushes himself by reading “passages that are not naturally interesting” to try to understand why they are written. This pushes him to expand his mind. He even notes that sometimes he reads dull, dense and poorly written books and materials to stretch his mind as well.

Pearson attempts to take the texts and put them in an unusual frame of reference. He quotes the Adventist preacher Samuele Myers who stated that even a familiar room becomes different when you enter it through a different door. Another approach that Pearson suggests is to invert the sequence of events or look at a different character in the story to provide freshness to the story.

While any individual sermon may take more or less time, Pastor Pearson stated that it takes roughly 16 hours to put a sermon together.

Understanding of Adventist Preaching

Pearson stated that the Adventist preaching tradition is one that emphasizes a holistic message. Thus Adventist preaching must affect the entire person. He notes that both the Adventist and the Black preaching traditions are “unambiguously Biblical.” While both are Biblical, Pearson notes that the Adventist preacher can probably be a little more prophetic in its preaching by pointing out the injustices in this society.

Understanding of Black preaching

Pearson is quick to note that Black preaching is not a monolith. Black preaching is manifested in different ways according to denomination and even according to individual churches. However he does note that Black preaching is Prophetic in taking on the injustices of today. In addition, Black preaching engages The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon As Narrative Art Form in a “a kind of in-your-face preaching” that speaks truth on issues that are neglected by others.

Elder Pearson is known for his story telling ability. I thought it was interesting that he spoke about looking at the Bible story from a slightly different angle. Such an approach can be very helpful to the preacher. Eugene Lowery speaks of “Upsetting the Equilibrium” in The Homiletical Plot. Here we look at the story from a slightly different vantage point to allow the sermon to be fully heard. A preacher can provide freshness to stories that have been heard many times by following this approach that Pearson and Lowry suggest.

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