Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


On the vocabulary of church and baseball

The Rev. William Willimon was once named one of the 12 most ifluential speakers in the English speaking world. The Methodist Bishop has recently blogged about changing his view on the task of preaching and I wonder what the people listening in the pews think of his view. He wrote in part:
Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in! Bishop William WillimonWhen, in our sermons, we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new modern world, the traffic was only moving in one direction on that interpretive bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like "This relates to me," or, "I'm sorry, this is really impractical," or, "I really can't make sense out of that." It was always the modern world telling the Bible what's what.

I don't believe that the Bible wants to "speak to the modern world." Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world.

The modern world is not only the realm of the telephone, the telegraph, and allegedly "critical thinking," this world is also the habitat of Auschwitz, two of the bloodiest wars of history, and assorted totalitarian schemes which have consumed the lives of millions. Why would our preaching want to be comprehensible to that world?....

the pulpit in the chapel at Honey CreekRather than reaching out to speak to our culture, I think our time as preachers is better spent inculturating Twenty First Century Americans into that culture which is called church. There is no way that I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within fifteen minutes. One can't even do that with baseball! You have to learn the vocabulary, the rules, and the culture in order to understand it. Being in church is something at least as different as baseball.

Forming the church through our speech, laying on contemporary Christians the stories, images, and practices which make us disciples is our most challenging task as preachers.

The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it.
The full text is online here: On NOT reaching Our Culture Through Our Preaching.

The pulpit at King of PeaceI wholeheartedly agree about scripture seeking to transform our culture. However, I also think there should be a balance in preaching that Willimon seems to miss in moving from one pole to another. Just as I think sermons should balance speaking to the head (intellect) and the heart (emotions), I think we can not transform culture until we have spoken to it. What do you think? Should preaching speak to the culture or seek to transform it?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

PS: Start Questioning Your Faith Tonight
The seven session study begins this evening at 7 p.m. Scroll down for complete information.


  • At 11/14/2007 8:13 AM, Anonymous jim said…

    There seems to be a few ideologies to follow in "transforming the world."

    1. You could mold it from the outside without interaction with it.

    2. You could be inside of it and invite it into community with the Gospel.

    The first option may be possible without ever speaking to the culture. It will also result in a conformed world that fits into the change agents view of what the result should be like. However, the second option requires the wolrd to be spoken to. The world must enter into the scripture with us and dialogue with it and the Holy Spirit. Then together we all change. As much as we are in the world and not of the world, we are in the world enought that we must remember to be transformed along with it.

    So, my impression of where Willimon is going here is a hyperbole illustrating us being transformed by the culture. It would seem like the polar opposite would for the scripture to completely transform the world. The real middle is probably a place where we are all invited into the scriptures and we are transformed together by the grace and power of God.

  • At 11/14/2007 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I agree with you. Very well said! I couldn't have said it better myself. Actually, I couldn't have said it at all, so, good job!

  • At 11/14/2007 4:57 PM, Anonymous Linda+ said…

    This reminds me of the list I once saw entitled "Why I stopped going to baseball games." The list included:
    The parking lot was too crowded.
    Every time I went, they asked me for money.
    The seats were hard.
    The people were not friendly.
    The game lasted far too long.
    I only knew one of the songs.



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