The Unhelpful Solitude of Preaching

The practice of preaching is a lonely and solitary one. A certain amount of solitude is necessary for study and creativity. But for most of us preaching has become a strikingly individual and secluded exercise.

In solitude we preachers exegete a text. We consider the content and context of the text, all in private. We then craft a talk, ideally with insight into our congregation and community, with little chance to bounce ideas around with others.

The sermon is preached on Sunday. Then often with no significant discussion of what has just happened with anybody else, or even ourselves, the whole process begins again the next morning.

Yet this lonely practice is inconsistent with the nature of preaching, which is relational and communal. Preaching is the proclamation of God’s word to and within a community. Preaching is a mark of a Christian church. It energises this group of people in their mission to the world. How can the discernment necessary for preaching be found alone?

This process is also inconsistent with learning theory that tells us that reflection is critical for skill development: no reflection, no development. Where is the time and community for reflection on an already-preached or about-to-be-preached sermon?

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About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville is a pastor-scholar who ministers in a missional urban community, Grandview Church, Vancouver. Mark is Professor of Old Testament and congregational studies at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (missionaltraining.org), and he teaches at Regent College, Vancouver. Mark's research focusses upon the Pentateuch, biblical ethics, and mission. Mark has authored a book on Exodus (Lexham, forthcoming), numerous refereed articles (including in the Journal of Biblical Literature, forthcoming) and chapters on the Pentateuch, mission, and refugee related issues, as well as numerous popular articles. Mark is presently co-authoring a book, "Providing Refuge: A Missional and Political Theology." Mark is regularly called upon to speak on in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. His previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney, Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes).
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