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Adult Education – Perils and Promise of the Pulpit

January 12, 2024

Thomas Long, the “dean” of American Protestant preachers, former professor of preaching at Princeton Seminary and Candler Divinity School at Emory, wrote an essay in The Presbyterian Outlook, which has received a lot of attention: The Perilous and Promising Pulpit.

Long recounts: Russell Moore, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today recently told a chilling story about preaching. A number of pastors, he said, had reported to him essentially the same experience. They would be preaching on a passage like the Sermon on the Mount, including sayings such as “turn the other cheek,” “blessed are the merciful” or “love your enemies,” only to find themselves sharply attacked at the church door. “Where’d you get that nonsense?” some aggrieved parishioner inevitably would ask. “From Jesus Christ,” the startled pastor would respond. “I was literally quoting Jesus Christ.” Far from mumbling out an embarrassed apology, the critic would instead walk away, scoffing, “Yeah, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.”

Long believes, “In a new and disturbing way, preaching has become perilous.” But there’s room for promise when we remember what is really going on when a congregation faithfully and courageously listens for the Word of God.